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Comic Strip of the Day: Futility

Matt Wuerker introduces our theme for the day, which is futility.

The economy has grown four percent and, for all the hoo-hah, you’d think we’d developed a car that runs on plastic straws.

It’s a very good number. It’s the best we’ve done in nearly four years, which is to say, we did it under Obama, too, though that’s not how the White House is putting it.

But there are any number of other explanations, many of which come back to the point Wuerker makes, which is that the current administration is adding to the national debt at a rate which has no apparent cause other than not caring.

Here’s an analysis, though it won’t persuade the True Believers. Still, as she says,

As projected in the FY 2019 budget, Trump plans to add $8.282 trillion, a 41- percent increase from the $20.245 trillion debt at the end of Obama’s last budget for FY 2017. He will add almost as much in four years as Obama did in eight. That would also make him the second-biggest contributor to the debt in history in just one term.

If you look at the rest of her analysis, you find that the largest debts came at times when — however regrettably — they made sense.

FDR leads the pack, but he had the double-whammy of having to clean up the Depression and then fight a major war, which latter factor also helps to explain Wilson and Bush, though Bush’s war was a choice and hardly a necessity.

And Bush’s overall economic policies left Obama with a major clean-up job, which explains much of why he’s one of the debt-leaders.

At least, however, when Bush was wading into a destructive, futile and monumentally expensive war, there was enough talk about paying for it that Uncle Dick had to issue some “don’t worry about it” comments and then rearrange the deck chairs to make it seem less economically irresponsible.

 

No such fig leaves are required today because, despite Jimmy Margulies‘s suggestion, nobody is looking much past that glorious 4.1%.

Part of the increase is because Trump’s tax cut has put more money in people’s pockets, which they are spending. That both masks wage stagnation and boosts the economy, but cutting taxes without cutting spending is an obvious road to increased national debt.

This goes back to the booboisie metaphor of government budgets being like family budgets: They never consider that, when you aren’t making enough money, you don’t quit feeding your kids and taking them to the doctor when they’re sick. You do whatever it takes to make more income, with a second job or a better one.

Or you go into massive debt that you’ll never be able to repay.

 

Though as Joel Pett points out, Trump has thrown a lifeline to those poor slobs whose wages are effectively declining, by making it once again legal for insurance companies to rip them off with cut-rate policies that don’t offer any substantial coverage.

Pett errs, however, in depicting the consumer walking away from this obvious nonsense.

Similar rip-off policies were outlawed under the Affordable Care Act, but they’re part of the “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan” issue: As noted here yesterday, Obama’s tragic flaw was assuming people were basically intelligent, and, in this case, that they wouldn’t like a plan that simply took their money and offered nothing in return.

By contrast, a President who came from reality TV — the world of Honey Boo-Boo and the Search for Bigfoot and Duck Dynasty — is under no such illusions.

People want easy, effortless choices, not ones that require thought, planning and a view towards the future.

 

Darrin Bell condemns the media for touting the cost of single-payer coverage instead of its overall economic impact, and he’s right, though it’s more often a problem of economic illiteracy than of deliberately dishonest coverage.

It’s an oddity of newspapers that the cost of college is a “Lifestyle” story while the cost of health care is a “Business” story, but the real problem is that the business section seems a private clubhouse for people in suits who carry briefcases, impenetrable for the average reader.

Or, at least it was that way when newspapers were more than 16 pages long.

But a bigger issue is that journalists tend to be Arts & Letters types. They didn’t like math and they burble on about the Dow rising or falling but recoil from learning why.

I remember calling one reporter over to my desk and asking her about a particularly impenetrable quote about a bond issue. “What does this mean?”

“That’s what he said.”

“Yes, but what does it mean?”

She had no idea, but had hoped that quoting him accurately would do the job.

This is what I call “passive conduit coverage” and it’s more than worthless. It’s misleading and harmful.

 

But, boy, do authoritarian figures love it, and Jim Morin makes a point that several others have made, which is that Trump is in some pretty distinguished company when he declares the media the enemy of the people.

Is he acting like Hitler? Like Stalin? Like Mao? Does it matter if your cheap health coverage is worthless? Does anyone care about the National Debt?

A generation ago, liberals were told to “go back to Russia.” Now Russia is our pal.

It’s barely a decade since we celebrated “The Greatest Generation,” but the President now feels some Nazis are good people and they turn up regularly, and fairly openly, at his rallies.

The latest iteration is Qanon, a group whose delusions are so insane that there’s no more point in arguing with them than there is in expecting Dear Leader to renounce their support.

 

And Jack Ohman may joke about Trump’s ludicrous ignorance of daily life, but it doesn’t jar the Deplorables, who, if they don’t want the TSA at grocery stores or in airports, would be happy if ICE would station itself at each checkout, making sure everyone had their National ID.

 

Community Comments

#1 Sean Martin
August/4/2018
@ 7:31 am

Just remember: Little Lord Trumperoy isnt the cause. He’s the symptom.

… and maybe someday the Deplorables (God, Hillary was so right with that description!) will figure that out. Today, however, does not seem to be that day.

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