What Duncan likes to refer to as the Big Shitpile has gone to graduate school and earned a Ph. D. (Pile It Higher and Deeper), as shown by a bunch of stories in the local rag:

One:

In the latest signs of the U.S. economy’s weakness, reports yesterday showed sharp declines in housing prices but higher costs for almost everything else.

And there was a third dose of bad news, prompted mostly by the slump in housing and rising inflation: Consumer confidence fell to the lowest point since just before the Iraq war began.

Yesterday’s reports raised the threat of a return of “stagflation,” the economic curse of the 1970s, in which economic growth stagnates at the same time that inflation continues racing ahead.

Two:

The United States is on the brink of experiencing a toxic economic mix not seen in three decades: Prices are speeding upward at the fastest pace in a quarter-century even though the economy is losing steam.

Economists call the disease “stagflation,” and they are worried it might be coming back.

Already, paychecks are not stretching as far as they did just a year ago. Jobs are harder to find, threatening to set off a vicious cycle that could make things even worse.

The economy nearly stalled in the final three months of last year and probably is barely growing or even shrinking now. That is the “stagnation” part of the ailment.

Typically, that slowdown would keep prices in check – the second part of the diagnosis. Instead, prices are climbing higher.

Once the twin evils of stagflation take hold, it can be hard to break the grip. Consumers, stung by rising prices and shriveling wages, cut their spending. Businesses, also socked by rising costs and declining demand from customers, clamp down on their hiring and capital investment.

That would be a nightmare scenario for Wall Street investors, businesses, politicians, and most everyone else. They are already looking to the Federal Reserve for help, but the Fed’s job is complicated by the dual nature of the problem.

Three (not that I can get too worked up over the misfortunes of Toll Brothers, who are responsible for some of the ugliest houses I’ve ever seen):

Toll Bros. Inc. today reported a first-quarter loss as revenue fell 23 percent from the same period a year earlier, reflecting worsening conditions in most of the Horsham-based builder’s markets around the country.

Total revenues for the three months that ended Jan. 31 were $842.9 million, compared with $1.09 billion a year ago. The first-quarter backlog of unsold homes was 42 percent lower, however, at $2.40 billion, compared with $4.15 billion, the company said.

So, what does original sin have to do with all this? Fraudulent sales techniques, stupid consumer decisions, stupid business decisions–none of them seem particularly original.

It seems to be a verse in the NeoCon Bible that all regulation is bad and that, somehow, Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market will resolve all problems and lead to nirvana. Instead, we are closer to Valhalla.

During the course of the last eight years, the Bushies have hamstrung the EPA, OSHA, the FDA, the SEC and any other agency charged with ensuring that businesses comport themselves with integrity.

And we know the results. Just look at the recents successes of the FDA.

Meat recalls. Spinach recalls. Drug recalls.

I won’t even bother to look up stuff for the other agencies. Just one word: Enron.

As I have mentioned before, one of the traits of wingnut thought seems to be the belief that wealth indicates virture. (And the corollary: that poverty indicates sin. That’s why those in economic need don’t deserve health care.)

There is, of course, a fallacy in this reasoning. Hell, there is a fallacy in the whole NeoCon Weltanschauungen, but that’s another story.

And that fallacy is ignoring original sin, or, more properly, imagining that the wealthy are somehow exempt therefrom and will therefore, in following the dictates of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” act with integrety.

Some do, of course. Warren Buffet and George Soros come to mind.

But others do not.

Society needs to deal with them, to protect the common good and the good of the common.

The instrument society has for dealing with them (and for building roads and for defending the nation and for putting the bad guys behind bars and for doing lots of other things) is called (gasp!) Government.

Government is not some evil thrust upon us from outside, as the Club for Greed would have us believe (I have to say, I agree completely with Mr. Huckabee on the characterization of that organization).

Government is the only instrument we have to protect ourselves, as a citzenry, from those who would defraud and delude us.

Government is a necessity for life in a civilized world.

And those who, in order to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, thwart its legitimate function to promote the general welfare betray the public trust.

Fortunately, they are easy to identify. They call themselves “Movement Conservatives.”

5 Comments

  1. No, we don’t think those things.

  2. By the way, Warren Buffett does not have integrity. A billionaire who thinks my taxes are not high enough but donates his fortune to a private charity instead of the government does not have integrity.

  3. Hello-great post! I really enjoyed it-came here by way of Jon Swift’s Best Blogposts of 2008! I agree with you here definitely! “Friedmanistic” type economics have caused a lot of the mess we are now in! (even more so than when you first posted this!)
    Unregulated business does not work to help the middle class or the poor, and this has been shown in different eras, time after time, but still the “neocons” want us to believe this BS!

  4. Also came here via Modest Jon. Just wanted to say hi. (And to let you know that getting yourself listed in Jon’s collection paid off in hits! Cool!)

    BTW – your reference to government as “the instrument society has for dealing with” those who do not act with integrity reminded me that some time ago I said that at its best, government is the mechanism through which a people act on their ideals – which I think is pretty much the same idea.

  5. Um, am I misremembering that Enron was something that happened under Clinton’s watch? (I recall Clinton bragging up during the 1996 election that under his watch Gore had reduced “wasteful government regulation. No idea if that was related to Enron, but Enron broke very early in 2000.) I mean, I’m not necessarily disagreeing with your general point, but that little item stood out in my mind.

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