Ten Trillion and Counting

Ten Trillion and Counting

"Let's imagine a scenario where the politicians would love to keep the government going, but they can't because no one will lend us money." -Greg Ip

"I was happy to be fired at the end of November, 2002. I didn't want to be a part of something that I thought was fundamentally wrong." -Paul O'Neill

"We borrowed money from China, to give tax cuts to the best off people in our society and leave our kids paying the bill for a war we chose to fight - that was really unprecedented." -Matt Miller

"One of the largest tax cuts in American history was passed with Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote."

"The prescription drug benefit will go on forever; in the end, it's more expensive than the war in Iraq."

"During his first five years as president, George Bush never vetoed a spending bill."

"Fiscal conservatives in his (George Bush's) own party accused him of being the biggest spender since World War II."

"The future is clouded by one inescapable fact: more Americans are living longer and as they age, the government is obligated by law to spend more and more."

"The national debt will double in 8 years."

"You can get away with over-borrowing and saving nothing for decades, but then when it goes wrong, you're in trouble - big trouble - very quickly, and it's hard to get out of." -Clive Crook

"Meanwhile, in the first 3 months of this year, the US government has borrowed another $493 billion dollars."

Debt and the Bush Years
David Wessel (The Wall Street Journal):
President Bush got a lot of ridicule for saying what everybody should do after 9/11 is go shopping. I'm a little less harsh on that than some people, because I think one of the things that he was saying is we have to lead a normal life; we can't let the terrorists scare us into hiding under our beds.
But in retrospect, it was one of those signals to Americans that you can spend your way out of everything. Go get your credit card, go get another mortgage, and go and spend and spend and spend. There was never any attempt during the Bush presidency to slow that down.
The president declared, for instance, that it was his goal that every American should own a house. Well, every American shouldn't own a house. Some people don't make enough money to pay a mortgage and maintain a house, and they should rent. And they shouldn't be made to feel that there's something un-American about not having a mortgage.
But the pressure to lend and to get a mortgage was so great that we ended up lending to a lot of people who couldn't afford the mortgages. And they couldn't pay them back, and now they lost their house.

Blogging the Stimulus Bill by Steve Coll

Tracking the stimulus from bills to building.

The Tyranny of Dead Ideas
From Publishers Weekly:
If Fortune columnist Matt Miller's eerily prophetic book had come out earlier, it could have served as a wakeup call for Wall Street leaders and Washington, D.C. lawmakers before the failure of several venerable financial institutions required government bailouts. The author's prescient observations make a persuasive case for how an American attitude of entitlement and outdated beliefs about government, education, taxes, business, corporate excess and health care threaten our national well-being and our position as a world leader. The author denounces such cherished and longstanding beliefs as Your Company Should Take Care of You, and The Kids Will Earn More than We Do, and examines their historical provenances—for example, he traces the adoption of pensions to the early 20th century, when employers like Proctor and Gamble and G.E. acted as feudal lords offering benefits to recruit and retain employees—strategies that are now strangling these same corporations at the expense of global competitiveness. Rather than a petulant indictment of our political and economic myopia, this book offers a fair-handed critique.


Two Tiers

Hurricane Katrina survivors_Aug. 05

My White Privilege by Naomi Klein
NOW Magazine - Dec. 06

I get sent to a ritzy hospital with no patients while poor New Orleans is left to die

I was in New Orleans during the flood with Avi Lewis, my husband, and my friend Andrew Stern. We were driving in a rental car, and we kept getting lost because all the streets were flooded. Andy started thinking he was in a video game, a post-apocalyptic environment, weaving the car around the debris. Then we realized it was five minutes to 6, and 6 o'clock was curfew.

We got into a collision. We spun out and drove right through the stoplight, which wasn't working because there was no electricity. We went through a wrought iron gate and landed in an independent coffee store, kitty-corner to a Starbucks. And someone said, "Did you want to hit the Starbucks?"

The other car was a cop car, and that's how we found out we were in the South. Andy was arrested, Avi was face down on the ground, being warned what happens when you hit a cop in the state of Louisiana.

I was strapped to a gurney in an ambulance, trying to convince the driver to please not take me to a hospital, because I'd been watching the news and seeing these images of what hospitals were like during the flood.

Charity Hospital had no electricity, and incredibly courageous health care workers were trying to keep their patients alive, watching helicopters airlift everybody but them. It's the only hospital that provides emergency services to the poor in New Orleans - or provided. They haven't reopened Charity Hospital, along with many public schools.

I'd seen the awful images and actually gone to one of these clinics where it was like Dante's Inferno, with elderly people falling out of wheelchairs and no one helping them. I was terrified about where they were going to take me.

So I was negotiating with the ambulance driver. I had a concussion and kept slipping in and out of consciousness. "Just drop me off at a corner - you know, I'll walk. No problem."

The next thing I knew, I was at, from what I could tell, a spa. Called the Ochsner Hospital, it's apparently quite a famous private hospital. That's where they decided to take us because we're white. I was in a private room in three minutes flat.

I was cared for by three nurses, a senior doctor and a medical intern. I have never in my life received such attentive care, nor have I seen anyone in my family get such attentive health care. This was in the middle of the largest natural and humanitarian disaster in American history.

The doctors were playing cards in the middle of this hospital, protected by an army of private security who were there, as they said, to keep the junkies out. I couldn't get out because it was past curfew, so after I got a few stitches I tried to interview the staff. I asked my intern, this young guy in his 20s, if he worked the hurricane, and he said, "No, thank god, I wasn't on duty. I actually live in the suburbs."
"Did you go to any of the shelters?" I wasn't trying to be a bitch, I just assumed that someone who'd just learned how to be a doctor would want to help.
He looked at me, confused. It actually hadn't even occurred to him to go to one of the shelters. Just as it hadn't occurred to any of the doctors and nurses in the hospital that, instead of staying in their fortress, dealing with three or four patients, they could be out there.

What we saw with Katrina was an apartheid state where the wealthy unite, where those with credit cards got into cars, drove and checked themselves into motels. This is a two-tier system. They had already accepted the idea that some lives are worth more. And once you do that in your health care system, you are mentally prepared to do that in a major disaster.

It's a heardening of hearts that's required on a daily basis to run a luxury hospital in a city like New Orleans. It's the same heardening of hearts that let people be abandoned on their rooftops by their country.