Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Economy And Politics

I just caught the end of some CNN Money program where an ostensibly reputable economy sort made the statement that (paraphrased) 'our economy is not about politics.' I'm trying pretty hard to give this guy some kind of benefit of doubt and let that be about some kind of 'the President can't wave a wand at it.' The overall tenor makes me think he meant the economy is somehow outside politics. This does seem to be one of the themes of a certain set of economic apologists.

The shape of our economy is almost entirely political. Everything from tax policy to trade agreements to labor laws is the outcome of political activity. There are all kinds of blather about free trade and free markets which flatly have never existed. Everybody who talks about the economy has an agenda and their pet. The very act of negotiating a contract or seeking employment is simply politics at its most local. The objective is that I want the most of whatever for the least of whatever and that exchange involves power and wealth. If I want a good price on materials I tell a supplier that I'll buy lots from him versus his competition if he gives me a better price, if I'm a worker and unionized or working in a short market I can demand more ... money, better working conditions, etc. If I'm a politician virtually everything I do will have a broad effect. Tax policies easily affect the direction of flow of wealth and the uses of wealth. (that wealth can be minimal or maximal or monetary or physical) Trade agreements are pretty obvious, but so is anything related to physical or mental health or race relations or education or ... just about whatever government gets up to and those are political choices.

If a politician leaves you in doubt as to the basic thrust of his economic viewpoint in relation to policy regardless of whether the word economy is brought up, you will be ignorant of what the economy is going to do to you. Abortion access has a direct impact on economics even though it would seem to be another question altogether. Where money flows as an outcome is an important piece of the puzzle whatever the policy in question. This does not mean the first dollar moved, it is the movement of the dollars as an outcome.

It is pretty easy to point to the GOP as the party of plutocracy, it gets a bit more controversial to point to the Democrats as belonging to the same club, differences in degree being what's at issue. It isn't real complicated to take most issues apart and see where money flows if you're willing to go past the very first dollars in that analysis. Our economy is in the state it is in today not as a result of some inexorable world condition but as a result of political actions taken previously.

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