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Run! Here Comes The Deficit!

A letter from Rep. Alan Grayson:

A few days ago, I was stuck in the car for a long drive. Because of the complete absence of progressive talk from Orlando’s airwaves, I had no real choice but to listen to the nasal maundering of Mark Levin on the radio. Levin was very upset about the federal deficit.

Interestingly, Levin was a high-level appointee in the Reagan Administration. Dick Cheney, who was Reagan’s Defense Secretary and later the Vice President, said 10 years ago that “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

I must concede that it is rather difficult to reconcile the conflicting statements of these two gentlemen, Messrs. Levin and Cheney. Evidently, they believe deficits are a terrible tragedy when a Democrat is President, and a wonderful gift when a Republican is President.

There has got to be a more objective standard than that.

Here’s one: the federal deficit is a problem when long-term interest rates are high, and not much of a problem when long-term interest rates are low. The Federal Reserve dictates short-term interest rates, but long-term rates still are, pretty much, set by the market, in its usual ruthless fashion. (Which is why James Carville said that after he dies, he “want[s] to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody.”)

When long-term interest rates are high, a federal deficit competes against and “crowds out” private borrowing and investment. When long-term interest rates are low, the federal deficit is not taking away from borrowing by the private sector. On the contrary, the federal deficit is acting as a needed boost to aggregate demand in the economy, an action also known as “fiscal policy.” When the economy is slack, every dollar of reduction in federal spending takes three or four dollars off of our gross national product.

So, by that test, where are we? Well, as I explained last week, long-term U.S. interest rates are at their lowest in history. So what does that tell you about the deficit?

Sorry – I didn’t mention that there was going to be a quiz.

When Ronald Reagan was President, long-term interest rates sometimes exceeded 15% – ten times as high as long-term interest rates today. The market was screaming at the top of its lungs that the Reagan deficit was too high. And today? Silence.

Look around the world. The ten-year note in Greece yields a little less than 30%. Pakistan, 13%. Portugal and Venezuela, 12%. In those countries, the bond market is shouting, “Cut that out!”

Not here.

Thanks to all the deficit-mongering by Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Fox “News,” etc., a lot of Americans are scared by the federal deficit. The advice from Democratic pollsters is to go along with this hand-wringing. But there is an alternative: Explain to the American people when a federal deficit is bad, and when it is not.

Like I just did.

Courage,

Alan Grayson

Get Some More!

Here’s a few more links. These are mostly longer-form magazine type formats and provide some very interesting takes on a wide variety of subjects. Enjoy!

The Atlantic Magazine

New Yorker Magazine

Foreign Policy Magazine

The Daily Beast (Newsweek magazine)

Mother Jones Magazine

Al Jazeera
Excellent reporting.

Christian Science Monitor
While neither Christian nor scientific, this site provides some good reads nonetheless.

The Guardian newspaper (UK & US)

Feel free to submit your favorites in the comments!

Get Some!

While a constitution may set forth rights and liberties, only the citizens can maintain and guarantee those freedoms. Active and informed citizenship is not just a right; it is a duty.
-Ronald Reagan

You can’t keep up. You have a full-time job, kids to feed, a mortgage to pay, spouse to keep happy, and if you’re lucky you get an hour or two a day to just be you. Trying to keep up on what’s going on in the world on a daily basis is time-consuming and it takes dedication. So why should you make time to be an informed citizen? Because you care. You care about yourself and your family. You care about what kind of world your children will grow up in. You want the world to be a better place for your children and grandchildren than it is for you. You ask your child how their day at school went because you want to make sure everything is going well for them and nothing detrimental to their health or ability to learn is happening. This is the exact reason you should ask yourself: “What’s going on in the world today?”. Because you want to know what’s happening and what events or situations are occurring and how to adjust your life accordingly.

What can you possibly do even if you knew everything about everything that’s going on in our complex world? The more knowledge that We The People collectively possess, the more we can affect the decision-making that can lead to a better world in a positive and constructive manner. Ill-informed people tend to make ill-informed decisions.

It’s easy to grab the morning paper, read a third of it, listen to NPR for an hour or three a day while you work, tune in the nightly news on channel 5 at six o’clock every night, then go around thinking you’ve been informed. This notion tends to be reinforced, because most other people do the exact same thing you do. So when you speak with them there is very little conversational critical analysis, and a whole lot of parroting talking points and complaining. We all know that the traditional print media has been dying. So why do we continue to depend on it for knowledge, as if it serves us as well as it used to?

Unfortunately, the vast majority of our highest-circulation news mediums are controlled by a very small group.

These five corporations control the majority of U.S. news

With the consolidation of so many news outlets under these few umbrellas, the duty to serve the people by informing them has taken a back-seat to profit. Investors don’t care about product, just profit. Corporations exist to make a profit, not something that’s necessarily good. So when these huge corporations own most of the news outlets, quality suffers in the pursuit of profit. News has devolved into info-tainment. You’re more likely to get the latest celebrity news on the front page of your local paper than to be told what bill your congressman just introduced that will hurt your community.

So what can a person do to stay informed? Do reliable news sources still exist, and if so, who are they and where do you find them? The good news is that, yes, good news still exists. It’s being produced and disseminated every day. You just have to do a little searching to find it. But when you do find it, and you will, you’ll never go back to relying on what you considered to be ‘news’ before.

Below are a few sources to get you started on your quest. By no means is this a comprehensive list. It is merely a starting point to help you find new sources. Most websites have a place with links to other sources. Find them. Use them. They are your friends.

Alternet.org
An alternative news and opinion site with over 2.5 million unique visitors per month. Great thinkers like Chomsky write here from time to time.

Dailykos
The world’s most-read liberal blog. Here you’ll find opinion and essays on a vast range of topics. The huge number of contributors leads to absolute gems being written every day. Check out the ‘Recommended’ list on the right side. The authors vary from centrist-Democrats to left-of-left.

Democracy Now
Real. Actual. News. Enough said.

JuanCole
History professor, writer, and world traveler, Juan Cole provides in-depth analysis on all things Middle-East. He has a unique ability to explain the intricacies of Middle-Eastern affairs. Bonus: poetry by Omar Khayyam, the 13th century Persian astronomer and poet!

Matt Taibbi
Taibbi’s reporting on Wall Street and the banks’ continued fleecing of America is second to none. If you like your usual depressing economic stories sprinkled with some adult metaphors and the occasional f-bomb (full-disclosure: I prefer this method), Taibbi is your go-to guy.

Media Matters
Media Matters provides a thorough critique of the media on a daily basis. Warning: some of the stories are refuting the absolutely asinine stories coming out of Fox News.

The Nation
The Nation is the oldest weekly publication in the United States. An invaluable alternative news source with long-form reporting and daily stories only available online. Add their bloggers and OWS coverage and you have an excellent source you can depend on.

Paul Krugman
Paul Krugman is a Nobel-Prize winning economist and writer. His column in the New York Times is a must read. He’s been consistently right for a long time and is widely cited as someone who’s advice our leaders could greatly benefit from.

Tomdispatch.com
Tom Engelhardt is a writer and editor associated with The Nation magazine. Very informative, widely cited, and always intriguing to read. Want to know about drones? Look no further! Assassinations? Whistle-blowers? Got those covered too! Throw in the occasional environmental story and you get one hell of a site.

Truth-out.org

In-depth investigative reporting and great analysis and essays on current affairs.

Truthdig.com
“Drilling beneath the headlines”, truthdig gets to the pertinent facts of the story. Throw in their daily political cartoons and OWS coverage and you have a winner!

So here you go folks. Get to it. Explore and learn and we’ll all be the better for it!