Monday, January 25, 2010

Clearing up misconceptions

There seems to be a lot of confusion over what the stimulus bill has done for the American public. Although Joe Klein ends up being a condescending asshole in explaining it, this bit deserves repeating:
This money is that magical $60 to $80 per month you've been finding in your paycheck since last spring. Not a life changing amount, but helpful in paying the bills.


The next highest amount was $275 billion in grants and loans to states. This is why your child's teacher wasn't laid off...and why the fire station has remained open, and why you're not paying even higher state and local taxes to close the local budget hole.

There are some major public works projects that should come on board next year. If anything, the stimulus was too little of a good thing. Then again, since Obama is something of a true believer in neoliberalism (albeit the lite version), I'm not too surprised that his administration's moves to pull the economy from the edge of the abyss were tepid at best. Hence, the benefits were far less visible than they could have been.

What I suspect happens is that a lot of the public confuses the stimulus bill with TARP, which was the bailout for Wall Street that was passed during the waning days of Bush II and left intact when Obama got the keys to the White House. This confusion is something I've discussed before. Unlike the stimulus, I considered from the start the bailouts under TARP to be a bad idea, that essentially ripped off taxpayers in order to allow banksters to go about business as usual (just ask some of TARP's beneficiaries about those huge bonuses their employees received around the end of last year). Unfortunately, there are too many demagogues and hucksters who have done their best to deliberately confuse stimulus and bailouts early and often, and having repeated the big lie often enough, they have managed to successfully deceive much of the public.

As an aside, I think Klein is way too harsh on the average American. Really, he should try slumming it sometime where I reside. He might be shocked to find that one real stumbling block to being well-informed citizens isn't due to laziness or whatever, but rather due to the lack of adequate sources of information. Not everyone has access to high-speed internet and knows to look for accurate alternative media. Many may be saddled with basic cable that might only offer FauxNews, or perhaps CNN, and the local and regional print news media usually spread whatever misinformation their corporate sponsors want propagated. Many of my peers are doing the best they can with what they have available. They're also very understandably stressed and angry. Rather than bag on us, Klein would do well to walk in our shoes. If he has even a shred of capability to empathize, he will realize that the problem of an ill-informed public resides not with the "unwashed masses" but rather with the mass media system itself.

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