I used a recent five hour train ride to a conference to catch up on non-academic reading. The July issue of Harpers Magazine has a pretty disturbing article by Ken Silverstein on the effect of tea party-like political "thought" on Arizona's political economy. (Subscription required unfortunately, but well worth the news stand price to also read Frederick Kaufman's article on Goldman Sachs' manipulation of commodities futures to their own advantage (and the disadvantage of anyone without much income who relies on food to survive)).
Anyone tempted to shrink government and drown it in a bathtub would do well to read the Silverstein article before committing the nation to such a course by their choices in the mid-term elections. (Unless you like the idea of auctioning the White House and Capitol Building to the highest bidder and then renting them back.)
But it was the players in this (now) state-level (maybe soon national-level) drama who really capture one's attention.
First, there's Sylvia Allen, real estate broker, who was appointed by the local GOP to finish the term of an AZ conservative who died in office. She's expected to win in the next election. She's been advocating increased uranium mining in AZ and said in a speech
"this earth has been here for 6,000 years, long before anybody had environmental laws, and somehow it hasn't been done away with."
Leaving aside the minor quibble over the real age of the Earth, does it occur to her that the technology has changed and with it the environmental risk, and that maybe, just maybe, Yahweh intended for us to use our brains not just to develop technology, but also to do it in a way that honored and preserved all else given to us? I believe she made the statement before the Gulf of BP disaster so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that even if she's intellectually unable to accept or process scientific evidence of the earth's real age, she is now aware that for most of those 6000 years (or whatever), our technology has not had quite the same capacity to inflict long-term harm with practically important economic side-effects that cannot be easily remedied after the fact.
Allen is also on record complaining that "trees are 'stealing Arizona's water supply.' "
Yeah, what's with those thieving trees anyhow? And "Arizona's water supply?" Last time I checked, AZ didn't have much of a water supply what with ground water depletion and having to share the Colorado River with six other states. Somehow I think population growth during the housing boom and the quaint custom still practiced in some of the older neighborhoods (at least last time I was there) of flooding one's yard every day might be a bigger threat than a palo verde tree. Or maybe she was referring to the deciduous and fruit trees imported by easterners and mid-westerners in an effort to simulate the flora of a temperate climate. Either way, it doesn't seem like the trees are the real problem.
But my favorite is AZ State Rep Frank Antenori, "recently appointed to a state senate seat," who proposed "that welfare recipients be required to sign an affidavit swearing they do not smoke, drink, use drugs, or have more than basic cable."
It got me wondering: what income does one have to exceed or what amount of bailout must one require before right wing politicians are no longer troubled by handing you money without an affidavit? And why are bailouts for rich bankers and executives so different from bailouts for poor people in this respect? And what would, say, an investment banker or auto company CEO affidavit look like?
"I swear that I do not smoke, drink, use drugs, have more than basic cable, do not belong to more than one country club, do not play golf more than once a month, and limit my daughter's horse showing to only the Florida circuit." Should we restrict the size of their yachts while we're at it? Let's make them drive Ford Focuses while we're at it. No Mercedes or BMW til the firm is solvent and lending again.
Here's my idea of a better affidavit for investment bankers: I will hold a higher minimum level of capital that will be determined by my risk exposure and I will restrict my trading practices with regard to obscure derivatives and any new derivative-like financial instruments I may create (and that benefit only my bank at the expense of both my investor clients and the larger society) and will provide a full and transparent accounting of the risk therein to all potential investors.
Oh, wait, that's not an affidavit. That's regulation. And thank goodness it looks like we will now have some of it after all. Regulation by regulators who believe in regulation is almost certainly better than an affidavit, but I sort of like the idea of an affidavit, too. It seems only fair.