Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Economy vs. Deficit and Economists vs. Republicans

Good morning, friends, viewers, and casual passers-by.
Last night was the CNN Tea Party debate. For those of you who may not know, the Tea Party is a particularly conservative branch of the Republican Party - the conservative party of the two most prominent parties in the US - which adamantly opposes taxation and government oversight. They perpetuate the idea that the government is over-spending and over-regulating and needs to be reined in and reduced to its purely Constitutional responsibilities. The legislation most opposed by the Tea Party is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also called "Obamacare," which was signed into law on March 23, 2011; to them, it is the prime example of government overstepping its boundaries and recklessly spending taxpayer dollars.
The focus of the debate last night was once again the economy; there was a lot of raucous applause and booing for the candidates on various points, but what got to me was the misrepresentation of facts, especially about the economy and the debt.
You see, what the candidates failed to note was that the "economy," the "deficit," and the "debt" are all different things. The "economy" is commerce. Business. Consumer spending. This is where citizens are employed and businesses produce goods and services to be consumed by the general public. The "deficit" is the amount of money in one fiscal year that the government spends in excess of its revenue (meaning income from taxes.) The "debt," finally, is all of the money that the government still owes, taking into account all of the deficits over the years that have not yet been paid off.
This difference may not seem like much of an issue to some voters, especially because they are all admittedly things on the "to-fix" list. The issue, however, is that they cannot all be fixed at the same time.
Economists and business leaders alike say that the way to get commerce moving again is to increase consumer spending. The basic idea is that the reason that businesses produce goods and services is for those goods and services to be purchased. Businesses cannot (and should not be asked to) hire employees if the current employees are providing adequate supply in relation to the demand of the company's clientele. In order to increase production, or supply, one must increase demand. If demand increases, then the companies will probably hire more employees to fill the need.
The issue with this is that, by the free market, no one wants to take the first step. Consumers do not want to take on more debt in hard economic times; they are already strapped for cash and worried about whether they will have a job in the morning. Businesses do not want to hire new people; with fewer products being purchased, they too are strapped for cash and worried about whether they will have customers in the morning. The only entity with a big enough influence (to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars) is the government, which has the added benefit of being able to look at the problem with a largely unbiased (or at least bi-partisan) opinion and with the focus on improving the lives of its citizens over the shares of its stockholders.
Now I know that sounds scary--when everyone has debt, the last thing they want to hear is that the government has debt as well, and there has been a lot of fear-mongering about whether the government has the right to do so and whether it will pay off.
To this end, all of the economists I have read have agreed that government spending is the only way to improve the economy. Furthermore, they worry that the proposed stimulus plans are not big enough. The 2009 plan, approximately $787 billion, did actually have some effect; unfortunately, the results are hard to quantify because the economy just ended up not sucking quite as badly as it could have without the stimulus. This, however, is not a policy failure, except insofar as it should have been bigger to get the economy going. The problem is that because it didn't improve, naysayers don't want to give Obama even more money now for a new stimulus, which economists again say probably isn't big enough.
But on to the debt and deficit. Surely we have a lot of both. Congress has been asked to come up with a budget plan to avoid flirting with default again by reducing government spending by over $1 trillion over the next ten years. At the same time, many are calling for a tax overhaul to close up loopholes and hold everyone accountable for their fair share of taxes. Both of these things are probably a good idea - if we reduce spending and increase revenue (income from taxes), we will have a much more balanced budget with a lower deficit.
Because of the Republican candidates' failure to separate the economy from the deficit in discussion, they are essentially spreading misinformation. They seem to say that government spending increases the deficit, which will make the economy worse. Paying it off, however, will make the economy better. This is simply not true. Nothing about the government paying off its own debt will increase the production or consumption of goods and services. Furthermore, if the government continues not to act on the economy, businesses and households will continue to lose their own revenue; as a result, tax revenue to the government, which is based on percentages of such commercial exchanges, will fall at precisely the same rate. This will cause its own increases in the government deficit and debt.
In contrast, short-term government spending could reverse the whole cycle. By spurring the economy, the government increases the GDP, which increases tax revenue, even without doing anything to taxes. This will reduce the deficit in its own way, meanwhile making life much easier for citizens, as employment rates will go up to fill the new-found demand. Thus, a short-term stimulus can quickly pay for itself, while a long-term policy of austerity will result in an increase of deficit over time.
This is what economists are saying. Meanwhile, candidates insist that spending will not improve anything. How can they reject the advice of experts, you may ask?
It is just one of many things that speaks to a deeper problem among the conservative movement: an ignorance of reality in favor of an idealized world that follows a near-religious set of dogmas. I could go on, but Andrew Sullivan said it much better than I ever could and I would recommend that anyone read it for basically my full opinion on the matter.
So please leave your comments! I am not sure if I will be able to reply to them (there is just not a good way to reply to comments here on Blogger), but I do want to know your thoughts because I'm more than willing to admit if and when I am wrong. The only way we can fix these issues is by having civil and honest discussions about the problems with our nation.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

30 DoB 19/20: 30 DoB No More.

Okay, I'm tired of writing disappointing blogs and I'm tired of feeling disappointed that I didn't meet arbitrary goals that I set when I have been somewhat productive during the day.

For example, today, I wasn't awake by seven, I didn't read much, I didn't exercise, and I didn't blog yesterday, so for all intents and purposes, I'm down to 0/4. However I was awake by 9, which is still pretty early considering, worked pretty darn hard on several things for Music for Muggles, and worked on something that I still, unfortunately, have to keep secret because it pertains to next year.

So I may have failed the goals, but I succeeded in the day... which makes me wonder whether this project is worthwhile. The point was to keep me from refreshing Tumblr and/or playing The Sims all day or something like either of those. This wasn't one of those days and I don't know that I'll have those days very frequently... and most of the time I can feel when I need them, and I don't want to have to explain them away.

So I guess what I'm saying is I'm done doing this 30 Days of Blogging project because my heart's not in it and I don't really need it. I could be doing so many other things with the 20 minutes or so it usually takes me to write. I have so many projects I want to do and I don't want to have to give up on some of them just because 30 days ago I decided that such-and-such was more important. So I'm not going to. I'm just going to do what I want to. After all, it is my last summer before being an adult... I should be doing what I want.

So thanks for your support and I look forward to hearing from you guys in the comments on my videos ^_^

Thursday, June 9, 2011

30 DoB 18: Yeah.

So if you haven't noticed, I have had increasingly less to talk about in my blogs. Something has happened this week to where I've just kind of snowballed out of control in laziness... I've gone from really getting stuff done, especially in terms of reading, to getting virtually nothing done. As usual, it seems to be related to my sleep habits, but I don't know what is changing them. I accurately predicted yesterday that I would not get sleep, and lo and behold! I did not. I was in bed, sure, at about 11:45, but I did not get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. This made my wake-up this morning rough, which made my day go by much faster than expected because I had no morning of which to make use.

I have also had more IRL contact, which is both a good and a bad thing. I need some semblance of a schedule in order to get the proper amount of sleep in order to get the proper amount of stuff done--I'm no workaholic, but something about such an imbalance really does a number on me. Perhaps everyone needs that system in order to stay productive in a healthy way, which is why I seem to churn out more work than a lot of people expect. However, because my friends do not operate on the schedule as I and because it would be not only ludicrous but downright rude to expect them to do so, I have to sacrifice it if I want to hang out with them, and obviously that is a sacrifice I'm willing to make. (Side note: I wrote that whole passage with Tom Baker's voice narrating it in my head. Can you tell what I've been doing?)

Anyway, basically what I'm saying is that there are excuses and what I need to do to break the cycle is be aware of them, but also just suck it up and deal with it. Those of you who read last year know it is near impossible for me to re-start late in the day if I did not get a good morning in; I shall do the best I can tonight (Good lord, Tom Baker. Get out of my head!) but will give myself the signals for my wake-up tomorrow to set things straight.

At least I have perseverance :/
Sleeping: O
Blogging: X
Reading: O
Exercise: AOOO

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

30 DoB 17: DONE!

So... today I finished the last official class meeting of my undergraduate career.

What did I do with my free time?

Well, I only ate at Mother Bear's (a celebratory necessity), went to Lauren's BlogTV show, made a video, and then watched So You Think You Can Dance for the first time ever because my roommate's girlfriend came by because she was near campus and we were the only place with a TV. I was intrigued, to say the least.

But now all is done and I should probably head to bed, but I don't find myself really wanting to. I have a lot on my mind, mostly involving things that I shouldn't really think about until tomorrow or Friday because there's nothing I can do about it now. Oh, summer insomnia!
Sleep: X
Blogging: X
Reading: O
Exercise: O

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

30 DoB 16: Full Day

Bleargh. I'm so tired. There are many reasons for that and right now I just feel like recounting them instead of saying something useful, and I wield the power to do so! So there! (I love you all)

I woke up rather early this morning because I wanted to see my students whom I taught in the Spring semester. It was their second-to-last day of school and I missed the day I was supposed to be there last week (a long story with many different sides that don't really matter.) So I woke up at my normal time for going to that school, which was about 5:30 AM. I went there and sat with my students; there was nothing really interesting going on, but that was exactly how I liked it. We just talked about what they were doing next year and what I was doing next year, and it was a nice, relaxed time.

When I arrived back home, it was about 11:00 and I finally got to catch up on Tumblr--speaking of which, allow me to reiterate that the Stay Focused application for Google Chrome is fantastic!--and ate some lunch and went to my class.

After class, time kind of disappeared. We all decided to capitalize on a local bar's $2 Tuesdays; I got dinner and two drinks, and ended up sticking around until about 6:00 PM, which was much longer than I expected to stay. But it was worth it to hang out for what could possibly be the last time with my classmates, who on Friday will all begin dispersing themselves around the country.

When I returned home, I got to have a wonderful long chat with Will (WillsOdyssey) with whom I have not spoken in ages, which is a real shame. I love my YouTube friends and it is lovely when I get to catch up with them, especially when it involves many of us at rather pivotal points in our lives when we get to make big, impactful decisions. I got to catch him up on several such decisions I have made and to talk about VidCon and the Bath gathering and mutual friends and possibly-to-become friends and such. It was really nice.

Anyway, it's been a long day and I'm just exhausted and not at all ashamed that most of my goals have not been met because I feel fulfilled and that's that. See you all tomorrow!
Sleeping: X
Blogging: X
Reading: O
Exercise: AOOO

Monday, June 6, 2011

30 DoB 15: Reconciling "High" and "Pop" Art?

I did so. much. reading. today. I don't think I bit off more than I can chew in reading The Fountainhead but man, that book is long. I read about 150 pages today and should probably read about 50 more before going to bed... and then maybe I'll have made a dent in the book.

I'm definitely enjoying it, though! It presents some really interesting ideas using the contrasting practices of two architects - one who kind of manipulates his way through life and gives exactly what people want, the other who has almost no emotion at all, but builds perfect buildings, but no one likes them. And when the latter corrects the work of the former, everyone calls it a masterpiece. Of course, that's only Part I of I think five parts? Not sure. I've got some way to go.

But it does present some interesting ideas about art and I found a lot of strange parallels with the time period in music. It takes place in the late 20s, around the time Schoenberg had fully developed his 12-tone technique and was teaching it to Berg and Webern, if I'm not mistaken. That was music that was taking Roark's (the second architect's) approach: music very aware of its past and continuing it, but music which was made only for the 20th century and which didn't mash together bits of previous music that people found "pretty" just because the public thought it was pretty.

Unfortunately for music, Schoenberg became associated not only with intentionally ugly music (he called it "the emancipation of the dissonance"), but with the Nazis being opposed to it, which meant that his music came to represent the music of the Free World and anyone who didn't write in his style was a Communist. At the same time, the music which was approved by the Nazis and later the Soviets is what people wanted to hear--Orff, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich, to name a few. As a result, people couldn't stand what they were allowed to hear and weren't allowed to hear what they could stand.

Sure, there were some exceptions, mostly in America (Gershwin, Copland, Bernstein), but even they were ostracized by their peers who preferred industrial-sounding, experimental music by composers most of the public hasn't heard of--Cowell, Boulez, and Ruth Crawford Seeger, for example. What's curious to me is how many of them actually were Communists, regardless. Copland, for example, when he started writing very "American" music was supposedly writing it as "music for the people."

To put it in short terms, this time period was pretty much the breaking point when "high art" got put on a little too high of a pedestal, to the point where the average passerby would only have seen the column and not been willing to climb to see the beauty on top. The process had been in place for about 100 years, but I would say that this is the time when people really stopped caring and instead turned to pop art that "cultured" people have been trained to turn their noses up at. And for me, personally, the most devastating part of it all is that I still deeply love high art, but I also deeply love "the people," and reconciling the two has been an incredibly difficult process that I daresay I will never complete.
Sleeping: X
Blogging: X
Reading: X
Exercise: OOUF (I don't know that I mentioned it, but yesterday was the first day I actually recorded on my numberless calendar; I'm also working on a good routine for the first two categories.)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

30 DoB 14: Brothers and Like-Brothers and Brother-Like

Okay okay okay so I know some of you out there are keeping count and will note that it's after my bedtime. To you I say, the IRL exception is in full swing. My cousin Jeremy just got back in town and I can't not hang out with him. I haven't seen him in weeks! He's a cool singer a year behind me in the music school and we were roommates last year but he moved in with his other roommate from the year before. I miss having him around all the time.

Anyway, we chatted on skype with his parents a bit before watching the first, like, half hour of The Tenth Kingdom which is a really bad 6 1/2-hour-long movie. We couldn't bear to watch very much of it. We chilled out a little bit and talked about how we realized how obvious it was that our dads are brothers, and then on the way out the door just a bit ago we did the same hand gesture simultaneously when talking about a joy ride from his place to my place. We were like "and we're definitely related too."

Rewind a bit and some of you may remember a conversation on Tumblr between me, Rohan, Ryan, and my brother Tim about how Tim is my brother and how Ryan loves our interaction on Tumblr. I mentioned this to Jeremy and we talked about how growing up, we hated our brothers and they hated us. It's a lot of fighting and rivalry and stuff, and all the old fogies (particularly our fathers) would say stuff like "You hate them now, but once you guys grow up you'll come to see how much you like each other." It's so true!

I remember coming home from various breaks at college as my brother started maturing and realizing how mature he had become. I remember being completely shocked when he made a well-researched and well-defended point in a dinner conversation and being shocked that he wasn't a little kid anymore. I admit to getting a little jealous one of the last times I was home because he and Dad started discussing some really complex physics things that I can't even begin to recall except that it involved several ways to keep ice cream nice and soft in the freezer. I couldn't help thinking to myself "No! I'm supposed to be having the intellectual discussion with Dad and you're supposed to be playing video games like the kid you are!" Well, he's not a kid anymore. But I've realized more and more that he's just an awesome dude about to go into his second year of college. And I love that I get to talk to him through tumblr and text messaging because even though I'm like 1500 miles away, it doesn't feel like quite as much.

Plus, I have to stay on his good side because he's probably going to be the one with money in the family ;)

I guess what I mean to say is that there's that adage that says "It takes a village to raise a child," and if you take my huge family as the village, I'd concur. They're all awesome and I'm very glad to be a part of it! I should show them more in videos. I'm sure at least some of them would be willing to partake.
Sleeping: ? (another midmorning nap. I don't know if those count.)
Blogging: X
Reading: X
Exercise: R (Rest Day)