It’s the Stupid Economy


Nobel physicist grins at Bush. Nobel economist growls at Bush.

Matter shook hands with antimatter on December 1 in the White House when George W. Bush, just back from Canada, played host to a string of 2004 Nobel Prize winners, including MIT physicist Frank Wilczek.

Quantum leap: Bush and physicist Frank Wilczek (center), at a photo op Wednesday in the Oval Office, discuss invading the universe to win aysmptotic freedom for quarks

The prof has contributed to “a compelling explanation of the asymmetry between matter and antimatter in the present universe,” according to his proud school. But that still doesn’t explain how Bush has been able to get away with cutting taxes for the rich and then getting poor people to help re-elect him.

For details on that problem, we have to go to a previous Nobel winner, Cal–Berkeley economist George A. Akerlof, who told Matthias Streitz of Der Spiegel in July 2003:

This is the worst government the U.S. has ever had in its more than 200 years of history. . . . This is not normal government policy.

Akerlof hammered the Bush administration, and not just for faulty math. The tax cuts for the rich, especially those regarding dividends, will be disastrous, said Akerlof, who should know about hidden dangers: He coined the term “lemon” in 1970 to describe a used car with hidden defects. To Akerlof, every Bush pledge smells lemon-fresh. As the economist said:

The government is not really telling the truth to the American people. Past administrations from the time of Alexander Hamilton have on the average run responsible budgetary policies. What we have here is a form of looting.

For some reason the American people do not yet recognize the dire consequences of our government budgets. It’s my hope that voters are going to see how irresponsible this policy is and are going to respond in 2004 and we’re going to see a reversal.

Asked at the time what would happen if there were no “reversal,” Akerlof, who shared the 2001 Nobel in economics, replied:

Future generations and even people in ten years are going to face massive public deficits and huge government debt. Then we have a choice. We can be like a very poor country with problems of threatening bankruptcy. Or we’re going to have to cut back seriously on Medicare and Social Security. So the money that is going overwhelmingly to the wealthy is going to be paid by cutting services for the elderly.

The solution? “Now is the time for people to engage in civil disobedience.” Streitz asked, “Of what kind?” The 64-year-old Akerlof replied, “I don’t know yet. But I think it’s time to protest—as much as possible.”

Now, on the verge of 2005, the Bush regime is gearing up to realize its cherished dream of making millions for its broker pals on fees alone by privatizing Social Security and letting them gamble on the stock market with your nest eggs. Cry about it if you want, but peel The Onion for a good laugh: “New Social Security Plan Allows Workers To Put Portion Of Earnings On Favorite Team.” The story is about a Bush regime plan “that will allow citizens to bet a third of their payroll taxes on their favorite sports teams.”

The story isn’t far off the mark.

Check out this fascinating tale of how you can wind up with egg on your face: “Frist Political Fund Can’t Cover Bank Loan.” The Washington Post piece, by Dan Morgan and Brian Faler, says that a campaign fund controlled by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist “has lost almost $460,000 in stock market investments since 2000 and now does not have enough to cover a sizable bank loan.”

Frist, a wealthy pol and wealthy doctor, can survive that kind of gambling on the market. Can you?

The difference between reality and gallows humor about reality is getting smaller all the time. The indispensable Students for an Orwellian Society directs us to this tidbit: Bush and Tony Blair were nominated last January for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Let’s see physicists like Frank Wilczek cobble together a theory that accounts for that asymmetrical factoid.