“I love the smell of napalm in the morning” – Kilgore, Apocalypse Now
Boy was it a “bad” day on the market. I use the scare quotes because it was only “bad” if you had money in the market. If your money was stuffed elsewhere, say in gold, then it was a good day. (Not that my money is in gold either, I’m just pointing out that good and bad are relative in terms of market performance.) The Dow Jones dropped 634 points, which is 6th all time in largest single day point drops, but does not make the top 20 for largest daily percentage falls. Still, the Dow was at 12,724 back on 21 July 2011, and has dropped over 15% since then.
Naturally everybody is in a panic. Before piling on, let me make what is, hopefully, a calming statement. Markets rise and fall. It happens. Don’t take a 15% drop as a sign that the world has passed judgement on this or that economic policy (even if it has), and don’t take a 10% rise as a signal that this or that policy is good. The market may well shoot up 300 points tomorrow. Who knows?
Naturally, the politicians are playing politics with it. Barack Obama is trying desperately to attach the fall to the Tea Party (kind of like throwing the gun when you’re out of bullets). Punditry on the Right is calling it “Obamageddon” and the “Barackalypse.” (You have to feel for Obama here. “George W. Bush” really doesn’t fit with English colloquialisms. The “Bushogeddon” would never fly. It just doesn’t flow. But “Obamageddon” works.)
News from the day is all over the place.
Michael Moore is outraged at the S&P for finally figuring out that the U.S. will not be paying back all those dollars in anything like their current value. He is calling for the president to arrest the heads of the S&P. It is little concern to a socialist like Moore to stomp all over freedom, which would include freedom of thought (as carried out by the S&P). My solution is far simpler – decertify the S&P and every other ratings agency and let them rise and fall on their own merits. But socialists (especially national socialists) feel much more justification in arresting political enemies.
Then there’s this story from Democratic pollster Pat Caddell, which indicates that Americans are so fed up that they are “pre-revolutionary.” I suppose I agree, but this won’t play out the same in America as it would in other places.
We see poll after poll which indicate that Americans feel the country is “on the wrong track” and that they disagree with the governance. This does not at all mean that they are united behind a single alternative, it just means they’re upset. It’s a problem for any politician, but not necessarily a cohesive revolution in the making.
During “good times” most folks will look the other way on bad governance and bad public policy. They’ll be upset or perhaps even perturbed, but they remain prosperous and so stay out of the fray. But, when things start going poorly, when the “pie” starts shrinking, it gets interesting. Folks realize that there is less and less to go around and want to make sure they don’t get stiffed out of their share. This gives the air of frustration, anger, and pre-revolution.
But the revolution is not cohesive. There is a group that feels a great anger at the spending prowess of DC. They want to cut spending, cut like there’s no tomorrow. Spike Medicare and Medicaid. Raise the retirement age for Social Security and offer younger workers and “opt-out” so they can choose not to participate. These are the Tea Partiers. The more libertarian-minded among them also want to end the overseas miltarism and foreign interventionism (which costs somewhere between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion annually). Burn down the New Deal and the Great Society and let free people be free. Let them take responsibility for themselves and reap the rewards of their own labors. (Count me in this group.) This is not a majority though.
There is another group that wants a bigger piece of the loot. Perhaps they are retirees who have paid all their lives into a Social Security system and want to get the same payments out that they saw their parents get. Perhaps they are people who see “the rich getting richer” (they are, by the way) and want the government to take some and redistribute it back to the bottom. Whatever the cause, they want to make sure that the shrinking pie is still offered to them first so they can “survive.”
These are groups that agree to dislike the federal government, which is committed to its own purposes and enriching its own political class. But they would hardly agree on a different course of action.
So the debate will go on. The pundits will point to massive disapproval as an indication that their policies are preferred to the status quo (even though the polls show no such thing). The good news (from my perspective) is that the debate does seem to be turning somewhat. The debate does seem to be moving, if just a bit, toward cutting back the government instead of exacting social justice via benevolent policies.
And we, the pre-revolutionaries, what are we to do? Well, hopefully we can turn this ship before folks start becoming post-pre-revolutionaries … which is to say revolutionaries. The system still works here – somewhat. We still get to vote. Our biggest challenges are education and motivation, not insurrection. We neither need nor want the latter. We have to be willing to vote with moral courage though, which can be a daunting task.