Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Few Election Thoughts

For the most part, I don't find it particularly comfortable or natural to comment on partisan political issues, but I find my thoughts this morning drawn overwhelmingly to the election. So let me share a few of those thoughts.

What I see happening is this: the public is aware, rather inchoately, that things are going badly wrong and that the life they are accustomed to is under threat, but they have no idea what to do. The parties, by and large, have failed to diagnose the roots of the problem, and instead are reflexively proposing to relive their greatest hits of the past. Since the problems of the past are not the problems of the present, these approaches are not working. This is leading both parties into a cycle of over-promising what they can deliver, thus leading to bitter disappointment.

The country faces massive threats to its comfortable lifestyle:
  • competition with a rapidly rising middle class in China and to a lesser extent with India, now getting the benefits of modern infrastructure but still willing to work for cents on the dollar
  • built-in dependence on huge amounts of foreign oil, having depleted most of the domestic supply, thus requiring a huge military to project power all over the globe as needed to maintain the supply, as well as handsome payments to the oil producers.
  • The resulting trade deficit, and the implied increasing debt, both federal and private.
  • The aftermath of a huge financial crisis
  • The beginning rumbles of climate change starting to move from an issue in the distant future to a threat to society in coming decades.

The analysis of the left (eg as typified by Krugman) has been that this is like the 1930s, and the solution is a massive injection of fiscal stimulus, together with draconian reform of the banking sector to reduce it's power and influence and ability to derail the economy, and trade sanctions against China to punish it for currency manipulation.  The actual Democratic policy over the last two years has been a half-hearted attempt at parts of this approach - some stimulus, but not enough to return to full employment, some reform of the banking sector, but not enough to really rein in the bankers, a little vague preaching about inequality, but almost no actual measures to address it, and basically very little done about international competition.  Oh, and a large focus on health reform - a left over piece of the progressive agenda from the 20th century with no particular relevance to the issues of the moment.  Thus, they've ended up with: a huge increase in the federal debt, massive ongoing federal deficits, high unemployment, and untouched trade deficits.  This was not something they communicated to the country ahead of time was the likely scenario (Change and Hope being the theme of the 2008 campaign), and so voters are now recoiling in horror.

To some extent, you can view them as just unlucky to have come into power before the crisis was sufficiently deep - that is unlucky in their timing (relative to Roosevelt in the 1930s, say).  But, on the other hand, while the half-measures of the Democratic party have certainly led to political disaster, I'm not at all persuaded that a full-throated pursuit of Krugmanism would have worked out better in the long term.  Massive fiscal stimulus would have revived domestic spending and employment much better in the short term.  But that in turn would have caused a much larger immediate run-up in the federal debt, failed to initiate any significant effort at deleveraging by American consumers, and other things being equal, caused a large increase in the trade deficit (since American labor is still very overpriced relative to global competitors, and Americans are still very dependent on foreign oil).  Trade sanctions against China might have mitigated some of this, if the Chinese had dutifully agreed to increases in the renminbi, but that would be a very high risk strategy: it might be even more likely to trigger a global trade war and we know how that worked out in the 1930s.  And in general, given the deep structural issues that the U.S. faces, and the fact that the globe is always a risky place, I question whether even more massive increases in the federal debt would have been at all prudent.

On the other hand, the Republican diagnosis of the problem looks even more delusional - just as Democrats wanted to replay their greatest hits from the 1930s, Republicans want to replay theirs from the 1980s (taxes/spending are too high and need to be cut).  They appear to have learnt nothing from the financial crisis, and most of they things they say they want to do to improve the economy are likely to make it worse in the short term (eg cutting federal spending will tend to cause economic contraction, other things being equal, and getting rid of government support for the housing market will tend to worsen house price declines in the near term).  Wholesale removal of government red tape to free up business to create jobs was a major factor in how we got a housing crisis in the first place.  You can't claim to be serious about the deficit while holding out for very low tax rates for the highest income brackets and demagoguing Medicare cost containment measures.  And of course, on energy and climate, Republicans seem to have completely lost touch with reality.

So now what we are likely to get is two years (or more) of gridlock and extreme partisan bickering, while the country continues to drift along without making serious efforts at solving its problems.  It's not at all clear that's what the public wants, but that seems to be what they've voted for.

I think a sign that we are coming to our senses, politically, would be politicians starting to come clean that we face serious long-term problems, that there aren't any short-term easy fixes, and that we need to accept quite a bit of pain in the near term while we put our focus on getting the country on a more sustainable path for the future.  And voters being willing to listen to that and accept it.

30 comments:

Fixed Carbon said...

Stuart: Excellent assessment. Don

David Guy said...

I agree completely. I think this is the best statement of our situation that I've seen anywhere. In addition, I think the Tea Party movement is really a desire to go back to a halcyon past that never really existed. Its a desire to avoid our major problems by running away.

Nebris said...

"...American labor is still very overpriced relative to global competitors.." And in those ten accurate words is the key to the failure of Capitalism. It reduces humans to 'things' and that always ends badly.

Burk Braun said...

Hi, Stuart-

A good and intriguing analysis. The most telling benchmark should be climate denialism. This is where reality hits the fan, testing the political system's ability to deal with the future. On this count, California does better than the rest of the country, and the Democrats do far better than the opposition.

I would differ with your diagnosis of the healthcare policy. It is very much a future issue, since health care will become far more expensive due to demographic trends and technological trends. Reforming that system to be more equitable and efficient is critical to saving real resources for other needs in the economy and to making our society a better place to live. The old system was/is fabulously broken and needs fixing, but there is a long way to go.

Lastly, on deficits and debt, I have to differ again. We don't have to "pay it back". It is that simple. The debt is in the form of savings held by everyone who has bonds. The government could just as well have printed up dollars and given them out, and the recipients stuffed them in their mattresses. The macroeconomic consequences are identical, since bonds will always be redeemed and the government will always keep the bond market solvent. So the money is already out in the system in essence, and never has to be "paid back". The risk is only inflation, now zero, as you know. The government has simply been creating & spending money to fill in the black hole of private credit withdrawal/implosion. The problem is that we have not been getting enough bang for this spending, (infrastucture, public works, etc), and not doing enough of it, as you half-heartedly mention.

It isn't just that Krugman-ites have a partisan position in the economics spectrum, but that they have a deeper understanding of macro-economics. The household analogy to the government is completely false. The Federal government neither has money, nor "is out of" money. It makes it up as it goes along, filling in the savings desires that people have for dollars, export deficits, etc. Deficit hawkery, on the other hand, is mainly a disinformational instrument for the plutocratic interests which want to reduce the capacity of government to regulate for the common (and future) good, and to redistribute to make ours a fairer country.

Benno said...

Among your "massive threats", no mention of your bugaboo, The Singularity, and it's effect on employment.

More optimistic on that one?

brett said...

"I think a sign that we are coming to our senses, politically, would be politicians starting to come clean that we face serious long-term problems, that there aren't any short-term easy fixes..."

Unfortunately, there are still trillions of dollars to be made by corporations through further deregulation, so we are unlikely to hear that message anytime soon

Burk Braun said...

cont.. If I could expand on the debt situation, the converse phenomenon of government surpluses is instructive. The government doesn't "store" any surplus it runs in its budget. The money comes in and is burned or shredded. It doesn't fund anything and it certainly isn't stored for future use. That only happens if you receive other people's money, like Greece borrowing Euros, China accumulating dollars, or us piling up gold (i.e. the household analogy). The currency issuer can neither store nor indebt in its own currency. All it does is manage the value of that currency, i.e. inflation/deflation. It is like a bowling alley making up points- no shortage ever!

So when our government runs surpluses, it is extracting money from the private economy. That may be a positive thing when there are large export surpluses and the private economy is accumulating excess money. Or if inflation is a problem. Or when a large store of savings (government bonds) is being redeemed due to perhaps a demographic shift. But in our situtation, it would be disastrous. The Clinton surpluses may have made people feel virtuous, but they accelerated the process of private indebtedness which we have only begun deleveraging our way out of.. a way that would go a lot faster if the government were adding (spending) more money into the economy, more actively writing down debts, resolving insolvent big banks, etc.

bmerson said...

The problem is that American politics has to lay in the bed it made. For years, the government (all branches, all parties) has been been telling people what they want to hear instead of what they need to know. Now, when the circumstances are showing that returning to the way it was is impossible (whether you long for the 80's, the 50's or some other time), politicians cannot start telling the truth. Americans won't believe them, having been misled for so long. The public now believes what they were told, they believe they can go back to business as usual. No, worse than that, they believe it is their non-negotiable birth right to live they way they envision their fondest memories of their best times. Given that, every politician, every party, is destined to disappoint. It's hard to see how we get out of this catch-22... gridlock looks more and more like death and taxes... here to stay.

James said...

Stuart

This is an insightful and trenchant post. One thought: health care and energy spending, combined, have tripled since 1990, and the former is nearly 2x bigger than the latter right now, and has been on an even more exponential rise. So, it's not all an energy story. You have to address *both* to get a grip on the country's grave fiscal issues.

Today, we are spending about $12,000 per capita per year on those 2 categories. The energy outflow is coming directly from the citizens; the health care costs are a blend of private/public. (Every time a Boomer gets a knee replacement, we are all paying (or borrowing) for it.)

The Chinese have been letting us "finance our fiscal deficit with our trade deficit," good work if you can get it, but that can't last. As for politicians telling people want they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, see David Stockman on last weekend's 60 Minutes. Excellent piece.

PM me at udall22@gmail.com and I will send you an intriguing ppt slide I assembled on the the health/energy nexus.

Nick G said...

I think this administration made healthcare a priority because it thought of it as a cost-center, rather than as simply another part of the economy. Medicare is paid for by the Feds, so they think of it as a cost, not as something productive. But....it really is a valuable part of the economy. It's not like the military, or prisons, which we'd rather not have.

Think about it: as our economy matures, and agricultural and manufacturing labor productivity rise, those sectors of the economy have to contract. Something has to grow to replace it, something of value. Don't we want better health?

Stuart Staniford said...

James/Nick - I think the main focus of health care reform was to extend coverage, and make it more secure, with various things then added to make it (aspirationally) deficit-neutral. It wasn't primarily a cost-control measure.

(Don't get me wrong, I'm somewhat pro the health care reform - primarily for the selfish reason that I perceive it to have made my coverage significantly more secure).

jdl75 said...

Frankly, if the US has something to do, it is to bring its level of tax on gas out of the current totally ridiculous level, and to something approaching other OECD countries. Of course that wouldn't solve everything, but would be a start. I'm amazed that almost nobody mentions it, what are you waiting for ??!!
More on that below with graphics:
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7083#comment-737557

Stuart Staniford said...

jdl75: I think the general perception is that proposing to increase the price of gas in the United States is a prompt method of political suicide. What the Obama administration did do was significantly strengthen CAFE mileage standards, which is much better than nothing.

Stuart Staniford said...

(Oh, there was also cash-for-clunkers, which I thought was a great policy, but it was rather short lived).

jdl75 said...

Stuart, why would it be political suicide if clearly explained ? This has nothing to do with something that would be "altruist" from the US, it is clearly becoming a matter of survival for the US, such a tax is nothing but a protectionist measure towards OPEC, and it is feasible, look at what Turkey went through, CAFE standards or cash for clunker are nothing than makeshift repairs, if there is a solution out of this mess (using less fossile) the only way to get to it is to increase the relative price of fossile to push investiment in the right direction. The US keeping its tax level, if avoiding political suicide, is on the other hand commiting simple plain suicide, that's the simple truth.
And also don't forget that the big picture remains the US at 20 millions barrils a day when China is around 6.5, France for instance at 1.9, I can see the time where people will start saying to the US : sure you can't get some of your FAT away ? Maybe we could help you achieve it (ir becoming a bit pissed at the US consumption level ...)

jdl75 said...

The only alternative to the US managing its consumption, and that can only be through a tax, is WAR, it is quite clear

Mike Aucott said...

Burk,

Even though monetarist economists may have a "deeper understanding of macro-economics" it seems likely that they are still missing a full understanding of the connection that economies must ultimately have to the flows of energy. If we expand the money supply, aren't we assuming that the economy will grow accordingly? If the economy cannot grow because it cannot increase its energy consumption, what then? Could we go from zero inflation to problematic inflation quickly?

Matt Warren said...

This is an excellent contribution to authentic non-partisan analysis. I'm economics-impaired, but your ability to explain your perspective is remarkably cogent. Thanks.

Burk Braun said...

Hi, Mike-

The school I refer to is MMT/chartalist, or Keynesian. But in any case, I was just speaking of how a monetary system runs. The REAL constraints are another matter, as you say. The issue I was trying to bring up is that it is perverse to let economic activity languish for the lack of artificial tokens- i.e. fiat money. Even the Fed's announced QE is a sideshow, because how much more will businesses invest if long interest rates come down from 4% to 3% ? ... not much, unless there is more demand coming in the door. Demand that could be far more powerfully and directly generated by state (fiscal) spending.

More basically, you ask about expanding the money supply in line with real economic activity. If our real productivity went down due to energy shortages, then certainly, the money supply should contract likewise (by Fed action, and by lower government net spending). Otherwise, one gets inflation. No argument there. One problem is that it isn't only the government that can make money, however. Banks can as well, by their fractional lending. So most of the money supply is not government-originated, but is endogenously made in the private sector. This is what makes the system so prone to whipsawing crises and necessitates close supervision and regulation, lately so egregiously neglected. It also is what makes the interest rate policy tool quite powerful in normal times, blunt as it is.

Your model is well-illustrated by a situation like Zimbabwe, whose real production collapsed, but whose government spending continued, resulting in spiralling inflation. To keep monetary values stable, the monetary system does need to be kept in line with the real production system. That is the meaning of having a stable currency value. But this type of thing can not happen quickly without serious government malfeasance, not to mention democratic revolt. Back in the 70's, inflation crept up on us, not quickly, but extremely slowly.

I'd say that at the current time, the energy sensitivity of our economy is lower than in the past, and productivity has continued to rise continuously. So we are in no danger of near-term real economic shocks of this sort. GDP does exhibit a large output gap due to the financial crisis, but as you can tell, this has not led to inflation, because the contraction in private money/credit was far larger than the real drop in production.

nick said...

Burk, another Nick here. Ian Welsh has said I think that the last oil spike shows that growth can no longer recover without causing a shock that shuts it down again.

Mike Aucott said...

Burk,

Thanks; this adds some clarity. However, the idea that our economy is less energy-sensitive now than formerly should be examined. True, we produce more GDP per Btu than we used to. But we still need those fossil fuel Btus. If I change my 20 mpg car for a 40 mpg car am I less dependent on gasoline? Well, sort of... but important factors are how much I have to drive and the price of the fuel. In my view the percent of GDP that is spent on fuel is a useful metric. Historically, it's been in the range of 3%. In the 70s, this percentage spiked briefly to the 10% range. It was back into the 3% range through the 90s, but went up to around 6% a couple years ago. Energy costs have since declined to about 4% of GDP but, now, with oil over $80/bbl, this percent is climbing again. This cost must erode average profit to some degree and is thus like a headwind to the economy. How much can it take?

jdl75 said...

"How much can it take? "

If the US weren't so eager to become third world as fast as possible, it could for sure take much more :

country gallon price in $
UK $7.25
NL $6.38
FR $6.12
DE $5.63
JP $6.57
US $2.91

Excpt that in the above list, much of the gallon price (except for the last country) go back to the common good investment, while the price still push personal investment in the right direction

Kael said...

Stuart, I have to preface this by saying that I greatly respect your intellect; yours is one of the few blogs I make time to read, to help increase my perceptural signal-to-noise ratio.

Also, the following comment is arguably off the beaten path of this blog.

That said...

I disagree with something you said in this post, viz.,"Oh, and a large focus on health reform - a left over piece of the progressive agenda from the 20th century with no particular relevance to the issues of the moment."

This smacks a little bit of Qu’ils mangent de la brioche ("Let them eat cake"). If you work for a corporation, as many Bay Area techies do, you don't think there's a health care crisis. Those who have lost their jobs or often work free lance know different. Several acquaintances of mine have pre-existing medical conditions. At points they have been unable to find health insurance, for any price, in our competitive, for-profit health care milieu. So I think health reform is always relevant.

Actually I spent six months this year helping my twin brother close down his primary care medical practice and file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy ("What? Aren't all doctors rich?" Ah, if only...) I have to tell you, the entire system seems like it is on the teetering brink. These baby-boomers who think they can rely on Medicare are deluded. My brother's practice was so poorly reimbursed by Medicare, I came to consider the Medicare patients charity cases; the practice could only afford to carry them thanks to the HMO and, to a far greater extent, PPO patients. (A practice down the hall from my brother's former office accepts only PPO patients, and from some informal research I did -- doctors are remarkably open about their business metrics -- that practice has the best financials in the entire medical office building.)

My brother's practice closed in bankruptcy mainly due to a huge amount of debt run up by his partner, but also due to anemic fundamentals, too much overhead, and the Great Recession: patients visits in January and February were down a whopping 18% compared to 2009. That's from people losing their jobs, losing their insurance, or just wanting to avoid the expense of co-pays. Don't kid yourself: health care has started to become a luxury. It's insidious, but it's happening.

My point is, everyone at some point deals with health issues, whether it's being hit by a car while riding your bike to work, or having a child diagnosed with autism. And our current system is a total mess -- on the one end it screws the patients, denying claims on average ~20% of the time, while on the other end the primary care medical providers keep getting their reimbursements cut. Cui bono? As near as I can tell, the medical specialists and, by far, the HMO executives. This is why vertically-integrated health entities (Kasier, Sutter, Palo Alto Medical Foundation) are, from what I can tell, the future: only large, functionally diversified entities have the clout to fight the insurance companies and the broad complex economics to be robust.

Meanwhile, primary care doctors under 40 are fleeing primary care medicine, particularly in the California Bay Area. My brother was the last member of his UCSF med school class to leave primary care. If you're having trouble finding a doctor outside systems like Kaiser, well, now you get a sense of why...

Stuart Staniford said...

Kael:

Thanks for sharing your family's experience, and sorry if my comment seemed cavalier. I didn't mean to express that the US health care system wasn't in need of fixing, so much as that the problems with it have been obvious for a long time, and that progressives have been trying to make it more equitable for seventy years or more.

Just Some Idiot said...

You're wrong. Krugman's prescription would have largely worked.

Huge stimulus in investments - things like infrastructure and green energy, not to mention education - would have put people directly to work on things the country needs, instead of funding banks that refuse to lend.

Yes it would have increased debt, but you completely misanalyze the effect of the debt.

The overriding issue in the U.S is that the standard of living needs to drop as related to the global perception of the value of its goods and services. As you point out tangentially, the US standard of living is far too high on this basis.

There are any number of ways this can resolve itself, but among the least detrimental is allowing the currency to depreciate, interest rates to rise, the result of large-scale spending and QE. It's more beneficial for a number of reasons. 1) It takes time, which allows people to adjust. 2) It can be throttled through interest rate setting mechanisms. 3) It creates incentives for the US consumer to stop consuming and to start saving. 4) It pushes commodity prices up, which encourages efficiency. 5) It makes foreign goods and services more expensive, which discourages imports and helps our disastrous current account balance.

America could learn to tighten its belt, given the right incentives and some time and investments in badly-needed areas.

But what's most damaging (and most inequitable) are sudden shocks. The psychological damage we're witnessing now in the fruitcakes known as the Tea Party. The balance sheet damage we're seeing in the mortgage crisis and huge debt levels. And the inequity damage is that those of us who understand this stuff can position assets to be out of the way, while the poor average citizen who works hard, takes care of her family, but doesn't have knowledge or time to be managing money in the most difficult epoch to do so that most of us have ever seen, sees her home value crash, her 401k as well, and her job go away, her health insurance be revoked when she gets sick (if the Republicans get their way). It's a reprehensibly inhumane way to let the inevitable adjustment take place.

But take place it must, and will. Better to do it the right way. Gradually, with appropriate investments made in the US future, borrowing money at ridiculously low rates.

Look at it this way: if you could get 10 year money at 2.4% and make profitable investments with it, wouldn't YOU?

Just Some Idiot said...

Burk Braun said:

"Deficit hawkery, on the other hand, is mainly a disinformational instrument for the plutocratic interests which want to reduce the capacity of government to regulate for the common (and future) good, and to redistribute to make ours a fairer country."

This is an extremely well-expressed statement and I second it wholeheartedly.

If only Obama could understand this (and express it so well).

Stuart Staniford said...

Just Some Idiot:

We'll never know, of course, but this is my conjecture as to some of the unintended consequences if Krugman had had his way, and the government had engaged in much larger fiscal stimulus

1) unemployment would not have gone as high, and it would have started to recover much faster. House prices would not have dropped as much or as fast. Faced with these signals, consumers would have felt less need to deleverage, and would not have started doing so on any scale. Consumers are deleveraging now *because* they felt pain and fear, and wouldn't have changed their behavior absent that. But consumers needed to deleverage, as the trend was not sustainable. Preventing them from experiencing the pain would have left them to accumulate even more debt, for some even more unpleasant denouement down the road.

2) Seeing a relatively painless recession, and a truly enormous run-up in the deficit, the body politic would have concluded that the run-up in the deficit was completely unnecessary, and would be even more convinced that this was happening because of the evil socialism of Obama/Pelosi than they are today. Thus the political backlash would have been comparably severe to the one we have seen.

This goes to my point about timing (contra Roosevelt). I think one of the lessons of the last couple of years is that it's fundamentally difficult to rescue people from drowning and have them be grateful, unless you wait till they themselves agree that they are drowning. If you do it before they've agreed as to the depth of the problem (on the basis of your superior foresight), then you don't get any credit.

Just Some Idiot said...

Stuart Staniford said...

"unemployment would not have gone as high, and it would have started to recover much faster. House prices would not have dropped as much or as fast."

Agreed. This is Econ 102 stuff.

"Seeing a relatively painless recession, and a truly enormous run-up in the deficit, the body politic would have concluded that the run-up in the deficit was completely unnecessary, and would be even more convinced that this was happening because of the evil socialism of Obama/Pelosi than they are today. Thus the political backlash would have been comparably severe to the one we have seen."

Here's where I disagree 180 degrees. Recent research cited by Krugman and others has demonstrated that people don't understand the deficit, and don't even know when it's going up or down, let alone the effects of this or that level on present or future economics. Indeed, on the News Hour last night Krugman cited a study that asked people at the height of the Clinton years what was happening with it and they said it was going up, when in fact it was dropping off a cliff.

Further, pre- and post election polling provides evidence clearly against your position, that is, if things had been much better as you indicate, the political backlash would have been much weaker. Respected analysts and pollsters on the left and the right have said that this election happened as it did because of the state of the economy currently, and its effects on their lives currently, not on some vague pseudo-calculation of how a deficit may or may not affect them in the future. And the deficit is clearly having no effect on their lives at present, as even long rates are still below 2.5% and inflation is tending toward deflation.

The problem of consumer deleveraging, as you point to, is much more of an issue. What makes it so devastating is that we're seeing persistent deflation in the value of the underlying assets, whilst the debt remains high. This is a recipe for disaster.

But this exactly why we desperately need to generate much higher inflation. Because inflation diminishes the real value of the debt, while raising the value of asset prices. Inflation favors debtors. Deflation favors creditors. The creditors have done mighty well with govt. backstops. Now it's time to lessen the debt burdens through inflation (in addition to finding societally equitable ways to distribute the effects of debt principal modification).

Which would also have the salubrious corrolary effects of raising commodity prices, discouraging consumption, raising interest rates, encouraging saving, etc, all things the US consumer desperately needs to do anyway to bring its balance sheets into order.

And then spend some of that newly found money on rebuilding the infrastructure on which this country runs.

I'll say it again, with a sweetener: if you could get 10 year money at 2.4% and make profitable investments with it (AND you could print the money you owe!), wouldn't YOU?

It's ridiculous to allow such devastating deflationary destruction of the country and its society today because of vague (and unsubstantiated by markets) fears about tomorrow.

TiradeFaction said...

Going to have to disagree with you on the non importance of "health reform". As an industry that will soon be chomping away at a staggering 20% of our GDP (where most other industrial nations have it well below even our current amount), it's something that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, the PPACA doesn't really address the structural problems with our health system. Vermont seems to be moving forward with Single Payer though (a reform far better IMHO than PPACA), so we'll see how that works out.

Roger A. Wehage said...

Just Some Idiot said...

But this exactly why we desperately need to generate much higher inflation. Because inflation diminishes the real value of the debt, while raising the value of asset prices. Inflation favors debtors. Deflation favors creditors. The creditors have done mighty well with govt. backstops. Now it's time to lessen the debt burdens through inflation (in addition to finding societally equitable ways to distribute the effects of debt principal modification).

Millions of debtors were allowed to purchase overpriced houses they couldn't afford with worthless Monopoly Money, and now you are saying, "bring on inflation" to make the dollar match that worthless Monopoly Money? What about us creditors, ants who chose to save some of their hard-earned dollars for the future? Not all creditors are rich, you know.

Now you would propose wiping out responsible savers to bail out those irresponsible grasshoppers? Unfortunately you win, as the government has printed yet another $600,000,000,000 of Monopoly Money, its wet ink still oozing across your grubby fingers.