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Points of Departure

August 4th, 2011

I just want to bring up a little bit of history here. Back in 2000, when we were looking at surpluses, Republicans hated the idea. They were nearly apoplectic at the thought of government taking in more than it spent within a limited time frame. They used the catchphrase, “It’s your money,” as if the people were being robbed or something. It was as if the debt did not exist, and did not need to be paid off, so if the government had a surplus, that meant that taxes were too high.

Clinton and Gore proposed paying off the debt (by 2013!), extending the solvency of Social Security, and even establishing a reserve in case emergency funds were needed. Yes, the economic downturn at the turn of the century would have muted this, but had Gore been in office, the economy would have been much better. No huge tax cuts for the wealthy, no Iraq War, and, even if 9/11 had gotten past the counter-terrorism structure that Bush disassembled, the war in Afghanistan would have been shorter and far less costly. We might have maintained surpluses and actually gotten some debt reduction (though we probably would not have paid off the whole debt by 2013, especially with Republicans whining about surpluses and pushing for tax cuts); we certainly would have had a far healthier economy, back in 2001 and later on as well, no question about that whatsoever.

Republicans rejected the idea of paying off debts. They wanted to erase the surplus with tax cuts–which they did, and then some. Then 9/11 hit, and they added the burden of two massively expensive land wars in Asia. Over the years, they piled on more tax cuts, more unpaid-for entitlements, and precisely the kind of wasteful pork-barrel spending they always accused Democrats of, even worse than the Democrats actually carried out themselves. They drove the economy into a deep ditch, and then tried to pile all the blame on the next Democrat who took office, as if nothing untoward had happened in the previous eight years and the debt crisis had somehow how magically materialized the moment Obama stepped into the Oval Office.

Amazing how history can hinge on even the smallest of things. There is one graphic designer somewhere in Florida who slapped together the butterfly ballot for Palm Beach County for the 2000 elections. Had that person not made a simple design error, Gore would not have lost thousands of votes to Buchanan (and to Gore-Buchanan cross-votes), and the course of American history would have been changed to an astonishing extent.

And to think that in the 2000 elections, people bemoaned the idea that there was little or no difference between Gore and Bush.

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  1. Troy
    August 4th, 2011 at 12:18 | #1

    and also 538 of the ~100,000 Nader voters in FL.

    Great call, guys!

    Plus the 22,000 Nader votes in NH when Gore lost by 7,000.

    I still remember my reaction driving home on election day in 2000 when they said Bush had won Florida on the radio.

    I knew things were going to go bad, but . . . geez.

    But what scares me more is that liberals are outnumbered by conservatives 2:1 in this country.

    Gonna hafta GTFO I think. Japan’s not so bad, but youse guys have your own problems now.

  2. Luis
    August 4th, 2011 at 14:31 | #2

    There were so many things which, by themselves, swung the election to Bush. Had someone detected Harris’ heinous and odious move to disenfranchise tens of thousands of Democrats, that would have kept Bush from getting elected… Had anyone been there to object to the illegal, Republican-only tampering of absentee ballots in Seminole County, that would have kept Bush from getting elected… Nader is just One More Thing. Had the people’s will been accurately represented, Gore would have won handily. Harris’ actions alone make it a stolen election. The ballot alone made it a botched election. Bush was not supposed to win, but by a combination of spoiler (Nader), chance (ballots), corruption (Seminole), and outright theft (Harris), Bush squeezed by.

    I chose the butterfly ballot as my example because it was the least of all the separate, individual causes which swung the election. It was such a small and simple thing, probably one person or at most a few people saying, “Yeah, what the fuck, go with the butterfly ballot, who cares?”–or else one graphic designer, as I posited, arranging the ballot in a staggered fashion so that it was unclear who one was voting for… it was such a simple thing, and yet it led to two major wars, hundreds of thousands of deaths, several major terror attacks, and trillions of dollars in debt. The kind of thing you read about in time-travel stories, like Asimov’s “End of Eternity” and the M.N.C, or “Minimum Necessary Change,” where you move a container from one shelf to another, and later, large numbers of deaths are averted (or caused). Massive shifts in human history balancing on a razor-sharp edge so that the smallest of touches changes the whole world.

  3. Troy
    August 5th, 2011 at 05:51 | #3

    For all we destroyed in the 2000s, we’re still in arguably better shape than Japan:


    though this is using 2009 numbers and is thus missing $3T+ of additional deficit spending (about what the total non-gov US debt was in 2000, LOL).

    Also, so much of our GDP is dependent on these debt inflows. Cut the inflow and we’d have to raise taxes or cut spending, both of which are contractionary.

    I have no clue where Japan goes from here. Your baby boom is a lot smaller than the US’s and I think a little depopulation is going to be a good thing over time as “growth” will no longer be necessary, just maintenance of what has already been built.

    Though losing a big chunk of the Tohoku’s civic and industrial infrastructure really sucked, economics-wise.

    I think the yen wants to go to 50. This is not necessarily a bad thing for Japan.

    As for the US, you have the luxury of semi-abandoning your citizenship here. Enjoy that luxury and focus on you new life as a Japanese-type person : )

  4. Tim Kane
    August 5th, 2011 at 07:34 | #4

    Bush doesn’t get elected, then no…

    no 9/11, no Iraq war, No Afghan War, (and any war would have enlisted the entire international community on a scale not seen since the final months of World War II).

    No tax cuts for the rich. No massive borrowing from China. No demand implossion.

    Less H1B visas, less deregulation, less lax regulation.

    The country would be in 100% better shape by now.

    There is no humanly way to comprehend both the crime committed by those acting on behalf of Bush and the consequences of their actions.

    There is no God on earth, else, it wouldn’t have happened, but if there is a God in heaven, every single person who acted -illegally, immorally, or wantonly on his behalf will burn in a hell reserved for the likes of Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, Timur, Genghis. Katherine Harris can take her place amongst them.

  5. Troy
    August 5th, 2011 at 08:27 | #5

    i dont know …

    It’s easy to blame the republicans but they were only selling what the country (largely) wanted to buy.

    We’re going to have to take a few more hard knocks before the logic of liberalism and leftism gains any traction.

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