Zero Interest and Debt
Can anyone recall in our recent memories a period in which the Federal Reserve essentially ended real interest rates (almost non-existent interest that does not match the rate of low inflation)? We understand the logic behind quantitative easing, given that only with about 2% interest on federal obligations can the government service the huge $17 trillion debt (our service costs on the debt are actually less than during the 1990s in inflation-adjusted dollars when the debt was a third of the present amount). Is the theory that the deserving poor who are debtors should pay their undeserving rich creditors very little?
But how does that work out in fact? Debtors are paying high interest, from 7-8% on many student loans to 15-20% on credit cards — especially those who cannot take advantage of cheaper mortgage loans. Yet why save, when passbook accounts pay about 1% or less? Are you to turn to the stock market with your $1,000 and risk another 2008? Or dabble in real estate and ditto the same?
Would it be better to have worked 30 years at the DMV and be receiving a California state pension, or to have owned a small business and scrimped to have put away $3 million in savings? In terms of monthly income, perhaps the state pension is preferable.
In our “sue anyone” America, we are told that companies are responsible, even indirectly, for the unintended but pernicious effects of their products. We not only sue tobacco companies for the bad lungs of the smoker, who on his own free will plays poker with cancer, but also the fast food outlet whose coffee when spilled burns inattentive buyers. By that litigious standard, why are there no suits against Apple for its iPhone — an insidious device far more addictive than opiates, an impairment to driving far more deleterious than two martinis, and at a monthly cost as disruptive to household finances as habitual visits to the casino?
In the last week, on five occasions I have dodged two swerving semi-trucks on State #99, a motorist who made a rolling stop into a pedestrian walkway and almost hit my bicycle, and two drivers going no more than 40 mph in the fast left freeway lane. The common denominator? They were all texting on their phones. According to liberal legal minds, isn’t Silicon Valley guilty of hawking one of the most dangerous consumer items of the last fifty years?
How did Barack Obama become the most anti-civil liberties president in history — to almost complete silence? Well aside from the fact that Obama embraced, or more often expanded, all the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols (e.g., preventative detention, Guantanamo, renditions, the Patriot Act, etc.), he has droned ten times more suspects than did Bush.
Do we remember Obama’s own reference to Bush’s occasional use of bombing and predators in Afghanistan, when he called for more ground troops so that the U.S. had “enough troops that we’re not just air raiding villages and killing civilians which is causing enormous problems there”?
When was the last time a president got caught tapping the private phones of French elites, a German chancellor, or a Brazilian head of state? When has an Associated Press reporter found his communications monitored? Has any president since Richard Nixon been accused of politicizing the IRS to go after supposedly partisan enemies? What might have been the media response had George Bush monitored the communications of our key allies? Never in recent U.S. history has a president so impaired the concept of civil liberties — and to the complete silence of the media that proclaims itself the very champion of the First Amendment.
In sum, we have become so inured to recent distortions in reality, that we assume aberration is the new normal — or we are too busy texting to care.