Alex Blaze

Putting people to work and saving lives won't destroy the economy

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 07, 2010 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: ADAP, austerity measures, funding, HIV/AIDS, James Galbraith, left, LGBT, Michael Rajner, politics, right, Tea Party

I've been reading Michael Rajner's recent coverage of ADAP funding cuts and hiv-medication.jpgthe Obama administration and Congress's refusal to make up for state budget cuts that will put people on wait lists for necessary HIV/AIDS medication, and I'm wondering why more people aren't outraged. This isn't some unfortunate, unavoidable byproduct of the recession; rather, it's a conscious decision by powerful people who don't really care if others have to die so they can make a few dollars.

As everyone knows, unemployment is high right now - officially 9.6% of the workforce in June, 16.3% if people who gave up looking for work and involuntarily part-time workers are counted. That's 14.6 to 24.8 million people who have lots of spare time on their hands who want to be doing something productive. Why can't these people produce the drugs that 3000 or so people need? There are plenty of educated people among the unemployed, so finding a few qualified workers in what's the equivalent of the population of a medium-sized country shouldn't be all that hard.

There is a huge over-supply of labor in the US and a clear demand for a possible product of that labor. Every day that an unemployed worker doesn't have a job is another day's worth of goods and services that has been thrown in the trash; getting jobs to unemployed people increases our wealth in terms of things that actually have value. This should be an easy move for the government - put people to work saving other people's lives. (All it would take is the political will to stand up to "fiscal conservatives" and the pharmaceutical industry.)

Which is why excuses for letting people living with HIV/AIDS go without necessary medication when America has an oversupply of labor is nothing but nonsense:

[Executive director of the National ADAP Working Group William] Arnold said his group supports the Burr-Coburn bill on grounds that it could provide immediate help for ADAP and the funds are already incorporated in the federal budget, preventing the need for "more spending" to appropriate the funds.

He also noted that the Tea Party movement appears to have frightened both Republicans and Democrats from embracing new spending, even if they know it's needed to help save lives.

Some Capitol Hill insiders have said the reluctance by lawmakers to back spending measures appears to have stopped a supplemental appropriations bill normally approved each year to pay for federal disaster relief efforts. AIDS activists were hoping a supportive committee member would seek to add the ADAP emergency appropriation to this bill.

That bill, which was before the House Appropriations Committee, was expected to come up for a committee vote last month, just before Memorial Day. But Arnold and other sources familiar with the measure said Committee Chair David Obey (D-Wis.) reportedly put the bill on "hold" because he couldn't line up the votes among his fellow Democrats to pass it.

Moderate and conservative Blue Dog Democrats were among those reluctant to back the bill, said people familiar with the measure.

"The Blue Dog Democrats have been very opposed to spending money, period, because they're worried about getting re-elected and they're from swing districts where tea partiers might be challenging them," Arnold said.

The American right also thinks that Obama's from Kenya, that Hitler's big plan for the world was free health care, and that no one knows where electricity comes from. Tell me why they're in charge of the economy again?

Here's what someone who actually knows what he's talking about says about deficit spending:

Since the 1790s, how often has the federal government not run a deficit? Six short periods, all leading to recession. Why? Because the government needs to run a deficit, it's the only way to inject financial resources into the economy. If you're not running a deficit, it's draining the pockets of the private sector. I was at a meeting in Cambridge last month where the managing director of the IMF said he was against deficits but in favor of saving, but they're exactly the same thing! A government deficit means more money in private pockets.

The way people suggest they can cut spending without cutting activity is completely fallacious. This is appalling in Europe right now. The Greeks are being asked to cut 10 percent from spending in a few years. And the assumption is that this won't affect GDP. But of course it will! It will cut at least 10 percent! And so they won't have the tax collections to fund the new lower level of spending. Spain was forced to make the same announcement yesterday. So the Eurozone is going down the tubes.

On the other hand, look at Japan. They've had enormous deficits ever since the crash in 1988. What's been the interest rate on government bonds ever since? It's zero! They've had no problem funding themselves. The best asset to own in Japan is cash, because the price level is falling. It gets you 4 percent return. The idea that funding difficulties are driven by deficits is an argument backed by a very powerful metaphor, but not much in the way of fact, theory or current experience.

Add in the fact that getting ADAP funding to an acceptable level won't break the bank - they're asking for a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the federal budget.

Reducing the federal debt - and the various austerity programs that deficit hawks are asking for that only ask the American working and impoverished classes to make sacrifices - aren't really about helping the economy. They're asking for them because people actually want those programs to get cut, and talking about reducing the debt is a lot more polite than saying, "Let those poor fucks die of AIDS, I want a tax break."

While that's sick, it's really all you can expect of people who completely insulate themselves from the real effects of cutting social spending on the population at large. What we shouldn't have come to accept is mass acquiescence from the American people to rich people's demands for (working class) austerity.


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Alex, thanks for ellaborating on the topic!

I'd gladly put my knowledge to use to produce HIV meds, I mean, I'm unemployed and I do have a biochemistry degree.