SUNDAY, MARCH 10, 2013

Smart Bombs: Capitalism is still safe

The unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level in more than four years. The Dow Jones industrial average has soared to record heights. And if corporate chieftains were to scale their mountains of cash, they’d suffer certain nosebleeds.

Is this any way to run a socialist nation?

To find out, I visited the World Socialist website, and it would appear that actual socialists aren’t pleased with President Barack Obama.

For one thing, the president’s lunch with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the chief Republican budget writer in the House, has caused searing heartburn. And an editorial decrying the stock market rally suggests that the dismantling of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security is just around the corner. It concludes with this:

“A revolutionary struggle is required to break the stranglehold of the financial oligarchy over the productive forces and place them under the democratic control of working people – that is, a struggle for socialism.”

OK, so socialists don’t expect socialism from Obama, but many conservatives and capitalists sure do. They warned that re-electing him would send the markets into a tailspin. ThinkProgress highlighted some examples, including this exchange from Fox Business pundits Stuart Varney and Ed Butowsky on the morning after the election:

Varney: “Dow industrial is down 177. That is a sell-off. Is it an Obama sell-off? We’ll discuss. With Obama’s victory, the takers have taken over. The makers are clearly in the minority. Am I right? It’s a sell-off the day after the election, with an Obama second term we’re down 183 points.

Butowsky: “I don’t see anything else except what’s going on in Europe as well.”

Varney: “OK, so stocks down, bonds up and this is largely a reaction to the Obama victory.”

At the end of that day, the market had plunged 313 points, and Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, told CNN Money, “This is purely a reaction to the political landscape and an investor response to the policies on the table – all the new regulation that will add to the costs of doing business for certain industries and sectors.”

Since then, the Dow has gained 1,151 points, and from the depths of the Great Recession, it’s gained 7,770 points. But you can be sure that the next time it drops, these savvy capitalists will point to “Obama socialism” as the principal cause.

Meanwhile, the real socialists will be rolling their eyes.

Capitalizing. Remember Jack “Cooked the Books” Welch? He’s the former chief executive officer of General Electric who took to Twitter after the government’s October figures showed the unemployment rate dropping to 7.8 percent: “Unbelievable jobs numbers … these Chicago guys will do anything … can’t debate so change numbers.”

Some cynical pundits confidently predicted the government would revise the figure back to at least 8 percent after the election. Instead it’s dropped to 7.7 percent, with the economy adding 236,000 jobs in February.

Guess we’re just going to have to accept these figures for what they are: good news.

Pull the trigger. If “will of the people” mavens at the state Legislature want to score an easy victory, they should move that bill calling for background checks on private gun sales. It would be easier than getting a supermajority for tax increases enshrined in the state constitution.

According to an Elway Poll released Tuesday, 79 percent of voters support expanding background checks. Heck, that even passes the five-sevenths supermajority requirement just adopted by the Spokane City Council for tax increases.

HB 1588, which passed the state House Judiciary Committee, would do the trick, and it only needs a simple majority. Hate to think those listen-to-the-voters arguments are merely political.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.

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