Keynes Environment and Economic Policy

I have a very liberal friend who when I expressed lament over the oil spill and non clean up going on in the Gulf chided me, “It’s not nearly as much as the volcano spewed in Iceland a few months ago. It also isn’t as toxic.”   

I sat there stunned.   I may be wrong but I don’t remember scores of pictures on the internet of ash covered birds and flora and fauna killed.  Maybe they were there but didn’t go viral.

Here I thought all pollution was so awful that we were to consider foregoing toilet paper, plastic bags, tinfoil, coke cans, cars, heat in the winter, disposable diapers, newspapers, paper plates, fast food and when possible breathing.  “Then why the hell am I recycling?” I demanded.  “It’s not like my not throwing away a paper plate is going to save the Earth!”   But I have to ask, if 100,000 gallons a day is nothing, then what is my decision to use paper plates?  I would assume, even more inconsequential.  She soothed, even my little dwarfed by the lot in the gulf mattered –something which I pointed out meant the lot in the gulf, even dwarfed by the Ocean mattered.    

Then I saw an article trying to explain in context how small the spill was in the context of the Gulf.   According to the piece by Seth Borenstein, ,  the polluting in the Gulf was a mere trifle. 

It doesn’t even fill up the Superbowl in New Orleans.  It was more of the same kind of thinking and to my mind, a desperate spin to exhonerate the Federal government from the wrath of American people by minimizing the size of the spill and thus lowering expectations that the President or his administration should have or should be doing anything about something so insignificant.   Sure the pictures of dead dolphins and turtles are sad but hey, it’s really nothing. Go back to your lives citizens, nothing to worry about.

Paralleling this sort of thinking is the rash of recent articles about how We’re NOT SPENDING ENOUGH.  That Keynes would be upset that the current administration and congress are too cowardly to enact the type of necessary deficit spending required to lift the economy from it’s current state.

In other words, the spending now is not enough to affect things really and to think otherwise is to be delusional.  These past spending bills that ran us up to 1.3 trillion are mere stop gap measures, like duct tape on a leak.  If we really want to make something happen, we’re going to have to start talking real money.  1.3 trillion dollars in deficit spending, like 126 million gallons in the gulf, is apparently a mere drop in the bucket to these people who subscribe to a Keynes Economic theory about how governments and civilizations maintain their finances.   

Maybe the spill is small and the deficit is nothing to those who live in the theoretical world where all of these high ideas work as long as one adopts every tenet of the theories and pays no attention to actual details which emerge.  But in the real world, how many dollars a person, a state, a government, spends, matter; just as surely as how much a person, a family, a city, a state, a business conserve and recycle matters.    

The money we’ve spent mattered because it must one day be paid.  The oil in the water kills crabs and shrimp and fish and plants and pelicans and people’s livelihoods and summer places and the businesses that thrive on people going to summer places and, and, and, and.  It must one day be removed.   

The 1.3 trillion in a single 18 months is an untenable pace of spending.  The 126 million gallons pouring into the gulf shows no signs of slowing or stopping either.   No amount of theory or perspective or spin will change the unalterable facts that while these dual disasters can be dwarfed by looking at a bigger picture of the whole world or galaxy or the whole history of time, they’re still very real and causing very real pain now, and for the foreseeable future.   Does anyone other than those who embrace the theoretical world of policy over the actual world of procedure not see that both are clear and persent dangers? 

How do we make the ivory tower people in power and in charge see what their pet theories will not prove?