Page 7


JAMES GALBRAITH Clone Molly There are times when thresholds of witlessness and gullibility fall so low when dimness flows so fast and deep that It 1 like to round up Molly Ivins and ship her to Scotland for cloning Such a time may be at hand FIRST CASE. The official word on TWA Flight 800 appeared a few weeks ago, in full color with a simulated videotape \(courtesy of the exploded entirely on its own. It broke up in mid-air, front end falling away. The rest of the craft then rose more than half a mile straight up into the sky before suffering a second blast and turning downwards. This pyrotechnic spectacular reconciled the supposed course of events with reports from 244 eyewitnesses who saw a fast rising object it might have been a missile before the big explosion. Now, has anyone ever seen a headless aircraft fly straight up into the sky? Has anyone seen any civilian aircraft, even aerodynamically intact, perform this trick? Aircraft fly on their wings. How much common sense do you need to know that something is wrong with this story? SECOND CASE. According to reports that have circulated worldwide by now, the State of Texas is contemplating replacing public school textbooks with laptop computers. Enthusiasts praise this initiative as a great step into the new age of techno-workforce preparation. Do any of these people have kids? Do any of them have laptops? Have they noplace? Have any of them noticed what kids actually do with computers? My fourteenyear-old has a graphics calculator and he plays games even on that. Where, exactly, do those who propose to devote vast public monies to electronic junk stand on the full funding of programs for art, music, and well-stocked libraries in our public schools? These would be threatened no, they will be destroyed by the vortex of dollars sucked away to repair broken computers and replace lost ones, not to mention the rewiring of every classroom in Texas so that the damn things could be plugged in, or the demand for upgrades that will shortly follow. And what will these reformers do, once the effect on reading, calculating, and elementary research skills becomes clear? It would be nice to know why anyone thinks that of all possible school reforms this one should be adopted statewide WHEN THE U.S. TRADE AND BUDGET DEFICITS START TO GO UP NEXT YEAR, LOOK FOR TALK ABOUT HOW RISING UNEMPLOYMENT IS JUST WHAT WE NEEDED. TO WARD OFF INFLATION. before testing it in pilot projects. \(OK, I hear Senator Teel Bivins has suggested a pilot, welcome evidence that we needn’t THIRD CASE. The great APEC leaders lined up shoulder-to-shoulder in Vancouver, leather jackets protecting them from the harsh Pacific financial winds. Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada spoke for the group. The crisis, he said, was proof that the economic policies of the region were sound. It would be handled by more of the same by more globalization, by more emphatic devotion to deregulation, free markets, and the free flow of capital. Really. Almost every day, the news from Asia gets worse. The first stage, a rolling sequence of stock and currency crises, has been ongoing for five months. The second stage, bank failures brought on by falling stock and property prices, is now underway, marked so far by the collapse of the Japanese banking house Yamaichi, and now the closure of nine Korean merchant banks. More failures are no doubt in store. The third stage of the crisis lies ahead; it will unfold as governments react and as the consequences reach back to the United States. The IMF extends loans to Korea, Inonly in exchange for policies that raise interest rates and cut imports, which is to say policies that cut the exports of aircraft, machinery, communications equipment, and computers from the United States. Countries like Brazil, so far not hit hard by speculation, have no choice but to raise interest rates, cut spending and imports, and otherwise protect themselves preemptively; otherwise the capital markets will pummel them and they will end up at the mercy of the IMF anyway. A compounding cycle is underway and no single developing country can stop it. The larger economies, including ourselves, do have a choice. We could stop the damage. We could take bold moves right now to lower interest rates, to launch public investment programs here and in Japan to replace the demand lost in the rest of Asia, and to make lbans big enough to stabilize the Asian economies, accompanied by stiff measures to curb international hot money speculation. The latter can be done by taxing foreign exchange and stock transactions, both here and abroad. If that doesn’t work, then capital controls will have to be reinvented and the speculators brought under control directly. Don’t get your hopes up. Our leaders are stuck on the dogmas that produced this crisis. This channels thought and blocks action. So when the U.S. trade and budget deficits start to go up next year, look instead for talk about belt-tightening and austerity, about the need to get the budget back on track to balance, and about how rising unemployment is just what we needed to ward off inflation. Also look for more distracting and destructive nonsense about privatizing social security and flattening the tax code. The practice of taking the public for idiots has a ways to run. there’s a farm near Edinburgh where we could spend a real fun weekend. James Galbraith is no Molly Ivins. DECEMBER 19, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11