Monthly Archives: October 2016

Middle Upper/Lower Lower

“If Trump is an opportunistic infection spreading throughout the body politic, what explains our susceptibility?” asks this week’s New Yorker. I can answer that! – existentially, with the vividness of a kick to the solar plexus. I’ll explain.

The day I got accepted to med school, I had it made. The world became my oyster. Docs never have to face unemployment, They can always make a good living. They’re head and shoulders above PhDs. Who cares about English lit! Or the formation of distant galaxies! A doc knows cancer! We’re all scaredy cats. A doc may pretend he doesn’t know everything. He may not be infallible, like the Pope, but close!  We tip-toe in his presence, on our best behavior. If he’s merely civil, we’ll go on and on how what a nice guy he is. He has power! If we laugh at his jokes, he’ll protect us from a bad prognosis. Yes sir, like I said, as a doc I have it made.

OK, I exaggerate. But it’s true, I live in the upper middle of society. I have everything I want, For me personally, the government is a magnificent benefactor, what with Medicare, Social Security and all the rest. And ever since Reagan insisted government is the problem, not the solution, culminating in these last eight years with the relentless obstructionism of Mitch McConnell, I have become increasingly enraged.

I hate Mitch McConnell! He just published his autobiography. His only interest is money and power.  He got elected to the Senate way back in 1984, thanks to a malicious, lying ad that Roger Ailes wrote for him. Ailes has continued to boast about this “message for decades after he concocted it.” The first, last and only thing McConnell has done as Senator was adding to his slush fund. Not giving Obama’s nominee for The Supreme Court even a hearing was the last straw.

“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction
Ice Is also great
And would suffice.”

Now suppose I’m not middle upper, but lower lower. I live in poverty. My wife has all but stopped talking to me. The neighborhood is one, big garbage can. My governor won’t release Medicaid money, so I can’t take my kids to the doctor. I got caught up in Foreclosure last year, and now it’s one dump after another.

You get the picture.

I, the pampered doc, Middle Upper, get so frustrated with McConnell I want to scream. What does Lower Lower want?

FIRE OR ICE?

He’ll settle for The Donald. Yes, but as President, Trump will have the power to engulf our country in Fire and freeze it in Ice.

“What’s the difference! The gov’ment doesn’t do anything. What do I have to lose!”

I agree with the New Yorker:

“It is a convention of our quadrennial pieties to insist that THIS election is singularly important. But Trump really does represent something singular. The prospect of such a President – erratic, empty, cruel, intolerant, and corrupt – represents a form of national emergency.”

That Dismal Science

It is generally agreed that we are vulnerable to four shattering losses – loss of one of our children, loss of our marriage, loss of our job and loss of our health. Worse yet, sorrows “may come not single spies but in battalions.” The stress of a divorce may upset the entire apple cart with shocking force.

These well-known facts of life came freshly to mind after plowing through Ben Bernanke’s massive tome, The Courage to Act. Ben served as chairman of the Federal Reserve from 2007 through 2013. He was appointed initially by President Bush and then re-appointed by President Obama. His book is a heavy lift. Nearly 600 pages, it is a detailed account of the global economic meltdown in 2007 and 2008 and how the United States and the world escaped an unimaginable disaster.

We got saved by that dismal science, economics. So what the hell is economics? What is the problem economics is trying to solve? What is the point of all those dry-as-dust studies, the charts, the graphs, the endless reports?  What justifies such a relentless enterprise, such industry, featuring Departments of Economics in every university, books, research studies, an unending flood of magazines, the iconic status of the stock market? On and on. Why the reverence for Adam Smith, one of the great thinkers of history?

Of course, economics is about money. And money is about energy. And energy makes the world go ’round.  Isn’t the Federal Reserve simply a player in this merry-go-round? I thought so. Wrong! I was an untutored ignoramus. Brilliant Ben gives an entirely different job description of his work as an economist. It’s a shocker. No, economics is not about money.

ECONOMICS IS ABOUT HUMAN SUFFERING!

One of the most terrible experiences is losing one’s job. It’s one of the Big Four. It was to prevent, or mitigate, such measureless grief that Ben, with the fury of Hercules, labored. As did Tim Geithner. And President Obama. And a whole army of economists. And what is so wonderful is that they didn’t labor in vain. Economics is a science, meaning it generates facts that can be made into hypotheses of comprehensibility and finally laws. And, like Newton, economists stand on the shoulders of giants. What they had learned from the Great Depression in the 30s and from great economic scientists like John Maynard Keynes enabled them to lead us out of the the horror of unemployment and the heartbreak of foreclosures.

Ben also makes plain why economics is the Dismal Science. Does he ever! Money has enormous psychological oomph. It ranks right up there with Sex. What sets off a panic, or re-assures, or whatever, is anyone’s guess. So as Fed chairman, every word Ben released to the public was parsed and scrutinized. Sometimes for hours. I have an astrophysicist son-in-law. He has written a hundred papers, all laced with mathematics. Greek to me, but I know math draws necessary conclusions. Not so easy in the science of economics. True, galaxies have black holes. By definition, they never vent. Human beings have numberless holes. They vent at the damnest times  Dismal business!