Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Meaning of the Word "Billion"

The question isn't why conservatives have suddenly fallen on hard times.  The question is why they were ever taken seriously in the first place.  

In yet another bid to convince folks that $789 billion is a lot of money, Congresswoman Michelle Bachman (R-Crazy) breaks it down by explaining that the stimulus bill is enough money to issue a check of $1,430 to every person in the world.  And besides the fact that her math is totally off, as it would actually be a check closer to $116 per person; so what?  The money is actually better spent in this stimulus bill than if we gave out the $9.6 trillion she suggested we're giving out.

And her point is: It's a big number.  And they keep saying stupid stuff like that.  They'll stack the bills up.  They'll tell you how many Big Macs it'll buy you.  But what they won't do is actually explain why it's a bad idea.  It's all vague nothingness about how government can't fix problems.  They've got no answers.  They've just got the same sort of cheap gimmick that boring people use on elementary school kids when they try to get them interested in boring stuff. 

Yeah, we get it.  It's a big number.  The reason people support it isn't because we're idiots who don't understand what "billion" means.  We support it because we think it's a good idea.  Most of the spending comes back to us in some way.  It's for stuff we need.  So there's no problem. 

Evil Government

And you know, if a foreign company announced that it was going to spend $789 billion in America and let duly chosen proxies pick where the money is being spent, conservatives would be perfectly happy with that.  They'd understand how this could fix our economy.  And they'd be glad that it was a large amount and would proudly state that a stack that big would go to the moon.  It's only when it comes from the government that they imagine it can't do any good.  

Similarly, it's only bad when the government borrows money to raise funds.  They understand why it's smart for Microsoft to issue bonds when it wants to spend money it doesn't have.  And most Americans buy stuff on credit, like our houses and cars.  It's the American Way and if people didn't borrow funds to buy stuff they couldn't afford, our economy would really be in the crapper.  After all, one of the main things that's been keeping us going for the past eight years is the high level of borrowing everyone's doing; and a big part of the slowdown is because people are no longer able to borrow as much.  It's obvious that borrowed money spends just like the real kind.

So why the big deal when the government borrows money?  It's like the government is some special entity with a different set of rules.  But it's not.  It's the same set of rules.  It doesn't matter if it's an outside company spending the money or if the government's spending it.  And borrowing money to increase spending can be a brilliant plan; if done properly.  But Republicans have nothing to say about any of this.  All they can do is regurgitate bogus rules on the evils of government while teaching us the meaning of the word "billion."  

Why anyone ever feared these people is beyond me.

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