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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

Informed Dissent


Economists love food. It’s in their model goods (ice cream cones), proverbs (there’s no such thing as a free lunch) and metaphors (piece of the economic pie). This may be why I’ve been unable to convey simple truths about externalities and market failures to econ majors; I haven’t been talking enough about melamine milk and morbid obesity.

Anyhow, given this food fix, I wasn’t shocked to see a recipe tucked in a draft I’m proofing of Alan Greenspan’s latest memoir, The Joy of Cooking The Books/Baking Babies, (working title) that describes in startling detail what the elites are doing to Americans. I call it “Devil’s Debt Cake,” but I can’t take credit for it (pun).

Preheat: Diminish the earnings of the middle class. Do this by off-shoring jobs and reducing the quality of remaining jobs. To accomplish the latter, weaken and eliminate labor unions, hire illegal immigrants, declaw regulations and let business roll back benefits.

Prepare Ingredients: Weaken or eliminate government programs for upward mobility and wealth redistribution, especially in tax policy. You’ll want to destroy the progressive income tax; implement a consumption tax; end taxes on capital gains, dividends and corporations; and eliminate the estate tax. Once government revenue is zilch, you can justify cutting public spending.

Mix, Part I: Make at least a bachelor’s essential for a middle class standard of living. Gear K-12 education exclusively towards a four year university (eliminate vocational education), gut community college budgets, undo the social safety net and neglect infrastructure like transportation, water, housing, emergency services, education and health care (refer to previous step). This will cause a glut of bachelor’s degrees, making them all equally worthless.

Mix, Part II: Increase the costs and debts needed for a middle class standard of living. To do this, you first have to make bankruptcy almost impossible. Once you’ve done so, set it aside to cool off. Now you’re ready to raise the cost of college (force middle class borrowing, discourage the poor entirely) and encourage inflation in basic goods (hit poor hardest, increase rates on debt, devalue savings), the consumption of random bullshit (increase advertising, personal insecurity, turnover of trends, planned obsolescence) and, most importantly, predatory lending, e.g. payday loans, no down payment auto loans, credit cards, sub-prime, option ARMs and, of course, NINJA loans. You can find these in your local market without too much trouble. Tip: Throw in universal default for added flavor.

Bake: In an unstable environment at rapidly increasing temperatures for 30 years.

The Icing: Make the debt burden trans-generational. Remember bankruptcy, that thing you set aside earlier? Well now you’re going to throw it away; private property and the sanctity of contracts must be fully respected. Then you’re going to obligate children of indebted parents to pay off their debt. Begin by forcing the liquidation of parents’ assets, then set a minimum percentage to be repaid over time and slowly increase it.

Garnish: With loans to bereaved children to cover their parents’ debt. Once you’re here, all that’s left is the five star touch

Serve: With a modified plan of indentured servitude spuriously aimed at working off debt. The program would pay lowest possible wage, offer no benefits, pollute the environment, reduce the incentive for children born into it to pursue an education or trade and, of course, offer military service as the only real way out. Or you could just set this all up unofficially and call it “Wal-Mart.”

Now, this being Greenspan, there wasn’t any hint of warning about potential dangers. So I scribbled one in the margin (pun).

DANGER! This dish contains elements that are intended to cause permanent insolvency of the consumer, which can result in complete organ failure. Avoid concentrating any toxic ingredients by serving the dish whole. Under no circumstances should you bake this thing, chop it up, repackage it, and then sell it to friends at a bake sale. That would result in FAIL; in epic, epic FAIL.


K.C. CODY likes laughing at FAIL. Send him your favorite at kccody@ucdavis.edu


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