Friday, September 30, 2011
Bill O'Reilly and some of his friends at Fox News jumped all over the latest example of government wasting money: He claimed a conference for Justice Department "Nitwits" spent $16 for each muffin eaten by the conference attendees.
This was based on an government audit done by the office of the Inspector General.
Actually, it turns out, the 5 day conference, like most conferences I go to, provided coffee, fruit and soft drinks during breaks between lectures and the cost per person for all this was $14.72, which is 2 cents over the allowable Justice Department limit.
But O'Reilly didn't bother to wait for the response from the hotel's accountant; this was just too good a story, a Heaven sent example of how government "nitwits" live it up on his dime and your dime and mine. Oh, we are just supporting these welfare Queens with $16 muffins, while we slave away at our TV stations. This story is "About a federal government that doesn't give a hoot about how much money it spends," and "President Obama wants more tax money to buy more muffins."
Now, you might expect O'Reilly would be a little abashed, learning the truth, but no.
This is a classic event--and Rush Limbaugh is the king of this sort of disinformation. You get the headline, erupt in righteous indignation, proclaim this just "proves" you have been right all along about that big bad federal government and that evil, foreign born President Obama, and move on to the next story without a shred of shame.
Fact is, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Beck--none of them has ever really put himself on the line for his fellow citizens. They are the yell leaders. They are wimps, every last one, without even enough mental rigor to check out a story. They so want the story to be true, they cannot bear the thought that more investigation might undermine it.
That's how they do.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
We had an edifying session among Hampton Democrats the other night. One of us played a Bill O'Reilly, Newt Gingrich, you name it, the generic Republican, spewing forth the Republican Party babble: "Democrat Big Federal Government Regulations are discouraging the Job Creators from creating new jobs, and wasteful government spending is killing the economy and driving up the deficit which our grandchildren will be paying for," and so forth, and various members of the Democrat club tried to respond to this tripe.
At one point, someone said, "You know, when I hear this sort of stuff, I know it's just no use. That person has made up his mind."
Another said, "It is just so demoralizing, I feel badly just having to reply to this."
But that is when I thought, "Qui Tacit, Consentit." He who remains silent, consents. Or, silence implies consent.
Someone pointed out, when Clinton was President, he had George Stephanopolis on TV refuting every one of these insipid Republican talking points, point by point, and firing back with aggressive assertions of his own, and eventually, the accepted truth was not simply the Republican truth, but people began to question all of this Rush Limbaugh braying.
It's exhausting, but it's necessary. It requires persistence, but it's essential.
And it requires a taste for confrontation, which some people simply cannot stomach. But that's what war is.
I heard Newt Gingrich tonight and I listened to Bill O'Reilly and if I closed my eyes, I could not tell one from another, the Republicans have read so long from the same prayer book.
One of them, maybe Bill O'Reilly, was talking to Jon Stewart about $16 doughnuts ordered for a meeting of government "nitwits." (It turned out this dunce had it wrong, the $16 per person covered breakfast, the rental of the room etc., but when has reality ever mattered to demagogues?) And he went on about how he wouldn't mind paying higher taxes, a 40% tax rate but he knew the government would waste his money on $16 doughnuts.
And Jon Stewart pointed out that even if that $16 a person was wasted the total cost came out to about $800 and how much did those Wall Street wild men, those champions of the private sector, who the Republicans so admire cost us?
O'Reilly pointed out he employs dozens of people and if he stopped working, all those people would be unemployed.
Stewart, patient, methodical, confrontational demolished each absurd thrust. Are you really saying you would simply stop working because you would take home not $3.5 million but only $3 million?
That reminded me of an interview I heard with a professor from the Wharton School of Business who was talking about the Republican line you hear constantly that small businesses are the main drivers of employment. Most jobs are created by small businesses (who, the Republicans say are afraid to hire because of federal government regulations.) But, asked the professor, how do you define small business? Below 500 employees. Well, that's a pretty big factory, he said. And then he observed the real small business is a doctor who has maybe five employees, and he cannot hire more, not because of regulations, but because the size of his income stream cannot sustain more employees.
And real innovators, a business start up with ten employees, fail with great regularity, so they are not job creators but job destroyers. They create briefly, then destroy. So that image of the small businessman swamped by government regulations is a false image.
Who exactly are these small harried businessmen? They are always a single person Michele Bachmann met while campaigning in New Hampshire who told her a story, right after the lady who told her the story about her daughter being struck with mental retardation after a government mandated vaccine.
They are the imaginary friends of each of these Republican dupes.
We have to confront the monster.
We have to man up.
One of the Democrats at the meeting told of her brother, who does not read the newspaper, but goes to the bar or turns on the radio and listens to Rush Limbaugh, and he repeats what he hears there and she has to confront each assertion with reality, and it's draining.
But, as unpleasant and draining as it is, it is work that has to be done.
And we can't be too nice about it.
Obama tried that, until he discovered the people he is opposing don't play nice. They see nice as a sign of weakness.
And we should be aware of this. When I hear a story about reforming the prison system, and I hear an advocate start talking about moving prisoners from state penitentiaries to local jails so they can be closer to their families and to rehabilitation facilities, I just shake my head.
That woman's brother who listens to Rush is thinking, there ain't no way to rehabilitate these low lifes. He has no sympathy for them and as soon as you show you're sympathetic you are a bleeding heart.
What you can say is we cannot afford to keep non violent offenders who were locked up for drug possession in state penitentiaries.
Let's stop advocating for the needy, who Joe Sixpack thinks are undeserving. Let's just attack and attack and attack again. We cannot afford being seen as being too sympathetic. The Republicans base their appeal on their own lack of sympathy. We have to show we are just as hard hearted, but we are smarter. We know government is necessary and can be a positive force to rescue us from economic disaster.
We hav e to show it is the Republicans are the wimps because they are paralyzed, unable to do anything. They keep waiting for the phantom small business Job Creator heroes to magically appear and rescue us all. Democrats are the active champions who say, move ahead or move aside. But if you can't lend a hand then get out of the way.
Or, as the bard once said:
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I wonder where she got that novel insight?
If this is true, perhaps the Senator is confusing the disease (greed, and its fellow traveler, unscrupulous behavior) with the therapy (vigorously enforced regulation.)
But now we have a United States Senator, who people have been fond of describing as a "Moderates Republican" screaming about regulations holding down the economy. (Maybe this is like one of those fraternity stunts you have to do to be taken into the club. You know, like running around the quad in your underwear in the snow, shouting, "Beware the Sky is Falling!)
Perhaps, if she had listened more closely, she’d have realized the kind of uncertainty they are talking about is the kind created when her own party, the Republican party, initially refused to allow FEMA relief payments for flood victims in Vermont and elsewhere. When the Republicans try to control and regulate—no FEMA payments until we cut something from government programs —well that’s just responsible government action. And talk about uncertainty: Let’s spend the summer closing down the government by dreaming up a problem (as if we don’t have enough already) called the “Deficit.”
I keep looking for the specific regulations which are dragging down our economy and Senator Collins offers only two examples: Walnuts and boiler emissions.
Let’s take the case of walnuts; it’s something I actually know about. Senator Collins says, “Washington claimed the walnuts were being marketed as a drug, so the government ordered the company to stop telling consumers about the benefits of nuts.”
Oh, bad government! Down boy! Good walnut sellers. Good boy.
The problem with the Senator’s argument is there are no persuasive, double blind, controlled prospective trials to confirm any of the claims made for walnuts (avoid heart disease, improve blood sugar control in diabetes.) There are lots of claims made for a variety of foods, but these are studies which leave a lot to be desired, scientifically. How many walnuts do you have to eat a day to raise your HDL cholesterol? Is the effect transitory or sustained? Does this actually result in an outcome we care about, like reduced heart attacks? Or do people simply gain weight and start smelling like walnuts?
But deceptive advertising is nothing that bothers Ms. Collins or her party. They do it all the time.
Just consider the case of her partner, across the river, Kelly Ayotte who voted to kill Medicare and then claimed the Republican party was not trying to kill Medicare, it was just “Improving” it. Improving it, by converting it into a coupon care program. So you would get, say $8000 a year to spend on whatever your little heart desires for medical care, and you’d save the government a bundle of money and help keep the big bad Deficit away. Of course, if you needed a coronary bypass that year, the bill would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000. But, hey, $8,000 is a start. Your children can chip in. And you could sell your house.
I don’t know much about boilers, but the Senator from Maine tells me the regulations had something to do with the Environmental Protection Agency, which her party believes to be a Democratic anti business machine and the EPA is at it again, regulating “emissions” from these boilers which will cost 90,000 jobs. I don’t know, maybe she’s right. Whenever she trots out big numbers, you know she must know what she’s talking about.
But then again, think about those walnuts.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
My wife remarked I would have lasted about thirty seconds as a psychiatrist. Coming from her, this was a compliment. During her nursing training she had to do a rotation on psychiatry, in a very famous psychiatric hospital, Payne Whitney, in New York City and she said it was all she could do to stop herself from just slapping some of her depressed patients. "Man up," she wanted to say. "Just stop whining and pull yourself together."
So ours is not a household given to a lot of psychobabble.
On the other hand, when I look at the Republicans who are most prominent, from Rush Limbaugh, to Rick Perry, I cannot help but notice a few shared characteristics which one might describe as a syndrome of the hater.
Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, all very poor students. All, presumably, told at some tender age they were not the sharpest blades in the drawer, and you can just see them trying to prove all those doubters wrong. You see them struggling to change that past of humiliation.
And Rush, one has to admit, is a man with some pretty obvious reasons for self loathing. He is, after all, grotesque, physically. This is not a kind or socially correct thing to point out, but it's sort of the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to Rush, and for that matter Glenn. Pretty obvious insecurity and inferiority complexes just lighting up like neon.
Rick Perry, ditto. Not because he is physically grotesque. Not because he knows he is not going to walk out of the bar with a woman and he's over compensating for physical unattractiveness, but he was, as he freely admits, a dimwit in school. He tries to get past this by joking about it, as if to say, having been a dunce, well that doesn't mean your not smart, because, obviously, I've written this book which displays just how smart I am. I can see Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and ought to be executed, Texas style.
Rush Limbaugh hates the undeserving poor, the welfare queens who want to rape the system and free load off the hard working American Taxpayer. Mitch McConnell shares that hate and so does Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. All the Republicans do. They hate the poor who are poor because they are undeserving and trying to live like parasites on the American taxpayer.
They are not simply derisive, they actively hate these fellow citizens. They hate criminals who commit heinous crimes and they want to kill them. Rick Perry has never lost sleep over killing prisoners on death row. And he is dead certain (excuse the pun) he has never executed an innocent man, that's how sure he is of the Texas courts.
In his certainty, Rick Perry shares this characteristic with all the big time Republicans, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Glenn, Rush, Sean, Michele. In fact, it is a source of some fascination and wonder to Democrats about just how sure these Republicans are of everything.
But there is nothing new in this.
Just after World War II, Jean Paul Sartre looked at the anti Semite. "Anti Semitism is a way of feeling good, proud even," Sartre observed. "It is not unusual for people to elect to live a life of passion rather than reason." The hater does this out of a "Longing for impenetrability. The rational man groans as he gropes for the truth; he knows that reasoning is no more than tentative, that other considerations may intervene to cast doubt on it...The Anti Semite has chosen hate because hate is a faith."
Democrats over the past three years, have agonized over the inability of Democrats, of the President in particular, to come up with a coherent, cogent and simple response, a catchy little catechism like the Republicans have: "Regulations, tax and spend, driving up the deficits for our grandchildren to pay. Government is not the solution; it is the problem."
Why don't we have a catchy little riff like that?
It's Bertrand Russel's plaintiff question: Why is it the stupid are cocksure, and the intelligent full of doubts?
Well, I guess the answer is, because the Right is always sure it's right. And the Left, well, they are pondering.
But Democrats have got to get beyond all this.
We may not have all the answers, but we do know this: The Republicans, for all their surety are wrong. They stamp their feet and throw tantrums, but what they are really saying is, "We cannot and will not do anything! No!" They are saying government cannot help. No. We will not allow it!
And Democrats, from the time of Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression know that government will fail, but it will try again, and it has to try and keep trying until something works. And eventually, something will work. And we call the successes Social Security and Medicare and The Interstate Highway System and the Internet and the Atom bomb (heaven help us) and a dead guy called Osama Bin Laden.
If you keep trying, eventually, something works.
Friday, September 23, 2011
We really need some marketing in the Democratic Party.
The Republicans are so good at this: They turn Estate Taxes into Death Taxes.
They turn a recession into an Obama Recession.
They turn Affordable Healthcare Act into Obamacare.
Well, you get the drift.
And then, in the best tradition of advertising and Mad Men, they all pick up the chant and keep hammering it home so whatever they say becomes received wisdom.
They could decide the earth is flat, and the world was created in 7 days and sell that.
But wait, they already did that.
And evolution is just a theory like creationism and everyone deserves to carry a concealed weapon and if it weren't for government regulation and taxes on the rich, the Job Creators would make a new world in six days and rest on the seventh and create all the jobs in the universe and all the creatures and Sarah Palin would be President and Michele Bachmann the Secretary of the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and State; but wait, there would be no Department of Education and no EPA either. And Rick Perry would be Secretary of Defense because he looks so good with that six shooter.
And Mitch McConnell would be Senate Leader and John Boehner would be Speaker of the House and President of Congressional Country Club.
What a world we would have then.
It just makes me so excited and rapturous to think on it.
So there's a bridge between Kentucky and Ohio which carries 3% of all the nation's GNP, and it connects all the truck traffic from Michigan to New Orleans and it backs up for miles every day and we just cannot fix it because, Doncha Know? The Deficit! We cannot spend money to do this because we have to live within our means, and we cannot and will not raise taxes and it's all these government regulations which keep us from doing anything at all.
We are just paralyzed.
And we are just helpless, helpless, helpless because we are under control of the Republicans.
Rapacious Republicans. Selfish Republicans. Tea Party Republicans. Tax anyone but the rich Republicans. Medicare killers. Social Security killers. The party of hate and fear.
And just when you began to think, well, they're not all so bad--Susan Collins and Olympia Snow, after all. But look at them. Those two women vote just as John Boehner and Mitch McConnell tell them to vote and they will campaign for Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.
And nary a one of them is loyal to the United States of America. They are only loyal to the Republican Party.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Some times you got to love National Public Radio. Today Michele Norris asked Congressman Paul Ryan why he so opposed increasing taxes on the rich and he said, as Republicans now all say whenever they get the chance, the rich people are not rich people, they are "Job creators," and if we annoy them with taxes and hamstring them with "Regulations" they will simply stamp their feet and refuse to hire any of the poor people who need jobs and who the government should definitely not hire to do any sort of work (because that would drive up the dreaded deficit.)
And here's where it got good: Ms. Norris asked him, very politely, well, if keeping taxes low on the rich "Job Creators" is the secret to getting the Job Creators to hire, why had they not been hiring after years of some of the lowest tax rates we have ever set for the rich--currently at 32% for the top incomes. We have had eras when tax rates were much higher and unemployment was much lower, so why were those rich Job Creators willing to hire when they were paying higher taxes then, but not now?
Representative Ryan responded that actually the tax rates for the richest Job Creators once reached a low of 28%, a non sequitur about which, sadly, Ms. Norris did not press him.
He went on to recite the usual cant about how those magical, unspecified "Government Regulations" were keeping rich Job Creators from feeling secure about the future, and how the deficit, (which Republicans created with low taxes and high war expenditures) was making the JC's unwilling to risk hiring. It was all the fault of misguided Democratic Party policies.
He described himself as a policy man.
We all remember his most famous policy: Replace Medicare with a coupon system. You get an $8,000 coupon every year to put toward your medical expenses. That ought to just about cover the anesthesiologist's bill for your by pass. So they can put you to sleep but not fix your heart, because the surgeon has a bill and the hospital, too. But that coupon system sure would save the government a lot of money.
So now this is the best the Republican party's best policy man, their chairman of the House committee on budgets, monetary policy and all things financial, can come up with.
I couldn't help thinking, as I was listening, who exactly are these Job Creators? I mean, is there a directory of Job Creators? Do they have a convention? Do they all belong to the same country club? Do they have a Face Book page? Does Paul Ryan have them over for a prayer breakfast every Monday?
And what, specifically, are those frightening, stultifying "Regulations" which have so paralyzed these Job Creators they have simply refused to hire their fellow citizens?
I had some very good friends in Washington, DC who ran a real estate development company with about thirty employees. They bought up parcels of land in Silver Spring, Maryland, intending to develop it but then a huge corporation made them an offer for this land they simply could not refused. Every one of the three partners became a multi milloinaire overnight. One of them cashed in and moved to horse country, Virginia, retiring at the age of 45. But two others kept the company going. And when I asked one of them why he hadn't simply bought himself a country estate and started traveling and riding horses in hunt club events, he looked at me, a little surprised. "Well," he said. "We've got thirty people depending on this company for their jobs. And they like developing projects, building homes and offices and shaping the future. This is a company, well, I'm not running it for me. I'm running it for them, for the people who work in it and for the people they are going to put in homes and in communities."
This guy, remember is very rich. Doesn't have to work. And he's a freaking Communist! Warren Buffet if not the only rich dude out there with a conscience and a sense of doing socially responsible work.
I would venture to say, this guy is the real patriot in the house.
You may be wondering who those kids in the picture are. They are kids from a middle school in 1927, and most of them lived in tiny apartments with their parents and didn't know they were living in poverty because everyone around them lived about the same way. And some of them, probably most, grew up to own big houses and cars and send their kids to college because a rising tide raised their boats, as the country went through the Depression and the World War and they were part of that community which hung on together and got the country through it all and built a future for themselves and their cohort. They paid their taxes and never complained.
Michele Norris asked Mr. Ryan about his claim hat President Obama was engaging in Class Warfare by suggesting we increase taxes on the rich. She said, actually aren't you the one who is engaging in class warfare by asking the question, by making the issue of spreading the tax burden more evenly into a class question?
He just laughed and said he didn't see that at all.
Check out Congressman Ryan's hairline. That simian look may tell you something about him, and about those who travel with him in that right wing party on Capitol Hill.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Mitch McConnell, Rush Limbaugh, Rick Perry, are the classic playground bullies. They are, for personal reasons, not entirely sure of their own manhood, so they puff themselves up and spout out the sort of tough sounding stuff which attempts to substitute braggadocio and in your face for real courage. Theirs is a sort of substitute courage, the loud mouth.
And of course, from the time we first got to know him, Barack Obama is the perfect target for the playground bully, who looks for the kid they can wale on,--he so obviously will not hit back.
So, President Obama proposes a jobs bill and McConnell says it's a poor substitute for leadership.
Rick Perry says he never lost sleep over any of the record number of prisoners he's sent to the Texas death house. Why should he? He's a tough guy. Of course, the governor of Illinois stopped executions in his state once he realized through the efforts of the Innocence Project, which revealed, using DNA evidence, the innocence of so many people on death row the governor had to admit, our jury system is so flawed we should not be killing people if there is any doubt at all.
Today a prisoner will be executed even though the witnesses against him have recanted their testimony.
You see a movie like "Conviction" and you see how courts and police make mistakes and would rather than admit it, they'd put an innocent man to death.
Then there's the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who parades prisoners in pink underwear through the streets and some of these guys have not even had their day in court. But the sheriff is a real tough guy. He's real tough when he's surrounded by armed deputies, you understand.
But then, that's the essence of the bully. He is never going to stand across the mat and face off against another man, who could take him down. He's only tough when he's safe, rich and Republican.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Okay, I realize the President gets a lot of advice, but this is coming from the state of New Hampshire, so I just know he's going to listen.
Up here, if we don't have a Presidential contender over for coffee more than once, he can forget about getting our vote. What we got up here is retail politics.
So, what can we expect in the way of conversation as the election year begins?
Of course, we will, as Democrats have to point out that the Republicans pushed us over the precipice just before they left office and Obama and the Democrats caught us just before we hit the rocks and splattered all over the bottom in a real honest to goodness Depression.
They got us there through a combination of wars they had no plan for paying for (which they now call Obama's wars) and dismantling regulations and laws which had protected us from the kinds of shenanigans on Wall Street which got us into the last Great Depression, and they saddled us with a huge deficit caused by those wars and by Republican laws to cut taxes for billionaires, which meant we could no longer collect taxes to keep the government running and just for good measure they tried to kill Medicare and Social Security and damn near, well virtually did, kill health care reform.
When we bring all this up, they will say, "I'm for allowing concealed weapons so every citizen can defend himself at school, in the restaurants and bars of his home town, and in his home."
And what can we say to this?
And when the Republican, in the candidate's debate asks the President how he feels about forcing sweet innocent twelve year old girls, who have never had a thought about sex or boys or rock and roll music to have an injection of a vaccine to protect her against HPV virus, and what do you think about that, Mr. President? How do you feel about government mandated injections of twelve year old virgins?
Then you say, "I am not your daughter's physician, and that question is meant to distract everyone from the real issue of jobs, which your party is killing."
And when they reply, "Well, how about gay marriage, how do you feel about that?"
Then the President says, "Gay marriage questions are not about jobs and the only reason you raise the issue is to hide behind it so you don't have to talk about how Republican trickle down economics has killed off jobs."
And when they say, "Well, how do you feel about job killing taxes which shackle job creators and how about regulations which stifle innovation and investment?"
Then the President says, "No taxes ever killed job creation and regulations do not stifle innovation half as much as unfair taxes which make the millionaire's secretary pay more tax, proportionately than the millionaire. What we need is more jobs not richer millionaires. We need to turn unemployed workers into taxpayers; We do not need to turn millionaires into billionaires."
And when they say, "Well, how do you feel about the Death Tax?"
Then you say, Mr. President, "I think families who receive five million dollars are well taken care of, and for estates more than that, well those estates got that big because this country helped create that kind of success and it's time for give back. And we can exempt farmers, by the way."
And when they say, "Your talk about taxing the rich is just class warfare."
Then you say, "The only class warfare I've seen over the past three years has been against the middle class and it's been waged by Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Lindsay Graham leading the charge and every other Republican politician charging behind them."
And when they say, "We've got to get government to live within its means," then you say, "If that means we cannot do anything to get this country moving again, then I'd say, we can acquire the means now and live within them once we have people back to work."
And when they say, "You are part of Washington, and the federal government and that's what's keeping this country and this economy down."
Then you say, "It's not government, or even big government that is the problem. It's bad government that is the problem. And every time the Republicans win an election, which is easier to do if all you have to do is point to the problems rather than to the solutions, every time the Republicans get into office, they drive this country to near ruin. They turn government surpluses into deficits and then blame the Democrats for letting them do it. They are the classic case of the son who kills both his parents and then complains he's been made an orphan."
And when they say, "What about a Mosque at Ground Zero? What about bringing terrorists here to the homeland to have dangerous trials? What about protecting our borders against all those illegal immigrants?"
Then you say, Mr. President: "You're just dodging the real issues, trying to hide behind these social smokescreens, those hot button burn down the barn questions so you can be all self righteous and sanctimonious so you don't have to talk about how we got into this horrible economy and how we can get out."
You can, in fact, say, "You know, for three years, seems like thirty, I've responded to your phony party line talking points, but now I've realized you never had any intention of having a real conversation. All you want to do is to insult, deride, and pose as some sort of savior of the real America. But in fact, you have no idea what the real America is. You live in that part of America only 1 percent of the population knows. And you are bound and determined to protect that 1 percent from the other 99 percent, and that's all you really care about."
And if the Republicans win after that debate, well, at least you can feel better because you know at least everyone has seen them, however briefly for what they really are.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
When John Boehner gave his speech the the Economic Club of Washington, DC, he distilled the Republican dogma of the last 80 years into the catechism: 1/ The problem is the government 2/ The people, that is the businessmen will lead us out of our economic miseries by creating jobs, innovating and riding on on horseback.
The problem with his economic analysis is the problem with economics, which has been called "The Dismal Science" as a proposition: Economics is not a science at all.
In science, you propose a hypothesis: e.g., Government cannot create jobs. And then you test that hypothesis with an experiment. And then you publish your results so everyone can see how exactly you did your experiment and everyone argues about it until the next trial.
But economics does not have laboratories; about the only things economics has is history (which is one long argument) and mathematical models, which stupefy most people and which lend some credibility to economics as a learned profession, because, after all, they have all those numbers.
The closest thing we've got to a laboratory in economics is an individual state, like say, Michigan, where they can try ideas out and see how they work. Of course, if the idea doesn't work in Michigan, you can say, well that's just an isolated state with all sorts of problems peculiar to Michigan, and just because the idea didn't work there doesn't mean it won't work in say, Texas.
But it's the closest thing we've got to a laboratory.
Now Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan has published her report on how she responded to the economic crisis in that state when she was governor: She cut taxes, cut spending, cut government jobs. And what were the results of her experiment? "We did everything that people would want us to do, and yet it didn't work. Laissez-faire, passivity, tax cuts, hands-off does not work. And, really that's the lesson from this laboratory of democracy which is Michigan."
About the only thing that helped was when the federal government stepped in and bailed out General Motors--which the Republicans in their typically snide, cynical way, immediately dubbed, "Government Motors."
Of course, the Republicans say the reason cutting taxes didn't work was she didn't cut them enough.
Dismal science indeed. Not much science. But pretty dismal.
The indispensable Gail Collins has a wonderful piece in today's Times about Rick Perry, but she could just as well be writing about Frank Guinta or Kelly Ayotte. She alludes to a piece which appeared in the Texas monthly in which a local observer remarked: "The problem is...that the energy in the Republican Party today is not directed at how to make government work better. It is directed against government." (Italics mine)
Whenever today's leading Republicans think about the federal government it is always as "A sinister force that can be identified as the villain when anything goes wrong."
Collins notes, "More than a quarter of all Texans have no health insurance whatsoever. During the first presidential debate Perry blamed that fact--as he has in the past, back home--on Washington."
The excuse for any failure attributed to the Republican Party is always the federal government.
From Herbert Hoover on, the federal government was seen as grasping to control the "Minds and the souls" of good decent Americans, who would otherwise be hard working and successful, but for the intervention of the feds.
So while America burned, while the bread lines lengthened and the factories emptied and the roads and bridges crumbled during the 1930's, the President and the Congress sat on their hands and told everyone there is nothing the federal government could do. The solution had to be small business and big business had to come to the rescue, as John Boehner has said, "As it always has."
Except when it hasn't.
Capitalism has failed before. In the 1920's and 1930's when the catastrophic failures in Germany and across Europe led to the rise of Hitler and world war.
In America, Franklin Roosevelt was elected President and started spending money and regulating banks and started trying things. And the Republican Party has never forgiven him. And in 1937, he finally was overwhelmed into pulling back on federal spending by the same Republican Party, and the economy went back into a tailspin.
If those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, then we are all in deep doo doo.
Obama is no FDR. He doesn't have the fight in him.
Maybe he'll learn and start to channel Harry Truman and start giving the Republican Party what it so richly deserves, which is to say: Hell.
Here's hoping, because we need our government again.
We need to remember Medicare, the Internet, the interstate highway system, the wonders of clean rivers and an untainted food supply, the Center for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the Coast Guard which rescues more people every year than any Republican governor or senator, the Seal Team Six, which found and killed Osama Bin Laden, and all the other successes of the federal government.
It's no surprise there are stupid, ambitious people out there like Michele Bachmann (who hears a mother blame the HPV vaccine for her child's mental retardation and Michele accepts this as received Gospel) or Rick Perry, who thinks other people are guilty of treason for doing their jobs, whereas he can advocate secession from the union and is not at all treasonous, or Kelly Ayotte who votes to kill Medicare, or Frank Guinta (well, you just pick your quote from that man--anything will do.)
What is puzzling is how idiotic can the voters in this great country of ours can elect these low life and elevate them to national office.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Speaking to the Economic Club of Washington, DC Speaker John Boehner sounded for all the world like Rush Limbaugh channeling Herbert Hoover.
It's just that Boeing executives looked around the world and decided making airplanes overseas might not be such good press right now, and so they found the closest thing to Hong Kong they could find right there in South Carolina, where people are so uneducated and desperate and Republican it would never enter their minds to form a union. Why, in South Carolina, they don't even know how to spell UNION. Union has been a dirty word in South Carolina since they fired on Fort Sumter.
Boeing did of course consider Arizona, where they have the Maricopa County re incarnation of the Gestapo hunting down all those illegal immigrants who want to work. And of course, Texas was in the running because in Texas they execute all the troublemakers at such a rate you can hardly keep track. But South Carolina will do just fine, for the job creators, the non union kind of jobs Boeing loves to create.
They voted in Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR, who said simply, the federal government has to do something when the private sector fails. So he introduced the NRA (National Recovery Act) and a whole alphabet soup of federal government programs, which created "make work jobs," putting people to work building bridges and roads, painting murals, most of which still survive to this day.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
If the TRUTH is "Freedom trumps all," including the freedom to die because you were foolish enough to not have a PLAN B for disaster, then your freedom to have no plan, becomes some else's problem.
The problem is actually no longer your problem, when you are comatose. The problem become the problem of the doctors at the hospital when your panicked family brings you in, desperate.
Can the doctor at the hospital say, "Well, actually, he had the freedom to choose not to have health insurance, and he chose that, so now we are going to just let him die" ?
That's the way it happens, time and time again, every day, at every hospital in the land. Lots of tough guys who chose freedom, and their families present the problem to the hospital, which is to say, ultimately, the government.
Just how ignorant and clueless is Michele Bachmann?
So just how enlightened is Rick Perry?
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Great Moment in the Republican debate the other night. Hope you saw it.
They asked Ron Paul the question I've been dying to ask him, Rick Perry and all the Republican candidates who are screeching about how requiring free born red blooded American citizens to buy health insurance when they may not want to buy health insurance.
Suppose a 30 year old doesn't want to buy health insurance. He's healthy and he doesn't want to spend $250 a month on health insurance he doesn't think he needs. Then he gets in a motorcycle accident, and winds up in the hospital, in a coma, uninsured. What would you have us do? Let him die?
And the audience, hand picked Tea Party faithful all, screamed out, "Yes!"
And that's the essence of the problem. You have people who want to take a risk, as Ron Paul says, and that's their right. But their right to not plan ahead and to take a risk runs up against our right to not have to pay for their mistake when things go bad.
And the thing is, as Americans, we find it difficult if not impossible to simply leave that guy on the street or say to him, "Well, if you're not insured, I'll just let you die."
That's the problem for the rest of us, your bravado turns into our burden.
We, once upon a time, had charity hospitals where the uninsured could go, but those have pretty much disappeared.
The myth of the man who can live his life off the grid, unbeholdened to the rest of the community is so starkly exposed by this need for the community to do something when that rugged individualist gets into trouble.
What happens is the family shows up, all pathetic and you have to do something or you cannot live with yourself.
We used to try to send people home to die, with their family, and the family would bring them back within a day or two, completely panicked, unable to watch their loved one die at home. (This was in the days before hospice.)
Ron Paul was a GYN, and never had to deal with these sorts of problems--so he's all strident about just allowing people to suffer, to live or die with the consequences of their own decisions.
Just another instance of the Republican delusional state.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Okay, you have to admit, these are beautiful people.
And they tell such a beautiful story, you could read your kids to sleep with it: There once was this wonderful, beautiful country, where even the poorest child could grow up to be a princess or a prince.
And all that child had to do was to work hard and play by the rules and think clean thoughts and it would all happen: You will be rich some day, and live in a beautiful house and drive a beautiful car and have a beautiful mate and have beautiful children.
But there's this bad monster called The Government, which tries to give away everything you earn to the undeserving thugs who won't work for a living, the welfare queens and immigrants and godless communists, socialists and atheists and other unwholesome types. And the bad Government, which has black helicopters and bad taxes, tries to take everything from the hard working boys and girls and give it to the lazy, shiftless, unworthy, undeserving poor.
And you can tell these people who tell such stories are good people who would never tell a lie because they are so pretty and believable and they sound so nice.
And they say Social Security is just a big Ponzi scheme and they will kill it with their wonderful clean swift swords of righteousness. And they will kill Medicare too, already tried and voted for the law which would have done it, but the bad Democrats in the Senate stopped them.
And they say the most important job in the world right now is not to provide health care, or to get people jobs, or to help people who are poor and want to work to catch a break, or to protect the rivers and lakes from pollution.
No. The most important job is to prevent the re election of President Barack Obama, who has a nasty foreign sounding name. His middle name is Hussein, you know. And he wasn't even born in America. And he didn't want to wear the American flag lapel pin because he really doesn't love this great country the way you and I do.
But just remember, and keep believing this: You're not going to be poor for long. The Republican Party will see to that.
Why over the eight years they had the White House and the Congress, they made the rich so rich that the top 1% of the richest people in the country now own 40% of all the wealth of this country and they are never going to give that up as long as the good Republicans have any thing to say about it.
It's just so beautiful.
And when you die, you might be reborn into a rich family and then you'll be glad you voted for these nice, pretty people.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
It is true that people often accuse others of what they are most guilty of themselves. So, when Rick Perry accuses Ben Bernanke of "Treason" he knows of what he speaks. He has suggested, more than once, he would like Texas to secede from the union if the federal government does not change its tax policy.
Perry is not an anomaly in the Republican party on this line--Mitch McConnell announced, forthrightly his top priority in the just finished Congressional session was to ensure the defeat of Barack Obama. Eric Cantor and John Boehner chimed in.
The remarkable thing is nobody in the press or even in the Democratic Party batted an eye, or expressed any outrage that the Republican leader of the Senate would say that his main purpose, his main job was preventing President Obama's re election. Nobody said, "Wait a minute, is that why the voters of Kentucky sent you to the Senate? Did they not want you to create jobs, improve the national economy, improve the security of the nation, prevent terrorist attacks, make the country stronger, the people healthier and create opportunities for the nation to flourish?"
The whole concept of a loyal opposition is what makes a government of a democracy work: You can disagree with the approach of the majority party, but you put the nation first, and you work to make things better for the four years between elections, not work to make things worse so you can blame the ruling party for the mess you helped create.
Of course, the Republicans have a problem in that their tax code has resulted in the staggering statistics which keep coming out about wealth distribution in America: The top 1 percent of the population now receive 1/4 of all income every year; that top 1 percent controls 40% of all the wealth--an even greater percentage than the income they control. This is the result of GOP tax policy, pure and simple. They whine about "Death taxes" but that is only because they are bought and paid for by people with estates.
Of course, you can't blame the Republicans for trying. If they can sell this notion that you are poor now but there's pie in the sky--one day you'll be rich and then you'll be happy we have made things so good for you, well, then more power to them. If the American public is so tied to that delusion, well they get what they deserve.
And the deficit, which the GOP wails and gnashes teeth over--it's just the hammer of our national undoing, until you start talking about reducing that deficit with taxes on millionaires, then you hear the worse thing you can do would be to alienate the "job creators," who have held on to their huge profits and not hired any body much.
These are the real traitors. They are loyal to only their class--the country, that is the other 99% or the other 80%, however you want to slice it, well, they are not really deserving. The nation ought to belong to those who own it. That's the capitalist way.
And if our fellow Americans are stupid enough to vote for Kelly Ayotte and Guinta and Rick Perry and John Boehner and Eric Cantor and yes, even Scott Brown and Susan Collins and Olympia Snow, for any Republican, then they have embraced the Cyborgs and all those who care more for the riches of the few than for their country or their countrymen.
And in a democracy, or actually in a plutocracy, a nation governed by the privilege few, well all's fair.