"When I get new evidence I change my mind. What do you do?" John Maynard Keynes
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- If, during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organization, and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high geometric powers of increase of each species, at some age, season or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite variety in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each being’s own welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occurred useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterized. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection. [Charles Darwin (1859) On the Origin of Species]
- “It is essential to such a government, that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic.” James Madison
- All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it. -Benjamin Franklin
- Totally Astonishing Images from the 2013 Art of Science Contest May 21, 2013This isn't an alien world — it's a representation of the winds traveling from East to West (in blue) and West to East (in red) here on Earth. And this is just one of the fantastic images that won the 2013 Science As Art contest at Princeton University. See a few more below.Read more... […]
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Tag Archives: politics
I didn’t expect the schadenfruede to be so long-lasting.
By Paul West
March 18, 2013, 4:00 a.m.
WASHINGTON — A smug, uncaring, ideologically rigid national Republican Party is turning off the majority of American voters, with stale policies that have changed little in 30 years and an image that alienates minorities and the young, according to an internal GOP study.
That blunt assessment on the state of Republicanism at the national level comes from a major new report, out Monday, that will likely shake up an already battered party. It was commissioned by the head of the Republican National Committee in the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat last year.
Without offering detailed policy prescriptions, the 98-page report calls on the party to “smartly change course,” modernize itself and develop “a more welcoming brand of conservatism that invites and inspires new people to visit us.”
There are extensive lists of proposals, many of them technological and procedural, designed to help the GOP better engage voters, especially women, minorities and the young, and reverse a losing pattern in five of the last six popular votes for president.
“Unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future,” the report concludes.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, in remarks in Washington on the release of the study by the party’s “Growth and Opportunity Project,” is unsparing in his analysis of the 2012 election setback.
“Our message was weak. Our ground game was insufficient. We weren’t inclusive. We were behind in both data and digital. Our primary and debate process needed improvement,” he says, according to an advance text of his remarks.
“We know we have problems. We’ve identified them, and we’re implementing the solutions to fix them,” he says.
Most of the criticisms are familiar to those, both inside and outside the GOP, who have watched the party fail to come to grips with changing demographics and, instead, try to rely on older, white voters who represent a shrinking part of the electorate.
“Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us,” the report says. Young voters, it says, see the party as “old and detached from pop culture.”
In calling for the GOP to develop “a more welcoming conservatism,” the report rebukes those who remain in denial about the seriousness of the problem and those who are unwilling to broaden the party’s appeal.
A just-concluded gathering of conservatives in Washington cheered speaker after speaker who urged the GOP to stick to its guns and, instead, largely blamed the 2012 defeat on Romney or the way he ran his campaign.
“The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself,” the study says. “We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”
The report calls on Republicans to counter the party’s image as an arm of business. It says Republicans should “blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.”
Beyond that, however, there are no policy details. Indeed, the authors point out that they are not a policy committee, in a section calling on the GOP to “embrace and champion” comprehensive immigration reform without further specifics.
In addition, an extensive set of “inclusion” proposals for minority groups, including Latinos, Asians and African Americans, appears to mimic similar, failed outreach efforts by various RNC chairs over the last 30 years.
The report notes the party’s problems with women voters, especially unmarried women. But its 10-point plan for appealing to women makes no mention of the GOP stance on any social issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, that have turned off many of the voters in question.
In a section on campaign mechanics, Republicans are advised to make “a critical cultural shift” on early, absentee, and online voting, trends that the report notes are “here to stay.” The report fails to note, however, that Republican elected officials fought to block and even reverse that trend at the state level in 2012.
Although the RNC study spares Romney any direct criticism, it includes tacit criticism of GOP polling that seems directed at his campaign. Research conducted for the study report found that 70% of Republican pollsters surveyed said that Democratic polling in 2012 “was better than our own. Fully 22% felt the Democrats did ‘much better’ than the Republicans when it came to accuracy and reliability.”
In a section on party primaries, there are thinly veiled attacks on efforts by outside groups, such as those tied to former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove and organizations like the Club for Growth, that seek to apply litmus tests or weed out candidates considered unelectable.
“It would be a mistake for any one organization to think it can circumvent GOP voters and hand-pick our nominees,” the report says. “Third-party groups that promote purity are hurting our electoral prospects.”
There are also calls for fewer candidate debates during the presidential primaries, a shorter nomination calendar and an earlier national convention.
The report is the product of a committee headed by Priebus’ allies and supporters, including Henry Barbour of Mississippi, the nephew of former governor and RNC chairman Haley Barbour; former George W. Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer; and Sally Bradshaw, a longtime advisor to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
If this problem of the GOP–losing national popular votes–interests you, you’ll be moved to follow the various scenes of crashing perceptions and the subsequent wreckage.
If somebody asked me what the chief deficit of the GOP is, I would answer that the Red States provide generous amount of evidence about what the Grand Old Party hopes to accomplish. So, from this, my short answer would be,
The GOP wants to race to the bottom. This desire strikes many people as being the equivalent of asking voters to punch themselves in the face–and be better off for it!
The bottom is many ‘bottoms’ and each such bottom can be well defined by the data. If you aspire to obtain the median education or household income or physical health of the average citizen of Mississippi or Tennessee or Alabama, then I have a political party that aims to support your goals.
What is the predicated goal enabled to head downward? Cheap Labor.
There you have it. The strategic handwringing is marvelous yet the actual situation isn’t very dire. The GOP is in fine shape when you look at what the nature of their actual success is all about.
Its libertarian “Chamber of Commerce” wing is fabulously fat and happy. The libertarian wing requires frightened, racist, aging, married, white people to lock in political advantages in Red States and so it has gone famously for four-plus decades. Fueling non-economic resentments of such people and then also gaming as much as possible the available, gritty mechanics of elections has proven to be a marvelous trick.
This strategy has worked out well. The political directors have leveraged resentment and cheap labor to a commanding political lead in the Red states. Has the bottom come into view? Not yet; ‘call the Texas textbook folks.’
(Cheap labor figures into the ability of state level oligarchs to put their money to work on political projects without many monied opponents standing in their way.) The GOP’s success is etched by the various state-level measures. Hurray for Kansas!
Losing national and statewide elections in blue states is the price exacted by the Red State strategy. The GOP protests too much. There is no chance of the GOP winning substantially more votes of young, or single, or minority, or, highly educated voters, as long as the GOP wants to play this hard ball strategic and tactical game on any Purple-to-Blue state’s territory.
For example, it should be completely obvious that the GOP, if it is hoping to make it harder for minorities to vote, is not going to make the party attractive to those same minorities. Having leaders in some states assert the state’s interest in penetrating and raping a woman’s vagina prior to the woman undergoing a medical procedure is not going to make your party attractive to most women. Supporting the teaching of intelligent design and/or young earth creationism; denying climate change; and, (recently we learn,) spinning slaveowners as benefactors of slaves, is not going to make your party more attractive to college kids and the educated classes.
Over the long term of the GOP, the paradox inherent betwixt its ruthless plutocratic libertarian ideology and its core voters’ theocratic fantasy is resolved by the GOP’s inability to accomplish the task of replacing its aging white core voter. Who knew paranoia and fearfulness and resentment has a shelf life?
Until then, I fully expect GOP directors to continue to follow the overt marching orders of Rush and Rand, and be obedient to the tactical orders of ALEC and the Koch Brothers, et al.. In doing so, at least, its power players will continue to enjoy big paydays. I get it: the principle grifters, the Makers, are laughing all the way to the bank. The GOP’s success is not fragile as long as there are, in the Red states, resentful and fearful old white social conservatives for the rightward Makers to shake down and manipulate.
The key requirement of continued GOP success supposes the “Libertarian directors” understand the grievances of the social conservative hoi polloi are never to be resolved.
Originally posted August 17, 2012.
The racist Ohio Secretary of State Husted at the eleventh hour issues rules for provisional ballots that will potentially rob Ohio citizens of their votes. As has become the habit of Romney operatives, Romney’s campaign spokesmen, and, apologists and explainers and gobshitters associated with te GOP’s efforts to, especially, suppress African-American votes, the goal of Husted could be re-stated:
The GOP is despicable, not generally, but specifically in their tenacious effort to make voting very hard for voters who support their opponents. Over the past few months I have heard the quasi “meta-physical” rationales: that one fraudulent vote is worse than 10 suppressed legitimate votes; that voting should be harder as a test of commitment; that politics is a grown-up and nasty game. Etc..
The last rationale, and its brethren, obviously speak to the implicit nihilism hidden not to far under the surface of a modern GOP not at all separate from the southern strategy of Goldwater and Nixon, not substantially distant from the John Birch Society, not bothered much by the extravagant and stark contradiction of mashing of Jesus and John Gault.
On election day, GOP operative polling place observers have been lightly trained, and next will be let loose Tuesday in African-American polling places throughout Cuyahoga County to accomplish one single goal: slow down voting so that voters are forced to wait with the objective being that the voters eventually abandon the long lines and so decline to vote.
Reprehensible. Not surprisingly in the least, neither Romney or Ryan have issued a single word against these efforts. Meanwhile, here in Cleveland, it turns out the Einhorn family in Milwaukee was responsible for billboard warnings placed in African-American neighborhoods in own city, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Once outed, the Einhorn spokesperson offered a rationale that was spectacular in its dishonesty: the billboards were put up as “a public service.” If you can’t figure out why this is completely dishonest, I feel very sorry for you.
(Nancy Einhorn is on the Board of The Milwaukee Ballet. My guess is not for very much longer unless it turns out being a racist is an importnat qualification.)
Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have been dominant financiers for conservative front groups and nonprofits for nearly three decades. Their money has flowed to organizations dedicated to lobbying for corporate and upper income tax cuts, as well as to groups responsible for mobilizing Tea Party rallies against President Obama. But the Koch family’s association with fringe right-wing groups began a generation earlier with Fred Koch, the patriarch of the clan.
Fred not only founded the company now known as Koch Industries, he also was afounding member of the John Birch Society. As a founding board member, Fred helped engineer a hysterical wave of attacks on labor, intellectuals, public education, liberal clergy members, and other pillars of society he viewed as a threat. Birchers decriedeveryone from former President Eisenhower to water utility administrators as pawns in a global communist conspiracy. In the last two years, as the Koch name has becomesynonymous with right-wing plutocracy in the United States, the Koch family has played down its relation to the Birchers.
However, the New American, the official mouthpiece of the John Birch Society, published a piece this morning celebrating Fred and the Koch family’s pivotal role in developing the group:
Koch warned that American institutions were honeycombed with communist subversives, from labor unions and tax-free foundations to universities and churches. Art and newsprint, radio and television — all these media had been transmuted into vehicles of communist propaganda. [...] Fred Koch was no fly-by-night pamphleteer. He spent a generous portion of his later years using his wealth and influence to fight the communism he abhorred. He was an early member of the The John Birch Society’s National Council, an advisory group to JBS founder Robert Welch. Koch supported a variety of freedom-related causes, all the while continuing to build the company today known as Koch Industries.
The Bircher ode to Koch glosses over Fred’s record of bigotry. In a booklet he authored, Fred railed against civil rights leaders, and claimed the movement against racial segregation was a communist plot to use African Americans to destabilize the country. The Koch-funded Birchers held numerous rallies during the ’60s claiming integration would lead to a “mongrelization” of the races. (Thinkprogress)
(August 17, 2012)
The most remarkable aspect, to me, of the GOP’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy by targeting the African-American vote are the wide variety of rationalizations employed by advocates of voter suppression. Each and every such rationalization ends up rooted to an unpatriotic hope: that a legitimate voter’s vote of a specific kind not ever be registered.
The Pennsylvania legislator Mike Turzai expressed this hope in certain terms and a thousand headlines were the result June 25th.
Yet, just this week on NPR he was asked about voter ID and he said something to the effect of:
“It’s not worth one illegitimate vote to drop efforts to protect the vote.”
The useless NPR questioner did not press the question begged by his ridiculous, self-righteous answer. Obviously, the GOP’s concern is about losing elections, and not about the integrity of the vote.
This connects up with racism in a straight-forward way. Husted and Priesse understand the African-American vote is to be suppressed because of their overwhelming propensity to vote for their own race.
Obviously, elderly white GOP voters get caught up in this pernicious effort to undermine our political system, so it is clearly the case that a calculation about reward versus risk underlies the increasingly widespread efforts to make it harder for legitimate voters to cast their ballots.
Meanwhile, the cause of vote suppression has engendered systematic arguments on behalf of election integrity. This presentation from Virginia Voters Alliance is typical. Note its Tea Party inflections at the same time you note that none of its inculpatory ‘facts’ are actually documented. This group’s presentation boldly proclaims George Soros is pulling the strings!
All the tidy rationales are usually easily discombobulated, with a little scratching, to reveal suppression proponent’s true racist intent. The easiest way to get at this is to ask proponents about what would happen if every last eligible voter were to vote. (Unlikely voters favor Obama by 2-1.) In this regard, the rough and tumble rationale “Politics is a mean business and the ends justify the means.” is at least honest.
Perhaps the most famous recent example of racially-based vote suppression in the United States took place during the presidential election of 2000. The State of Florida ordered implementation of a purge list to remove voters from the rolls. The purge disenfranchised thousands of eligible voters – primarily African Americans. These citizens were prevented from casting ballots through their largely erroneous – and humiliating – classification as convicted felons. Racially-Based Suppression of the African-American Vote: The Role It May Play in the Upcoming Presidential Election By Sherry Colb, Oct. 29, 2004
NAACP and Florida Voters Reach Agreement with ChoicePoint® in Voting Rights Lawsuit
ChoicePoint to Make Donation to NAACP and Reprocess Voter Exception List
WASHINGTON, D.C. / ALPHARETTA, Ga. – July 2, 2002 – Civil rights plaintiffs have reached an agreement with ChoicePoint (NYSE: CPS) over work performed by Database Technologies (DBT) for the State of Florida in the 2000 elections. The NAACP and Florida voters filed a federal lawsuit – NAACP v. Harris – challenging the conduct of state and local officials in the 2000 Florida elections, including DBT, because of the company’s work as a contractor hired by the state.
As part of the settlement, ChoicePoint will donate $75,000 to the NAACP, which will be used to fund past and future efforts to further the electoral opportunities of Florida’s minority voters. Under the agreement, the company also will re-process the 1999 and 2000 “exceptions lists” of Florida voters who may have been ineligible to vote because of possible felony criminal convictions or because of possibly being registered to vote in more than one county. The reprocessing will be conducted pursuant to terms proposed by the plaintiffs and subject to court approval.
DBT was under contract with the State of Florida from late 1998 through 2000 to create a list of registered voters who may have been deceased, registered in more than one county, or convicted felons under the Florida voting fraud statute. ChoicePoint acquired DBT in May, 2000, after the initial 2000 voter exception list was delivered to Florida officials for verification.
Comprehensive, academic, legal, social scientific, clearinghouse on election integrity: Brennan Center for Justice.
Michael Tomasky: How the GOP Plans to Block the Black Vote.
It’s a sick and sickening situation, and it delegitimizes everything else about the Republican Party. I can understand how someone believes in limited government or low taxes. I can understand how someone could oppose affirmative action. I cannot understand how any individual can be anything other than abjectly ashamed to be associated with a political party so thuggish as to try to rig elections like this and then at its conventions have the gall to invoke Abraham Lincoln and hire lots of black people to sing and dance and smile, to make up for their absence among the attendees. A black mark indeed.
Coerced to accept penetration by any object is called what? Figure it out by the logic of Paul Ryan:
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Ladies, get ready to hand over your body to the GOP, as Ann and Mitt prepare for (your) future rubber glove moments.
Low hanging fruit.
Fill stop right there. Meanwhile, Obama’s inner populist doesn’t ring true for me at all. But, Willard doesn’t even have an inner populist. This leads to the coding crunch in the above call and response videos.
If Romney squeaks by and also is gifted with slim Republican majorities in the Congress, then I would predict the filibuster would be ejected. Romney would be under a ton of pressure to instantly deliver the country to the gateway of the Randian/Vatican utopia.
Ezra Klein: The Keynesian case for Romney
But Romney, though he often buys into that sort of nonsense while criticizing Obama, knows better. Time magazine asked him about cutting spending in 2013. “If you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5 percent,” Romney said. “That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I’m not going to do that, of course.” You couldn’t have gotten a clearer definition of Keynesian budgeting from Obama.
Will Romney, if elected, flip flop flip back into his natural state of easefulness: technocratic Reagan wannabee? In which case, his policy venture strikes me as revolving around tax and regulation mitigation, and, purchasing more toys for the military. …kind of exactly like Reagan. With such a thrust out of the gate, like Reagan, he could then ride the business cycle to both more concentration of wealth and tilting of the table toward the warmer climes, and, maybe an unemployment rate of 6-7%.
The deficit would skyrocket. Many more children would be thrust into poverty. He’d have to avoid a regional war ‘about’ Iran. And, an activist Congress could cast all manner of politically harmful legislative paper across his desk. Still, Ezra Klein considers, albeit late in the game, the obvious prospective Romney tilt away from a doctrinaire, kamikaze, mission.
(For normal, old school, capitalists oriented to the quaint structure of the consumer economy, it still doesn’t make much sense to vote for Romney–if the main goal is too grow one’s pile of assets should same be rooted in consumption of goods and services. On the other hand, new fangled speculators and rent seekers and Galtian innovators may laugh at such stocks and bonds avatism.)
Now, let’s rank those scenarios by their probability of occurring, at least according to the InTrade market’s betting estimates:
1) Obama and a divided Congress.
2) Romney and a Republican Congress;
3) Romney and a divided Congress;
4) Obama and a Democratic Congress;
The least Keynesian outcome is suddenly the most likely outcome. The most Keynesian outcome is the least likely outcome. But Romney and a Republican Congress — the second most Keynesian outcome — remains the second-most likely outcome.
The wild card remains the utopian fervor of the teaparty members of the House of Representatives. In the past, this wasn’t a factor at such times when a newly minted Republican President made the turn toward the Keynesian. This turn has always happened, and it could be cast as the inevitable consequence of the GOP having reached their usual ne plus ultra objective: a return to power.
But the teaparty wish is for a permanent rearrangement of the political economy and Constitutional order. This fantasy, even if it can be made to jibe with the rightward ‘Galtian’ plutocratic fantasy of sustaining its own defense of privilege and hyper-wealth, collides with the tried-and-true and old fashioned Republican muddling along with Keynesian strokes, paying off donors, and, doing nothing about social issues.
(After all, you need those social issues to remain unresolved so that resentment, etc.. never wanes.)
Starting with Richard Nixon, every Republican president has left the dollar lower, the federal budget deficit higher, the American trade position weaker, and the U.S. manufacturing work force smaller than when he took office. James Fallows 2005
There’s so much I could blather on about the delicious presidential battle shaping up between old school neo-liberal plutocrats of the centerist left vs “personal responsibility” Ayn Randian tea party plutocrats. Once again, as I mostly rediscover every four years, I find myself leaning on Melanie Klein, and so I very much prefer the mature depressive as against the volatile dynamics of the paranoid schizoid.
Which is to say: Obama’s Quixotic aspiration to realize a bi-partisan governing muddle is far superior than Mitt’s hope to galvanize the hating shards of resentful anti-cosmopolitan aging boys, and, crony ‘paper economy’ capitalists.
I do grant that Mitt Romney is a fascinating political figure as a matter of his elevated, nubby peculiarities. He is the oddest major party nominee in my adult political experience of forty years. But, I’ll save arm chair amateur psychoanalysis for a later presentation. Nevertheless, that Republican have nominated an actual plutocrat four years after the speculators, rent seekers and Randian nihilistas brought down the economy is both impressive and precious–all at once.
In 1997, the last year for which there was solid research done on the subject, 42 percent of the Forbes 400 richest Americans made the list through probate.
This lies at the heart of our plutonomy thesis: that the rich are the dominant source of income, wealth and demand in plutonomy countries such as the UK, US, Canada and Australia, countries that have an economically liberal approach to wealth creation. We believe that the actions of the rich and the proportion of rich people in an economy helps explain many of the nasty conundrums and fears that have vexed our equity clients recently, such as global imbalances or why high oil prices haven’t destroyed consumer demand. Plutonomy, we think explains these problems away, and tells us not to worry about them. If we shouldn’t worry, the risk premia on equity markets may be too high.
Secondly, we believe that the rich are going to keep getting richer in coming years, as capitalists (the rich) get an even bigger share of GDP as a result, principally, of globalization. We expect the global pool of labor in developing economies to keep wage inflation in check, and profit margins rising – good for the wealth of capitalists, relatively bad for developed market unskilled/outsource-able labor. This bodes well for companies selling to or servicing the rich. We expect our Plutonomy basket of stocks – which has performed well relative to the S&P 500 index over the last 20 years – to continue performing well in future. From this basket, we would highlight in particular, at the moment, LVMH and Richemont.
RISKS – WHAT COULD GO WRONG
Our whole plutonomy thesis is based on the idea that the rich will keep getting richer. This thesis is not without its risks. For example, a policy error leading to asset deflation, would likely damage plutonomy. Furthermore, the rising wealth gap between the rich and poor will probably at some point lead to a political backlash. Whilst the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfranchisement remains as was – one person, one vote (in the plutonomies). At some point it is likely that labor will fight back against the rising profit share of the rich and there will be a political backlash against the rising wealth of the rich. This could be felt through higher taxation (on the rich or indirectly though higher corporate taxes/regulation) or through trying to protect indigenous laborers, in a push-back on globalization – either anti-immigration, or protectionism. We don’t see this happening yet, though there are signs of rising political tensions. However we are keeping a close eye on developments. (Equity Strategy Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer; Citigroup, Kapur et al, 2006)
(mouse over for controls) Taryn Hart, The Plutocracy Files interview William K. Black.
h/t Colbert; Stewart; Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow
There has certainly been a persistent and growing gap between elite and non-elite progressive attitudes towards the 44th president and his administration. Liberal elite defections from the Obama camp started early and have spread steadily.
First off the grid were those angered by TARP and the coddling of miscreant CEOs and other elements of the financial community. They were quickly followed by civil libertarians upset by the failure to reverse Bush policies on surveillance and treatment of terrorist suspects; foreign policy doves alleging broken promises on Iraq and Afghanistan; and economists pining for mega-stimulus. The health reform debate produced another cohort of progressive dissenters baffled by the administration’s successive concessions to private health industry lobbies and Blue Dogs, while many environmentalists denounced a watered-down climate change bill before that entire effort was abandoned. In the months since the appalling 2010 midterm elections, progressives have largely deplored the president’s “cave” on expiration of the Bush tax cuts and, with ever-greater intensity, his advocacy of deficit reduction and “entitlement reform” as paramount national priorities.
Suffusing all these sources of discontent on the left has been a growing impatience with Obama’s steady commitment to bipartisanship in the face of Republican disrespect and obstruction; frustration over his apparent inability to articulate progressive values and goals in a way that mobilizes public opinion and gives hope to down-ballot Democrats; and contempt for suspected incompetence in such quotidian matters as executive and judicial appointments. To say that liberal elites are “disappointed” with Obama is a great understatement; terms of moral opprobrium such as “betrayal” and “sellout” are now routinely tossed at the White House.
But so far, this profound unhappiness has failed to translate into any tangible intramural challenge to the administration, in a way that defies all precedent. Why the liberal base has so little leverage with Obama Ed Kilgore Salon July 25, 2011
civil libertarians upset by the failure to reverse Bush policies on surveillance
Yeah, that one… Still…between stiff plutocrat-wannabee Willard’s incessant mendacities and the ridiculous performance art of the porcine, cosmic narcissist Gingrich, I’d be hard-pressed to not want to look forward to the festivities promised by the conjunction of Citizen’s United with Obama’s thin and newly rediscovered populism.
Their fiscal anarchism has now led to their threat to destabilize and possibly upend the American and global economy because they refuse to compromise an inch. They control only one part of the government, and yet they hold all of it hostage. I cannot believe they are prepared to allow the US to default rather than give an inch toward responsibility. Except I should believe it by now. Everything I have written about them leads inexorably to this moment. Opposing overwhelming public opinion on the need for a mixed package of tax hikes and spending cuts, drawing the president into a position far to the right of the right of his party, and posturing absurdly as fiscal conservatives, they are in fact anti-tax and anti-government fanatics, and this is their moment of maximal destruction. Andrew Sullivan The Daily Beast
Jobs? It seems to me the Republican jobs program is completely fused to a single agenda item, amplifying the concentration of wealth. End of story. I suppose the degree to go for is accounting.
In the world according to ALEC, [American Legislative Exchange Council] competing firms in free markets are the only real source of social efficiency and wealth. Government contributes nothing but security. Outside of this function, it should be demonized, starved or privatized. Any force in civil society, especially labor, that contests the right of business to grab all social surplus for itself, and to treat people like roadkill and the earth like a sewer, should be crushed. (ALEC Exposed, The Nation)
I’m quite confident none of the Republican candidates for President, including the likely nominee, Governor Rick Perry*, (at once one of our dumbest and most corrupt politicians,) would be able to coherently explain how our economy actually works. My confidence springs from knowing ahead of time that any such explanation would be fatally degraded from the git-go by ideology. (See sociologist Raymond Boudon, The Analysis of Ideology.)
I’m also certain the Republican base nee Tea Party, would not end up enjoying the Randian utopia being planned out as a goal found beyond rolling back the AHCA, privatizing social security, vouchering Medicare, Medicaid, and education, eliminating: regulations, the EPA, and a bunch of other stuff, ending income, capital gains, and business taxes, installing a flat consumption tax. . .and that’s enough to send the economy totally over the edge.
I’m not sure the Republicans understand that they can be tossed out of office. Were these implemented, the various experiments can be reversed. I do get the Galtian move to eventually have to fiercely defend wealth, but voter ID won’t accomplish the task.
Our whole plutonomy thesis is based on the idea that the rich will keep getting richer. This thesis is not without its risks. For example, a policy error leading to asset deflation, would likely damage plutonomy. Furthermore, the rising wealth gap between the rich and poor will probably at some point lead to a political backlash. Whilst the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfrachisement remains as was – one person, one vote (in the plutonomies). At some point it is likely that labor will fight back against the rising profit share of the rich and there will be a political backlash against the rising wealth of the rich. This could be felt through higher taxation (on the rich or indirectly though higher corporate taxes/regulation) or through trying to protect indigenous laborers, in a push-back on globalization – either anti-immigration, or protectionism. We don’t see this happening yet, though there are signs of rising political tensions. However we are keeping a close eye on developments. Citigroup analyst note Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer, March 5, 2006
The average daily insult to my intelligence is not a grievous injury, thanks to Stewart and Colbert.
I’m sure if I ever had the chance, and asked Barack Obama nicely, he’d be able to realistically explain the mechanic of how our economy actually works without blowing up his explanation with nutter propositions and moralist fantasies of the liberal sort. I think to myself: ‘lots of third order chops, so likely able to be reflective, candid, analytic and intelligent.’
Meanwhile, the current numerous spokespersons for the right-leaning fantasy, including the narrow continuum stretched right now between Cain and Romney, always seem to blow up their explanations in their first act of voicing “how it works.” No third order chops; heck Bachmann and Perry are following God’s voice(s) in their head!
One of the odd features of our politics is this: Romney likely has third order capabilities–in other words, he can think about how he thinks about thinking about something–but how would we ever find out for sure?
Here’s the planks of his economic competitiveness policy:
- Lower taxes on businesses to keep America competitive in the global economy
- Slash bureaucratic red tape and place a hard cap on the impact that federal regulations can have on the economy,
- Limit the corrosive influence of union bosses on productive businesses
In total, these suggests Mr. Romney is clueless. The last plank is arch and silly at the same time.
update – ooops. Fail.
What haunts the Obama administration is what still haunts the country: the stunning lack of accountability for the greed and misdeeds that brought America to its gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There has been no legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers. Nor have there been meaningful reforms that might prevent a repeat catastrophe. Time may heal most wounds, but not these. Chronic unemployment remains a constant, painful reminder of the havoc inflicted on the bust’s innocent victims. As the ghost of Hamlet’s father might have it, America will be stalked by its foul and unresolved crimes until they “are burnt and purged away.”
After the 1929 crash, and thanks in part to the legendary Ferdinand Pecora’s fierce thirties Senate hearings, America gained a Securities and Exchange Commission, the Public Utility Holding Company Act, and the Glass-Steagall Act to forestall a rerun. After the savings-and-loan debacle of the eighties, some 800 miscreants went to jail. But those who ran the central financial institutions of our fiasco escaped culpability (as did most of the institutions). As the indefatigable Matt Taibbi has tabulated, law enforcement on Obama’s watch rounded up 393,000 illegal immigrants last year and zero bankers. The Justice Department’s ballyhooed Operation Broken Trust has broken still more trust by chasing mainly low-echelon, one-off Madoff wannabes. You almost have to feel sorry for the era’s designated Goldman scapegoat, 32-year-old flunky “Fabulous Fab” Fabrice Tourre, who may yet take the fall for everyone else. It’s as if the Watergate investigation were halted after the cops nabbed the nudniks who did the break-in.
Obama’s Original Sin by Frank Rich – New York magazine, July 3, 2011
The Republican thrust to shrink the public sector rapidly enough to sink the recovery, to get to the drowning part as-it-were, offers the political payoff that President Obama can easily be pinned with the result of Republican policy through an act of deflection, something like, ‘too little, too late were the budget cuts.’ I think there’s a good chance this will be a successful strategy simply because Obama has not shown any awareness of what the only principle at stake is about. This principle is about Republicans wishing to destroy the Obama moment. This has been the one true principle since the 2008 election.
I don’t buy the GOP/Tea Party combination of Christian and patriotic piety with personal responsibility (writ to the level of the government living within its means,) at all. It’s hokem. I’m sure, once back in power, the GOP won’t move quickly to implement the Randian utopia. After all, trickle down economics hasn’t ever been thoroughly tried for obvious economic reasons.
But, President Obama has been so much more interested in rubbing the left tilting plutocrats the right way that he’s made no time to do the one thing that might turn the tables: get extremely exercised in public at those who have been hoping for his political demise for almost three years.
Obama had taken office at a true populist moment that demanded more than this. People were gagging over their looted 401(k)s and underwater homes, the AIG bonuses, and the bailouts. Howard Dean rage has never been Obama’s style—hope-and-change was an elegant oratorical substitute—and had he given full voice to the public mood, he would have been pilloried as an “angry black man.” But Obama didn’t have to play Huey Long. He could have pursued a sober but determined execution of justice and an explicit, major jobs initiative—of which there have been exactly none, the too-small stimulus included, to the present day.
I’ve given up hoping for Obama to unleash his inner FDR. Alas, Obama has turned out to be a beautiful coward in an environment where those who fiercely oppose him offer a cruel, un-doable fantasy. Still, Obama is already doing a slow-motion roll-over prior to the July roll out of a bi-partisan thrashing of the working class, working poor, and poor.
Making sense of the financial meltdown. There is positive explanatory viewpoint and various idealized viewpoints. About this latter froth of blame-casting, I term such viewpoints normative-mythic. The first viewpoint would be concerned with the actual mechanics of the meltdown. Opposite this first field of study is the prolific body of various normative “explanations.” So, for example, in this latter realm, one could learn that Fannie and Freddie played the major role, or, that lower class first-time home owners played the major role, or, that deregulation was the crucial factor, etc. Explanations that elevate single or a handful of factors to a consequential majority in the catalog of explanatory factors invariably make ideological turns. I have not encountered an explanation of this type able to remain connected only to the actual, positive facts, events, and obvious forensic estimations.
Back in the late summer of 2008 I figured TARP was necessary to avoid a wreck of every single train rather than many that were wrecked. However, back then, I didn’t have any grasp of the actual mechanics. I did comprehend the ethical consequences would be to bail out the financial gangsters in the unfortunately time-honored procedure of socialization of loss and privatization of gain. (Stating this, I invoke my own normative-mythic sensemaking.)
Scroll ahead almost three years, and the idealized “talk” on offer from ideological perspectives remains unhooked from the actual events, especially as these are now much better understood. So, for example, it is now an aspect of ideological orthodoxy to admit that what should of happened is that all the trains should have been wrecked on purpose, for the sake of moral clarity, and, a salutary system-wide creative destruction. Similarly, and in the same breath, it is conservative orthodoxy nowadays that the financial industry should be de-regulated, that the giant banks should always be allowed to fail, and, that business and capital gains taxes need to be eliminated.
As for the cheap retrospective moralist cant about creative destruction, such cannot really be a testament to morality or purifying destruction, at least for the reason that had this alternate track been fulfilled, right wing “creative destroyers” would not have proudly have marched into the mid-terms testifying–amidst an economic depression– shouting “this is all great and maybe we should have more of it!” At the same time, millions upon millions of people were victimized by the implosion through no fault of their own, and so it would be basically not possible for a certain kind of ideologue to run on the platform attesting to how good such destructive medicine really is ‘for you all.’
Socialize losses. No domos of finance stepped off of window ledges either.
The current Randian Ryanian thrust is in the context of the surging, draining aftermath. It is at least obvious to me that is not credible to want it both ways: to advocate that the creative destruction should have been implemented, and, that the financial domos should nowadays escape accountability, regulation, and personal responsibility. Incredibly, this is exactly what is being promoted.
Megan McArdle possesses a BA in English literature and an MBA from Chicago Booth at University of Chicago. But how is it she has a cushy job as economic editor at the Atlantic when she says: “A short position is inherent in any sale of an asset?” Implied by this is that an investment offer, where the investor says “Buy this,” is implicitly, every time, attached to the qualification, “It’s going in the toilet in some way.”
Last week we learned that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi (above, on left) had, in recent years, invested billions of dollars in oil revenues in several Western institutions, including Goldman Sachs. Today we’re finding out exactly what Goldman bankers did with all that money. They lost it.
In early 2008, according to interviews and an internal document review conducted by The Wall Street Journal, Libya’s sovereign wealth fund invested $1.3 billion in stock and currency options with Goldman, only to watch as the investments shrunk to a measly $25.1 million–that’s two percent of the initial value, for those keeping score–as the credit crisis hit. A Libyan official was so furious with the bank during one meeting in Tripoli that Goldman officials hired a security guard to protect them before they left Libya, consulted Goldman chief Lloyd Blankfein (above, on right) about how to mend the relationship, and offered Libya the opportunity to become one of Goldman’s biggest shareholders by investing $3.7 billion in preferred shares or corporate debt. The negotiations eventually collapsed, the Journal adds, but the episode is emblematic of a period of several years when Goldman and other Western banks rushed to do business with Libya after the U.S. decided to lift its sanctions against the country in 2004. That period, of course, is now history. How Goldman Sachs Made Libya’s $1 Billion Investment Disappear
Blankfein strikes me as a poster boy for the post-meritocracy. He surely guffaws all the way to the bank even if he had a hand in destroying billions of dollars of wealth while his firm borrowed almost $800 billion in tax payer money for the sake of avoiding the view of the abyss. Yes, he really did say he was doing “God’s work.”
Okay, Dan, you didn’t tell your customers it was shitty.
April 2010. From Dan’s opening statement:
Knowing whether we were long or short was often difficult, as our positions were complex and the market moved erratically. There were times when our analytical risk measures told us one thing, and my experience and knowledge of our positions told me something else. Some days, we took actions to reduce risk only to see the firm’s Value at Risk or “VaR” increase. During this time, there were differing views within the Mortgage Department, and around the firm, as to the direction of the residential mortgage markets. But the one constant theme from senior management was to reduce risk.
Well, what are sucker customers for?
Blankfein echoes McArdle in his April 2010 testimony. “By definition when we sell something we take the opposite position.”
To recap: Goldman, to get $1.2 billion in crap off its books, dumps a huge lot of deadly mortgages on its clients, lies about where that crap came from and claims it believes in the product even as it’s betting $2 billion against it. When its victims try to run out of the burning house, Goldman stands in the doorway, blasts them all with gasoline before they can escape, and then has the balls to send a bill overcharging its victims for the pleasure of getting fried. (The People vs. Goldman Sachs. Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, May 11, 2011)
You didn’t realize an investment bank holds onto its profitable paper and pawns off it losers on its “customers?”
Before the hearing, even some of Levin’s allies worried privately about his taking on Goldman and other powerful interests. The job, they said, was best left to professional prosecutors, people with experience building cases. “A senator’s office is not an enormous repository of expertise,” one former regulator told me. But in the case of this particular senator, that concern turned out to be misplaced. A Harvard-educated lawyer, Levin has a long record of using his subcommittee to spend a year or more carefully building cases that lead to criminal prosecutions. His 2003 investigation into abusive tax shelters led to 19 indictments of individuals at KPMG, while a 2006 probe fueled insider-trading charges against the notorious Wyly brothers, a pair of billionaire Texans who manipulated offshore investment trusts. The investigation of Goldman was an attempt to find out what went wrong in the years leading up to the financial crash, and the questioning of the bank’s executives was not one of those for-the-cameras-only events where congressmen wing ad-libbed questions in search of sound bites. In the weeks leading up to the hearing, Levin’s team carefully rehearsed the moment with committee members. They knew the possible answers that Goldman might give, and they were ready with specific counterquestions. What ensued looked more like a good old-fashioned courtroom grilling than a photo-op for grinning congressmen.
Sparks, who stepped down as Goldman’s mortgage chief in 2008, cut a striking figure in his testimony. With his severe crew cut, deep-set eyes and jockish intransigence, he looked like a cross between H.R. Haldeman and John Rocker. He repeatedly dodged questions from Levin about whether or not the bank had a responsibility to tell its clients that it was betting against the same stuff it was selling them. When asked directly if he had that responsibility, Sparks answered, “The clients who did not want to participate in that deal did not.” When Levin pressed him again, asking if he had a duty to disclose that Goldman had an “adverse interest” to the deals being sold to clients, Sparks fidgeted and pretended not to comprehend the question. “Mr. Chairman,” he said, “I’m just trying to understand.”
OK, fine — non-answer answers. “My guess is they were all pretty well coached up,” says Kaufman, the law professor. But then Sparks had a revealing exchange with Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. Tester calls the Goldman deals “a wreck waiting to happen,” noting that the CDOs “were all downgraded to junk in very short order.”
At which point, Sparks replies, “Well, senator, at the time we did those deals, we expected those deals to perform.”
Tester then cannily asks if by “perform,” Sparks means go to shit — which would have been an honest answer. “Perform in what way?” Tester asks. “Perform to go to junk so that the shorts made out?”
Unable to resist the taunt, Sparks makes a fateful decision to defend his honor. “To not be downgraded to junk in that short a time frame,” he says. Then he pauses and decides to dispense with the hedging phrase “in that short a time frame.”
“In fact,” Sparks says, “to not be downgraded to junk.”
So Sparks goes before Congress and, under oath, tells a U.S. senator that at the time he was selling Timberwolf, he expected it to “perform.” But an internal document he approved in May 2007 predicted exactly the opposite, warning that Goldman’s mortgage desk expected such deals to “underperform.” Here are some other terms that Sparks used in e-mails about the subprime market affecting deals like Timberwolf around that same time: “bad and getting worse,” “get out of everything,” “game over,” “bad news everywhere” and “the business is totally dead.” (The People vs. Goldman Sachs. Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, May 11, 2011)
Why isn’t Blankfein in the pokey?
The story the “cut-now-and-grow” lobby wants to tell depends not on arithmetic, but on what Krugman calls the confidence fairy (she’s good) and the crowding-out troll (he’s bad). In a tight budget environment like today’s, politicians love the fairy because she provides free stimulus. And since she’s a fantasy, you can attribute anything you want to her: “confidence in the markets depends on [your favorite budget cut here]!!”
Then there’s the notion that high public spending levels are crowding out private borrowing. Again, not a plausible story with excess capacity, the Fed funds rate at zero, and companies sitting on cash that they could invest with if they saw good reasons to do so.
Similar to this are the promotions advocating that the stimulus failed, when, quite very possibly, the stimulus was too small. Sometime soon a hedge fund manager or Wall Street domo will point out in public that the recovery can be wrecked by contracting the public sector.
(Following from\Swinging on the Hammock) Okay, watch the video. I’ve highlighted the moment that jumps out for me.
RYAN: It’s a sign of the times, I think. I think it’s a sign of anxiety of the times. It’s also a sign of the misinformation that’s been perpetrated out there.
AMANPOUR (on-screen): Well, why do you say “misinformation”?
RYAN: Well, there are TV, radio and phone calls that are running, trying to scare seniors. You know, the Democratic National Committee is running phone calls to seniors in my district, TV ads, saying we’re hurting current seniors when, in fact, that’s not the case. And so there’s a lot of…
AMANPOUR: Isn’t that, though, par for the course?
AMANPOUR: I mean, didn’t you lot do it the last time?
RYAN: Yes, Republicans — Republicans — both parties do this to each other. And my whole point about that is, that’s why we have this political paralysis.
Let’s entertain a thought problem. Scroll ahead to a perfect Tea Party storm in the 2012 election, after which the Ryan health care overhaul becomes a reality. Shortly afterward we’d know for sure which seniors are getting hurt. I assuming the meaning of ‘hurt’ is that the cost of health care for those over 65 undergoes a non-trivial increase. In anticipation of this, since all we have is the letter of the current plan, whether it hurts current seniors–say, those born before 1947–is answerable in the exacting terms articulated in this current plan.
Without parsing the exact position on this found in the plan, it’s interesting to suppose this perfect electoral storm happens, and, shortly afterward, passing and implementation of, for the sake of argument, Ryan’s current plan. Obviously, a year later we would have the painless ‘old system’ co-existing with a few or all elements of the privatization scheme, for those too young to be grandfathered into ‘regular Medicare.’ How this would work is an unspecified group of adults shy of 65 right now would be allowed to enroll in Medicare when he or she reaches 65. The most talked-about cutoff for current adults is 55. What I will term, Medicare II, the voucher-driven and privatized Ryan plan, kicks in 2022.
Of course we know that ‘hurt’ as previously defined is the truth about the privatized scheme. It would seem politically untenable to have a dual system play out over forty to fifty years–until all the ‘Medicare’ seniors die off. However, the point of my thought problem is this: the assertion that Medicare seniors would not be subjected to ‘hurt’ is entirely contingent on there being zero changes to the current Medicare provision. So, to falsify the assertion all one has to do is go into the Ryan plan and see if it is, in effect, a zero change (to Medicare) plan for this select group of seniors.
There really isn’t a Ryan Plan. Take a look yourself, it’s a wish list. I suspect what would happen is that Medicare I. would be substantially altered to bring it down toward the benefits and objectives (“socialize risk/privatize profits”) of Ryan’s actual concrete, Medicare II. plan. He’s got a rhetorical agenda: to convince adults over the age of 55 (in 2011 or 2012) that they will enjoy the level of coverage, low premiums, and unpredictable pharmaceutical co-pays (Medicare D,) of Medicare I. while moving to abolish it for everybody else– Medicare II. I’m suggesting there is zero chance implementation of a actual Ryan Plan would leave Medicare I. unscathed for the 55-and-older crowd. It’s the other shoe–to be dropped.
From page 46, The Path to Prosperity, Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Resolution, (where the Ryan, health care plan is sketched out.)
These reforms also ensure affordability by fixing the currently broken subsidy system and letting market competition work as a real check on widespread waste and skyrocketing health-care costs. Putting patients in charge of how their health care dollars are spent will force providers to compete against each other on price and quality.
That’s how markets work: The customer is the ultimate guarantor of value.
Market competition hasn’t delivered any check on waste and costs in the segment of the market that is totally privatized, non-Medicaid and non-Medicare insurance. One reason is: markets do not work the way Ryan states that they do.
Ryan here makes a criticism about a gang of thirteen deciding health care benefits. However, his own proposal replicates what we have now, which is an army of thousands of ‘deciders’, and each serves masters whose proprietary objective is to make money.
Our nation is approaching a tipping point.
We are at a moment, where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.
Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness and wise consumer choices has never worked – and it won’t work now. (Paul Ryan, leading intellectual light of feudal Tea Party Republicanism.)
Newt Gingrich is another leading intellectual lantern of Conservatism it is believed and said by some.
Despite all the ideological pieties leading Republicans wrap themselves in, and wish to ensnare ‘us’ by, I can reduce their ‘end’ to six words: Cheap Labor, and, Show Me the Money.
These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland … They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost. (Ronald Reagan)
Cheap labor. I do wonder about the psycho-social factors in political behavior. The point remains that in our current climate the proponents of the miniaturize-the-government ideology are looking for culprits to punish. Actually, they’re looking for the usual culprits: liberals, labor, the professional classes, cosmopolitans, homosexuals, non-Christians, immigrants, teachers, professors, the unemployed, minorities.
Track: the affect-laden and rhetorical language/artifacts moved to explain why all sorts of groups need to be sacrificed, need to be summarily tossed from their, as Ryan puts it, hammocks. (h/t to the psychohistorian Lloyd DeMaus.) But, sure, if the people will have a plutocracy, then so it will be. I do note the awesome bait-and-switch pulled off recently by Mr. Ryan. This could get ugly, but then there is the Mittster!
From another perspective, it’s all Object Relations. Donald Trump, a laughing stock who doesn’t appreciate to any degree that he is so, said something revealing. He said that America needs a leader who will restore the world’s respect for America. Daddy’s home! This calls to mind the certain fact that Mr. Trump is surrounded by people who fawn over him.
Every candidate is surrounded by Yes people. No doubt Newt’s handlers affirm his assertion that Islam is posed to infiltrate and take over the U.S. No doubt Pawlenty’s people affirm that, ‘yes, Tim, supply side economics really works.’
The overarching plan is diabolical. Can the Republicans do enough to sink the economy and then attach blame for their own accomplishment to President Obama? They are greatly advantaged by Obama’s apparent own inability to understand that his opponents sincerely and doggedly wish to destroy him, and his kind.
(DeMaus was on to something.) Given this prospect for wringing out the ‘socialistic’ impurities by delivering diverse culprits into the noose of this budget cutting device, we can expect an uptick in pundits and thought leaders joyfully explaining how the banks, General Motors, Fannie and Freddie, should have been allowed to devolve and disappear. This would be them speaking of scapegoats who weren’t sacrificed, as a way of sadistically offering a sneak preview about those who remain and are to be sacrificed.
The third phase of the business cycle, the Time of Sacrifice, is usually seen as a reversal of the manic, or inflationary, phase, but it actually is a continuation of its guilt-reducing process, only now all economic activity is “depressed” rather than wildly sped up. A fantasy is shared during this phase that things had gotten “out of control.” The nation is imagined to be a giant body with two parts: a top, which must be fed, and a bottom, which must be punished. The role of the top part of the body is taken by the rich, and the fantasy is the familiar “trickle-down theory”-that if the rich are fed, the poor might somehow benefit. It is the same fantasy expressed by the primitive Anyi of Africa, when they used to say as they brought gifts to their king and his court in time of trouble, “When the king’s breasts are full of milk, it is his people who drink.”(24) All “supply-side economics is based on this magical fantasy, whether carried out by David Stockman in the 1980s or Andrew Mellon in the 192Os. What we wanted was to “let the hogs feed,” as Stockman phrased it,(25) to make the rich fatter, under the delusion that we were all infants dependent upon their maternal breasts for our sustenance.
That the “supply side” argument for feeding the rich-supposedly as a way to increase investment-was thoroughly irrational was revealed by studies made by the Federal Reserve Bank, Business Week and others(26) which showed that America’s investment rate was actually at its highest in decades, that there existed “a record $80 billion pile of ready cash” available for investing whenever the demand existed and that money shifted to the wealthier part of the nation at the expense of everyone else would only dry up demand further and produce lower, not higher, in-vestment. Few were surprised, then, when, as the Reagan plan took effect, investment plunged rather than rose. “Supply side” tax cuts for business and the wealthy had only felt right; few claimed it could be demonstrated as right. As Senator Howard Baker admitted when he passed the program, “What we’re doing is really a river boat gamble. we’re gambling that this new economics will work.”(27)
The other task of the Time of Sacrifice, that of “punishing the bot-tom,” involved a similarly delusional fantasy shared by most of the nation – that we were bad in enjoying so much prosperity and that part of us must suffer for our badness. Just as when we were children it was our bottoms which had to be punished, so too the bottom half of the body politic-the poor, the unemployed, women and children on welfare-would have to be punished for the indulgences of the rest of us. The first thing which was necessary was to strangle our economic bloodstream, our money supply. We suddenly “discovered” monetarism and reversed the growth of our monetary supply, “bleeding” our economic system of its life – giving blood, precisely as doctors used to bleed their patients to remove the “polluted” blood which they imagined had been produced by “overindulgences in food and sex.”(28) It was, of course, not just a “mistake” for the Federal Reserve Bank to allow too much money in the Seventies and then suddenly to squeeze the money supply so hard that interest rates went to 20 percent and no one could buy cars or houses. It was, rather, the purpose of the Fed to produce these erratic swings in money supply, in accordance with the manic-depressive cycle. If they hadn’t done so, we would never have had a Time of Sacrifice, and within a few decades our steady growth in productivity would soon have produced so much surplus that everyone in America would be living comfortable, and we would have no poor whom we could make suffer for our guilt.
In a similar vein, it is only when the sacrificial, “purging” nature of Reaganomics is taken into account that what seemed to be its conflicting parts can be viewed as a coherent whole. It has often been demonstrated that the two parts of Reaganomics-monetarism and “supply side” tax cuts – don’t make sense hitched together. Economist James Tobin states the case clearly:
The idea that money and prices can be detached and delegated to central bankers while Congress and the executive independently take care of budget, taxes, employment and output is the kind of fallacy that makes exam questions for freshman economics, a fallacy now elevated to presidential doctrine. If Amtrak hitches engines at both ends of a train of cars. . . one engine heading west to New York, the other east to Boston, and advertises that the train is going simultaneously to both destinations, most people would be skeptical. Reagan is hitching a Voicker engine at one end and a Stockman-Kemp locomotive to the other and telling us the economic train will carry us to full employment and disinflation at the same time.
What Tobin overlooks is that providing a train with two engines going in different directions is a plan designed to produce a train wreck, i.e., purposely set up to reduce surplus, sacrifice productive capacity and provide victims of the crash. The “supply side” tax cuts of Stockman were the “feed the rich” fantasy and the monetarism of Volcker was the punish the poor” fantasy. Reagan implemented both at the same time as a way of insuring the sacrifice of the minority to relieve the conscience of the majority. The only question which remained was, as Stockman told one reporter, “How much pain was the new President willing to impose? “
When Stockman put his budget figures into the computer and found that even with the most optimistic assumptions Reagan’s actions would produce deficits in excess of $100 billion, he told the Atlantic Monthly reporter that he found the figures “frightening – ‘absolutely shocking,’ he confided – yet he seemed oddly exhilerated by the bad news.”(31) Why exhilarated by the bad news”? Because he knew we had hired him to produce bad news, to produce a Time of Sacrifice, to produce 150,000 victims. (Lloyd DeMaus, Reagan’s America)
We learn Paul Ryan was partly inspired to get into politics my Ayn Rand. Alright, this means the author of the novels that constitute the capitalist version of Mein Kampf, may have had something to do with the swinging hammocks.
Again: Cheap Labor. Randian Hayekalistic yokelism. Hey, didn’t save up the quarter million dollars for your cancer treatment? Too bad. Go die. Didn’t sock away a couple of year’s worth of salary for the years after we shipped your job off to Pakistan? Round up some cardboard. I fully expect Mitt and Tim to endorse a supercharged social Darwinism and get behind a Randian red in tooth utopia.
Did I really read that a majority of Republicans in Mississippi believe inter-racial marriage should be against the law?!? Because it is possible to find Republicans who join together: young earth creationism, neo-Birtherism, belief that Obama is a jihadist, racism, who think liberals are Marxists; reject climate science; understand the founders were evangelicals; despise the enlightenment; are TENthers; blame the real estate implosion on poor black folk who didn’t read the fine print, I do wonder about what would be the equivalent to this ripe melding of irrationality and ignorance on the other, leftward side.
All I could come up with was figuring there probably are a bunch of Democrats who think bringing Geithner and Summers into the halls of power was a good idea. But, it is hard to then enumerate some long list of daft beliefs and find actual Democrats who hold them all, as-it-were, together.
And people thought the birthers would go away! We’re to reassert the holy idea of American exceptionalism in this context of super-charged ignorance, paranoia, resentment, and, irrationality–where it became known in public that Ayn Rand inspired a budgeteer to go into politics? And, then, having claimed he (and his ‘own’) represent a sea-change in what “Americans want,” he shamelessly pulls a bait-and-switch. The only thing missing is Ryan hissing, “You suckers.”
“What does it matter how many lovers you have if none of them gives you the universe?” Lacan
I’m not qualified to be dog catcher, but if I ever threw my hat in the ring, I’d have a ton of explaining to do. As it is, I polish my pebbles, such as they are. Part of me can relate to the hapless Christine O’Donnell, erstwhile serial political candidate. She’s led a life of grand experimentation. Isn’t this time-honored?
I give her credit for making the journey from dionysian dalliances to arch catholic prudery in one incarnation. She’s offsetting all those who did it the other way around!
Yet, her’s is a lonely cry. I’d fit her appeal, (this–in both directions,) to the Gen-X paradox: fragile sense of new age entitlement born by the cultural contradictions given by desiccated capitalism.
This television ad, with it’s kiss of a tag, “I am you.” is delightful and reflexive and thoroughly post-modern. It’s political kitsch too. In the USA, as a matter of common and public practice, we don’t usually psychologize, let alone psychoanalyze, our politics. (This is something the French do, oui?) But, with even a minimum sensitivity to the inner contexts, it’s simple enough to see the political appeal resting hopes on collective urges and demiurges and wish and phantasy. Magical participation and projection tell almost the entire story of why we collectively tend to reward parental self-help and self-efficacy over complex experience and wisdom.
Ms. O’Donnell beckons here. Much more than Sarah Palin, she wants it both ways, to argue on behalf of the saintly main street commonsense, and against the pointy-headed, credentialed elites. Yet, her mendacious reconfiguring of her vitae reflects an almost lusty desire to be recognized and loved by those same elites.
Lamia (‘Devourer’). A beautiful Libyan woman loved by ZEUS. Every time she gave birth to a child, it was murdered by Zeus’ jealous wife HERA, until at last Lamia went mad with grief. In despair, and deeply envying the happiness of every mother more fortunate than herself, she took to snatching and eating their children. She turned into a monster with a hideous face, which had the added peculiarity of removable eyes that she took out whenever she wanted to go to sleep. Lamia became a nursery bogey-woman, a child-eating ogress used by Greek mothers and nurses as a threat to encourage good behaviour in children. (Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology}