Sunday, April 17, 2011

Are We Dealing With Children? (Krugman) What Happened to Obama? If You Don't Get the Joke, You Might Be a Republican

(If throwing a contribution Pottersville2's way won't break your budget in these difficult financial times, I really need it, and would wholeheartedly appreciate it. Anything you can afford will make a huge difference in this blog's lifetime.)

[As an aside before I take off on today's essay topic, I'd like to recommend that everyone rent Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" ASAP! It speaks to this moment in time like no other piece of literature ever could. I saw it this morning on TCM, and even though I've seen it many times before, his last speech was so impressive and resonant with this last week's occurrences in Congress that no one would lose by devoting the 1.5 hour to its viewing. It's self defense, friends! And speaking of self defense, any contributions you could make to this effort would also be greatly appreciated.]
And now on to this week's commentary!
. . . are we dealing with children here? Is one of our two major political parties run by people so immature that they will refuse to do what the country needs because the president hasn’t been nice to them?
From Paul Krugman's blog:
April 16, 2011

Civility is the Last Refuge of Scoundrels

At the beginning of last week, the commentariat was in raptures over the Serious, Courageous, Game-Changing Ryan plan. But now that the plan has been exposed as the cruel nonsense it is, what we’re hearing a lot about is the need for more civility in the discourse. President Obama did a bad thing by calling cruel nonsense cruel nonsense; he hurt Republican feelings, and how can we have a deal when the GOP is feeling insulted? What we need is personal outreach; let’s do lunch!

The easy, and perfectly fair, shot is to talk about the hypocrisy here; where were all the demands for civility when Republicans were denouncing Obama as a socialist, accusing him of creating death panels, etc..? Why is it OK for Republicans to accuse Obama of stealing from Medicare, but not OK for Obama to declare, with complete truthfulness, that those same Republicans are trying to dismantle the whole program?

Beyond that, are we dealing with children here? Is one of our two major political parties run by people so immature that they will refuse to do what the country needs because the president hasn’t been nice to them?

But the main point is, what are we supposed to have a civil discussion about? The truth is that the two parties have both utterly different goals and utterly different views about how the world works.

It’s not nice to say this (but the truth is rarely nice): whatever they may say, Republicans are not concerned, above all, about the deficit. In fact, it’s not clear that they care about the deficit at all; they’re trying to use deficit concerns to push through their goal of dismantling the Great Society and if possible the New Deal; they have stated explicitly that they want to reduce taxes on high incomes to pre-New-Deal levels. And it’s an article of faith on their part that low taxes have magical effects on the economy.

Obama believes that the major social insurance programs are a good thing, and has extended them with health reform. Some of the best-known research by his chief economist is his work debunking claims that tax cuts for the rich pay for themselves. See here and here (both pdfs).

So what is there to talk about?

From that really smart blog Parsley's Pics:

April 11, 2011

My God, Mr. Obama, Why Have You Forsaken Us?

And you have Mr. Obama. You have forsaken the little people - little people like me, little people who heard your call for change, little people who worked tirelessly for your election, little people who by the millions went to the polls to cast their votes for you because you gave us hope for a better future, and little people like me who have relentlessly defended your decisions in the face of harsh criticism from the far left. You need not worry; I doubt that I will ever become a professional Obama basher like so many on the left. In fact I will not welcome the usual litany of complaints from them here, but Mr. Obama, I am beyond disappointed right now; I am one angry voter. This time I cannot nor will I even try to defend the big sellout of America's poor and middle class - her seniors, her sick, her homeless, her jobless, and her children. Bi-partisanship was a noble experiment on your part. Had you been dealing with the Republican party of yesteryear, you might have succeeded. But the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller no longer exists. Civility, decency, honor and dedication to public service are no longer priorities for a party that has allowed itself to be usurped by far-right extremists. And you know something else Mr. Obama? Extremists do not believe in bi-partisanship. They want it all and "all" includes your presidency. Like you, I am no economist but I know enough to know that taxing the large corporations and the wealthy would reduce the debt significantly. I know enough to know that cutting back on defense spending would go a long, long way toward easing our national debt. I know enough to know that ending these "military engagements" would add enormously to our coffers and save lives in the process. Unlike Wall Street and the big corporations, I don't want it all Mr. Obama. I just want my puny little share. I just want the single mother of three who lives in my complex not to lose the roof over her head. I just want the man with the oxygen tank pushing his way along in a wheel chair to be able to continue breathing. I just want a better public school system so we aren't faced with another generation of people who don't know their Constitution, who don't have the ability to reason, and who aren't able to write a simple grammatical sentence. Mr. Obama, I believe Mr. Paul Krugman speaks for me and millions of other profoundly frustrated Americans as he says: "What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?"

I realize that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there’s not much Mr. Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn’t even using that — or, rather, he’s using it to reinforce his enemies’ narrative. His remarks after last week’s budget deal were a case in point. Maybe that terrible deal, in which Republicans ended up getting more than their opening bid, was the best he could achieve — although it looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions. And bear in mind that this was just the first of several chances for Republicans to hold the budget hostage and threaten a government shutdown; by caving in so completely on the first round, Mr. Obama set a baseline for even bigger concessions over the next few months. But let’s give the president the benefit of the doubt, and suppose that $38 billion in spending cuts — and a much larger cut relative to his own budget proposals — was the best deal available. Even so, did Mr. Obama have to celebrate his defeat? Did he have to praise Congress for enacting “the largest annual spending cut in our history,” as if shortsighted budget cuts in the face of high unemployment — cuts that will slow growth and increase unemployment — are actually a good idea? Among other things, the latest budget deal more than wipes out any positive economic effects of the big prize Mr. Obama supposedly won from last December’s deal, a temporary extension of his 2009 tax cuts for working Americans. And the price of that deal, let’s remember, was a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts, at an immediate cost of $363 billion, and a potential cost that’s much larger — because it’s now looking increasingly likely that those irresponsible tax cuts will be made permanent. More broadly, Mr. Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussion — a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps; the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole program); and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice! I’m not exaggerating. The House budget proposal that was unveiled last week — and was praised as “bold” and “serious” by all of Washington’s Very Serious People — includes savage cuts in Medicaid and other programs that help the neediest, which would among other things deprive 34 million Americans of health insurance. It includes a plan to privatize and defund Medicare that would leave many if not most seniors unable to afford health care. And it includes a plan to sharply cut taxes on corporations and to bring the tax rate on high earners down to its lowest level since 1931. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center puts the revenue loss from these tax cuts at $2.9 trillion over the next decade. House Republicans claim that the tax cuts can be made “revenue neutral” by “broadening the tax base” — that is, by closing loopholes and ending exemptions. But you’d need to close a lot of loopholes to close a $3 trillion gap; for example, even completely eliminating one of the biggest exemptions, the mortgage interest deduction, wouldn’t come close. And G.O.P. leaders have not, of course, called for anything that drastic. I haven’t seen them name any significant exemptions they would end. You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval. What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise. But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing.

Krugman is not alone. Both Politics Plus and The Vigil feature an excellent article by Robert Reich, called Right Wing Bullies. Alter Politics outlines point by point a new study entitled “Competing Budget Priorities: The Public, The House, The White House” by the University of Maryland’s Program For Public Consultation. It reveals that on nearly every single budgetary issue a majority of Americans who were polled preferred policies which would be classified as ‘liberal."

Captain "Clearing of the" Fogg at Swashzone enlightens us about "them."

If You Don't Get the Joke, You Might Be a Republican

By Capt. Fogg Well no wonder they don't think The Daily Show is funny and don't notice when Colbert rips them to pieces. Some scientific folks at UC San Francisco have completed a study indicating that people in the early stages of dementia have lost the snark detection system most of us were born with and can't tell when you're lying or being facetious. It explains a lot of things, actually, from why people send their life savings to Nigeria to why they can support a candidate who changes his entire philosophy from hour to hour to negate whatever his opponent says. "Divergent Neuroanatomic Correlates of Sarcasm and Lie Comprehension in Neurodegenerative Disease," a paper presented Thursday at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Hawaii, suggests that dementia can be detected earlier by noting this telltale disability.

Fans of Blade Runner will smile and those of us baffled by the thought processes of Sarah Palin disciples will say "AHAH!" Perhaps we can now begin to understand why there are no really funny conservative comedians and how John McCain can flip and flop faster than a Cray supercomputer without fostering the slightest cynicism from the right. After all, what has been eroded by disease in some people may simply not exist in others.

Are you feeling properly sorry for them yet?

George Carlin can't return from the grave to warn us about the current threats to our lives, but we can review his words of wisdom before he left us. From WhoWhatWhy:


….there’s a reason education SUCKS, and it’s the same reason it will never, ever, EVER be fixed. It’s never going to get any better, don’t look for it. Be happy with what you’ve got. Because the owners, the owners of this country, don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now, the BIG owners! The Wealthy… the REAL owners! The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. They are irrelevant. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice! You have OWNERS! They OWN YOU. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought — and paid for — the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying, lobbying, to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want: They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. That’s right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that! You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shitty jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it, and now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street — and you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later ‘cause they own this fucking place! It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it! You, and I, are not in the big club. By the way, it’s the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head with their media telling you what to believe, what to think and what to buy. The table has tilted, folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care! Good honest hard-working people; white collar, blue collar it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Good honest hard-working people continue—these are people of modest means—continue to elect these rich cock suckers who don’t give a fuck about you….they don’t give a fuck about you… they don’t give a FUCK about you. They don’t care about you at all… at all… AT ALL. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick that’s being jammed up their assholes everyday, because the owners of this country know the truth. It’s called the American Dream — because you have to be asleep to believe it.

Awake yet? ____________________

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