Archive for January 2012

Our Moribund State and the Path Forward

I would comment on the Republican candidates, except they are superfluous.  They, and the political discussions around them, are just more of the problem.  They offer us no solutions and just a continuation of what we have done.  Their whole political approach is based upon feeding anger with outrage, and of course blame.  But when it comes to a new direction, it is just more of the policies or lack thereof that has caused our problems. Here are a couple of examples of our real life experiences that point out our going nowhere.  Sadly, until we personally experience the consequences of our policies, most of us are oblivious.

A few days ago I heard about a young Hispanic man I was acquainted with who was asked to go to a border town to straighten out his papers, and then they deported him. He was two when his parents brought him here.  He was a good student and a smart, hard working contributor to our society.  America is his home and we deported him.  It is so unfair, it is so wasteful, and yet this is what REPUBLICANS have wrought (DREAM Act).  Got to punish those evil doers, right?  Meanwhile I picked up the paper Sunday to read in the Sacramento Bee, “Colleges forced to cut key courses“.  In California our junior colleges have been the route for many who have stumbled in high school or beyond, who have to work and can’t attend college full time, to get on track and get the education they need to become successful.  With the massive cuts in education, we can no longer educate our future.  How dumb is that? Here is some data that Paul Krugman presented on the impact of the cutting of spending from state and local governments:

“But it’s even worse than he says. Why? Because if you look at what’s being cut, it’s heavily focused on investment:”

As Paul said, “That is, we’re sacrificing the future as well as the present. Oh, and the cuts that aren’t falling on investment in physical capital are largely falling on human capital, that is, education.”  This austerity is insane, we should know better, and we have been stampeded into fearing the debt by the Republicans with some help from feeble minded Democrats (or just pandering to the mob), and in effect, we are eating our seed crop.  I would sum up with another quote from Paul:

It’s hard to overstate just how wrong all this is. We have a situation in which resources are sitting idle looking for uses — massive unemployment of workers, especially construction workers, capital so bereft of good investment opportunities that it’s available to the federal government at negative real interest rates. Never mind multipliers and all that (although they exist too); this is a time when government investment should be pushed very hard. Instead, it’s being slashed.  What an utter disaster.”

An utter disaster is an understatement.  The way forward is not rocket science,  As I pointed out yesterday, we will all have to pay (no pain, no gain).  That path was laid out by economist (one of many who we are ignoring) Michael Spence, a Nobel Laureate, and professor at NYU:

“I am sure you have heard this, but the great depression came to an end in WWII and two things happened at that point.  One, there was a huge fiscal stimulus because we could not finance a war effort on current income, and then we got rid of it over time, and the second one was that we went to the people and said you know what, it is a war and we are going to have to invest a huge amount of our resources in this and your consumption levels are going to have to go down because we can’t keep them up and make this big investment.  We just don’t have the resources and because it was a war, people said okay.  And so we created this powerful engine that not only took us through the war, but took us into the post period in pretty high gear…If we really wanted to overcome this one fast, then what would happen is a political leader would go and say this isn’t a war, but it is that sort of challenge and create recovery (war) bonds…I mean that is pretty politically unrealistic, but that would really put a jet engine behind this thing over time.”

It isn’t hard.  We need to start investing massively in the future, and making all of us pay for it.  But Republicans offer a free ride saying lets just do austerity, just remove regulation and government interference, and let us all keep our money and it will just magically happen.  Democrats tell you that we just need to tax the rich, and oh yes, austerity for all.  Sorry, they are all lies.  We need to get serious about moving forward and we all will have to pay.  Suppose you could get elected with that message?  Maybe when things get bad enough or we just get tired of standing in one place.  I will tell you this.  Republicans will never get you there.  Democrats have an inkling, but lack the courage.  Maybe the 99% can get their act together.  Remember, just being angry is not enough.

Passing the Reagan Torch to Newt

Now this one is really rich. Newt claims he has the torch from the Reagan Revolution passed to him by Ronnie. Now there are two ironies here. The first, which the press is all over, is that this is a total fabrication and misrepresentation of the relationship which is true enough, but not the real issue.

The second irony is that the real issue is that the way Conservatives see Reagan is a fabrication of their ideological needs.  Although he made us feel good, he started this country’s long slide into me-first and not investing in tomorrow. This is a torch that should have been extinguished 20 years ago with a massive fire fighting response.   Don’t you just love a discussion to nowhere by the Republicans and the media?

When you finally understand that the government is the problem, greed is good, and less regulated business is our savior with low taxes and no investment in our infrastructure is how we got into this mess, you understand that Ronnie was a nice man, but was a disaster for the direction of our country.  Remember, he thought Medicare was the end of capitalism as we know it.  Let those old people die.

They All Lie

I was watching Up with Chris Hayes this Saturday morning and he had a conservative on his show, Josh Barro, who stated the obvious, but I get ahead of myself.  The current crop of conservatives we have today believe government should just go away.  It is the ultimate case of denial.  They ignore what government has provided them and see all that they have achieved as somehow all their own accomplishment.  Government just gets in the way in their little minds.  Now it is certainly true in the anecdotal sense that Government can be a problem and certainly hinders business.  But they fail to extend their anecdotal case to the general.  Sure there are regulations that make things difficult, and for sure there are many that ought to be retracted.  But many of those pesky rules keep us safe, allow us clean air and water, and keep our neighbors from infringing on our rights even though we resent them wHen they prevent us from infringing on theirs.

Conservatives also believe that there is a thing called flow down, except it does not exist and there is tons of data out there to demonstrate that.  But when you want a tax break, when you want to extend your free ride on the backs of others, you need to believe it exists.  The other option is to just say government isn’t necessary, but then you have to ask yourself who builds the roads and infrastructure, who makes education affordable, and who sees to it that we get affordable medical care?  But then again you can lie to yourself and say that all that is just giving away your hard earned tax dollars to those who are lazy and waste it, but it is a lie.  Again you can find the anecdotal example, but not in the aggregate. The reality is that government made us what we are today and to throw it off now will hurt everyone.

So conservative lie to themselves and to their faithful.  Maybe that is why the current crop of Presidential candidates is so looney.  You have to be looney to believe the stuff they spout, and you have to be in absolute denial to listen to it.  I mean we just went down their road during the Bush years (they lie to themselves saying Bush wasn’t a real Republican, we were not responsible, the Democrats made us do it).  But upon examination it is all a big lie.  They simply want to take up where we left off and hope for a better outcome.  Okay, so the Republicans lie to themselves and to their faithful so money can buy government, and the rich can continue the transfer of wealth to themselves.  So what do Democrats lie about?

That is where Mr. Josh Barro made the obviou and valuable point about the hypocrisy of Democrats.  He pointed out that Progressives believe that government has an important role to play.  Then he pointed out that even if we force equity in our tax code, it does not solve the problem (paying for what we want).  And he is exactly right and that is the BIG LIE that Democrats are telling their faithful.  Don’t worry, we will just take the country back from the wealthy and make them pay their fair share and things will be rosy.  No it won’t.  The reality is we have been on this binge for thirty years and we are all going to have to pay more to make up for our neglect.  Democrats fail to tell the truth about this obvious fact.  When you get right down to it, both parties are promising a free ride, a chicken in every pot, and it is smoke and mirrors.

Republicans tell you that we just cut taxes and reduce regulation and voilà, the economy takes off.  Except it hasn’t, the middle class is missing in action, and our infrastructure is falling apart because we don’t invest in ourselves.  Our competitiveness is creeping downward, we are now 37th in medical outcomes, I can’t remember how far our education system has fallen, and this will all be fixed with state’s rights, lower taxes, and less regulation.  Then we get the Democrats rightly telling us we need to invest in ourselves and government has a big role to play.  So far so good, and then they say, like the Republicans, we don’t have to pay for it, we will get the wealthy who can afford it to.  The only difference is the Republicans have already proved that less government, etc., etc., doesn’t work except for the 1%.  The Democrats have the right solution, just lie about how we can pay for it.

You would think that we Progressives would tell you the truth, that if we want a future then we have to invest in tomorrow, we are going to have to spend big time, and even with all the jobs, we are not going to have as much disposable income, because we are going to have to reinvest that income in all the things we want (See It’s the Conservatives Stupid and economist Michael Spence).  That simply means higher taxes for all of us.  But we don’t hear that.  Maybe the politicians think it is a losing message.  Maybe it is, but it is a true one.  I wonder when we will ever grow up and face our responsibilities like adults?  So one side tells us that if we pay less we get more, and the other side says we need to pay more, but we can get the other guy to do it.  I hate cliches, but the reality is, no pain, no gain.

 

The Price of Elegance, Fast, and Reasonably Priced

My guess is that most of you have read the articles in the New York Times about why Apple shipped their manufacturing to China (How the U.S. Lost Out on IPhone Work), and about the horrible conditions in the plants there (In China Human Costs are Built into IPad).  Note I am writing this on an Apple NoteBook, read the articles on my IPad2, and have my trusty IPhone at my side.  But these two articles raise important questions about who we are and where we are going.  And even more important, they raise interesting questions about our conventional wisdom about our problems off shoring jobs and leadership.

Lets start with the first one about why we couldn’t do the work here.  The first article points out a couple of important things.  First the added labor costs are small compared to the total price of the IPad so that was not the driving factor.  What is the driving force is flexibility and speed:

One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

…In part, Asia was attractive because the semiskilled workers there were cheaper. But that wasn’t driving Apple. For technology companies, the cost of labor is minimal compared with the expense of buying parts and managing supply chains that bring together components and services from hundreds of companies.

For Mr. Cook, the focus on Asia “came down to two things,” said one former high-ranking Apple executive. Factories in Asia “can scale up and down faster” and “Asian supply chains have surpassed what’s in the U.S.” The result is that “we can’t compete at this point,” the executive said.

Okay, so it comes down to supply chains, and industrial clustering as it is called in the economics world.  Paul Krugman addresses some of this in one of his blogs, Chinese Manufacturing and the Auto Bailout.  There is no question that this kind of organization of people and resources is highly efficient.  But that misses the whole point raised by the other article, is that really where we want to go?

The second article basically points out the human cost of this kind of organization:

However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

Is that where we really want to go?  In fact, should the companies whose products we buy be allowed to tolerate those kinds of conditions.  Apple touts its “ supplier code of conduct that details standards on labor issues, safety protections and other topics. The company has mounted a vigorous auditing campaign, and when abuses are discovered, Apple says, corrections are demanded.”  Yeah right.  As the article points out:

Some former Apple executives say there is an unresolved tension within the company: executives want to improve conditions within factories, but that dedication falters when it conflicts with crucial supplier relationships or the fast delivery of new products. Tuesday, Apple reported one of the most lucrative quarters of any corporation in history, with $13.06 billion in profits on $46.3 billion in sales. Its sales would have been even higher, executives said, if overseas factories had been able to produce more.

Nothing drives the train like greed and profit and if we learned nothing from the BP oil spill, it is that even the best intentions sooner or later get subverted to the bottom line.  Without a government enforcing worker safety and health requirements, they slide.   But my favorite insight is what I have always known starting as a lowly Captain flying in Vietnam.  Generals, Admirals, CEOs, and yes even Presidents rarely really know what is going on even with the best of intentions:

In 2010, Steven P. Jobs discussed the company’s relationships with suppliers at an industry conference.

“I actually think Apple does one of the best jobs of any companies in our industry, and maybe in any industry, of understanding the working conditions in our supply chain,” said Mr. Jobs, who was Apple’s chief executive at the time and who died last October.

“I mean, you go to this place, and, it’s a factory, but, my gosh, I mean, they’ve got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools, and I mean, for a factory, it’s a pretty nice factory.”

Yeah, for a prison Mr. Jobs.  We see what we want to see when we are successful and we make excuses like this is a better life than they would have had, but then some get killed and don’t have any life at all.  And the question is, if this is the model for success, do we really want that kind of success?  As one current Apple executive said:

“You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards.  And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China”

Somehow I find that troubling.  Is the next new shiny toy worth that cost?

 

Loyal Opposition and Leadership

In Mitch Daniels’ Response he began by saying, “The status of ‘loyal opposition’ imposes on those out of power some serious responsibilities: to show respect for the Presidency and its occupant, to express agreement where it exists.”  What a boldfaced lie.  There is no “loyal opposition”, just a group of people who want to see the President fail.  One only has to look at what has occurred over the last three years to draw that conclusion.  There are a record number of filibusters, holding the country hostage to their debt demands, and defeating any attempt at improving the unemployment picture.  We have an ideological divide that does not allow the taking of prisoners anymore.  I wish the President would have made that point far more emphatic in his remarks.  We all know nothing is going to happen and now the critical battle is whether we are going to allow the Republicans to eviscerate government and turn us into a two-class society.  It is as simple as that and there is no middle ground.

On Republican leadership, I think we saw it at its most naked form when Rick Santorum was confronted by a woman who again raised the outrageous nonsense about President Obama being a Nigerian Muslim and Santorum pandered to her beliefs (and the amazing crowd of know-nothings around him).  Mitt shows us his leadership when he panders to positions he has rejected in the past, but anything to get by the primaries.  Newt?  Well if lying, deceit, obfuscation, and generating hate is leadership, then bring on the rope and we can call ourselves the lynch mob country.  Ron Paul at least shows some backbone on his unpopular positions on drugs, wars, and sex, but his racist comments and his zany ideas about anarchy as a way of governing lead us to wonder if he thinks deeply about complex problems.  Some leadership when you lie and pander to mob instincts to lead the nation.

I listened to Eric Cantor (ever notice that most of these people are not very bright?) explain how the State of the Union speech (before he had heard it) was just more of the same failed policies.  Really?  Eric and company have never let the President have his policies without being watered down by booby traps that make them ineffective.  But what really ought to make Americans think is that the same old policies are more tax cuts and less regulation.  That is where we have been for the last 30 years and the result is for all of us to behold.  One of the best offensives is to project your weaknesses on your opponent.  This is one giant example of calling what we have not tried except after WWII when our economy was booming, old worn out policies, while calling more of the same that has brought us down and created a two class society change.  You got to love their chutzpah.  But if we listen and follow them, well kiss you kid’s future goodbye.

The President began to throw down the gauntlet, but he should have learned something from Newt’s rise in the polls.  The rabble like clear lines and firm opposition.  Let’s hope this speech was simply a stepping off point for beginning to draw clear lines, confronting failed ideology, and not the lines themselves.  They need to be much more clear and abrupt or the middle class and the appropriate role of government will be lost.

Conservatives Voting for Spite

There was an interesting op-ed in the New York times (South Carolina’s Divisive Vote) about what voters told them as they came out of the polls:

“Two-thirds of voters interviewed in exit polls said they made their decision on the basis of the two South Carolina debates, where Mr. Gingrich exploited racial resentment and hatred of the news media to connect with furious voters…He had a much better sense of the raw, destructive anger at President Obama swirling around a highly conservative and combative state, and he reflected it back to voters everywhere he went. “

Now you can argue that this is the New York Time is editorializing about what Gingrich really sold in his debate performances, but then it is an editorial and for most of us, it was obvious what he was selling.  He also sold blaming the victim with his just get a job and teaching poor (black) kids the lesson of work.  And he connected with these old fat white people’s visceral hate of President Obama.  You know, that belief that he is not really an American. If you don’t think it was a racist appeal then:

It was Mr. Gingrich who pulled the race into the gutter, where he found considerable support. He repeatedly called Mr. Obama “the greatest food-stamp president in American history,” and lectured a black questioner at Monday’s debate about the amount of federal handouts to blacks, suggesting their work ethic was questionable.  On Thursday, in the derisive tones of a radio talk-show host, he said Mr. Obama’s cabinet looked like Mickey Mouse and Goofy.

If you don’t see blatant racial hatred in this you are blind.  But it gets better:

“In one of the most telling results of the exit polls, most voters said that cutting the federal budget was more important than encouraging job growth. At a time when more than 13 million people remain unemployed, these voters do not want the government to do a thing about it, possibly because it might improve Mr. Obama’s re-election chances. “

Here to me is the worst assertion.  There is no discussion of how to get out of our mess.  There is no rational weighing of economic policies, especially against real outcomes we have seen from conservative policies.  What we see is raw, I got mine, screw you.  This is the crowd who are going to send people to Washington “to work together to solve our problems”?  As the article points out:

“South Carolina has moved sharply rightward since Mr. Obama arrived on the national scene. In 2000, 24 percent of state voters said they were “very conservative,” but that number jumped to 34 percent in 2008. Now it is up to 37 percent, according to exit polls. Two-thirds of Saturday’s voters said they supported the Tea Party, reflecting the election in 2010 of four South Carolina freshmen who are among the most extreme members of the House.”

I think America saw all that is wrong with America and the people  who call themselves very conservative in this part of the countr.  Instead of rational discussions about real solutions for tomorrow what we saw was racial, ideological, and class intolerance, perfectly willing to cast the nation aside to hold on to their piece of the pie.  I hope most Americans have as bad a taste in their mouths as I do after watching these candidates and citizens in action.  There is no hope for an economic resurgence with this crowd.

The Surge of Newt

Well we have been inundated by fat white conservatives from South Carolina (or maybe transplants from the North:  See Don’t Blame Rednecks for Newt’s Win) talking non-stop about how they are going to take back the country, stop the massive government spending, and of course, dismantle Obama care.  And Newt, who they just loved because he got in everybody’s face and put them in their place, got their vote.  But as I watch all of this, I can’t help wondering if this is the last hurrah of people so out of touch with the real America and our needs, that they are tricking themselves to think they are selecting the next president.

I am beginning to wonder if the conventional wisdom is completely wrong about a sitting president with over 8% unemployment getting re-elected or as the conventional wisdom goes, not getting re-elected.  I think the more we see of the these selfish little people, who may I add, Newt represents perfectly, the more Americans will recognize a small mostly white, I got mine, go suck eggs crowd that is so not our future.  Most people are figuring out spending isn’t the issue, tax collection is.  The debt isn’t the problem, jobs are.  And of course on the healthcare thing, most people are just starting to understand what is protected and don’t want to give it up again.

No our country, thank goodness, is not reflective of these fat old white people.  Where we are vibrant, it is a very diverse crowd that cares little about conservative social issues, much less about more transfer of wealth to the wealthy.  They want a place that expands their opportunity, not limits it with small thinking.  I think conservatives are living too much in their own echo chamber while the rest of us are seeing what they are really made up of, selfish little people who are holding on to the past at the expense of our future.  Doesn’t mean Obama has the answers, but he is at least awake and is the only hope for not returning to the 19th century.

So I guess my advice is quit watching the news and despairing as you listen to these mindless creatures.  I think the nation gets it, and the more they debate and campaign the more our fellow Americans figure out exactly who they do represent.  November is in the bag.  We need to focus on the Congressional races, because to make change we will have to upset the filibuster and the control of the House by conservatives.

Oh, and one last thought about Newt taking on the “liberal press”.  His much repeated attack on the press for focusing on his dalliances was loved by the conservatives.  It may be what won him the election.  And you know I would agree with him that I could care less about his sex life or his failure to keep his commitments to his wife.  I care about the economy and what the candidates offer.  But that question wasn’t for me.  It was for all the conservatives who scream family values at us and then want to force their religious beliefs down our throats.  It was highly appropriate in that electorate.  The fact that they don’t care about their “family values” tells you all you will ever need to know about their values.  They are whatever they need to be to get what they want.  Do what ever you want and then repent.  The devil made me do it.

 

Speaking in Different Tongues or Just From Another Planet

For a guy like me who is a Progressive, it is hard to understand conservatives at all.  That’s okay because I understand that we are all a little blinded by our own preconceptions.  But sometimes I hear things and I wonder what planet the other person is living on.  We see the same event and have two totally different realities (and only one of them is the real reality).  Now yesterday I wrote about how out of touch and ignorant were most of those who attended the Republican debate last Tuesday seemed to be, applauding kill our enemies lines.  And while watching Glee, I almost fell off the couch laughing at the scene where Will Schuster goes to his girl friend’s house to ask the parents for her hand in marriage, and comments about the fact that they still have their Christmas tree up and the father, in all seriousness, comments that he is surprised that comrade Obama still lets them have Christmas.

I mean it was a perfect caricature of Obama paranoia, but it was TV fiction after all.  Then I turned on the TV and watched the interview with Jenny Sanford, the ex-wife of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who went on his walk about in Argentina with his girl friend, about Newt’s ex-wife’s interview on his open marriage proposal and his chances in South Carolina.  Here is what she said after condemning Newt:

SANFORD: I am going to watch the debate tonight very carefully. I’m on my way there in a minute with my youngest son Blake and my second son Landon, and I’m going to watch the race very carefully.

I think this race has been very long on rhetoric and sensation and short on substance. And we have some good candidates running. I think all of them could beat Obama easily. I think the debate in our country is mostly surrounding the fiscal issues. And I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say tonight.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Why do you think people like Newt Gingrich bring up issues like food stamps in these discussions? I haven’t heard that phrase in years and all of a sudden it’s all over the place with Newt talking about President Obama being the best food stamp president in history and how people are going to, let’s take a look at this tape from a Newt Gingrich event yesterday, and I want to get your thoughts on whether race is a factor the way Gingrich is talking in South Carolina. Let’s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN SPEAKER: I would like to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for putting Mr. Juan Williams in his place the other night. [Applause] His supposed question was totally ludicrous and we support you.*

NEWT GINGRICH: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Why do you think, Mrs. Sanford, that the voters of South Carolina, at least those there that were cheering this comment by this woman, this regular woman that Juan Williams of Fox News should be put in his place?

SANFORD: You know, I think that politicians can be known to pander to certain audiences or segments on certain issues. But so can pundits. And I think that the press likes to make issues sometimes about things where there are no issues. I mean, I for one live on the coast. My congressman is an African-American named Tim Scott, a Republican of whom I’m very proud. And my governor is an Indian-American woman named Nikki Haley of whom I’m also very proud. So those — for both people that were elected by the electorate here in South Carolina.  So the notion that we have a racial electorate here in South Carolina is absurd and nonsense and frankly just, you know, stirred up by people in the press. And I think that that’s, you know, I think that people in general are sick of politics as usual and part of that is they are sick of the press stirring thing ups with an angle. And you know what, I think that woman is right. People should be cheering.

MATTHEWS: Who in the press do you know has ever brought up the issue of food stamps, ever brought up the issue of how as Rick Perry said the other day in that debate on Monday that South Carolina is at war with the federal government as is Texas, bringing up these old states’ rights issues. The press doesn’t bring them up, the candidates do.

SANFORD: Oh, I think the press brings up all sorts of things. I mean, I think that this race in particular is one as I said that’s long on rhetoric and short on substance, long on the sensational if you will. So, you know, we have 24/7 news these days where we have just a proliferation of channels each one seeking to find things that they can sensationalize. So, if you look hard enough at all these candidates, you can find all sorts of things to sensationalize.I found these comments almost other worldly.

Could she not see the racism or the class warfare that is being conducted by the Republicans?  She commented how South Carolinians had elected an Indian Governor, you know the one who thinks voter ID for a nonexistent problem, is just fine, and does not see the social and racial implications.  Then I thought, she is an evangelical conservative in the 1%.  Obama terrifies them because he is trying to empower the rest of us.   She thinks “we have some good candidates running. I think all of them could beat Obama easily.”  This is the weakest field in the history of Republican candidates and only one really stands a chance (Mitt).  Their fiscal policies are already out there and as I noted yesterday, they cut taxes further for the wealthy, increase the deficit, and raise taxes on the poor.

So I have to ask myself, what is she seeing that I don’t?  Why does she think more of the same will work?  Why doesn’t she see the racial and class warfare that is being conducted, and why does she not see that it’s based on a visceral hate of President Obama, generally based upon false allegations?  Personally I don’t think her candidates could stand a debate on the real issues if we had any fact checking in that debate instead of he said/she said.  It is a study in how we live on two entirely different planets in two entirely different realities.  Now I am starting to get why a walk about in Argentina was not such a wild idea.  Oh and Jenny, I am glad some of your best friends are of color.  And don’t you worry your head one bit about that Confederate flag you guys fly at the capital.  It says nothing about racial insensitivity.  In your reality everything is just fine, people know their place, and Obama is shaking your universe..

By the way, the transcript that I got for this interview was on a conservative blogger’s site showing how she had held liberal Chris Matthews and the media accountable for their liberal bias.  Once again, do we speak different languages?  What I saw was a woman totally out of touch with the reality of the situation.  I sure hope the 99%, which includes a large black population in the South get out and vote this year.  They certainly have enough reason if the states down there in the South will just issue them IDs.

*  The Fox News contributor had raised criticism that Gingrich’s comments about food stamps and poor children’s work ethic were “intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities.” Gingrich had said that if invited to speak to the NAACP, he would urge black people to demand paychecks instead of food stamps. Williams asked, “Can’t you see that this is viewed at a minimum as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?” (TheGrio)

A Country That is Clueless

That would be us.  From my perch on my hill looking over my vineyard in winter dormancy, what I see is that we are heading downhill and have been in this downhill slide for about the last 30 years or so.  We finally removed regulations from the financial industry and reduced taxes on the rich and the economy is in shambles, we are broke, and our infrastructure is crumbling.  I wonder if there is a connection?  Duh.  Meanwhile I watched a Republican debate the other night where the crowd cheered racism, bigotry, and hate.  Further they looked to blame the victims for their poverty and misery.  I was ashamed that these people were Americans.  Or maybe, I just don’t belong here anymore.  Hope I am wrong about that.

But then I open up the paper this morning and I have this WTF moment.  The two articles were, Poll Show Shift in Independent Voters, and Higher Deficits Seen in Romney’s Tax Plan and His Rivals Too.  In the first article, it was noted that for President Obama, “a majority of independent voters have soured on his presidency, disapprove of how he has dealt with the economy and do not have a clear idea of what he hopes to accomplish if re-elected.”  These voters were critical to his election in 2008.  Now I can certainly understand this being a progressive who is extremely unhappy with his handling of the economy.  But then the article goes on to say, “While Republican primary voters say Mitt Romney stands the best chance of defeating Mr. Obama, nearly half of independents say they have yet to form an opinion of him, creating a considerable opening for Democrats to try to quickly define him if he becomes the nominee.

Okay, I am not happy with President Obama’s handling of the economy, but I know turning the reins over to Mitt would be a disaster.  What rock have these (and most Americans) been hiding under?  In the second article, it points out that:

“Mr. Romney’s tax plan, which calls for permanently extending the Bush administration’s tax cuts, reducing the corporate income tax rate and eliminating the estate tax , would cut the taxes of people earning more than a million dollars a year by an average of $295,874, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research group.  Since Mr. Romney would also allow some of President Obama’s tax cuts to expire, his plan would effectively raise taxes on some people earning less than $40,000 a year. The Romney tax plan would add to the deficit by reducing federal revenues by $600 billion in 2015, a 16 percent cut, the center found.

Some of Mr. Romney’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination are proposing tax cuts that would widen the deficit even more — which was the point that Mr. Romney was trying to make on Tuesday in South Carolina when he renewed attention to his personal wealth by noting that his effective tax rate is ‘probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything.'”

Now this is not some flash out of the blue.  Romney, and all of his rivals promise us more of the same.  Let’s cut taxes, gut government, and end regulations.  Let’s continue the transfer of wealth to the wealthy, let infrastructure rot,blame the poor for their poorness, and wait for flow down.  And independents “have yet to form an opinion of him”?  I am left speechless (but alas for you, I can still write).  The morons are in charge of the next election and they haven’t been paying attention.  Now is it going to be a beauty contest?  Policies don’t matter?  If the next election is about chasing after these dim bulbs who have not paid attention as the country has been drowning, and while unhappy with the guy who hasn’t done enough, may vote for the guy who will do more damage, then it is time to think about immigrating.  Are we really a nation that is that clueless about where we have been and where we are going?  What does that say about our media?

No, I am not a big fan of Barrack Obama.  I think he is a nice man who failed to understand the stakes in this game, and failed to understand the real crossroads we were and are at.  I think he thought that the middle ground offered solutions when the middle ground doesn’t exist anymore and never will.  He may be able to turn it around if he has learned the lesson and offers us a real choice here, not pandering to the middle that doesn’t even understand where we are today.  But in my mind, you have little choice in the next election if you want even a glimmer of a hope of starting to improve things.  And anybody who doesn’t see Mitt as the 1% who is totally out of touch with real Americans or our real problems, and offering solutions that don’t add up, and continuing the Bush nightmare economic policies of fueling the rich while waiting for flowdown, is brain dead.

Speaking of brain dead I want to give a big shout out to those Texans who elected Rick Perry, thought Herman Cain had a clue,  the conservative voters of Iowa for electing Rick, Trash the Constitution and bring on theocratic government,  Santorum, the people who elected Michele, I never saw history I couldn’t reinvent along with my friend Sarah Palin, Bachmann, and of course the conservatives at the South Carolina debates for their bigotry, hatred, and just general stupidity.  Isn’t America a wonderful place of opportunity where small, ignorant, hateful, and greedy people have a chance to be President of the United States.  Oh and let’s not forget independents who haven’t decided about Mitt yet.  If we were anymore clueless, we would have self-destructed, or maybe we already have.

Substance or the Horse Race?

Paul Krugman said something that I think a few of us are thinking about more and more, “If we just talk substance about that instead of the campaign for a moment…”.  He was reacting to the discussion of who was ahead, who was behind, who made the most strident attacks, who might be the eventual winner in South Carolina.  We have this never ending coverage of junk about the campaign and no serious discussion about what they are really proposing and what are the chances these policies would do anything for the economy.

As we focus on the Bain attacks, or attacks by Mitt on Obama, could we not examine the substance of the attack instead of the attack itself?  As Professor Krugman pointed out in his blog recently, Untruths, Wholly Untrue, And Nothing But Untruths, Mitt simply lies straight out and the lies get reported without the examination of what he said.  My favorite recently is Rick Perry claiming that Obama is attacking South Carolina by challenging their voter ID law.  State’s rights you know.  When was “state’s rights” ever a reason for anything but discrimination for blacks, gays, or women?  Preventing voter fraud is such a joke since there isn’t any (38 cases brought in a 3 year period, of which a little more than half were convicted) and for Republicans who claim to want effective government, they are focusing money and time on a non-issue when in reality it is all about keeping their opponents from voting.

But let us not just pick on the Republicans.  It does not matter which side of the isle you are on, the media fails to report at all on the substance of any issue and focuses once again on a he said/she said debate completely dumbing down the nation.  We need an honest discussion about our path forward.  We don’t need to know wild allegations, we need to know if what these people are proposing stands the test of examination.  Most of what the Republicans (who are getting all the coverage right now) are proposing is drivel that is retooled George Bush.  If the media would expose what they are proposing instead of doing People Magazine coverage of the candidates, we might start to get somewhere.

Here is a list for you and you can judge for yourself:

  1. If you still doubt global warming you are stupid. Science is settled and yet we have a litmus test in the Republican Party to deny it.
  2. If you think lower taxes are the answer to our problems, examine actual tax rates paid (lowest in 50 years) and ask yourself where are the jobs.
  3. If you think less regulation is the answer, just how did the financial meltdown occur again?
  4. If you think government can’t create jobs then why are you arguing that we can’t cut military spending because it will kill jobs?
  5. If you think Obama is the socialist devil, compare his policies to the historical record and he is right of center (see Andrew Sullivan’s article in Time Magazine)
  6. If you think competition in medical insurance will solve the problem, how come Medicare Advantage is more costly than just Medicare?
  7. If you think that we need to depress wages and benefits to be competitive, explain who that will benefit, workers with less disposable income, or the 1% selling overseas?

Here is the real question we ought to be asking in this campaign:  Why are we even considering people who pander to the most ignorant in our society to get the nomination?  These are people who deny science, reinvent history, want religion back in our politics, use veiled racism and discrimination, and want to return us to a 19th century horse and buggy economy and nation.  The fact they would do that ought to be a disqualification for office.  When oh when are we going to have an adult conversation about any of our problems.  Not with Republicans, that’s for sure.  I can’t wait until the general election and see if the Democrats also pander to us instead of a real policy discussion about the way forward.