Posts tagged ‘E. J. Dionne’

The Fantasy is Over

That fantasy is the one where some of our citizens believe the Republicans, or in this case, traditional conservatives have anything to offer this country. Specifically, that we get a free ride by just cutting taxes for the wealthy. When Paul Ryan, who, make no mistake, was one of the biggest con men of all times, decided to step down, it was obvious that conservative ideology was dead. That ideology was self-discipline taken to fantasy levels. Nothing wrong with self-discipline until you get into the blame game. It was the view from Ayn Rand that as E.J. Dione put it this morning:

She identified with society’s winners and regarded ordinary citizens as moochers and burdens on the creative and the entrepreneurial.

Although Ryan gave warm speeches about compassion, his biggest fear was not that the poor might go without food or health care but, as he once said, that the “safety net” might “become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.”

…If the wealthy did best when given positive incentives in the form of more money, the less fortunate needed to be prodded by less generous social policies into taking responsibility for their own fate.

Ryan was always about two things, tax cuts for the wealthy and slashing the safety net to pay for them. Oh, and he complained bitterly about the deficit. But note he just worked hard to get that tax cut for the wealthy, while crashing the budget. His budgets, which the press corps used to swoon over (“wonky conservatism”) because he used big words, charts, and graphs, never added up without massive cuts to social programs, always with the magic asterisk for growth from tax cuts that never ever happen.

The self-discipline thing is what is at the bottom of every Republican’s little brain, you too would be rich if you just worked hard you lazy scum, which anecdotally you can find examples, but in the broader society is false. Their total approach has always been to make that proposition, just exercise self-discipline, almost impossible for the disadvantaged through tax cuts for the wealth and cutting government programs that actually might help level the playing field.

Now with Ryan claiming he accomplished what he could and leaving the House, we are left with this from WaPo writer Karen Tumulty:

Ryan’s announcement Wednesday that he will not run for reelection represents a bright distress flare illuminating the seriousness of the predicament into which President Trump has plunged his party.

No Karen, President DFF just shined a light on the hollowness of their ideas. Make no mistake, Republicans did this to themselves. It is becoming clear that there is not a conservative intelligencia that has anything to offer anyone today. Ryan shot his wad, said he could not also gut the safety net because of those immoral Democrats (and many of his fellow Republicans who got an earful when they tried to end Obamacare), and there was nothing left to do. I have argued before and I will argue again, they have no economic strategy except cut taxes, cut government, and cut regulations. In todays complex world and growing economic inequality, these ideas are a disaster for most of us.

What Ryan’s withdrawal signifies is that the fantasy at the core of Republican ideology that tac cuts for the rich works for all Americans is finally dead, and we are left with the crazies, conspiracy theorists, nativists, and racists. My what a Grand Old Party. Make no mistake, Trump was simply the final destination that the Republicans have been on for a long, long time. Once you eschew facts, science, and data to inform your ideological beliefs, reality bites back. If you are not growing and changing with new insights, you are losing ground*. To see Ryan, Republicans, and Evangelicals fall all over Trump is to see the hypocrisy and degeneracy of their beliefs.  They have no morals.

For the Democrats sake, and I think a lot of young New Democrats (Progressives) get it, the strategy is to take into account how past policies have increased economic inequality while leaving too many people behind. You don’t throw off capitalism, you harness it for all of us (just the opposite of what Ryan believes, you throw off harnesses). We have data from the Northern European countries that shows that a strong safety net (and paying taxes to support it) actually increases social mobility and innovation because people are willing to take more chances and change. It also brings more people into the competitive mix.

In that vein we can’t just blow off the survivors of the rust belt as stupid and foolish as they are for voting for President DFF. We have to have a plan to help them transition. Most people can’t or won’t move and it is government’s job to help them find their economic way forward, to become self-sufficient again. President DFF did just that with a giant con, that their jobs would be coming back. With the looming collapse of the Republicans, who have nothing to offer anyone but a fantasy about coal and re-industrializing the rust belt, it is becoming clear, Democrats and especially Progressives have to offer a new way forward. That includes responsible taxes to pay for what we need.

All that is assuming President DFF doesn’t do something really stupid to end democracy as we know it. That may be coming as Republicans show they have no stomach for impeachment and will take no action to restrain him. Like I said, they got nothing.

*This applies to many religions too. It turns out that like economic ideology, the law of god has to be updated from time to time as we find out how wrong the sand people were.

Let’s Not Talk Politics on Facebook While the Country Slip Slides Away

If yesterday did not convince you we are losing our country and what made America great, nothing will. We have a psychopath as a president as Harvard psychiatrist Lance Dodes told us last night on Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, who slips in and out of his psychopathy based upon the stress he is under. As E.J. Dionne told us this morning:

We are so inured to the chaos and the lying that characterize Trump’s presidency that we see each outrage as little more than another passing episode on an ongoing cable news drama…We’d like to think that the United States is also a nation of decency, tolerance and respect. We can’t make this claim while Trump is president…At the moment, political power in our elected branches (and, in effect, in the Supreme Court) is held by Republicans and conservatives. They are using Trump to push through outlandish policies on taxes and health care. They are lauding Trump’s executive orders that scuttle regulations safeguarding consumers, workers and the environment. They are ecstatic about his filling the judiciary with his, and their, allies. Progressives cannot be asked to pretend this isn’t happening. We’re a long way from a “truce.”

Yeah, we should just listen and both sides get along, except one side is destroying the country they claim to so love. Let’s just review. The President promoted a Muslim phobic and racist video, unsubstantiated and quite probably violated the privacy of a minor, and it is quite clear at this point the President is a racist. See “good people on both sides”. He is accused by 14 women of sexual assault/rape and is supporting a child molester from Alabama for the Senate. He is fantasizing that he did not utter the “Grab her …..” words and seems to forget he owned up to it on TV and apologized.  He wants to revisit Obama’s birthplace, invent the war on Christmas, lies pathologically about the tax cut plan, and as E.J. noted above, is destroying the agencies that protect us under the guise of removing regulations that hinder business.  THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO SO WE AREN’T SLAVES!

Democracy itself is at stake here along with our fundamental principles.  The man is despicable, pathological, and the Republican have become his parrot.  As E.J. pointed out:

Great nations and proud democracies fall when their systems become so corrupted that the decay is not even noticed — or the rot is written off as a normal part of politics.

President Trump has created exactly such a crisis. He has not done it alone. The corrosion of norms and values began long before he propelled the nation past the edge, and his own party is broadly complicit in enabling his attacks on truth, decency and democratic values.

So the next time you decide to tolerate that friend or relative that sides with a psychotic lunatic, or tells both sides are the problem, GET IN THEIR FACE! The nation is going down the drain as we watch and if you think trying to “see both sides” is helping, well you are part of the problem.  Republicans have become a cancer on Democracy in their ideological zeal to enact and agenda that favors only the rich, and they hit bottom with President DFF.  Now we have to take it back and tolerating ignorance and stupidity only aids and abets them.

Oh, and they are going to pass the Tax Cut Bill and when you find out all the stuff that is in there, you wonder why Americans continue to support the Republican Party or how they could justify electing the Moron in Chief.  It is time to take them on, whether they are family or friend.  The stakes have just gotten to high.

Who Said It Best Today: E.J. Dionne on Why Democracy Doesn’t Work Anymore

E.J. Dionne was on a tear the other day in The end of majority rule. He tried to explain why our democracy doesn’t work anymore and why our press and our Congress do not respond to the real interests of our public:

Universal background checks are supported by 91 percent of Americans. Yet there is enormous resistance in Congress to passing a strong bill to keep arms out of the wrong hands. What does “rule of the people” mean if a 9-to-1 issue is having so much trouble gaining traction?

Or consider the Morning Joe/Marist poll last week showing 64 percent of Americans saying that job creation should be the top priority for elected officials. Only 33 percent said their focus should be on reducing the deficit. In light of Friday’s disappointing jobs report, the public’s instinct is sound. Yet politicians in our nation’s capital are so obsessed with the deficit you’d imagine they still haven’t heard how many Americans are unemployed or underemployed…

The NRA’s chief concern is not sane public policy. Its imperative is to maintain market share within a segment of our country that views the federal government as a conspiracy against its liberties and President Obama as an alien force imposed upon them by voters who aren’t part of “the real America.”…

This representational skew affects coverage in the media. Most Americans may care more about jobs than deficits. But if a right-tilted power structure is talking about deficits all the time, members of the media feel obligated to cover the argument they hear in Washington, even if that means downplaying views held by a majority of the voters — and even if the economic data say we should be talking about growth, not austerity.

There’s also this: While background checks probably would pass the Senate with relative ease if there were no filibuster, the media cover a world in which 60 votes is the new 51. Thus do the battles for 60 percent of the Senate, not the views of 91 percent of Americans, dominate journalistic accounts.

There is much more and he kind of nails it on why we have a government that no longer represents the will of the people. I wonder when we will do anything about it.

What? You Mean Both Sides Aren’t at Fault?

“The United States faces a crisis in our political system because the Republican Party, particularly in the House of Representatives, is no longer a normal, governing party. The only way we will avoid a constitutional crackup is for a new, bipartisan majority to take effective control of the House and isolate those who would rather see the country fall into chaos than vote for anything that might offend their ideological sensibilities…

This unfortunate moment is a vindication of those like my colleagues Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, who have been arguing that today’s Republicans are fundamentally different from their forebears. In their appropriately named book, “It’s Even Worse than It Looks,” Mann and Ornstein called the current GOP “an insurgent outlier in American politics,” and described the party this way: “It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise … and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” Their words are a rather precise description of why Boehner was unable to deliver a majority of his party to his budget bill.” (E.J. Dionne)

Thank you E.J. Hopefully the rest of your brethren will learn how to firmly point a finger (Republicans are Falling Off the Cliff). On this day before Christmas I won’t indicate which finger that should be.

Only Getting Worse

“Obama Embraces His Opponents” was a story in the NYT yesterday. “Rather than emphasize his differences with potential Oval Office rivals or Republican adversaries on Capitol Hill, the president is taking every opportunity he can to embrace members of the other party as co-conspirators in his efforts to confront the country’s challenges.”  The article surmises that this strategy “appears to be rooted in the belief that voters — and especially independents — are looking for evidence that politicians in Washington are working together on problems rather than content to live with an unending stalemate.” But in order to “work” with them, what they are talking about is where to cut.  There is no discussion about where to raise revenues to pay for things we need.

Last Sunday Mr. Obama opined (finally) in the Arizona Daily Star about reforming some gun laws.  As the NYT indicated, “It was a promising start toward a sensible discussion of gun violence, even though the president stopped short of offering a specific legislative proposal or endorsing one already in the Congressional hopper.” Interesting.  Guns are a problem, but no concrete way forward.  Let’s see, those guys you so want to work with think the answer to gun violence is more guns.  Where is the leadership in all this?  What is the right path forward and what are you proposing other than things you think are like apple pie, crafted to appeal to everyone and get us nowhere.

It is so frustrating to read this stuff and remember that I cast my vote for this man to bring us change.  It is clear at this point that he has no idea where this country ought to be headed and his idea of change was less resistance as we let the the Republicans make us a banana republic nation.  The agenda for this nation is being set by the people who brought us to our knees, not a President with a vision on how to jump start our future.  We are all about discussing the deficit and how broke we are, when as E. J. Dionne eloquently demonstrated it Sunday in a Washington Post op-ed (What if We are not Broke), we are anything but broke.  But the Republicans have used these scare tactics to set the agenda, and that is dismantling government, and the Democrats, and sadly their leader are following right along.

These are the policies that have bankrupt our government, shifting most of our wealth to the top 2% of our population, and put the government in the hands of those that control this 2%.  There is no room for any compromise with this agenda.  Republicans tell us they want to cut waste, but if that waste is supported by these interests (e.g. farm subsidies, oil and gas tax breaks, military spending) they are off limits and they attack the poor.  What we need is a clear agenda for our future as was laid out in Fareed Zakaria’s GPS special, Restoring America, Getting Back to Number 1.  Instead what we are getting is accommodation with failed ideas to look Presidential for 2012.

Maybe President Obama could learn a lesson from the latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll:  “The Post/ABC News poll found a majority disapproving of Obama’s handling of the economy, but those surveyed still said they trusted him more to do a better job in dealing with the issue than the Republicans.”  But then he continues to cave into them.  No wonder a majority of Americans disapprove of his leadership.  There hasn’t been any.  We have waited patiently for three years for him to seize the reins of power and set the agenda and by now we should learn he will never do it.  He and his advisers are focused on rocking the least boats to cruise to election in 2012.  My thought is he might win that way, but it is like being selected to be on the bridge of the Titanic when it hit the iceberg.  Certainly many people like myself will simply not vote for a lack of direction.



The Wrong Conversation

Oh we are so having the wrong conversation.  E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote a column yesterday in the Washington Post that really points out how the real problems and real discussion of the issues have been hijacked (The Tea Party is Winning).  Here are some quotes:

Take five steps back and consider the nature of the political conversation in our nation’s capital. You would never know that it’s taking place at a moment when unemployment is still at 9 percent, when wages for so many people are stagnating at best and when the United States faces unprecedented challenges to its economic dominance.

No, Washington is acting as if the only real problem the United States confronts is the budget deficit; the only test of leadership is whether the president is willing to make big cuts in programs that protect the elderly; and the largest threat to our prosperity comes from public employees.

Consider all of the problems taking a back seat to the deficit in Washington and the media. You haven’t heard much lately on how Wall Street shenanigans tanked the economy in the first place – and in the process made a small number of people very rich. Yet any discussion of the problems caused by concentrated wealth (a vital mainstream issue in the America of Andrew Jackson and both Roosevelts) is confined to the academic or left-wing sidelines.

You haven’t seen a lot of news stories describing the impact of long-term unemployment on people’s lives or the difficulty working-class kids are encountering if they want to go to college.

You hear a lot about how much the government spends on the elderly but not much about facts such as this one, courtesy of a report last fall from the Employee Benefit Research Institute: People over 75 “were more likely than other age groups – including children under 18 – to live on incomes equal to or less than 200 percent of poverty.”

Any analysis of the economic struggles many elderly people endure would get in the way of the “greedy geezer” storyline being spun to justify big cuts in Medicare benefits and Social Security.

Does anyone really think that cutting such programs will create jobs or help Americans get ahead? But give the Tea Party guys credit: They have seized the political and media agenda and made budget cutting as fashionable as Justin Bieber was five minutes ago.

The point here is that the whole media has been sucked into this missing the point discussion.  I listened to Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC go after a Democrat about the cuts being made, asking why they are not going after the real target, entitlements.  Get the picture?  We are no longer asking if we should be making these cuts now, just who will cut deeper.

Here is the problem.  Cutting the deficit right now will be disastrous.   Everything from Econ 101 tells us this is the mistake that Japan made in the 90s, and that we ourselves made in the 30’s.  You have to get the economy up and running and then carefully throttle back.  But the whole discussion, being dictated by the Tea Party, is how much can we cut where.  What is the matter with us that we can’t step back and not let this minority hijack the country?  But the person I will hold personally responsible for this when things get much worse and the economy takes a dive, is the President.

In his State of the Union address he talked about how we have to invest in our future, BUT he undercut his speech by talking about the tough cuts he was going to make.  This totally legitimized the Tea Party argument that the only thing that was important was cuts, and he gave away the most important thing of all, the framing of the argument.  As we watch unions fight for their lives in Wisconsin, and in the coming days neighboring states, he does not understand that this is where you draw the line and fight the fight.  He has already preemptively started cutting programs for the less fortunate in his budget instead of setting up the debate about whether cuts at this time are even necessary, much less prudent.  Instead of looking for new revenues, he has let the Tea Party frame the argument about gutting government.  He has given away the battlefield once again before the fight has even begun.

So wake up Progressives, Democrats, and Independents.  This is a fight about whether we are about the rich or a nation who works together for the betterment of all of us.  We have a President who will never lead us in this fight and fails to understand the consequences of losing this battle.  It is on us so get ready.  Those in Wisconsin are showing us the way.  Isn’t it time to man/woman up?

Changing the Tone?

The American people claimed they were tired of the partisan battles and President Obama ran on changing this tone.   But President Obama also won the election because most people have rejected the Republican’s singular economic strategy of more tax cutting to solve our economic problems.  In attempting to change the tone, the Democrats and the administration are playing right into the Republicans hands.

This is not really an argument about whose better, Democrats or Republicans, it is an argument about our way forward.  Allowing the Republicans to re-enter the fray with failed and rejected ideas is a sure way to set us back again and make the way forward that much harder  This is what is happening because the administration has failed to recognize the nature of the opposition party.

In his column this morning in the Washington Post, E. J. Dionne Jr. made the following point (Washington Post):

“In just two weeks, the elation of Inauguration Day has given way to a classic form of partisan hardball. Obama and his advisers have been forced to learn basic lessons on the run. For starters, the media cannot be counted on to be either liberal or permanently enchanted with any politician. Arguments left unanswered can take hold, whether they make sense or not.”

The Republicans are experts at playing hardball while looking like they are playing nice.  By hardball I mean they are not interested in an honest debate because their economic dogma is faith.  They use misdirection, omission, half-truths, and outright misrepresentation repeated endlessly in the media to make their arguments.  The media echo machine plays nicely into their hands.  Their idea of compromise is to do it their way and that you agree to that way.  The Obama administration has failed to address this reality.

President Obama said he wanted to change the tone and have a civil debate about issues.  He said he wanted to evaluate ideas based upon pragmatism instead of ideology or partisan source.  These are welcome changes, but his failure has been in execution.  The tone to be avoided is the shouting match laced with personal attacks. So don’t shout. Don’t make personal attacks, but each argument and claim have to be matched and vigorously debunked.  It is a war of ideas and the Democrats have avoided the battlefield in the misconceived idea that to vigorously defend their positions would somehow be perceived as the old partisan tone and divisiveness.

As I have watched the debate unfold my perception is that the Republicans are out there nitpicking and criticizing the stimulus package and the Demos are nowhere to be found.  The image they are leaving is that the Democrats have packed the stimulus plan with bogus spending and the Republicans are saving us by finding these bad ideas.  This could not be further from the truth in that there is some bogus spending, but estimates are less than one percent, and the Republicans really have no new suggestions other than increasing tax cuts.  It is time to take them on and defend some of the cuts they want.

You would think that after running a campaign that excelled at immediate responses to attacks from the other side, this administration would understand that once in office, the nature of politics did not change.  President Obama seems to want to be above the fray and be the honest broker looking for good ideas.  But the game is not played honestly and this strategy will set the administrations agenda back if they don’t get in there and fight for what they believe.  We can have vigorous debates, but let’s have them.  Don’t get so wrapped up in changing the tone that you become the punching bag for the opposition while you play nice and they eat your lunch.