Posts tagged ‘Thomas Edsall’

Living in a Land of Self-Created Chaos and Fear

One might want to know why we are sending troops to the border, or starting a trade war, or creating a DACA crisis, or ping-ponging on Syria policy, or gutting highly successful EPA programs to cut carbon emissions, or threatening to veto the budget and then not doing it, or going to nuke Korea and then talk, or sanction Russia, and then invite der leader here, or why go to war with states over emission standards, or… Well you get the idea.

Yesterday I wrote about straw men, which I called false crises so that then takes all our time and effort to address, when there was no crisis to begin with. Note that the economy and employment were all trending up before President DFF became president and now we have seen wild swings in the stock market and a looming trade war. People appointed to run different parts of the government appear to have one and only one agenda, dismantle that agency. Chaos ensues, and nothing positive changes. Ethics, which remember how he wanted to drain the swamp, be damned.  See Scott Pruitt slurping at the trough,

Do we have one smart well thought out policy from the DFF’s administration? Rhetorical. And anyone competent is abandoning ship. Did you see the new nominee for Interior? Hates the endangered species act. Let’s kill all the animals. Oh, where is Shakespeare today? Lawyers are fine, but tree huggers die.  I think people wanted change, not chaos. I think that might be the way they vote in November. But note that even if that happens it will take years to repair the damage as the DFF drives the intelligence and experience capital out of government.

But I think there must be some method in the madness. And of course there is. Over the years I have read so many analyses of what makes people think bizarre thoughts and selectively picks their facts to support those bizarre thoughts. Why do seemingly intelligent people make such bizarre and stupid choices?  Why do you (I) marry your (my) first wife.  There was a need there that drives us to do something stupid and to see the world as we want to instead of how it is.

Thomas Edsall did a summary of that this morning in the NYT and if you slug through it, basically liberals are outgoing and do not fear change (or by extension of being outgoing, do not fear change), and conservatives are just the opposite.  I have described that more simply as fearfulness.  Conservatives are more fearful and therefore they “conserve”.  When the world is changing around them, they reinvent reality to maintain the status quo, no matter how unfair, flawed or ineffective. Their fear drives their selfishness and their lack of gratitude for their favored position.

But this all leads to an effect with conservatives, authoritism (intolerance is another way to think about authoritism).  Remember those early discussions years ago about  the partisan divide could be described in the models of a family.  Conservatism is based on a strict father model, while liberalism is more centered on a nurturing parent model.  Well, that is just authoritism and defining the world in strict boundaries that do not change with time.

I go back to the root cause, as I assume it.  Conservatives have two things going on.  They lack empathy, and they are fearful.  Both I think are innate.  It can be changed by experience and upbringing, especially if you are raised in a diverse culture.  But that is not the trends we see developing in increasing economic inequality.  And with that increasing economic inequality comes a world reality that is rapidly changing.  Conservatives not only fear that change, but reinvent reality to say the status quo is just fine.

Remember when I asked you if there was method to their madness?  Of course there is, they are playing the fear card with the fearful.  Fear clouds your thinking. Keep the masses fearing ever-growing threats and you distract them from policies that do not improve their lot.  To me, that is why Red states vote Red even though it hurts their and their children’s future.

Look at how red states have gutted education, damning their children, while the facts show that the better educated coastal urban centers are doing just fine in the changing economy.  The are eating their young because of false political ideology.They are distracted from that reality by fear the hordes at the border, Democrats will rape and pillage, women who have rights might exert their right to be equal, and false facts like President DFF has fixed the economy when it was not broke, don’t let Democrats wreck it again (Bush doesn’t exist).

President DFF is terrified of the Mueller investigation and the looming trade war.  He is hearing his base is unhappy that he is not fulfilling his misbegotten promises.  And those he is fulfilling are not working as expected.  So it is time to gin up the fearful.  If Republicans desert the ship, he is toast.  So we are in for the DFF’s campaign for President, replayed.  But this time I don’t think it is going to play as well.

Remember, he and some Republicans had help from the Russians and FBI Director Comey which allowed him to squeak out the election.  That is not going to work this time.  It is always about the money and who, in the end, fattens your pot.  Conservative ideas have run their course and been outdated by an ever-changing world.  We are now getting a real world example of how failed they are and how corrupt is the Republican Party. November will matter.


Thomas Edsall in an Op-Ed yesterday in the NYT put forward some data I really did not want to believe.  Here are his main points:

With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, the share of Americans convinced that health care is a right shrank from a majority to a minority.  … In 2006, by a margin of more than two to one, 69-28, those surveyed by Gallup said that the federal government should guarantee health care coverage for all citizens of the United States. By late 2014, however, Gallup found that this percentage had fallen 24 points to 45 percent, while the percentage of respondents who said health care is not a federal responsibility nearly doubled to 52 percent. … The Kaiser survey found strong opposition, 64-35, to the individual mandate requiring that everyone purchase health coverage. In contrast, a majority of respondents, 60-38, supported the employer mandate that requires companies with 100 or more workers to provide health insurance.

In addition, he found that as economic inequality increases, the nation becomes more conservative:

Luttig compares public attitudes with inequality trends and reports that his data show that:  “Both the absolute level and the changing structure of inequality have largely been a force promoting conservatism, not increasing support for redistribution as theoretically expected.”

Even worse for Democrats, the Saez paper [Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at Berkeley] found that “information about inequality also makes respondents trust government less,” decreasing “by nearly twenty percent the share of respondents who ‘trust government’ most of the time:”  Hence, emphasizing the severity of a social or economic problem appears to undercut respondents’ willingness to trust the government to fix it — the existence of the problem could act as evidence of the government’s limited capacity to improve outcomes.

Yikes!  So what does this say about Progressive Democrats like myself who argue the issue will be economic inequality?  Well let me take these two ideas one at a time and show how they could be totally misleading.  First healthcare.

Since 2009, Obamacare has been pummeled by the Republicans with never-ending false claims on raising rates and loss of low-cost plans.  Include into that the false claims of lack of choice, government interference in physician choices, and arguments over abortion care, and what you have is basically a total misunderstanding of the success of the plan.  So there is a false perception of government’s ability to provide healthcare insurance.  This is evidence by the real government provided system we call Medicare and no one wants that to go away and most Americans perceive that as their right.

This misunderstanding is further evidenced by the illogical conclusion to support the employer mandate and not support the individual mandate for providing healthcare insurance.  The employer mandate has systemic problems including loss of wage increases to cover growing medical cost, competitiveness of our companies against world companies, the smaller pool of healthy subscribers to cover the cost of the sick, and employer defined coverage or what they won’t cover (See Hobby Lobby).  On the individual mandate, how does one expect a health insurance program to work if the pool of subscribers is limited?  It is shared risk and the larger the share pool, the lower the costs.  If Americans like the no denial for pre-existing conditions, how do they think this gets paid for?

My point healthcare issues is very simple.  Republicans have been very successful at tarnishing the program with false claims and that perception persists.  For almost 7 years we have been inundated with repeal Obamacare claims that it is destroying our economy and raising costs, and although the data is opposite, the perception persists.  Secondly, most people are covered now (over 90%) and they “have got theirs”.  What may upset this applecart is if the Republicans get their way and repeal it.  Without the individual mandate and the required coverages within the plan, healthcare will be significantly degraded while costs soar.  What Democrats need to do is change the perception, not run away from issue because the public is misinformed and being illogical.

Okay, the second point is that as economic inequality increases, the nation becomes more conservative.  I think what they mean here is that citizens have less faith that their government can solve this problem, “… the existence of the problem could act as evidence of the government’s limited capacity to improve outcomes.”   Now think about this.  Government has created this problem with policies that favor the wealthy from a favored tax rate on capital gains to subsidies for favored corporations.  Secondly, the Republicans have done everything in their power to make government ineffective, with the massive use of the filibuster to failure to act on legislation favored by the majority of Americans in the House.  So once again we are dealing with a perception, not the reality.  In the vein of government’s ability to redistribute wealth, how do you do this if you don’t reform the tax code?  That would be government action.

So if you think about this, I think the conclusion of this editorial,

The findings of the Saez group are consistent with Luttig’s. Taken together, they suggest that even if Democrats win the presidency and the Senate in 2016, largely on the basis of favorable demographic trends, the party will confront serious hurdles if it attempts to deliver material support to working men and women and the very poor. Redistribution is in trouble, and that is likely to tie American politics in knots for many years to come.

is wrong, very wrong.  It is a failure in logic to confuse cause with effects.  People feel Obamacare is flawed, and are happier with employer plans because they have been mislead.  The same can be said of ineffective government.  Those are the effects, the cause being Republican misinformation and obstruction.  What needs to be done is to get out the facts.  For healthcare, Democrats have never fought the fight.  They shrunk from it in 2014 and the paid dearly.  How they fight this is to educate the voter on what they have, and what would Republican proposals do to their coverage.  They have to expose Republican lies to change minds. They have to show how governors of states that refused the Medicaid program killed people to turn around the idea that healthcare is not a right.  They have to come out swinging, not once again sneaking away from their core beliefs in the belief that half measures with pull them throughwhen the polls scare them.

On the inequality issue, this will be the real issue in the next election, and Democrats must convince voters that they really will do something about ineffectual government by a coherent plan to attack it.  Attack Republicans on where they have made government ineffectual and how their policies increase inequality.  Dancing around this issue with very moderate proposals is what made people feel that government cannot solve these problems.  So there has to be specific policies that you can fight for that will help.  Start with raising the minimum wage and show how that reduces food stamps.  Point out that trickle down, and the government policies that support it, do not work, did not worked, and will not work, and talk about fairer tax policies that balance the load for a well financed government that invests in tomorrow.

My point is very simple.  The first reading of this op-ed is very depressing and you think, OMG, Republicans are winning, maybe Democrats need to rethink their strategy for 2016, but it is the wrong conclusion.  Republicans have been winning with a policy of obstruction and destruction.  Then they have been successful at transferring the perception of government dysfunction to both sides of the aisle.  That serves their needs.  But the perception is not only counterintuitive, it is illogical.  Instead of confusing what really ails the country with the perception of the voters, Democrats have to come out fighting for the real solutions to real problems and show how the Republican approach has made things worse. If the Republicans win and then the country falters badly, unless you have offered an alternative, you are just like the other guy.

Post State of the Union Thoughts

Best lines of the night:

Twenty-first-century businesses need twenty-first-century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come” .  

It kind of summed up Republicans in general, think small, only about special interest, and miss the big picture. Sadly their rebuttal focused on that single pipeline, the Keystone Pipeline. Republicans complained after the speech that the President did not recognize the new order of things, they being in charge. Sadly again, Republicans missed what the “new order” was really about, new ideas to help the middle class. They don’t have any.  I was also quite happy that he said the obvious:

“2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does—14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.”

“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act,” he continued, in a comment clearly aimed at Republican politicians who have used that line in an effort to avoid taking a position on the reliability of climate science. “Well, I’m not a scientist, either.  But you know what—I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.  The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.  The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security.  We should act like it.”

There was some criticism from the left, and I think maybe justified, in that the President should have been more direct about the obstructionism of the Republicans, For us news junkies it was apparent, but most of America has been asleep on that one. I think if he follows through and really fights for his ideas, with a coalescing Democratic Party, this criticism will fade as the Republicans lack of ideas and obstructionism becomes apparent.

Thomas Edsall had an op-ed in the New York Times this morning that went into some detail about where the Democrats are headed, inclusive capitalism. Simply the idea that capitalism itself will wither and die if the markets don’t find a way to tap the demand of the middle class by increasing their share of a growing economy. It is a theme I have been beating to death, but Thomas brings together the thinkers and their ideas who are pushing this new movement.

But there is some criticism from the left that we may not be thinking outside the box or that these “fixes” are just moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic.  To quote one critic, Nafeez Ahmed,

Its proposed reforms therefore amount to token PR moves to appease the disenfranchised masses …That is why Inclusive Capitalism Initiative has nothing to say about reversing the neoliberal pseudo-development policies which, during capitalism’s so-called ‘Golden Age’, widened inequality and retarded growth for the vast majority of low-income and middle-income countries” … Instead, proposed ‘reforms’ offer ways to rehabilitate perceptions of powerful businesses and corporations, in order to head off rising worker discontent and thus keep the system going, while continuing to maximize profits for the few at the expense of the planet.

It definitely is food for thought on how we really reign in growing corporate power and influence and make the world a fairer place that does not destroy our environment.  I would say this, it is a start, moving away from Republican know nothingism.  I would say that our future is about an ever increasingly changing work environment and government must provide the basics to allow a flexible learning workforce and reign in corporate power.  That would include a retirement system not based on the stock market (expanded Social Security), universal single payer health care, lifelong affordable education, and regulations with teeth.

It is the vision thing and I think he started the process to turn the ship around. It’s a slow process. We have many challenges, some we haven’t even thought about yet, but this at least starts the ball rolling and moves away from business as usual, trickle down as the god of all prosperity.

Understanding The Republican Party and More Importantly the Base

Thomas Edsall put forward in his piece in the NYT a study called “The Republican Party Project” conducted by the liberal nonprofit organization Democracy Corps which looks at the G.O.P. with the premise that “you cannot understand the government shutdown unless you understand the G.O.P. from the inside.”  The findings should be required reading for all Americans so they get out and vote.  Here is a short summary of the findings so far from focus groups the study leader, Stan Greenberg, conducted:

  • Greenberg (author of study) puts Republicans into three categories (See Figure below): evangelical and religiously observant voters (47 percent); libertarian-leaning Tea Party supporters (22 percent); and moderates (25 percent).


They think:

  • The base supporters are very conscious of being white in a country with growing minorities. Their party is losing to a Democratic Party of big government whose goal is to expand programs that mainly benefit minorities. Race remains very much alive in the politics of the Republican Party.
  • While many voters, including plenty of Democrats, question whether Obama is succeeding and getting his agenda done, Republicans think he has won. The country as a whole may think gridlock has triumphed, particularly in the midst of a Republican-led government shutdown, but Republicans see a president who has fooled and manipulated the public, lied, and gotten his secret socialist-Marxist agenda done. Republicans and their kind of Americans are losing.
  • They face a victorious Democratic Party that is intent on expanding government to increase dependency and therefore electoral support. It starts with food stamps and unemployment benefits; expands further if you legalize the illegals; but insuring the uninsured dramatically grows those dependent on government. They believe this is an electoral strategy — not just a political ideology or economic philosophy. If Obamacare happens, the Republican Party may be lost, in their view.
  • They are losing politically and losing control of the country – and their starting reaction is “worried,” “discouraged,” “scared,” and “concerned” about the direction of the country – and a little powerless to change course. They think Obama has imposed his agenda, while Republicans in D.C. let him get away with it.
  • The Democratic Party exists to create programs and dependency – the food stamp hammock, entitlements, the 47 percent. And on the horizon — comprehensive immigration reform and Obamacare. Citizenship for 12 million illegals and tens of million getting free health care is the end of the road.
  • Republican voters are threatened by Obama and the Democratic Party, but they are angry at their own party leaders. “The problem in D.C. is not gridlock; Obama has won; the problem is Republicans failing to stop him.”
  • Together, evangelicals and Tea Party supporters comprise more than half the party. Moderates, about a quarter of Republicans, “are very conscious of being illegitimate within their own party.”
  • Big government, Obama, the loss of liberty, and decline of responsibility are central to the Tea Party worldview. Obama’s America is an unmitigated evil based on big government, regulations, and dependency. They are not focused on social issues at all. They like the Tea Party because it is getting “back to basics” and believe it has the potential to reshape the G.O.P.

So in summary, the boys and girls in the Republican base are old white people terrified of our diversified world, refusing to face the complexity of our future and the role of government in it, and living in a world of racism, blaming poor for being poor, lack of empathy for less fortunate, and clueless about what government really does.  I think some of you better get out and vote because right now these fearful Know-Nothings are controlling our fate.


Truly Scarey Thoughts and You Thought Halloween was Over

If you enjoy frightening thoughts then pickup the New York Times (NYT) and read the op-ed article, “Capitalizing on Collapse“.  One probably accurate opinion is that the Republicans have figured out that the Debt Commission is going to fail and they think they will get a better shot at ruining our government after the election in 2012 so are actively working to sabotage it.  First, anybody who did not understand that the Debt Commission would fail is brain dead.  Republicans are never going to compromise if that compromise is anything involving revenues unless it is smoke and mirrors. Or as Paul Krugman accurately described in his op-ed yesterday, the Debt Commission failed “mainly because the gulf between our two major political parties is so wide. Republicans and Democrats don’t just have different priorities; they live in different intellectual and moral universes.

But here is the really scarey part if you believe this op-ed:  “Intrade, the political futures market, currently puts the odds at just under three to one in favor of both a Republican takeover of the Senate and retention of the House — 74.4 to 21.5 for the Senate, 72.2 to 28 for the House.”  In the Presidential campaign the same sources and various polls say that the chances of a Republican take over would be about 50-50.  The chances of them taking all three would be less than 50-50, but not much less and as the writer of this op-ed (Thomas B. Edsall, a professor journalism at Columbia University) puts it: “What’s at stake? The power to further tilt the tax code in favor of the affluent and to perform progressively more radical surgery on the welfare state.”  Kiss Medicare and Social Security goodbye.

Horrified yet?  Oh, but it gets better or worse depending on your point of view.  “In this scenario, Republicans in the 113th Congress would swiftly enact a version of the budget proposal put forward by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, which was approved by the House, but only the House, earlier this year.  The Ryan budget, which includes making the Bush tax cuts permanent, would meet the required $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, eliminating the need for across-the-board cuts. The measure would be contained in budget “reconciliation” legislation so that it would not be subject to a filibuster in the Senate and could be enacted by simple majorities in both branches.  A Republican president would be sure to sign it.” And the 99% can kiss their ass goodbye.

Now here is the part that makes this all so believable that the Republicans would put all their ducks into 2012, it is a last hurrah by conservatives.  “Given long-range demographic trends – the growth of the minority electorate and the increasing numbers of unmarried, Democratic-leaning voters, especially single women – the 2012 election could prove to be the last chance for the contemporary conservative movement to put a decisive stamp on the government.”  Further as both this author and Paul Krugman has pointed out the differences in the two parties have taken on a moral tone that makes compromise impossible.

Terrified yet.  As Paul Krugman said in regards to Paul Ryan’s economic plan “And in the end, Ryan’s answer is that we need strong economic growth, the kind that we get by cutting taxes on the rich. Because that’s why the Clinton years were an economic disaster and the Bush years so prosperous.” Sarcasm anyone?  If you like where we have been going, vote Republican and you can get more of it.  That is why 2012 is so important and in my mind Congress is where the action is.  I have been deeply disappointed by the Democrats and their limp wristed stands on just about everything.  But the next election is the final fight. We can’t go four more years on this flight path.   If the OWS doesn’t figure out that while both sides are tainted by money and Wall Street, one side will never help you and the other just might.  This has to be a watershed election for Democrats to turn the nation around.  Let’s face it.  If the Republicans take the Congress or even maintain control of the House we are stuck where we are, going nowhere.

The situation would not be so dire had President Obama been a true leader and the Democrats in Congress had recognized that if he wasn’t going to lead, they must.  Instead they all went for compromise and looked like fools as the Republicans re-surged and took all the marbles.  Our economy is in the state it is in because they lacked the courage to fight the Republicans and take a stand.  So the choice is not wonderful, but the thing you can be sure of is that if you vote Republican, the 99% are going to be screwed.  To me the only choice is to vote out the Republicans and then use local wedge politics to start controlling the primary democratic elections to make sure real progressives get elected.  The wedge issue?  Money in politics and taxing the rich.  Otherwise, we will continue down this road of austerity where the austerity is paid for by the 99% and the Republicans and the 1% take all the marbles.  And this is where the 99% must step up.  Either they vote and start throwing out those who favor the 1% or we are doomed.