DF's picture

    What's the Big Idea This Election? Reality

    Many voices, from the hallowed blogs of Dag to the exalted table around which Mighty Joe Scarborough and his colleagues convene, have decried the lack of substance in this election (though I'm pretty sure I hear that complaint every time anyone is running for office - "This should be about the issues!").  Mika Brzezinski has called it the Seinfeld election - a race about nothing - though I'll leave up to the reader whether this reflects more accurately the election or her observational skills.

    I beg to differ.  Medicare and Medicaid are on the ballot this year.  That ain't nothin'.  Obama passed a plan, flawed as it is, that will probably save the long-term future of Medicare.  Medicaid needs help, but not convert-it-to-block-grant help.

    But that's just one example from the campaign.  Here's something that happened recently outside the campaign: Senate Republicans shut down a study by the CRS that drew this conclusion:

    Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. The share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. The evidence does not suggest necessarily a relationship between tax policy with regard to the top tax rates and the size of the economic pie, but there may be a relationship to how the economic pie is sliced. 

    For the majority of my life, America has been governed according to this particular piece of bullshit.  It's the old Horse and Sparrow theory, regurgitated through the mouth of Ronald Reagan and codified as right-wing economic dogma for all time.  There's no evidence for this crap in economics.  The CRS couldn't find any either.

    That's significant when you live in a country that has a two-party system.  One party presided over the collapse of the economy, but they still want to prescribe the same policy mix.  What that mix does not do is promote savings, growth or investment.  What it does do is make rich people richer.  (This really should surprise no one who gets the basic concept of marginal utility).

    Let's make this perfectly clear: Republican policy preference does not promote growth, savings or investment.  It does further enrich the wealthy.

    You have a candidate who wants to continue inflicting pain on everyone else whilst shoveling more money into the hands of, well, himself and those around him.  And he's running on this platform after the greatest financial disaster in 80 years, when economic inequality in America is the greatest it's been in the same amount of time.  Somehow, simply by virtue of being one half of the system, this prospect is taken seriously.

    That isn't nothing or insignificant.  It's not man hands or puffy shirts.  Mika, take some notes.

    One of Dubya's minions famously quipped that they make their own reality.  That was no lie.  Approximately 25% of the country lives in this bubble.  They're vocal and they vote.  We can go around and around about whether they're created by the environment or create it, but there they are.

    This CRS study is actual reality, so they canned it - just like Romney's entire campaign has been about supplanting reality.

    Nate Silver has been catching heat all week for throwing cold water on GOP delusion by, more or less, averaging state polls.  That's why all of the pundits are so pissed off at him.  They traffic in a narrative that requires the race is just too close to call, which leaves them room to endlessly speculate about "intangibles," while finally resting on the conventional wisdom that it's all going to come down to turnout.  Cash paycheck and repeat.  Not bad work if you can get it, what with our now two-year-long campaign season.

    Hurricanes have a way of being all too real, don't they?  Chris Christie sure as hell jumped out of the bubble this week.  Bloomberg endorsed Obama.  Then, Business Week ran this.  Yeah, that says, "It's the Global Warming, Stupid!"  Strange how being in the path of a freak hurricane seems to have influenced the world views of some influential folks, is it not?

    America is not really hurting for lack of the Next Big Thing.  We're hurting from the self-inflicted wounds of the last three decades.  Dumping "trickle down" into the dustbin of history is a huge development.  Finally getting through to elites on climate change is a huge development.  Even piercing the hot air balloon that is political punditry is a potentially huge development.

    If America could simply arrive at an approach to governing that was based on reality, even if that government was fairly "centrist," it would be much, much better off in the coming decades.  Finally marginalizing the willfully deluded and destructive is gold, Jerry.



    This Tuesday, the voters will say to Mitt: "No soup for you!"

    Preferential tax treatment for the wealthy is definitely the big issue of the election. 

    Some in the commentariat refuse to see "differences" between candidates unless one is an out and out socialist and the other a hardcore libertarian.  You don't need a nuanced understanding of the issues to realize that Romney has different tax priorities than Obama, different foreign priorities, and believes that the market solves almost all problems.  Isn't it a big enough issue that Obama and Romney disagree about whether or not an insurance company can refuse to cover pre-exisiting conditions?

    I thought Romney said he would repeal Obamacare, but replace it with something that would keep all the good stuff like patient protection.  At least, I'm sure he had something like that at some point.  Not sure of his current superposition.

    It would not be imprudent to surmise that unimpeded Republican rule could very well lead to an implosion of our health care system. The recent Republican administration wreaked disaster on (1) the budget (2) the military (3) banking (4) real estate and as a result (5) the national and world economy.

    The Ryan/Romney budget plan for cuts/vouchers for Medicare/Medicaid, which comprise half or more of health insurance in the country, GOP refusal to raise taxes or set standards of care for medical care, refusal even to raise taxes 1 dollar revenue vs. 10 dollar in cuts, along with their core belief of no government regulation, would seem to leave health care as the biggest, fattest pot of money to drain dry in the quest for profit growth for the rich financier class. Insuring only the select demographic of the rich and those least likely to get sick, would be a no brainer for expanding health insurance profits. If you don't believe Wall Street would greedily crash the health care system, recall what they did to banking/real estate ending in the 2008 bailout.

    Doctors and hospitals would face enormous challenges to stay afloat due to (1) declining government Medicare/Medicaid revenue, (2) more under or uninsured patients unable to pay, (3) increasing illness complexity in clients who have waited until the bitter end to come in. We cannot afford 4 more years of Republican grifters lining their pockets while the ship of state drifts into another crisis.

    Krugman's refrain that the government is an insurance company with an army needs to become a mainstream mantra.  That's what it is on paper.  The deficit/debt talk all really irks me because it has nothing to do with the actual numbers.  Medicare is what's growing spending the fastest, but that's because of rising costs across the health care sector.  Nothing about it is sustainable.  People who aren't talking about that are just being silly about US debt/deficit.

    If for no other reason, youtube and the blogosphere drive politicians to avoid getting into the weeds on policies.  As the "you didn't build that" highlighted, one sentence can become a big thorn in the politicians side.  The more in-depth one discusses an issue, the more likely a sentence or two can be twisted by the opposition.  The citizen has to read between the lines and be engaged - listen for what is not said, or what theme pops up over and over. 

    Politicians, especially presidential politicians, during campaign season are more like a poem rather than an essay.

    This election it is clear that the big idea is about big government.  Big government in the sense of whether we should act collectively for the common good, which leads to greater individual sacrifice.  Those who believe in supporting common good believe that the individual sacrifice (having 2.3 million dollars after taxes instead of 2.8 million dollars) is short-term, and in the long run that same individual will benefit because of the increase in the quality of life for everybody (less crime, more shared prosperity, etc.).

    The Obama and Romney poems riff on the notion of to what extent the government plays a role in the government-for profit-non profit partnership that is in place to deal with the problems and challenges individuals and families face.  (Ryan's poems always seem to end up with the last line of "no soup for you.")

    "You didn't build that," is a perfect example of this.  Though I don't blame the Internet, so much.  Mainstream journalists who consider themselves so much better than bloggers reported it as a "gaffe," and out of context, without apology.  Look at any Time political writer and they'll uncritically call it an Obama misstep  even though it really wasn't and the point, that no person who built a business, did it without the help of fellow citizens who built the roads and bridges they rely on.

    The Internet doesn't help, but the low-IQ political coverage from big press outlets is killing us.

    When I heard Obama's comments, I knew exactly what he was talking about.  My job would not exist had the government not created the Internet.  It's the perfect example of how government can make monolithic infrastructure investments that massively multiply private industry - just like the national highway system, GPS, etc.  Denial of this is childish and pervasive.  Maybe he could have chosen better words, but I think there would be screaming no matter how artfully he doused the kids with cold water.

    Excellent post, DF.  It hits what I think of as a sweet spot in between the two types of left-of-center MSM political commentary I observe: the overly watered down, too reluctant to call a spade a spade type of the otherwise excellent E.J. Dionne, Jr (aiming to win over more moderate readers), on the one hand, and hard left populism that can be a bit long on attitude and short on authoritativeness and thus ends up preaching mainly to the choir.  Would love to see more weighty pieces with edge like yours published in major media outlets.  

    Wow, thanks.  That's incredibly nice of you to say.  I'll do my best to write more like this, though I can't say I have any particular hopes of being more widely published.

    More on the withdrawal of the Congressional Research Service report you cited:


    Congressional aides and outside economists said they were not aware of previous efforts to discredit a study from the research service.


    Jared Bernstein, a former economist for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., conceded that “tax cuts for the rich” was “not exactly academic prose,” but he said the analysis did examine policy time lags and controlled for several outside factors, including monetary policy.

    “This sounds to me like a complete political hit job and another example of people who don’t like the results and try to use backdoor ways to suppress them,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this, and frankly, it makes me worried.”

    Janine D’Addario, a spokeswoman for the Congressional Research Service, would not comment on internal deliberations over the decision. She confirmed that the report was no longer in official circulation.

    A person with knowledge of the deliberations, who requested anonymity, said the Sept. 28 decision to withdraw the report was made against the advice of the research service’s economics division, and that Mr. Hungerford stood by its findings.


    "Nonpartisan Tax Report Withdrawn After G.O.P Protest", Jonathan Weisman at the NYT yesterday, at http://finance.yahoo.com/news/nonpartisan-tax-report-withdrawn-g-144808999.html

    Big idea of this election? Whether in a declining America, shitty really is just a different kind of fair.

    Democrats say no, Republicans say yes.

    Nice.  There are genuine ideological differences at play here.

    I would say so. In the New America, it's patriotic for poor people to give money to rich people...go figure.

    Latest Comments