Friday, February 25, 2011
I'm sure somebody has made this comparison before, but it is becoming increasingly clear to me the many parallels between politics in the U.S. and Pro Wrestling (what we used to call "Big Time Wrestling" when I was a kid).
Even when it's in our face like this, we seem to just revert to business as usual, and seldom hold these monsters accountable - by voting them out.
Nowhere is logic or rationale - we have WWE type characters playing to the most base fears and emotions. That's what stirs people. Once you sink your claws into their base emotions, they don't need logic anymore - they will seek out and find the "rationale" they need for that position and filter out all opposing arguments, no matter their merit, or basis in fact. On the Internet it is easy to find information to support any given crazy position and equally easy to filter out any information that you don't like.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Could not have said it better myself.
Conservatives and liberals actually agree about the most important things.
In fact, most Americans – conservatives and liberals – are fed up with both of the mainstream republican and democratic parties, because it has become obvious that both parties serve Wall Street and the military-industrial complex at the expense of most Americans.
In reality, all Americans – conservatives and liberals:
Want to break up the unholy alliance between big government and big banks
Want to break up the giant banks (and see this)
Agree that the Wall Street criminals who committed fraud should be thrown in jail
Agree that the Federal Reserve should be audited
Are against corporate socialism
Are against rampant inequality
Want to stand up to the ruling class
And are against unnecessary imperial wars
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Being the contrarian that I am, whenever it becomes popular to ridicule something, I find myself asking "wait a minute. Is there more to this?" Many of the figures of the Tea Party movement are pretty easy targets, making it easy to dismiss the whole movement as a bunch of extremists, ignorant backwoodsmen or agents of some evil puppet-master.
There are things I should like about the movement. First, it started as a populist movement, which is what I think we need to shake up the current rigged two-party monopoly. But it hasn't played out that way. Tea Party proponents say they "don't care about party labels" and that they "don't care what party you're in; they just want to know if you reflect their values." However, in practice, there is no place for Democrats in the Tea Party - and what's more, all Tea Party candidates have run on the Republican ticket, not a third party ticket.
Ok, so the real Tea Party is older, white, somewhat more male, and 30% more likely to identify as "born-again" Christians than the general population. They have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party and an unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party. But what do they want?
A common slogan is "Take back America." When I see representatives of the movement speak, whether official PR spokesmen or ordinary attendees at rallies etc. it feels like this is code for a number of what appear to be fear-driven goals. In a lot of ways, "Take back America" seems to mean taking America back to a mythical, idealized time in the past, when white people had it good, jobs were plentiful, taxes were low, and everybody feared/loved Jesus in appropriate quantities.
They want to roll the clock back to some imagined version of America that never really existed. It's a fictionalized, Rockwell-esque amalgam of all the best of America, from their perspective, from many different times in history. Except in this rose-colored-glasses story, they leave out the ickier parts.
They want lower taxes and less government, but does that mean going back to a time before Social Security and Welfare? If there was a Tea Party back when those issues were moving through congress, it certainly would have opposed them, going by their stated mission of strongly opposing such social programs. Keep in mind, 43 percent of the federal budget goes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, yet the vast majority of Tea Party members support these programs and want them to continue.
Or how about civil rights? This "better time" they long for allowed segregation and countless forms of formalized racism and discrimination, even slavery, if you take them at their word that they want to revert to the original doctrine of the Constitution.
Tea Party darling Christine O'Donnell famously said "Evolution is a myth." Recall that, even though Clarence Darrow made William Jennings Bryan out to be a fool at the 1925 Scopes trial, he lost the case and Scopes was found guilty of illegally teaching evolution - and those anti-evolution laws were not repealed in Tennessee until 45 years later, in 1967! Yes, you read that right - it was illegal to teach evolution in Tennessee as recently as 1967! Is that the America the Tea Party wants, where factual science is excluded from education by government mandate?
Tea Party enthusiasts are quick to throw around the word socialism in reference to Obama’s tax policies. They claim he wants to raise the tax burden on the rich and lower it on the poor to "distribute wealth" but the facts, again, don't bear it out. The rich continue to get richer. Even if Obama had gotten his way, it would have represented a pretty paltry tax increase for the richest people and, even then, it would only get things closer to where they were because, while the tax rates for nearly all households have been dropping since the 60s, the rates of the richest have dropped the most, by far. If the Tea Party sees a pro-business, pro-capitalism moderate such as Barack Obama as a socialist with all his tax cuts, imagine what they would think of a president who ran a federal government with significantly higher tax rates than today and who raised taxes while in office, specifically, Ronald Reagan.
The basic message of the Tea Party movement is quite appealing: Government is too expensive, too intrusive and too big. But the devil is in the details. In the end, I don't think there's anything new here. The Tea Party should be praised for managing to organize some of the anger and frustration that's out there into something people are looking at - and perhaps it can be a model for other populist movements in some way. But for the Tea Party itself, there is no "there" there, at least not yet - it's not that unlike the old "moral majority" but with a much narrower agenda. And like that movement, it will continue to be a fringe element. It is a movement that cannot deny that it is heavily loaded with extremists - truth hurts, sorry. Mocking them really is easy, and justified in most cases. Again, tough luck. You are what you are.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
After all these years of bloated deficits, how do Republicans still own the "fiscally conservative" talking point?
Everyone knows that only Republicans are fiscally conservative. There's only one thing: It's not true.
I do not understand how this meme prevails. It's a study in PR and propaganda to rival any other. There may have been a time when Republicans believed in fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets, but that time has long passed.
The reality is that the debt explosion that Republicans today rail about began in 1981 with their, now mythically reinvented hero, Ronald Reagan. Here are the facts: Deficits remained relatively flat with Gerald Ford (R) and Jimmy Carter (D). But they ballooned with Reagan (R), $85 billion to $255 billion, and H.W. Bush (R), $255 billion to a peak of $432 billion. With Clinton (D), it decreased all they way back to $18 billion at the end of his term, when under another Republican president, G.W. Bush, with the full support of a Republican congress, it skyrocketed from Clinton's $18 billion to $1.017 trillion in 2008. As David Stockman, Reagan’s first budget director, recently wrote in The New York Times, the “debt explosion resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party’s embrace … of the insidious doctrine that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts.”
As Republicans on the one hand decry our nation’s enormous deficit, successfully blaming Democrats I might add, they also forced Obama to cave on extending the Bush tax cuts, even though the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report that the revenue loss from the Bush tax cuts accounts for about a quarter of the current federal deficit, and if extended, those cuts will be responsible for 54 percent of the yearly deficit. According to the Pew Economic Policy Group, the extension of the Bush tax cuts will cost $3.1 trillion over ten years, with nearly all of the benefits going to the richest 1 percent, those with incomes of more than $500,000 a year.
Yet, somehow, Republicans still manage to own the debate, successfully making fiscal responsibility part of their party platform, campaign slogan and self-professed philosophy - And people buy it - Polls suggest voters are angry about the deficits and are blaming the Democrats. Go figure.