Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Brief political note: American governance today

Right now Americans are watching a three ring political circus.

In one ring we have Congress, now taking a well-deserved vacation after playing around with the debt ceiling, triggering an unprecedented downgrade, and causing global turmoil. Great work, guys. Enjoy the beach.

In the next ring, we have the Commander-in-Chief and Leader of the Free World taking a field trip with his extensive entourage through the underpopulated parts of the Midwest, doing photo-ops with ethanol farmers. He may visit a windmill or lithium diode factory, if David Plouffe can find any out there among the silos and Dairy Queens.

Our president is using his ethanol tour (hopefully his bus runs on clean Iowa corn) to push a number of his “jobs” initiatives, the centerpiece of which is extending unemployment benefits into eternity. Why do unemployment checks create jobs? Because they’re spent. By this logic, the more people out of jobs, the more jobs will created (food stamp printing plants, community organizers, jobs counselors, social workers, retraining consultants and sociologists who will explain that government annuities don’t reduce the incentive to work)*.

But wait, the president says that “when he goes back to Washington” (after spending two weeks at Martha’s Vineyard dodging the Clintons), he will unveil a “detailed” jobs plan. He’s been keeping it secret for all these years; thank goodness he’s finally decided to allow us to see it. I can’t wait.

And in the third ring we have the 2012 GOP “hopefuls”.  I will spare you the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs witticisms that we always hear at this time of the cycle (they were probably wittily saying something similar in 1804).

But seriously, the Tea Party has screwed everything up. The party of Robert A. Taft has become the party of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry. The whole point of elections is to (1) win them; and (2) and then make America a better place for its citizens to prosper.

The Democrats have their own albatrosses to bear: the ever-expanding list of tribal caucuses, and plenty of left-wing nut jobs. (Good news, Congressman: Guam has not yet capsized).

But the Tea Party is screwing up the GOP nominating process by demanding that candidates sign up to a right-wing laundry list that will render them unelectable in November. Romney has been right to ignore the Tea Party; he wants to win, not to lose heroically.

And now let’s take a look at the Tea Party’s “substance”. Hmm. Allow the US to default. Abolish the central bank. Abolish paper money and put the US back on gold (at $1700 an ounce, that would be quite expensive, but a windfall for for Russia). Drag Ben Bernanke down to Texas in order to lynch him as a traitor (that would be the Texas governor in dressed up in cowboy boots, a tuxedo and a large toupee).

It is that last item, this irruption from the tobacco-stained gums of the toupeed Texas governor that motivated me to write this post. Here is bit of the governor’s down home Texas wisdom concerning the Governor of the Federal Reserve Board:

“If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous -- or treasonous in my opinion.”

I am speechless. What can you say to that mixture of bullying arrogance and cretinous stupidity? He is like W without the class. "This guy"? That would be Chairman Bernanke to you, Rick.

I think the only way to maintain calm at a time like this is to pull Mencken off the shelf and get some perspective: it’s supposed to be a circus. I just wish foreigners didn’t have to watch it. They may not get the joke.

Now look. No one should be an academic snob. Lincoln did not graduate from Harvard. But educational achievement is a relevant datapoint, nonetheless. Here is Governor Rick’s academic resume:
“Perry attended Texas A&M University, where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets, a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and was elected senior class social secretary and was also elected as one of A&M's five yell leaders (a popular Texas A&M tradition analogous to male cheerleaders). Perry graduated in 1972 with a 2.22 GPA, earning a bachelor's degree in animal science.”

If the best you can do at A&M is a 2.2 in animal science, you really should not be seeking to lead the Free world. You should be judging Longhorns at the State Fair.
*Food stamp czar Tom Vilsac:
I should point out, when you talk about the SNAP program or the food stamp program, you have to recognize that it's also an economic stimulus. Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity. If people are able to buy a little more in the grocery store, someone has to stock it, package it, shelve it, process it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It's the most direct stimulus you can get in the economy during these tough times."

1 comment:

sternlaw said...

If you want to draw a moral equivalence between the president and the tea party (which I infer from the 3 ring metaphor) I suggest you focus on economic specifics as you did in your rick perry takedown. Is a harvard educated constitutional lawyer who retained geitner, clinton and summers really in the same class as bachmann, perry, paul, santorum, cain, and palin, especially when it comes to respecting and recognizing the need for expertise? Is extending UC benefits really the same as threatening US default and the destruction of the federal reserve? Is moving the marginal tax rate a few points one way or the other, in accordance with the sunset date of Bush created tax law, really the same as suppressing the "job creators"?
Face the truth: the Republican party of TR, Eisenhower, and even Reagan has been captured by people who neither understand nor respect expertise or even recent history,and would prefer to inject religion (and only one kind - imagine a call to prayer of 20,000 Muslims) into the political process. It's a lot easier, isn't it, to emote expressions of faith than craft policy.
Romney is finished, because even he cannot give these idealogues what they want, which of course, is to campaign and govern as if facts are irrelevant. The fact that the old guard republican leadership won't face down these constituents because they were seen as useful tools to damage the Democrats reminds me of our arming the mujahadeen against the russians in 1979 Afganistan. Guess who they wound up killing.