The strange silence

Martin Wolf  of the Financial Times and Bill Moyers discussed the government shutdown /debt ceiling crisis last week.  Check out the whole interview here.  I was particularly struck by this part:

BILL MOYERS: Would you agree that despite what happened this week and the political victory that President Obama seems to have won, would you agree that the conservatives have really won the argument about government?

MARTIN WOLF: I think that is true. What has surprised me is how little pushback there has been from the Democrat side in arguing that the government really did have a very strong role in supporting the economy during the post crisis recession, almost depression, that the stimulus argument was completely lost though the economics of it were quite clearly right, they needed a bigger stimulus, not a smaller one.

It helped, but it didn’t help enough because it wasn’t big enough. And they’re not making the argument that government has essential functions which everybody needs in the short run. Well, we can see that with the national parks. But also in the long run the strength of America has been built, in my perspective, particularly in the post war period, since the Second World War on the way that actually the public and private sectors have worked together with the government providing enormous support for research and development.

It’s been the basic support of America’s unique position in scientific research. You look at the National Institutes of Health which are the most important medical research institutions in the world, these are all products of the willingness of the United States to invest in the long term interest. Then there’s the infrastructure, think of the highway program, which was the most important infrastructure project under the Republicans interestingly.

And those arguments seem to have been lost. So I am concerned that the government that I think Grover Norquist once said he wants to drown in the bath. If you drown your government in the bath in the modern world, we don’t live in the early 19th century, it’s a different world, that the long term health of the United States will be very badly affected.

It’s strange to me that a government which has obviously achieved very important things, think of the role of the Defense Department in the internet, has achieved such important things, that’s just one of many examples, it should be now regarded as nothing more than a complete nuisance. And the only thing you need to do is to cut it back to nothing.

And it does seem to me that the Democrats have, for reasons I don’t fully understand, basically given up on making this argument. And so in a way the conservatives, the extreme conservative position has won, because nobody is actually combating it. So it’s only a question of how much you cut and how you cut it rather than, “Well, what do we want government for? What are the good things about it? What are the bad things about it? How do we make it effective? And how do we ensure that it’s properly financed?”

I’ll touch on the effects of sequester on the future of science in this country in another post but right now, I want to talk about the strange silence from the Democrats and the dangers that wait for them if they don’t start speaking up, soon and loudly.  And part of this has something to do with Joan Walsh and Feministing and what Atrios said a couple days ago:

I don’t offer that as a defense (except for things that happened before his watch, of course), but while ultimately the man in charge is the man in charge, I think that often criticisms of things which happen during this administration are just heard as criticisms of Obama by people who are, understandably, fans and invested in his success.

I’m going to step right into this (because why stop now after five years?) and hypothesize that there are some “fans” on the left who would sell their children into neofeudal serfdom in a heartbeat before they would suffer the completely unfounded accusations of racism that other “fans” would heap upon them if they even dared to strenuously question the Obama administration.

It is pointless to tell these “fans” that there is nothing wrong with criticizing the president and his policies. It doesn’t make you the grand master of the local KKK or mean that you’ve failed Martin Luther King Jr.  In fact, I might even go out on a limb to suggest that the reason Bill Clinton gets so much negative attention from these “fans”, in spite of the fact that his record is more liberal than Obama’s, is because these “fans” are projecting their pent up frustration on a legitimate white target as a proxy. They simply cannot overcome their fear of ostracism if they criticize the president in the strong terms they would like to use.  Just thinking about it makes them feel uncomfortable and oogy.

This is ridiculous but it appears to be useless to point out that if people on the left don’t get over this conditioned Pavlovian response (courtesy of Obama’s campaign strategists) they are condemning their side to complete and utter fecklessness and continued perceptions of ineptitude.  But I might suggest that this is exactly what the bad guys want.  If you don’t raise a fuss, no effective regulation gets implemented and ideas that benefit most of the people in America never see the light of day and are considered politically impractical by the savvy people.

Not only that but I would be remiss if I did not point out that the last time the Democrats had control of the White House, the Senate and the House, they passed a much less than adequate stimulus bill and gave us Obamacare.  Yep, it had control of the executive and legislative branches and still found it politically impossible to even introduce the concept of public option or single payer or even cost controls, for gawdssakes, into the debate over a national healthcare policy.  How does that happen??  I don’t mean how does it happen that these things never even got discussed in a legitimate way with our side in complete control of the dialog.  I mean how does it happen that our side stayed so quiet about the fact that the Obama administration had effectively emasculated it?  The sequester should have been the last straw but from the “fans”?  Hardly a peep.

Russell Brand has a point.  If the side that professes to be the one that stands up for the great masses of people who are being treated poorly doesn’t do anything when it’s in charge, then why vote?  Why not do something different?

This is a BIG problem for the Democrats because there is a slim possibility that they could gain control of the House again and have complete control of government policy for 2 years starting in 2014.  And if that happens, it will be because voters will have had enough and the Republicans will have finally hanged themselves.  And if THAT happens, there’d better be some changes made.

But I personally will not take the left seriously if I don’t hear some harsh criticisms of the way this administration has squandered its first two years in office leaving millions of people unemployed, underinsured and at the mercy of very determined social security and medicare cutters.

If your demoralized, older but wiser youth vote, or ladies’ vote, or “name your base here” vote doesn’t show up for the next big election in sufficient enough quantities and decides to seek its own path, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Lambert picked out my favorite line from the Brand interview:

My new rule for when I fancy doing a bit of the ol’ condemnation is: “Do the people I’m condemning have any actual power?”

Exactly.   There’s nothing worse than spinning your wheels and becoming nasty, mean spirited old bigots in the service of the powerful.  Fox News viewers take note.

This site supports teachers and their unions

Lord knows I have had my issues with teachers.  They can be pedantic, rigid, overly sensitive, autocratic and, occasionally, disrespectful to parents.  I assume this has something to do with having to spend all their day with developing human beings who need a firm hand and that they sometimes don’t know when to stop.

BUT

I could never do what they do.  I don’t have the patience or organizational skills.  I don’t have the passion or mysterious magical ingredient that would make me want to spend all of my working day in a classroom herding cats.

So, when I read about what Philadelphia is planning for negotiations with their teachers’ union, my blood boiled.

These are working people who earn a living.  Taking a 13% cut in pay is not an option.  In fact, reducing the power and wages of the teachers’ unions comes back to bite all of us in the ass.  We shouldn’t be pointing our fingers at them asking why their lives and wages are secure.  We should be asking ourselves how we can get what they have.  Not only that but the school systems of our nation should not be just another source for exploitative profit mining* for the well-connected.

It doesn’t serve American ingenuity or our future to have everyone stressed out to the max about where their next meal is coming from or how we’re going to pay hospital bills without go ing deeply into debt.  And when we start inflicting that kind of stress on our teachers, it’s going to affect performance in the classroom.  They’re human beings, not saints.

Honestly, I don’t know what’s up with Philadelphia’s finances.  Maybe this is all just a giant scare tactic to illustrate what’s going to happen if we fail to fund our governments and go through with sequesters.  But I’ve driven through parts of North Philadelphia and am shocked by the condition of the place.  Houses are falling apart and trash is strewn everywhere.  People LIVE there and it’s like a third world country.  Do we want to add to that destitution by depriving people of their ability to free their minds?  It’s disgraceful.  What’s next?  School fees like the kind they have in Africa where families have to decide which kid gets an education?

So, count me among the supporters of Philly’s teachers and teachers everywhere.

*Exploitative Profit Mining- the practice of seeking new profit streams from the exploitation of unprotected working people either through non-transparent financial transactions or privatization of public services.  Add it to your lexicon.

 

Well, Duh

What motivates Republicans?  Winning.  That’s all they care about.  They play to win.

You can never turn your back on them.

The 2012 election may have illustrated where their high water mark is.  They may never be able to capture the popular vote again in their lifetime.  But they managed to gerrymander the House so it makes little difference anyway.

And why do they want to win soooooo badly?  Why does anyone want to win?  It’s power and control.  When you win, no one can make you pay taxes.  That’s the gist of it.  It doesn’t really matter what happens to the rest of the country and all of the pitiful sob stories of downtrodden workers and students indentured for the rest of their lives.  They don’t need to care about that as long as they got what they spent all that money to achieve and that is control.  Control over their lives, completely unfettered from the responsibilities towards others.  That is worth a small fortune.

So, the NYTimes seems a little baffled as to why the Democrats waited so long before explicitly spelling out what the sequester was going to mean to state and local governments.  The NYTimes is surprised that the Democrats underestimated and misunderstood the Republicans- again:

The White House released warningsfor every state on Sunday in the hope that angry voters would besiege Republican lawmakers like Mr. McConnell and the House speaker, John Boehner, to stop the $85 billion in cuts, known as a sequester. President Obama wants to replace the sequester with a mix of tax increases on the rich and less damaging spending reductions. Republicans say they won’t consider any proposal that isn’t all cuts, so the sequester is all but certain to begin this week.

The White House strategy on the sequester was built around a familiar miscalculation about Republicans. It assumed that, in the end, they would be reasonable and negotiate a realistic alternative to indiscriminate cuts. Because the reductions hurt defense programs long held sacrosanct by Republicans, the White House thought it had leverage that would reduce the damage to the domestic programs favored by Democrats.

It turns out, though, that the defense hawks in the party are outnumbered. More Republicans seem to care about reducing spending at all costs, and the prospect of damaging vital government programs does not seem to bother them. “Fiscal questions trump defense in a way they never would have after 9/11,” Representative Tom Cole, a Republican of Oklahoma, told The Times. “But the war in Iraq is over. Troops are coming home from Afghanistan, and we want to secure the cuts.”

[...]

The White House should have released these kinds of details months ago, when there was more time to make a strong case to the public against these cuts. Instead, administration officials failed to discuss the consequences, fearing political blame while confidently predicting the Republicans would cave. The result of that miscalculation — and of the Republican disdain for the health of the economy and those who depend on government services — will become clearer in just a few days.

Ok, hold the phone for a sec.  Isn’t it the mainstream press that is always encouraging, cajoling, mocking, screaming, insisting that the Democrats “compromise” in some mysterious “bipartisan” fashion with the Republicans??  Why is the NYTimes surprised that the Republicans insist on nothing but cuts?  Why is that a shock at all to the paper of record?  Hasn’t it been reading its own news?  This is what Republicans do.

Republicans have made no secret about the fact that they want to cut their way out of any kind of shackles to the rest of the country.  It’s been staring us in the face for decades now.

So, now they are going to force the president to cut.  Duh.

And he’s going to do it.  Because he’s not as smart as all the 25 year old male Democratic activist assholes thought he was.  Oh, sure, he’s academic smart, sort of, but he’s not politically smart.  He’s no Bill Clinton.

Oh, THAT’S right.  We’re not supposed to like politically gifted people.  I mean, why would we need a politician as president? That’s so 20th century.

And sure the public is going to get all mad and stuff at the cuts.  But they’re not going to get mad at Republicans.  Noooo, they’re going to get mad at Democrats.  They’re going to get mad because there’s a Democratic president in the White House and the Senate is controlled by Democrats.  The Republicans only own the House.  Even the dullest Joey Bagodonuts out there can freaking count.

But Republicans are going to step it up even more.  Yeah, they’re not stupid.  They’re going to let go of their resistance to marriage equality.  Of course they are.  That’s a no-brainer.  Sure their base is foaming at the mouth, offensively homophobic.  But their base is dying.  They only used their base so they could engineer as much power as they could in the form of the gerrymander.  They don’t need them now.

How does that make you feel, you so-called Christians?  How does it make you feel that you’ve compromised every Christian virtue and become the intolerant, vicious, judgmental, mean spirited, ugly people that the Republicans goaded you to become only to be discarded when the Republicans realized that you were a drag on them?

And now that they’ve embraced marriage equality for gay couples, that’s just going to highlight the problems that the Democrats have with women.  And they DO have a problem.  It’s massive.  Why do you think Hillary Clinton is still popular in spite of all efforts by the party (and it’s her own party that’s doing it) to crush her?  It’s because women are desperate for some kind of rational human being with ovaries to stand up for them.  So, we can confidently predict that the next candidate for the Democrats is going to be female.  But unless she’s Hillary, who already resisted the siren song of the financier class only to be publicly humiliated by them in 2008, the female Democratic candidate is going to be compromised by them.  We’ll probably end up with some Kathleen Sebellius type who will continue to act like the presidency is some student council position where the status quo prevails and rocking the boat is not allowed.

I don’t even want to think about what is going to happen next year when the ACA kicks in and a whole new class of people are pissed off about what a mess healthcare reform is without cost controls.  Not only that but I believe the the McKinsey report about employers using it as an excuse to lay people off.  In fact, just signing the law was an excuse to lay people off far enough in advance so that there will be no obvious correlation when workers are hired back as contractors responsible for their own damn healthcare.  It’s a corporate shareholder’s wet dream to go “weightless”.  How conveeeeenient that it all happens during an election year and Fox News is not dead yet.

This is what you get when you put a bunch of 25 year old male activists in charge of the party and have them enthralled to the Machiavellian power brokers and Republican carpetbagging financier donors of that party.  You get a president who doesn’t have a clue about how to play even one dimensional chess against the Republicans during the worst economic crisis in 80 years.

Thanks for nothing, guys.

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