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Robbing Peter to pay Paul because Buffy and Biff need a new Yacht

Word association: Dick Armey

It is too early in the morning for this crap but here it is, splashed all over the NYTimes: Tax Deal Suggests a New Path for Obama.  Bull$@%#.  This is the same old Obama.

I can imagine how the “negotiations” with Republicans went:

O: We need more stimulus.

GOP: And that affects us…how?

O: Money’s got to come from somewhere.

GOP: Get it from Social Security.

O: Is that the best you can do?

GOP: Do you have any bourbon?  This coffee shit just isn’t doing it for me.  Wow, would you look at the time.  Gotta go.

O: Do you have to leave right now?

GOP: Yep.  I have a massage with a full release scheduled with my Lobbyist buddy from the oil bidness.  Write it up, send it to my guys.  See ya.

So, Obama wrote it up.  We get a break on our payroll taxes.  Woo-hoo!  That’s like eating our seed corn.  I can’t wait to explain it to my senior relatives some years down the road as to why we just slashed their benefits:

“See, back in 2010, Obama couldn’t think of anywhere else to get the money for the stimulus because he wasn’t as smart as he thought he was and he had no imagination.  So, instead of throwing a fit about the irresponsible Bush deficit increases or demanding that employers stop siphoning money away from the employees who work their asses off for them, or lobbying to get the Paycheck Fairness Act passed, which would have been a very popular way to add money to womens’ paychecks, he cut us working people a break and that pittance money went into the general economy and came back to the treasury as general revenue when the people who we bought stuff from paid their taxes.  And those taxes paid for stuff Republicans wanted like a huge bloated Homeland Security department and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But it also meant that Obama could almost afford the money Bush granted to the rich with those irresponsible tax cuts.  So, that’s why you have to give up eating fresh fruits and vegetables.  Buffy and Skip needed a new yacht. Yes, I’d love to go to the beach this summer but I can’t retire.  Ever.”

By the way, Stuart Zechman, you shouldn’t be surprised at all about Obama.  You just weren’t paying attention.  And your obsession with the nefarious “Third Way” reminds me of the Da Vinci code.  If we listen to you and your friends, you would think there’s some mysterious, pagan cult that engages in group sex while chanting “D-L-C, D-L-C” to a fevered pitch.  Oh, sorry, that was the Obama supporters back in 2008.

I don’t believe in the Third Way boogieman (or woman).  But if there was one candidate in 2008 who embodied all you feared, It was OBAMA.  Here are a couple oldies but goodies from our archive:

The Audiology of Hope: Dogwhistle Economics- by Ronkseattle.  That was from January 2008.  Ronk was waaaay ahead of the curve.  He wrote another summary of Obama’s economic advisors which I am having trouble finding.  But when I do, I’ll post a link.

Here’s another from May 2008 called Friday Foibles, which cites Paul Krugman’s growing discomfort with Obama’s economic advisors.  By the way, I challenge you or anyone else to find anything racist about what we wrote back then.

Cokie Roberts Sees the Light.  When even Cokie Roberts is disgusted with the Democratic primary system, you know you’ve got a problem.  Oh, but she was just a stupid, old, uneducated working class woman, right?

That’s just a smidgeon of the stuff we posted on Obama in 2008.  I suggest you go back to the beginning and watch the transformation of this site’s authors from being mildly annoyed at Obama’s followers but not willing to write off Obama to full scale disgust with him and anyone who followed him.  I’d dig it up for you but the wordpress archive is flaky and our tags weren’t very precise back then.  So, please, be my guest Stuart.  Go back and read our posts and see what you were missing while Obama’s crack team of psychological manipulators and marketing specialists were messing with you.

And can the Third Way! hysterics.  No one here gives a flying F@#$.

In other news:

It appears that a some of the CEO’s in the Pharma industry have no background in the sciences.  Jeffrey Kindler, the guy who just got canned from Pfizer, oh, I’m sorry, is taking a sabbatical to rest his frazzled nerves after he laid off 19000 employees in the wake of a $68 billion merger with Wyeth, used to be CEO of McDonalds.  No, that’s not some pharma you’ve never heard of.  That’s the fast food chain.  And the guy who runs Glaxo Smith Kline used to be in the ketchup business.  In fact, there are pharma CEO’s who have never set foot in a lab.  It is very difficult to understand how people like Kindler make intelligent decisions about how to run a company based on R&D if they think there is even the remotest analogy to flipping burgers. See Derek Lowe’s blog, In the Pipeline, for more news on Jeffrey Kindler, and check out the comment section which just goes to show that even geeks have a sense of gallows humor. (Tsk-Tsk)

The Audiology of Hope: Dogwhistle Economics

Something about Obama attracts New D’s, GOP’s, Broderites, Indies, Perotistas, Reagan D’s and Libertarians alike. Is it his big table? His promise to turn the page? His post-racial posture? Is it his cologne?

Or is it Austan Goolsbee?

Who??? Goolsbee. Economic wunderkind, forensics champ, MIT PhD, Yale Bonesman out of Waco via Milton Academy, Obama’s chief / top / senior economic spokesman and senior policy advisor.

Oh, and DLC senior economist.

Huh? Whuzzat? Yes, that DLC.

June 19, 2006
Austan Goolsbee Joins DLC and PPI as Senior Economist
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) are pleased to announce that Austan Goolsbee, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, has agreed to become Senior Economist to both organizations.

You hadn’t heard that, had you? That’s what a dog whistle is for. In distant corners of the political grid, they hear the pied piper’s dog code loud and clear … and they do come a-runnin’.

Read on as we crack the code.

And yes, it’s that U. of Chicago — bastion of neoliberal (free market) political economics, skunkworks behind the Old Right’s counterrevolution against the intellectual decadence of FDR’s New Deal, and Obama’s primary academic stomping ground.

As one conservative Yale alum testifies:

… voters who usually lean Republican should take a second look at Obama … Although some of his centrist economic prescriptions may disenchant liberals who distrust the benefits of globalization, Goolsbee said economic data indicate that free trade leads to higher wages.

George Will digs Goolsbee. What’s not to like … if you’re George F. Will?

The liberal’s liberal economist Paul Krugman? Not so much. Goolsbee is the unnamed advisor Krugman refers to when he tabs Obama’s stimulus plan “disreputable”. [There’s the Rosetta Pebble, BTW, to a code we’ll break later.]

Enough about who Goolsbee is. What does Goolsbee think?

Goolsbee thinks single payer is a bad idea. He thinks Warren Buffett is just lucky. He thinks globalization is no biggie. He thinks subprime lending gimmicks made the market more perfect. And he gives Dubya high marks on trade, taxes, job creation … but an “Incomplete” on Social Security.

Onward to the Big Picture framework questions of progressive policy and politics.

How do we remedy lopsided distribution of wealth and income? To Goolsbee, the main answers are education, education, and educational opportunity.

Obama’s vision, as focused by Goolsbee’s lenses, includes “democratizing capitalism”. I guess that means we’ll all be rich, a few decades after the rich pull everybody else on board into the investor class. (Heard this somewhere before, have you?)

Much as I sympathize with Goolsbee on some points of theory and stylistic emphasis, this is just wrong. No doubt an educated workforce grows the economy pie in toto. No doubt certain members of an educated class find the biggest slices on their plates. But in a positionally-competitive casino economy keyed to disproportionate reward for a limited number of key men (in franchises, networks and lineages), the system won’t divvy up rewards in natural open market-theoretic shares just because everybody moves up the skills ladder.

This doesn’t level the playing field – it just ratchets the game up to a higher level of difficulty. Same social order of advantage and disadvantage, with fatter sheep for the same ravening wolves.

How do we fix public education? With incentive systems, of course. Merit pay for schoolteachers.

On the plus side, Goolsbee does favor public investments in education and infrastructure. (These are the highest-return investments we know how to make, public or private.) Push the money out there, let private actors rearrange it optimally.

How do we regulate global corporate enterprise? Much as we regulate US corporations, i.e., not much. Strained through the academic economist’s revealed preference for market outcomes, regulations are just a rats-nests of departures from the optimality of market outcomes. Outcome-directive levers of policy — mandates, prohibitions and other regulations — are bad. Incentives and public investments are good, as mitigations to market insecurities.

How do we reform health care? With a mandate-free version of Romney – Edwards – Clinton – Schwarzenegger insurance mandates.

Can we tax the rich? [In a global mobile economy, that’s really the question of the age.] Here’s a plus. Goolsbee argues that marginal tax rates on top-share incomes may not be as all-out destructive as Chicago School orthodoxy assumes. Still, the Obama camp is reluctant to venture into progressive taxation much beyond ending the Bush cuts.

Energy policy?

We should use a market-based strategy that gradually reduces harmful emissions in the most economical way. John McCain and Joe Lieberman are continuing to build support for legislation based on this approach,

Long on incentives, short on mandates.

How do we treat Social Security? Well, here’s a puzzle. Barack Obama’s position (as outlined by Goolsbee) is a dead ringer for Hillary Clinton’s position (as scathingly criticized by Barack Obama).

Whence this worldview? A Financial Times profile finds Goolsbee “almost wholly lacking in political experience”. This may account for his adherence to the textbook economist’s faith in smooth curves and theoretical equilibria, and disdain for the disruptive hand of government.

He’d rather have the invisible giants tilt the landscape so that desirable outcomes flow naturally downhill and accumulate in convenient catch-basins.

Contact with real politics — real constituents coming to you with real problems — would have tended to take the gloss off whatever smooth shiny vision he brought to the party … or to steer him toward a comfort zone in the other party, serving the Haves and sighing “can’t be helped” to the plight of the Have-Nots.

Breaking the code: What does all this tell us about Barack Obama’s vision of a low-conflict New Politics, and its strange attraction across the political spectrum? Here, it gets interesting.

Obama sincerely believes he’s on to something. He hasn’t told us what it is yet, or how it would work, or how he knows it would work, but he believes it’s possible in principle to satisfy all sides of today’s major divisions of interest.

Apparently he is convinced that much of the conflict evident in today’s politics is inessential … derivative … superfluous. Where does he get that idea? Perhaps he’s informed by the siren’s call of naive economics and market idealism. If regulations were largely unnecessary, if imbalances were largely self-correcting, if economic growth itself were the path to economic justice … then we could enrich the deserving Have-Nots without all those disagreeable takings from the powerful Haves.

There’s a parallel here to presidential epochs past. Running for office, Reagan really thought he could give everyone a thirty percent tax cut, increase tax revenues, build a 600-ship Navy and a missile shield in space, and fund it by eliminating “ two words: fraud and waste“.

A closer parallel: Running for office, George W. Bush really thought he could give American conservatives their desired freedom from taxes and regulation, but also free them from the pangs of stricken conscience at the misfortune of others.

[Don’t kid yourself. Few conservatives are indifferent to hungry kids or grannies freezing in the streets, even if it’s not their kids or their grannies. They just don’t know how to solve this problem without morphing into the despised — and economically inconvenient — liberals.]

Thus was born “compassionate conservatism“. The advantaged could sleep soundly knowing that their very selfishness paved the road to riches for the disadvantages.

Yeah, it was a crock — but so many wanted to believe, and so few asked the hard questions.

Now, with America beset by the legacies of these shared daydreams, who will ask the hard questions?

And who will respond to the beguiling whistle, and fall in line with the doggie parade?