Friday, February 25

I Rest My Case

David Brooks, "Run Mitch, Run". February 24

THE good news: Free 12-Course Banquet! The bad news: Every course is cold Vienna sausages luxuriating in ketchup.

Alternately, I suppose, caloric monstrosities (it's Indiana). That, by the way, is a Brooks quote, describing the Bill of Fare at some whistle-stop diner where Daniels and his camera crew dropped in (in clodhopper mufti) to play Jes' Folks with the locals during one of his campaigns. I think it tells you all you really need to know about Brooks that he's still using long-distance food metaphors. (Since I figure you already knew he really has nothing but contempt for the people who keep voting his party into power.)

Okay, since every argument eventually winds up as an epistemology debate, let's start begin with this: if someone tells you that Beethoven was a greater composer than Bach you know he, or someone else, could stake out some piece of defensible territory, but you're justified in wondering why he'd bother in the first place. If someone tells you Tschakovsky is a greater composer than Bach, you're also justified in believing, apodictically, that any such defense would be overrun in a matter of seconds. If he says Schoenberg was greater than Bach, he has an agenda, and if it's polished you'd best be prepared to weather a sort of Nimzo-Larsen Attack. And if he tells you that John Williams is a greater composer than Bach, call your local newspaper. They may have an editorial writer loose.

But check for your wallet first.

In case you've missed the pattern of these Daniels hagiographies, let's recap: He's an economic miracle worker, because Indiana's budget is balanced! He's slashed spending! But at the same time he made programs more efficient, and provided innovative new services to the poorest Hoosiers. Plus he's personally so a) humble; b) unprepossessing; and c) charisma-free that he'd be the perfect antidote to flashy, PR-driven Presidents.

Now, while you're checking that wallet, recall that this Anti-Charisma Fever is coming from the same people who idolize Ronald Fucking Reagan and couldn't get enough of George Bush's flight suit.

The brief response here--I know you're probably exhausted already--is that 1) Indiana's budget is "balanced" only if we ignore the $2 billion it owes the Feds in loan repayment, plus interest and penalties (ignoring it is the same thing we're hoping the Feds do) and don't ask too many questions about what's been sloughed off on local governments; 2) slashing spending is an argument, not a miracle process he invented, and it's easy to do if both houses of your legislature are dominated by the tax-and-program-cutting extremists of your own party; 3) the program record doesn't bear scrutiny any better than the budget, and the arguments for his accomplishments depend, for one thing, on ignoring the billion-dollar FSSA Pooch Fuck, largest boondoggle in Indiana since the Michigan Road, perpetrated personally by Mitchell Elias Daniels and Cronies, and based on his Randian super-knowledge.

Okay, Mr. Brooks, you have the floor.
On Feb. 11, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana met with a group of college students. According to The Yale Daily News, he told them that there is an “excellent chance” he will not run for president. Then he mounted the podium at the Conservative Political Action Conference and delivered one of the best Republican speeches in recent decades.

For the speech, well, having Only One Idea puts you one up on the field over there, assuming the judge is David Brooks, and not the Republican rank-and-file, which prefers Obama=Socialism.
The country also needs a substantive debate about the role of government. That’s exactly what an Obama-Daniels contest would provide. Yet because Daniels is a normal person who doesn’t have an insatiable desire for higher office, he’s thinking about not running.

Well, Dave, we've been having a debate about the role of government for thirty years now. If it doesn't always qualify as "substantive" you may take your pick of reasons, but I'll mention one: your side refuses to lose, because your side isn't really interested in the size of government--write a column urging a reduction of Defense spending to actual defense, and see how your party takes it--it's interesting in not paying for any. It's willing to oversee the destruction of the American middle class just so its ideology wins. A debate on the subject would include just what the consequences are of leaving the masses at the mercy of robber barons and financial pirates with no legal recourse whatsoever. You don't want that debate. You certainly don't get that debate from Mitch Daniels. You get a theological certainty that consolidating all money and power in the hands of the top 2% is a positive Good. And that argument has already lost.
Daniels’s Conservative Political Action Conference speech had a serious and weighty tone. He spoke for those who believe the country’s runaway debt is the central moral challenge of our time.

You mean "who now believe…"
He spoke of the program he started that provides health insurance for low-income residents, and the education program that will give scholarships to students in failing schools so they can choose another.

Yeah, in his first term Daniels actually addressed health care, with a program allowing low-income families to buy low-cost insurance. Good luck getting into it now; good luck expecting Daniels to mention "government health care" on the campaign trail, except in the negative.

Oh, and vouchers are vouchers. Slashing public education while giving a few poor students a chance to win the Lottery isn't competence. It is, in fact, the same old failed "education reform" of the past thirty years, except there's not a huge bankroll behind saying so, the way there is behind pretending dismantling public schools is the way to "save" them.
“Our first thought,” he said, “is always for those on life’s first rung, and how we might increase their chances of climbing.”

And our first and only answer is "Eliminate the minimum wage!"
He also spoke of expanding the party’s reach. In a passage that rankled some in the audience and beyond, he argued that “purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers.”

Frankly, Dave, I think this sorta thing seems a whole lot more impressive if you fancy yourself a Republican insider too intelligent for the likes of Limbaugh. From the outside it looks like a simple political calculation from a man who's going to get clobbered on the Right in Republican primaries, and whose only hope is to convince enough people to vote against Sarah Palin. And from a certain Hoosier perspective it's more of the same from a guy who finds the worst Republican yahoos distasteful, but is happy to count their votes, and whose party, for all his moderatableness is, at the moment, busy turning the Indiana General Assembly into Arizona North.
Daniels’s speeches are backed up by his record. Since 2004, the 49 other states in the nation increased their debt levels by an average of 40 percent. Indiana has paid down its debt by 40 percent. Indiana received its first Triple-A bond rating in 2008, and now it is one of only nine states to have the highest rating from all three rating agencies.

This is what I know about bond markets: 1) they're run by wealthy people primarily for the benefit of extremely wealthy people; and 2) the biggest rating increase last year went to Califuckingfornia. So let's try to use this as a measure of what it is: bond safety, not underlying economic genius. As for our public debt, I don't know the particulars. I know we're still in the middle of the pack, America-wise, and I know the Daniels administration, so I suspect there's some accounting procedures in the mix. Call me cynical. I know the general: we've slashed away at state spending. Announcing this as a Win seems premature, sorta like announcing the guy who bought the cheapest car won without looking at operating costs and reliability.
At the same time, the business climate has improved significantly.

That's like saying the sexual climate would improve significantly if hookers started giving it away.
Infrastructure spending is at record levels.

We sold the fucking Toll Road, Dave. Oh, and we swallowed our pride and accepted Obama Stimulus Bucks.

And what we're doing with it is build Indiana's section of the NAFTA highway, I-69, which is wiping out forests, wetlands, family farms and residential areas so you can get from Evansville to Indianapolis a half-hour quicker. We fought over this shit for fifty years before Daniels and his 2005 Republican majorities solved it for all future generations. The first leg's running $700 million over budget, which prompted Daniels to explain that when he said the Toll Road sell-off was going to pay for it he had his fingers crossed.
The state has added jobs at twice the national average.

Jesus Christ, tell it to the unemployed, will ya? They were 5.2% of the population when Daniels took office; they're 9.5% of it now. That's 35th worst in the nation.

Indiana's 40th in the nation in per capita income. Since 2005, household income has risen 0.92%, Since Mitch is so fond of comparing us to surrounding states, that's equal to the increase in Kentucky and Ohio, and less than Illinois and Michigan. Only Kentucky's household income is lower. So, yeah, I can see why people are flocking to the Indiana Miracle:
For the first time in four decades, more people are moving in than moving out.
Click to enlarge:

Daniels is famously a font of metrics, statistics and management stories. During his term, wait times at the Indiana motor vehicles bureau dropped from 40 minutes to under 10 minutes while customer satisfaction levels skyrocketed.

Okay, as we've noted here before: the increased efficiency at the BMV is due to the new computer system, purchased by the last Democratic administration, which knew how to operate a competitive bidding process and write specifications, and it was rushed into operation by a Daniels administration clown, resulting in a year of total chaos--and the eventual loss of his job--which Hoosiers now apparently have forgotten due to the highly caloric monstrosity diet. The wait times, well, again, call me cynical. They're better than they were, for certain; but I don't know where that "40 minutes" figure comes from. What I do know is that the Daniels administration initiated a Welcome Desk, a sort of Triage for your BMV visit, and the time spent waiting in line there doesn't count toward your total. It's faster now, for sure; so, too, are my credit card transactions compared to a decade ago. There's a reason why "overegging the custard" is a hallmark of a successful advertising gull, but not a successful, well, custard.
In manner, Daniels is not classically presidential. Some say he is short (though others do not regard 5 feet 7 inches as freakishly diminutive).

Then again, Dave, some of us don't regard a man who needs a one-foot platform to see over a standard lectern as 5 foot 7. And some of us wonder about why so simple and unassuming a public servant as Governor Combover has to tack inches on his stat sheet like an undersized NBA point guard.

Nice talkin' with ya. Drop in for some Hoosier home cookin', why doncha?

12 comments:

Al said...

The official response from the Daniels Administration; "Your strange, non-caveman language confuses me!" See, you're trying to use facts and figures. These yahoos only respond to dogwhistles and cries of "Socialism!!!" Truly moronic behavior...

KWillow said...

If they've got Brooks praising him, Daniels may actually have a chance at the Repug nomination. Not surprising when you look at all the other insanely stupid candidates.

Li'l Innocent said...

I wonder if Brooksy will ever perform a similar personalized oral service on my Governor, Chris "Chris" Christie? In some ways it would be easier, since Christie has less record to get wrong; in other ways harder, as Christie has more surface area.

But should Dave undertake it, I'm counting on you to let us know, Doghouse.

R. Porrofatto said...

Brooks: The state has added jobs at twice the national average.

Whenever I see a line like that, where any state does anything at twice the national average, even if it's something feasible like the sales of assault rifles to the clinically deranged in Texas, you just know it's bullshit. This is the last time I'm going to checj his fucking statistics, but I have no idea what orifice Brooks pulled this out of, unless it was Mitch Daniels' own kiester. According to the BLS, Indiana ended the past year with .94% more employed people than it had at the start. The U.S. ended the year with 1% more.

Okay, is he counting since 2004, since he brought it up in the previous paragraph?
Since 2004 Indiana has .94 % fewer employed people. By comparison California had .96% fewer, and the nation as a whole had .94% more employed people.

Maybe he's only talking about private industry. If we only count private employment Indiana had .93% fewer employed in 2010 than 2004.

So how the fuck has the state added jobs at twice the national average?

Would that you were in the NY Times instead of Bobo. It would raise the honesty level twice as high as any other newspaper. (See, anyone can make these up.) And the pleasure reading would increase a bazillion times. The last one is a fact.

R. Porrofatto said...

BTW, here in New York we've had that same DMV Welcome Desk feature for years now, where you wait in a snaking line for about 20 minutes to get a number that will be called sometime later. It's also a vast improvement over what it use to be. I guess the time in the first line is "anticipation" time, and the actual "waiting" time only starts once you have been officially welcomed.

Anonymous said...

RE: budgeting tricks, google "dedicated funds" and read what the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette wrote about all of the dedicated funds seized to balance the budget.

ice weasel said...

I'm not one of the brighter or better commenters here but I do enjoy reading almost as much for the vocabulary workout as the ideas presented (which are, in doubt, quite enjoyable).

So yesterday bobo was on, as he is all too often, NPR, and this effect was demonstrated perfectly when he chanted "it's simply a fact, it's simply a fact" to something which was, in fact, not at all a fact. At best a lie, at worst gross stupidity. But seriously, there's a reason you shout "it's a fact" and generally, not because the truth of your proposition is undeniable.

Which might lead me down the path of why I loathe npr anymore almost as much as I detest brooks. But I'm going there.

Thanks DHR and everyone.

M. Krebs said...

5 foot 7? WTF? That's so slightly shorter than average that it's not even worth mentioning. Except if you're David Brooks, trying to tell people tell Daniels isn't 5'2".

(By the way, I think it's high time we had a dwarf president. Just not a Republican dwarf president.)

bob_is_boring said...

The anti-Schoenberg sentiment around here is reaching epidemic proportions, Herr Riley.

In seriousness, though, when I hear seemingly reasonable people express sentiments such as "I'd vote for Rand Paul for president," Gruppenfuhrer Daniels' candidacy seems less like a farce than a tragedy.

[not for nothing: Verification word: bushwe]

Anonymous said...

Riley, Riley, help, help. Now the WSJ has written a puff piece on the front page. I think I'm going to hurl.

Uncle Omar said...

About the trip to the hospital, or whatever the "urgent medical service provider" was...Have a friend ready to call the "urgent whatever" on your cue and open the conversation with the receptionist as follows: "Hello, I am Mrs. D.House Riley's attorney." This has worked for many of my friends when I, their real attorney, called. As one told me, "The phone rang, her(the receptionist/gatekeeper)eyes got real big, and the next thing you know the doctor came out and got me."

Uncle Omar said...

I put my comment in the wrong place. Look forward a couple of days to find its proper place.