Monday, October 31

It's One Thing To Be A Liar. It's Another To Be An Ill-Informed, Third-Hand Liar.

Ross Douthat, "What Tax Dollars Can't Buy". October 30

FOR starters, having Herman Cain on the Sundays might be justified by his front-runner, or "front-runner", status--might be; it sure isn't justified by anything else--but if you have to talk about that fucking ad, then the point is not "promoting smoking" but "perpetrating this phony Fuck You! USA! shit" which has gone on thirty years past its expiration date now because no egghead's gonna tell me not to eat tainted meat-like substances. That shit worked for Reagan (when it shouldn't have, and wouldn't have if the Press had pressed, instead of raising its hand and hoping to be recognized by the big Hollywood star) at a time when product bans (DDT, cyclamates) were still news, and widely misunderstood by the public, with help from industries disinclined to be bothered with the common good unless there was a profit in it. Tobacco, of course, was still the beneficiary of a well-funded counterintelligence campaign. Today it is time to understand that the great majority of Americans now get the concept, aren't flummoxed by the very concept of risk, prefer safety to faux economy, and want nothing whatsoever to do with cigarettes, including being within fifteen miles of somebody smoking one. And they are right.

I don't give a shit if someone smokes a cigarette on camera. (Hell, half my teevee viewing is Turner Classics.) This might be a minority opinion these days, but to accuse Herman Cain of "promoting smoking" or, more accurately, to accuse him of "not caring" that the ad might possibly promote smoking, is to lead with your chin into Herman Cain's wheelhouse or, more accurately, the general location of Herman Cain's wheelhouse, if he had one. The question is why Herman Cain, in a Presidential primary campaign we'll be nice for once and call "quixotic" (when calling it "a campaign" is probably far too generous already), finds it necessary to trot out this phony issue of Cigarette Freedom, especially in a fucking Republican primary, where it distinguishes him not one whit from the rest of the field, and why he would imagine it bestowed some benefit in a political process where 98% of Americans clearly believe not being forced to walk through clouds of carcinogens wherever they go out in public is a more important freedom than the right to choose cancer.

Of course, this was Bob Schieffer, who clearly took a look around in the mid 70s, realized he had half the talent of Dan Rather and one-third the talent of the talented people at CBS, and opted for the career strategy of making himself seem as innocuous to the Nixonites as possible.

LET us examine, for a moment, the other side of the George Eff Will "conservative" coin, though I'm not certain "moderate" "conservativism" is distinctive enough to be considered something separate. If Will's bright balloon is never more than the business end of a toothpick away from full-on anti-fluoridationalism, Douthat is George Will if Will had grown up listening to babbling hillbilly schizophrenics in place of the Latin Mass.

Compared to graceless Ross, Brooks' simpering "reasonableness" seems almost genuine in its abject marketability, and Mitch Daniels' calculating venality sounds like intellect. Douthat's "moderation" amounts to nothing beyond the fact that by the time he got to Hahvahd it was no longer possible to pretend to be Bill Buckley, Defender of the Faith at the Liberal Ivies, because that ship had sailed, and the American right could no longer read. Scratch him and you get Jerry Falwell with social pretensions.
But true social mobility and broadly shared prosperity are not so easily achieved. Remember that those tax dollars, once collected, would not be disbursed with perfect effectiveness to the most deserving members of the American middle class. Instead, they would be used to buy a little more time for our failing public institutions — postponing a reckoning with unsustainable pension commitments, delaying necessary reforms in our entitlement system and propping up an educational sector whose results don’t match the costs.

This is how one displays one's Republican reasonableness (consider Mitch Daniels and the culture war on slow simmer): agree that the opposition has a good point. And then explain why the answer is the same Republican crackpottery as before (or, in a pinch, explain that it should be left to sort itself out, which is sure to happen once you're back in charge).

We have a roaring cascade of inequality in this country, and it is directly traceable to the argument--and the tax policies--of the Reagan administration thirty years ago. There's no question. And, for those who tend to forget the inconvenient, let us remember that the point of all that was not More Wealth for the Wealthy, but the beneficial effect all that water was supposed to have on everyone's little dinghy.

And let's add to that, as is always necessary, that the current Horrible Budget Armageddon Caused by Libruls amounts to an increase in the deficit essentially equal to the size of all that tax cutting all these years.

So, just for starters, raising taxes on the wealthy is justified. There really need be no other argument than this. The deficit is life-threatening? Return lost revenues. Incontinent tax-cutting, thirty years on, has produced an even worse, and considerably more stratified, economy? Do away with it. Put it to right.

The argument failed. Twice. As algebra. You had thirty years.

Connecting it now to the social safety net, union hatred, and education, for fuck's sake, where the only reason you can even make out the category on the Federal pie chart is the massive increase in Federal spending and meddling under the Bush II administration, when "conservatives" and soon-to-be-disowned "conservatives" decided to make over the educational system in the image of the Great Conservative Permanent Majority to Come, just demonstrates what's been going on all along. Social Security is solvent, all the Withered Anti-New Deal hornswoggle to the contrary, and it's a trust, not part of the general revenues. Not to mention that the Jobs Creators barely pay into the thing. Eliminate Social Security altogether and you do nothing for the Deficit. It shouldn't even be part of the argument. Unfunded Federal pensions have grown substantially, but that isn't a prima facie argument against pensions; it's an argument for responsible government funding its obligations. As in levying equitable taxes.

Instead we've had this two-shoe Republican method of "bankrupting" the government (Freedom!) followed by "the only way to fix this is to do away with all the programs we are too politically cowardly to face head on". And, as such, I'll believe you're serious about the deficit when you start proposing to balance it with military cuts.

And I'll believe you're serious about rescuing the lower classes…no. I won't.


prairie curmudgeon said...

All they are saying is give real conservatism a chance to show some real failure. They gotta kill the democratic state before they can test the model. You'd have to go across the Atlantic back in the 30s for a similar test of a rightest revolution or maybe somewhere south of the border.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if anybody else on earth was going to notice that as an analyst Bob Schieffer makes Cokie Roberts look like Paul Krugman.

James Stripes said...

When Godfather's Pizza opened in my town, it was fresh and new and had the most generous quantity of toppings for the price. When Herman Cain took over, they closed stores, destroyed the quality of the product, and became profitable. I don't like the man's vision of business. That's enough for me.

There is far more, of course.

As for smoking: I'm certain that you've taken a look at who else was promoting smoking thirty years ago. See Naomi Oreskes, and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (2010). Merchants is practically the playbook on Republican "reasonableness".

Anonymous said...

Here's the deal. If people have to keep stating that somebody is reasonable (e.g. Mitch Daniels), you can pretty sure they aren't.