Saturday, December 17, 2011

Newt's Singular Advantage

In the Republican field for president, much has been made of the not-Romney vote's titanic swings around the field gesticulating wildly toward whomever looks less like Mitt.  Few acknowledge the two important pieces that make up that vote: the hard-liners and the haters.  The hard-liners being the Tea Party crowd that want a firebrand in office and the haters are the ones who really want ABR (Anybody But Rommey).  But fewer still are admitting one trait of Newt's that could land him a plum seat at the dance: he is known for being someone "who has ideas".  And at a time like this, that matters more than anything.

My own experience shows what happens when things look grim: we look at the guy who isn't just smartest, but the guy who has "ideas".  The one who has the big plan to get us out of a mess.  We want the silver bullet that will change everything.  We want, we demand, that our leaders come up with such a plan.

None of the people running have given out a real plan, a specific-enough-sounding plan, to make us go "Yes!" but one will come.  When Herman Cain said "9-9-9" people went "Ooooh!  Shiny baubles!  This man has a plan!"  Then of course, his plan was ripped to shreds for being ridiculous.  But people supported him for a couple of weeks after that, simply because he had a weird plan!  He had an idea!

Enter: Newt.  The man known for having ideas.  Known for throwing random stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks.  It helps that he debates well and doesn't look lost under the bright lights.  It helps that Evangelicals are willing to overlook a truly despicable personal character and a disturbing lust for power.  He has been in Washington and out (sort of).  Really, he isn't the absurd candidate he is taken for.

The one feather in his cap; the one he is saving; is one that would be really, really important in a general election against the seemingly pragmatic President Obama.  He comes up with ideas.  And people think nobody in Washington is doing that.  As long as Newt has that secret weapon, there is nothing Romney can do to secure the nomination without a bloody battle to the end.

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Reagan, Stupid!

When are the people going to point out that economic inequality, the principles that crashed the economy, and the political circus that has embroiled the last couple of years can all be traced to one strangely popular political figure?  A figure who, while running for president, was told that his economic theories were "voodoo economics"?  A figure who frequently abandoned those policies during his time in office to actually save us from his tax cuts by raising taxes?  A figure who is so adored by his disciples that they are completely ignorant of much of what his presidency entailed?

Unfortunately, most people won't bring up the specter of Ronald Reagan because the memory of him is so beatified through rosy glasses of total ignorance.  The only parts of Reaganomics that were worked were, at best, tweaks of ongoing, mainstream thinking.  Everything else, the parts about privatizations, unregulating, union-busting, and tax cutting led to no more than modest growth while simultaneously ballooning debt, and dramatically redistributing wealth to the tippity-top of the wealth pile.  The basic philosophy has been discredited by most honest economists.

And yet, this philosophy is seemingly stronger now than at any point since 1981!  I fear that this is due to two things:

  1. The Reagan Cult: The slavish, cultish devotion to Reaganomics despite the insurmountable evidence should be more shocking, but it isn't even surprising.  The cult does not begin with the real Reagan presidency, however, but with the theory that it should work because we  believe it will.  The cult then goes and rewrites history to somehow blame the Great Depression on those that dragged us out of it kicking and screaming.
  2. The Rand Cover: The other reason is that Reagan's popularity gives cover for many conservatives to espouse economic rationales that don't come from Reagan, but from Ayn Rand.  Her extreme support, not only of greed, but of super, strata-elites that would magically bestow the illusion of equality upon the world with magic pixie dust because, after all, generous people are truly evil and the selfish are morally good.

It doesn't really matter which it is, because the current economic conditions date to the excessive debt-creation that began under Reagan through tax cuts and unregulated environments that led to more corporate consolidation than to price reductions.  The two platforms of the last 30 years that were supported by Republicans and slightly modified by Democrats in the 1990s.  But the whole structure is corrupt.  The only way for us to get out of our current economic and political morass is by dealing with its source.  No matter how unpopular that prospect is.  And the source of the problem is Ronald Reagan.

Monday, November 14, 2011

If Corporations Are On Strike, Then Bust Them

“Job creators are essentially on strike."
Those words, intended to strike fear in the hearts of the country, while also delivered with a reminder that what will stabilize the country is hope and optimism, were delivered by House Speaker John Boehner in a speech today. 

Boehner named what liberals have been saying for the last two years: that businesses aren’t hiring on purpose.  Now, he is making the tired claim that it has to do with “economic uncertainty” which has always begged the question about when the mythical “economic certainty” actually occurred in the modern era.  And yet, he is still making the claim.  Boehner’s analogy is pitch perfect…for Democrats.  It’s simple: he opened the foundation for the Republican position by using labor terms.  The pieces are there:
  • Republicans have long used union-busting as an excuse for economic growth.
  • They worship President Ronald Reagan’s ghost for busting the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization.
  • Boehner, perhaps unintentionally, has invoked a vision of wealthy, multinational corporations as unions.

So if corporations are on strike, then how about busting them!  Here’s how:
  1. Have the country strike competitive fear into the hearts of corporations by going toe-to-toe with the banks and energy companies with new public utilities,
  2. Hiring scores of workers, proving that corporations aren’t actually job creators,
  3. And enforce the communications laws and laws of incorporation that are on the books.

If we are to trust that multinational corporations are the only job creators, that laissez faire economics is the rule, and that open markets are the only way, then let’s actually see how they compete with the government.  Will they innovate and prove us wrong?  Great!  We’ll have jobs!  If they fail, then at least we still have jobs!  This is a win-win situation.

Otherwise, maintaining our current situation by allowing corporations to be “essentially on strike” and doing nothing about it is entirely lose-lose.  Or at least lose-lose for the 99%.  In the “economically uncertain” times of today, the 1% are raking it in.

The pieces are there: who will pick them up?

P.S.  Read the Plum Line's "Two sentences from John Boehner's speech".

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Gilded Age of Media

When faced with something they find confusing, most journalists give up.  They don’t do the real legwork of engaging the story.  They write the “process story” instead.  You’ve read the kind in which the author doesn’t actually write the story about the intended subject’s work, but how confusing that work is.  They trot out tired tropes about nails and Jello and hammering something when they should be spending a few minutes actually engaging the material.  I’m just saying.

So we’ve now spent the last four weeks hearing from the news media that Occupy Wall Street has this messaging problem and “nobody” can explain what they want.  [Hello!  They actually wrote a document forever ago!] Blah blah.  Some stuff about how they have no goals or direction.  Blah blah.  Then something about what Republicancongresspersons say about them.  Blah blah.  Then some personal anecdote revealing the journalist’s secret disdain for anything outside the norm of beltway horserace-jargonedpolitics.  Totally lazy and inappropriate.

Here’s the problem:

In late 2009, when people started a movement chanting the famous Reagan quote: “Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem” while complaining about having that said government collect any taxes at all, but were also (apparently) satisfied with the current tax rates (taxed enough already?), the media fawned all over them and now talk about the consistency of their message.

In late 2011, when people started a movement changing the famous Reagan quote to say: “Wall Street is not the solution to our problems, Wall Street is the problem” while complaining about said Wall Street’s collective dramatic windfall over the last 30 years at the expense of, well, virtually the entire country, suggesting we raise taxes on the top 1% and alter the lax regulated environment, the media got flummoxed and stared at each other totally confused and dumfounded.  What are they talking about?  It sounds like complete gibberish!

Clearly the media has swallowed the blue pill and decided that a message that is anti-government and inconsistent about taxes is clear and concise, while a message that is anti-Wall Street excess and social contract devastation is some massive word jumble.  Clearly, the Tea Party, which began with the fervor of some ideological firebrands that are strongly libertarian was long ago co-opted into long-term conservative think tank arguments.  That the Tea Party is at once referencing both grassroots libertarians and die- hard social conservatives who have been in Washington for two decades should be more confusing to pundits.  And yet that message is taken for granted: it is not only domesticated, it is normal.  Average.  The way of conservative politics these days.

At the same time, the media is loath to examine the very substance of this rhetoric, instead, they would rather spend their time writing the horserace story about which Republican is up in the polls.  If they are forced to cover the #Occupy movement, they’ll just phone in a process story.  I mean, really, who wants to deal with the actual substance of income inequality and corporate greed.  That’s so…quaint. 

Welcome to the new Gilded Age.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Google’s missed opportunity

According to some, Google+ is the purest gold and to others, it is already dead.  Personally, I don’t care one way or the other.  But I do believe that Google aimed too far inside the box.

Now, I haven’t played enough with Google+ and haven’t sought all the different ways to jury-rig it to act like the Facebook which I claim to detest but hope to replicate.  Nor would I flock to it simply because (God forbid) Facebook updated itself.  But the problem isn’t with what Google+ is, it is what it isn’t.  Or, more appropriately, that it is.  Let me explain.

Google is known for innovation.  In fact, after Apple, only Google comes to mind in the “most innovative” category.  So when Google was sitting on the sidelines during the massive blowup of Facebook, now with 800 million people, with a recent day logging in 500 million different users in a single day, it seemed strange that Google wasn’t taking part.

And then they did.  They took part by trying to build another Facebook.   That’s not innovative enough.  Circles are great.  Yeah, it is like Twitter and Facebook integrated.  Woo.  I sort of have that already.  Expansion is not innovation.

Google is the only company with enough users already to take on Facebook, but the problem is that very 20th Century thinking of “taking on” one’s “competitors”.  In Web 2.1, Google and Facebook aren’t supposed to be competitors; at least not in the Industrial Revolution, Enlightenment sense.  They aren’t supposed to beat each other up; they’re supposed to out-innovate the other.

That is Google’s missed opportunity with Google+.  Everyone has a Facebook account.  And nearly everyone has a Google account.  Google doesn’t need much else, but to build their account to integrate with everything.  They should make the Google ID into the universal access card.  One identity everywhere.  Let Facebook have its playground.  Google should be playing in every playground.

Here’s how it would work and why it is different from Google+.  Before there was Google+, you just stayed logged in to Google all the time.  You could use Buzz to communicate and blog at Blogger and all of that.  But all that Google really needed to do was to beef up the Google ID.  Make it ubiquitous.  Make it plug in everywhere.

The first awesome use of this idea is really simple, really cool, and totally uninvasive:  A simple site that lets you put up a virtual business card.  Mine is right here.  Go take a look and come right back.  I’ll wait.

From, you can look up all of the places I am online.  The site integrates with all of the big social media services so it easily allows people to integrate with me.  In the dashboard, it uses analytics to keep track of how many views you get and all of that.  I love this site and think it has incredible potential.  And to be fair, Google should just buy it and beef it up.  But this is what Google should have done with social media.

A similar innovation is the blogging platform, Posterous (click here to see mine, though you might be reading it there...).  It is a cross between blogger and tumblr, but it integrates with everything and lets you post once and send it out everywhere.  Very powerful and simple.

This is where Google should have gone.  Don’t rebuild the Model T from the ground up.  Make the Model T one of the cars on the lot.

And the kicker is that they could have just done this.  No big Google+ roll out, no red carpet entrance, no glitzy Facebook-is-so-passe articles about beating each other up after class.  Just use what you’ve got to totally remake the ground under the playground.

Of course, it is still early.  Google hasn’t shown all of their cards.  And they certainly are open to trying many different strategies, and as we’ve seen recently, pluck them after they’ve withered.  Right now, Google+ is not a bad business move, and may lead to the next innovation, but Google could have done so much more.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Car Lust

I have fallen head-over-heals for this concept car.  Seriously.  Take a look at it:

You may think I'm crazy, but not since the Lamborghini Countach spun its wheels into my imagination in the 80's has a car looked so freakin' cool. It's called the Ford Evos and it's even a plug-in hybrid!  Man, that's cool!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What if China fails?

I was sitting in Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago and some book title I can no longer remember caught my eye.  It made me think of this question: what if China fails?  It got me thinking.  What if the Chinese economy collapsed today?  What would it mean for all of us here?
This is particularly important in light of the excuses given for the trumped up debt debate (a blatant excuse to impose an austerity economy) when it began in April.  These massive loans are being taken out from the Chinese!  Won’t the Chinese inevitably overtake us the global superpower?  Fear our Chinese overlords!
So I got to thinking about that and the irony of the Chinese superpower equation demands that the Chinese economy grows while ours...
For full story, go here.

Austerity...mmm, smells pretty rancid

So, the debt debacle is over and everyone has declared their winners and losers and moved on.  I haven't.  Not just because I can't get over it, but because I'm still waiting for the reaction that I had in all of this: we've chosen the wrong path.

Despite the fact that everybody is pissed off at the deal itself and even more pissed off at the process, we haven't gotten down to the real reason why we should be pissed off: the reasoning behind making this a debate in the first place.  The ideology.  That ideology of austerity and it is a classically conservative economic approach.

Yes, liberals should be pissed because the president and the Democratic leadership demonstrated a willingness to even make a deal in the first place, allowing this to become a thing and not simply a clean vote about the debt ceiling.  Yes, conservatives have some right to be pissed off for not getting everything they wanted, I suppose; not to mention the economic downgrade.  But here is the thing we should all be pissed off about: we never had a real conversation about austerity.  Democrats and Republicans fought about how much austerity we should have, but we never talked about whether or not it was a good idea.  And with dozens of polls coming out in the last couple of weeks demonstrating a super majority of Americans opposing austerity, at least in the unbalanced cut-only approach, even showing majorities of Republicans opposing it, we should be livid.  Again, not because of "process" and "Washington" and "politics" and "sausage-making", but because they flat-out ignored our demands.  They refused to do what we asked for: tax increases on the wealthy.  They refused to use an approach that would preserve future growth in the national and local economies, favoring instead one that would lead to only painful cuts.  This will as certainly lead to job losses not unlike those occurring in all the states that have cut back.  What economists have been asking for is more stimulus, not cutting back.

So here's the deal.  An ideology has been adopted without reasonable debate that will impede job growth, slow financial growth for the national economy, and will continue to lead to market volatility at a moment of tremendous uncertainty.  And that ideology is conservative in origin. This is the long-term win for the Republican Party.  Just as begun in the the late 1970s, liberals have cared more about the process of governing, focusing their attention on the minutia of winning small debates and specific elections by appealing to a fickle group of dual-minded voters in the mythical "center", while conservatives have spent that same time waging a war for ideological supremacy through clubs and universities and the growth of the conservative brand.  As president, Bill Clinton adopted a pretty classic conservative economic policy and spearheaded a generation of "neo-liberals" into a world of bubbles and massive deregulation. With that timeline, this move into austerity is like punching the ball into the end zone.  Now what will liberals do with possession and a 7-point deficit?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Leaving Nana at the airport

My Mom has been visiting us for the last two weeks. It was a Godsend. Rose and I needed a break and some help and the opportunity to relax. My Mom was great at this: Sophia stuck by her side the whole visit and we even had a few opportunities to go out! We went to two movies in two weeks: a big deal for parents of a preschooler. Today was our last morning, and the two of them got one more walk in before we left. By late morning…

For full story, go here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The coming Republican civil war

I honestly have never seen so much coverage of an issue as we saw about the debt ceiling over the last three months.  The funny thing is that the coverage was all filtered through a lens of partisan bickering, rather than the more honest assessment:
  1. Tea Party Republicans didn’t want to rubberstamp the deal
  2. Mainstream Republicans saw the opportunity to make a deal out of a rubberstamp issue
  3. Democrats tried to get enough votes to pay bills for money already spent for something that previous Republican presidents (including the beloved Reagan) got rubberstamped

But most of the media is obsessed with this as “partisanship” and “bickering” when it wasn’t, and is dishonest if presented as such.

A few journalists have been speaking out about how bad the journalism has been throughout this conversation, but they are in the minority.  And now that it is finalized, maybe we can turn our attention to what the House Speaker was actually doing.  He was stuck between a debt default and splitting his political force in half.  Unlike the Senate Minority Leader, who seemed eager to play the role of spoiler, Speaker Boehner was put into a position to actually reject a dream bill offered up to him by the president.  Much attention has gone to Grover Norquist’s role in getting no-new-taxes pledges from all of the Republicans in Congress, but little is being made of that fractured constituency in light of any inevitable compromise.

Of course the smart money should have been on pushing through something solid in the Senate, knowing enough Republicans would buckle and getting every Democrat to go along with it.  This would have caused some stress on Boehner and the Congresspersons that would vote for it.  But in dividing the House, Boehner won’t be able to go back and say, they made us eat this to stave off default while aiding the people he had fall on the sword.  He is left trying to unify a traditional half that sees this as a big win and a Tea Party half that no doubt still thinks he caved anyway and should be removed. 

The politically bloody primary season has only just begun and the battle between Bachmann and Romney seems already set as a proxy for the Tea Party vs. Traditional GOP.  I can’t help but imagine that this is about to get interesting during the August vacation.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

When GOD doesn't provide

If you say the phrase “God will provide” in the Downs house, you’ll likely get your mouth taped shut.  Not by me, but by my wife: she’s the pragmatist.  “God doesn’t pay the electric bill!” she’ll retort.

For more, click here

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why is bad meat cheap?

Walking toward the back of Kroger to buy some ground beef, one notices very quickly that the expensive stuff is on the left and degrades as you move to the right.

  • On the far left is Laura’s Lean Beef. It is organic and farm-raised, and 93% fat free. It is $5.49 per pound.
  • To it’s right is lean beef, 93% fat free. Who knows where it’s from: $4.49 per pound.
  • Next is ground sirloin at 90% fat free. It claims to be Angus: $4.69 per pound.
  • Then there’s ground round at 85% fat free. Doesn’t make any claims: $3.99 per pound.
  • Then ground chuck at 80% fat free. Yum: $3.39 per pound
  • And of course, there’s hamburger at 75%. That tasty stuff is ¼ fat (or at least I hope that’s what makes up that 25%): On sale for$2.58 per pound. Or $2.38 if you buy it in a tube!

As I am staring at these choices and thinking about the cost and the benefits, I also notice the other option. Sitting at the bottom is a massive foam package of pounds and pounds of hamburger…

For more, click here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to make a political issue out of agreement

If we were all as ideologically consistent as we believe we are, there would really only be a few things we’d argue about. Thank goodness we’re hypocrites! But in many cases, something happens that causes us to divide over an issue that we nearly always agree upon; and it usually involves siding with a friend.

Now, I don’t expect this to be the next great political issue, or the thing that will swing the 2012 election, and I’m not pretending it is, but I think it can serve as a good example of the difference between ideology and politics—and why the left/right dynamic is ridiculous.

The issue is about a background check company for social media, storing everything you’ve ever done on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, et al. for up to seven years. We have already been warned of the “dangers” of the internet age and Web 2.0 and how nothing ever really gets deleted, but this company, and the FTC ruling that it is fair and appropriate highlights a slippery slope that neither liberals or conservatives would be crazy about. For liberals, the idea that one’s personal liberty is being infringed or that mistakes cannot be truly taken back is chilling. For conservatives, the idea that someone/-thing is tracking you and may be used by a government agency is offensive. There is real common ground between the two ideologies around personal rights.

There are, however, two groups that hear this and get excited. The first, of course, are corporations—particularly CEOs and HR people that are looking for the ideal solution to weed out workers. This, of course is a tiny part of the population, but they have a great megaphone (according to the Supreme Court) in the form of big bank accounts. The other is the well-just-don’t-use-Facebook types. The people that see the solution to restricted liberties as an opportunity to make everyone step back to where they already are. You know; the person who doesn’t mind about the ramifications because it doesn’t involve them anyway. In other words: the “perfect” people.

The path to division becomes quite clear: despite the fact that both ideologies would naturally oppose such a thing, the pro-corporate and “perfect” influences within conservatism would undoubtedly encourage Republican leaders to champion this innovation and give conservatives an opportunity to champion personal responsibility, despite internal concerns about its compromising of a person’s liberty. Democrats would stand up, naturally siding with their governing ideology, and (shocker!) see themselves on the opposite side of the issue and (gladly) championing the rights of the people.

Of course, this probably won’t happen—and I could just as easily see the positions flipped on this same issue—but it serves as a hypothetical example of the wider, normally unexamined part of the political divide. Our governing ideologies are so very similar, but it is the local politics and affiliations that divide us.

What other issues should liberals and conservatives be ideological allies toward?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Remember the earmark crusade?

I sure hope so, since it was only last fall. But the crusade to ban earmarks in Congress is incredibly relevant to our current political climate. Perhaps not as a matter of procedure, but as a matter of public policy in relation to governing ideology. Let me explain.

The anti-earmark crusade was based on three important principles. 1) fiscal appropriateness, 2) political games, and 3) clarity. Each of these principals was advanced as an important reason to end this political tradition.

  1. fiscal appropriateness—Under the guise of cutting spending, Republicans have been arguing that earmarks are “pork” and “waste” that should be cut from the budget. This is more of an ideological principal than it is a pragmatic one. Earmarks made up less than 1% of the budget, so eliminating them makes little impact on the financial health of the government and rings of a “symbolic” measure. Lost in this argument, of course, is that earmarks aren’t always “waste” but the means of dictating where funds already budgeted will go. One might argue that without these specific instructions, waste is more likely to occur.
  2. political games—For many, the idea that single Senators, such as Ben Nelson with the Affordable Care Act, could hold up legislation until they could be “bought” with enough “pork” became bipartisan outrage. Nobody likes this kind of gaming, and led to a great deal of outrage on both sides. That Republicans have been more likely to use earmarks in deals over legislation seems to be lost in the conversation. Also lost is that the best tool our Congresspersons have is to negotiate and compromise. So the political cover of compromise is thrown out in favor of a winner-take-all approach. Even though nobody likes the opportunist (what Sen. Nelson seemed to be), this decision actually minimizes everyone’s chance at walking away with a “win”. Look up game theory for a full understanding of how this is the case.
  3. clarity—If it really isn’t about economics or political games, then it must be about clarity in government. Like the idea of despising the opportunist who tries to milk the system, people with all political proclivities hate this one last truth about this process: in many cases, earmarks have nothing to do with the bill in question. Actually, most do, and many more delineate how funds will be spent, but in some cases, the earmark is totally alien to the discussion. Most People want our representative democracy to battle over the actual matters, not slip bad ideas in the side door. If the fight is about a healthcare bill, then the fight should only pertain to that bill and its principle subject.

So when the new congress got to its first real battle: a budget resolution for 2011: they abandoned the principle behind banning earmarks (the clarity argument) in favor of political games and fights that don’t pertain to the budget (including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Planned Parenthood). And as soon as a compromise was reached, the first statements out of the leadership involved what “deals” could be made over raising the debt limit and the 2012 budget. Instead of voting on the principal matter: the debt limit: Republicans hope to “get something out of the deal”. Isn’t this the very problem with earmarks? And if one is going to hold such a double-standard, shouldn’t they be held responsible for it?

It is not “politics as usual” when the governing ideology of one side refuses to fairly trust in compromise. It is a politics of cynicism and nihilism: two qualities needed least in our leaders.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Maybe I'm allergic to your intolerance...

My daughter is allergic to peanuts.

I have to confess that the moment I found out, I was upset. Not for her, but for me. Her allergy would deprive me of one of my favorite foods: peanut butter. I got over that (mostly) and we try very hard to be careful for her sake.

One of her favorite books, which we read today is The Princess and the Peanut Allergy. It is the story of two best friends fighting over a birthday cake. The one with the birthday wants to have her favorite cake and her best friend there at the same time. The friend wants to be included, but knows she can’t because of her allergy. In the end, the birthday girl chooses her friend over peanuts. It is sweet and the kind of decision I want my daughter to make on behalf of other people.

Reading it today, brought another idea up. One more to do with my selfish wish for peanut butter than it does the generous spirit of the book. The context of allergies actually means life-and-death stuff: not some simple question about politics du jour. Because here is the bigger question: should we accommodate the other or should we imprison them in their homes? Is your right to carelessness and selfishness more important than my daughter’s right to live normally and safely?

We brush this off so easily, making the parents of children with allergies work incredibly hard at determining ingredients of food and providing a safe environment for our children. And most of us get really tired of being the ones advocating for our kids constantly and having to deprive them of church dinners or parties simply because they can’t eat what is being served.

Isn’t safety more important?

The Mars Co., makers of M&Ms, is a great big company and makes a whole lot of money. But now we can’t buy any M&Ms because they all bear the warning that they may contain peanuts. Mars is a big enough company to have regular M&Ms produced in a different space from the peanut and peanut butter ones. Easy solution. But instead, we are satisfied with a warning on the package and new responsibility for the parents: “No, Baby Girl, you can’t have M&Ms anymore. I know they’re your favorite.”

The applications for this callous understanding of freedom are endless:
  • the “need” to pass concealed handgun laws and then open-carry laws so that you have the right to make everyone around you afraid;
  • the "importance" of seeing fairness as only applying to academic-based scholarships, which deprive needy, inner-city youth from even going to college simply because rich kids got better grades;
  • allowing insurance companies to deprive coverage to anyone for any reason at all after taking their money;
and these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Some conservatives may try to spin this the other way or simply disregard me as the usual liberal calling for tolerance. So here’s the deal: it is about power. People without allergies are in a position of power and dominance over people with them. My daughter didn’t choose this. GOD isn’t punishing her because of our choices (remember, GOD promised David GOD wouldn’t do that). Like Superman, she has a weakness. So show some compassion! Don’t put peanuts in everything. It’s that simple. It is getting so easy to avoid the common allergens, that we no longer have the excuse not to accommodate them.

So quit complaining about your gun rights or your right to deprive others of healthcare or the rights of oil companies to rob you or the rights of drug companies to lie to you or use some example of some white person losing a promotion that was “theirs” to some “undeserving” minority. Just answer why is that more important than safety, health, and well-being?

Why is your individual right more important than the lives of thousands or millions of people?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

slash and burn economics

The problem with “the spending problem”

It really is quite the slogan. Catchy. Conservatives of all types have been trotting it out for the last year.

The trouble is that it is completely false.

I’ve written about the way we ought to look at our budget here, but I'll try another way.

The Simple View
The budget is composed of income and expense. The current conservative argument is to deal only with expenses and not touch income. This, of course, is ideologically-driven, based on the pre-existing desire to cut expenses.

However, since the recession, BOTH income and expenses have been effected. Half of the reason there is a significant deficit in the budget is do to a dramatic loss of revenue. To try to make up the difference while only dealing with expenses would be to cut twice as much. And the only way to do that is to decimate just about everything and cause further stagnation. Haven't businesses been complaining about unsettled conditions?

The Complex View
Where we all get mixed up is that our national income isn’t just taxes: it’s also investments and a variety of other income streams. This means, Wall Street. Democrats have been reluctant to punish the creators of the recession (Hint: they are named in the previous sentence), not because of campaign donations (since many more go to Republicans from there) but because Wall Street needs to perform to help raise the income. When Wall Street isn’t happy, as we saw last summer, they can stagnate the economic recovery all by themselves.

This is also where unemployment enters in. This goes well beyond the “more employment = more spending” equation. High levels of employment generate all sorts of revenue for the country. Anyone paying attention to the stimulus plan should understand this equation: every dollar spent on direct job-creating stimulus more than doubles the cash—you spend a dollar to create a new job, you actually create $2.17. If you spend a dollar to cut taxes, you walk away with less than $1.50. Dealing with unemployment is a fiscally responsible (and dare I say conservative?) approach to the economic crisis.

Fixing the budget “crisis”
The budget can actually be fixed by generating more income, not just cutting. Growth in jobs, particularly stable, public sector jobs and investments in innovative industries (you know, the kind that are growing and not shrinking) such as high-tech, renewable energy, and mass transportation (high-speed rail) create scores of money directly into the economy. They also bring growth to industries that will drive Wall Street, further growing the economy. I’ll even let them make a few cuts—take a look at the bloated defense budget...

If you want a better image for the conservative plan at the moment, think of slash and burn farming of the rain forest: it devastates the old-growth forests, it depletes the usefulness of the soil in just a couple of years, and increases smog and carbon dioxide. This level of destruction is unsustainable, and yields next-to-no benefit, while causing irrevocable harm to a fragile ecosystem. That’s the current conservative platform: massive destruction for low-yield gains. So here’s your bumper sticker.

Republicans: support the slash and burn economy.