Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why Watch Meet the Press?

Here is an interesting analysis of today's (12.11.2011) morning talk shows. Notice that the "talking heads" shows have 12 Republican guests and 2 Democratic guests. According to the article's author, this isn't just today, it is almost every week. So, here's the question: Why are Democrats, liberals, and progressives still watching these television relics?

I mean it isn't like they are the only way to get political information. Usually the questions are pretty soft and when they aren't soft, the guests are experienced enough to avoid answering them. Further, if something really newsworthy did come out of a Sunday talk show, you could probably watch a clip of it on the Internet.

What is so infuriating about the American media is how seldom crucial questions or issues are never addressed. Here is an example: Republicans have been telling us since the days of Ol' St. Ronnie that tax cuts lead to more jobs. They don't and that fact has been proved by more than one study. Yet, very seldom do you see a interviewer on a talking head show bring that point up with a Republican guest.

Here's another example: Republicans say they want to avoid excess governmental regulation that helps consumers if a company takes advantage of them. So, assuming that's true, then what remedy do they propose for someone who is killed or seriously injured by a defective product? After all, they don't like lawsuits either so what are consumers to do? Just get injured or killed without any protection?

I could go on, but you get the point. I suspect these questions aren't being asked because the companies who buy ads on the talking heads shows don't want such questions asked. So instead we get week after week of Republicans telling us how much of a socialist Barack Obama is even though he has adopted many of their ideas such as healthcare mandates.

You can keep watching if you like, but as for me, I long ago stopped watching these shows and I have never regretted that decision.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Economic Liberalism and Social Liberalism

If you look at the Democratic nominees for president since 1932, those that have won have done so by stressing economic liberalism. "Economic liberalism" uses the power of the government to expand economic opportunities for all Americans, but especially for working class Americans, or by increasing the social safety net.

Examples are Social Security, Medicare, minimum wage laws, allowing unions to organize, work place safety laws, regulations regarding corporate activities, and laws regulating damage to the environment. When political campaigns are fought over these kind of issues, it is much easier for Democrats to win.

When, however, they are fought over issues of social liberalism, however, it is much more difficult for Democrats to win. "Social liberalism" uses the power of the government to change the way people in our society interact with each other. Examples of such laws are laws that change gender rules, change racial rules, and change sexual rules.

Another example of "social liberalism" would be using the power of the government to change personal behavior. An example of such use would be outlawing the ownership of certain firearms, or regulating their use and possession.

"Economic liberalism" pits the interests of the overwhelming majority of Americans against the interest of economic elites. "Social liberalism" often pits the interests of one group of Americans against another group of Americans. When that happens it is much easier for Republicans to win.

This is because each party's strength is also its weakness. The strength of the Republican party is that it is relatively homogeneous. It is mostly white, mostly middle class to upper class, mostly religiously conservative, and mostly run by males. Because they are more alike, it is easier for Republicans to get along and more difficult for Democrats to peel votes away from Republicans.

The Democratic Party is a coalition party. The strength of the Democratic Party is that it is easier to attract new voters to a coalition party. If you look at the voting history of immigrants to America, they often start out voting Democratic. That was true of the Irish and Italians and it is true of Hispanics today.

The weakness of such a party, though, is that it is easier to peel votes away from the coalition by arguing that one part of the coalition is inherently opposed to another part of the coalition. An example of such tactics is the so-called "Southern Strategy" used by Nixon, and Republicans since Nixon, to carry the South. The genesis of this strategy was southern white resentment over the passage of Civil Rights laws under the Johnson administration.

What Democrats need to do, then, is to stress economic liberalism over social liberalism. This doesn't mean giving up on issues like civil rights for minorities, or fighting for equal employment laws for women. What it does mean, though, is stressing policies that help middle class and working class Americans. In political campaigns, it isn't just the policies that are important, it is the tone in which the campaign is run.

Another example of

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why Bloomberg Wants a Third Candidate for President

So here's this article from the Washington Post telling how Michael Bloomberg and a group calling itself America Elects wants to run a third person for president in 2012:

The theory seems to be that both parties are equally to blame for the fact that the United States government isn't working too well these days. This is another example of the "both sides are equally to blame" school of political analysis that seems so prevalent today. (Here is a good critique of this group by the Washington Monthly.)

What I find interesting isn't the fact that such a group exists but that N.Y.C. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is involved. This is a guy who is very, very rich. He is a person who is socially liberal but pretty conservative fiscally. So why is he involved in this project?

My theory is that he wants to defeat Obama and help the GOP nominee, which will probably be Romney. I think that he knows that Obama is likely to beat Romney and wants to make sure that voters who don't like Romney have someplace else to go besides Obama. Or that voters who aren't as conservative as the GOP but don't like Obama have someplace else to go.

Why would he do that? Because like a lot of fiscal conservatives he wants to make major changes to social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He wants to make sure that Wall Street isn't regulated and he wants to get back at Obama for his support of the Dodd-Franks financial regulation bill.

It is interesting to note that the politicians mentioned in this article, Bloomberg and Whitman, are what used to be called "moderate" Republicans. That fact alone would make me suspicious of this group's intentions.

This group already has ballot space lined up for Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and Michigan. All states that are expected to be battleground states in 2012 and all states that Obama carried in 2008. Although the article mentions that it is headed for the ballot in other unnamed states, it is fascinating that the only states mentioned are states that are crucial to Obama's re-election strategy.

This group has also registered itself as a "social welfare" organization so that it can avoid making its donors public. So what we have is a group which has prominent former GOP elected officials working to run a candidate for president in critical states that won't tell us who its contributors are or how much they gave. And we are supposed to believe that this group doesn't have a partisan agenda?

By the way if you think that I am needlessly worried about this group getting candidates on the ballot in states like Ohio,think about this: Nader got George W. Bush elected in 2000 by getting less than 5% of the vote in Florida.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Wall Street’s Hippie Culture

It has been amusing to me to hear some of Wall Street’s current crop of Masters of the Universe dismiss the Occupy Wall Street protestors as a “bunch of hippies”. What is funny about their doing so is this.

At age 67, I am old enough to have known some actual hippies and their philosophy, which they often distilled down to the single expression: “Do your own thing, man.” But isn’t that precisely what these investment bankers also offered—and still are offering—as their own philosophy, and isn’t it that philosophy which got us into the terrible economic mess the OWS people are now protesting?

It certainly seems so to me. What the investment bankers and their apologists told us again and again over the past three decades is that regulatory restraints on their behavior were bad. They repeatedly told us that if they were simply allowed to do their own thing that something they called “the market” would prevent them from engaging in antisocial behavior and that a great and widely-shared prosperity would result.

So deeply did they believe in this philosophy that they set about creating think tanks and resident experts to push the philosophy in the news media and before congressional committees and in other forums. They drew upon wealthy ultraconservative financial backers to provide the financial support for their proselytizing on behalf of this philosophy. And so persistent were they in their efforts that their philosophy, at first gradually and then with ever-greater force, took hold across our entire society as one after another restraint on their behavior was either prevented from coming into existence or wiped from the books.

As do many proselytizers, they needed an old written and somewhat inaccessible text to use in offering appeals to authority in response to common-sense questions about why their philosophy should be followed. To meet this need, they offered up The Wealth of Nations and its decent and careful author, Adam Smith.

But, as often happens when an old text is used to justify a new philosophy, they quoted the text and its author selectively. In fact, they were so selective that, to listen to these anti-government types describe them, all of Adam Smith’s philosophy and all of his 600-page treatise came down to the single concept of the invisible hand. They insisted that Smith’s philosophy was the following: everyone should just pursue his or her own individual self-interest and that the result would be generalized prosperity. In other words, they said, Smith’s message was that we should all just do our own thing.

So successful were they on pushing this concept that the average American has no idea that Smith also favored usury laws and bank regulation and a tax system under which the rich paid a higher tax rate than those making less than them–or that he worried that the government might become the captive of the wealthy and be used largely to protect their property interests instead of promoting the public good.

And so it came to pass that the investment bankers were allowed to do their own thing and create the terrible economic mess we have on our hands today: the very mess that the people in the park are protesting, the very mess which we taxpayers across the country had to rescue them from, the very mess which cost so many people their jobs and their pensions and their homes.

But even after this massive and very public failure of their philosophy, from the lofty heights of their glass towers the bankers look down on the protestors with disdain and call them hippies.

There is much irony in this, isn’t there?

For while I didn’t much agree with the philosophy of the original hippies, at least I’ll give them this: unlike this bespoke-suited new generation of hippies, they didn’t go running to the government to save them if their philosophical choices ended up making a mess of their lives.

David N. Brown

Medina, Ohio