Author Archives: Mick

I Live in NH and Joan Walsh Is Right

Salon’s Joan Walsh has been taking it on the chin for saying that NH’s GOP Trump supporters were “lowest common denominators” (which isn’t what she actually said) and that that was “sad”. She has since clarified the LCD comment-

I actually wasn’t referring to the voters themselves (in fact, that makes no sense); I was talking about the solutions they seem to embrace for the country’s woes.

– but either way she meant it, it’s true. Their attitudes do reflect LCD thinking, are childish, are free from every response but visceral wishful thinking. I know this because I grew up here surrounded by these people and left here in large part because of them. I’ve come back after 40 yrs to find that very little has changed.

Yes, there are more progressive areas, and yes, NH did elect a Jeanne Shaheen or two while I was gone, and yes, the recent influx of employers has resulted in attracting a new set of employees from out of state (“outlanders” we call them, not with affection) that has changed the demographics of the region somewhat. But none of this regeneration has touched the hard-core NH RW. They are what they have always been: an angry, superficial tribe in search of revenge for imagined slights and in denial of any reality more complex or nuanced than you could find encased in an episode of Father Knows Best or Mayberry RFD.

They are also the kind of conservatives who would love Trump because he sounds like a bully. They like bullies. These are the same people (or their sons and daughters) who loved Joe McCarthy in the 50’s and Ross Perot in the 90’s mostly because they promised to kick the asses of people the tribe hated, chiefly Commies and FDR Democrats. Most belonged to the John Birch Society and made it a powerhouse of NH politics for 30+ years. Of course they love Trump. Of course they think he’s “classy”. He’s rich, isn’t he? These are the people who would have loved to vote for Lyndon LaRouche only he wasn’t rich enough and they couldn’t take his candidacy seriously as a result.

In today’s WaPo, David Farenthold tries to figure out Demagogue The Donald’s appeal by asking people who know him. This comment struck me as particularly spot on.

“Trump is like your Uncle George at Thanksgiving dinner, saying he knows how to solve all the problems. It’s not that he’s always wrong. It’s just that he’s an auto mechanic, not a policy guy,” said Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, which calls for reduced immigration.

That’s the best description of NH’s Trump adherents I’ve run into. The NH GOP is loaded with Uncle Georges for whom every problem is simple, every solution even simpler: force. Just do it. The Uncle Georges would agree: “Just build a damn fence. An electric fence. That’d keep the buggers out. Works on my cows.” The Uncle Georges would agree: “Just bomb the shit outa them ISIS and steal their oil so they can’t buy no more guns. That’ll fix the bastuds.”

It isn’t even that they agree with Trump. What it really is, is that he agrees with them. See, the Uncle Georges (and Aunt Millies, there are just as many women in the tribe as men, maybe more now) have been saying these same things, demanding these same solutions since WWII. When I lived here as a teenager in the 60’s, they wanted a border fence built and Vietnam (or Veet Naam as they called it) bombed out of existence. Both those “solutions” were, they believed “just common sense”. And here comes Trump, the first presidential candidate ever to put on a national stage exactly what they’ve been saying for decades, practically in their own words.

Is it any wonder, then? Trump is validation for every simplistic, childish solution to world problems that they have championed all their lives. Goldwater had some of it, Perot had some, Reagan had more than anyone, perhaps, but they all talked like politicians, to some degree weaseling out even as they put forward the UG’s and AM’s views. But Trump lays it out by saying exactly what they’d say if they had a national microphone, exactly what they’ve been saying. For decades. Mostly to long-suffering relatives.

It’s sad, alright, sadder than you think. The NH GOP has always been like this. For 50 yrs the (relatively) few rational GOP leaders, with help from the national party, kept the core NH GOP from descending into Lalaland. Their main argument – and it was a very effective one – was that NH’s First In The Nation Primary™ was singularly important to both NH’s economy and its status. If Lyndon Larouche, say, were to win the GOP primary, there was a very real risk that viable candidates – candidates with real money to spend – would decide to bypass NH the same way they did Louisiana because the NH primary would have become a national joke, irrelevant, even meaningless, to the national party.

And so the UG’s and AM’s would mutter under their collective breaths, only allowed to work up a head of oratorical steam at occasional family gatherings, and only after the beer came out. The national party was content to shush them and never tried very hard to educate them to actual realities because that would have made them useless. They were party activists because they were angry, and they were angry because those damn FDR commie Democrats were messing everything up by complicating every little problem and talking it to death. Negotiations were for pussies, real men bombed the living shit out of their enemies.

They never learned because they never had to. GOP leaders encouraged them, and Bill Loeb’s Manchester Union-Leader bucked them up by feeding them all the RW propaganda they could use and then some. They held onto their fantasies and their simple solutions, then handed them down to their kids. They’ve been waiting a long time for their candidate, and now he’s here and the country thinks he’s a clown, which means that once again, they’re clowns.

It’s a tough position to be in, in some ways. That’s why the folks in the focus group look so defensive and sound so tentative. They’re expecting that what they say will be ridiculed, as it always is, even by their own families. And of course it will be and should be, because these are people who for two generations have militantly refused to acknowledge reality or, in many cases, to learn one new thing, any new thing, since they passed into high school.

I say all this because I suspect that Trump’s appeal is to the same kind of people and for the same reasons that he hits NH’s core GOP voter. All over the country, the Uncle Georges and Aunt Millies and Cousin Tonys are hearing the same things they’ve been saying coming back to them from the guy on the tv.

And he’s rich so he must be right, ay?

Dem Base Is Not the Tea Party

WaPo pundlette Paul Waldman wants to make an article out of this: “Republicans fear their activist base. Democrats don‘t.” Like there’s something going on here. Well, there’s a couple things going on here, alright –  a mistake and the Dem elite who control the party these days.

Mistake: “The Tea Party started just as much as a movement of self-styled outsiders, but unlike activists on the left, they pursued an inside strategy from the outset, one focused clearly on elections.”

Because they were NOT outsiders. The Tea Party was started by Dick Armey with Koch Bros money and aimed at the political disruption of establishment Dems from the very beginning. Neither Armey nor the GOP establishment expected that they would use what they were taught by them on their GOP Masters. BlackLivesMatter are NOT a trained arm of Dem operatives. They have arisen from a need and are clearly not politically sophisticated yet. No comparison.

The Dem elite: The simplest way to explain why the Third Way/BD/NewDem party leaders don’t give a shit about the base is to repeat Axelrod’s comment from 2012.

“We don’t have to care. Where else are they going to go?”

“A Republican Ruse”

The Republicans haven’t taken over yet but they’ve made their plans known and it won’t come as much of a surprise that their top priorities are tax cuts. One of the very first changes will be gaming the system that tracks whether or not tax cuts work. By every legitimate measure, including common sense, they don’t. The Pubs are going to change all that.

AS Republicans take control of Congress this month, at the top of their to-do list is changing how the government measures the impact of tax cuts on federal revenue: namely, to switch from so-called static scoring to “dynamic” scoring. While seemingly arcane, the change could have significant, negative consequences for enacting sustainable, long-term fiscal policies.

Whenever new tax legislation is proposed, the nonpartisanCongressional Budget Office “scores” it, to estimate whether the bill would raise more or less revenue than existing law would.

***

[The] conventional estimates do not, however, include any indirect feedback effects that tax law changes might have on overall national income. In other words, they do not incorporate macroeconomic behavioral changes.

Dynamic scoring does. Proponents point out, correctly, that if a tax proposal is large enough, then those sorts of feedback effects can aim the entire economy on a slightly different path.

“Dynamic scoring” basically allows the injection of unjustified assumptions about the future performance of the economy. IOW, adding a baseline article of faith from Reaganomics that all tax cuts on the wealthy raise revenues and if they don’t, it’s because they weren’t deep enough.

Federal deficits are on an unsustainable path (as it happens, because of undertaxation, not excessive spending). Simply cutting taxes against the headwind of structural deficits leads to lower growth, as government borrowing soaks up an ever-increasing share of savings.

The most optimistic dynamic models get around this by assuming that the world today is in fiscal equilibrium, where the deficit does not grow continuously as a percentage of gross domestic product. But that’s not true. If you add the reality of spiraling deficits into those models, they don’t work.

To make these models work, scorekeepers must arbitrarily assume either that we tax more and spend less today than is really the case — which is what they did for the Camp bill — or assume that a tax cut today will be followed by a spending cut or tax increase tomorrow. Economists describe such a move as “making counterfactual assumptions”; the rest of us call it “making stuff up.”

Again IOW, they’re going to enshrine in law a faith-based assessment mechanism guaranteed in advance to justify both their rosy predictions and their brutal get-tough-on-the-poor cuts to human services along with their go-easy-on-corporations cuts to everything from the SEC to the FDA. They will now be able to point to government-authorized conclusions that everything is fine even as it collapses around ordinary folk not rich enough to protect themselves from it.

The Republicans’ interest in dynamic scoring is not the result of a million-economist march on Washington; it comes from political factions convinced that tax cuts are the panacea for all economic ills. They will use dynamic scoring to justify a tax cut that, under conventional scorekeeping, loses revenue.

When revenues do in fact decline and deficits rise, those same proponents will push for steep cuts in government insurance or investment programs, because they will claim that the models demand it. That is what lies inside the Trojan horse of dynamic scoring.

A win-win. When their tax cuts make the economy worse, their scoring model will demand more tax cuts as a fix.

Priority #2 is likewise financially related: further weakening if not killing outright Dodd-Frank, once again allowing banks to rig their own scams.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform law was supposed to curb speculation in swaps. But as The Journal has reported, hedge funds are increasingly using swaps to wager on whether weak firms will live or die. RadioShack, the troubled consumer electronics retailer, is one of several prominent examples. In December, RadioShack’s total debt came to about $1.4 billion, but swaps outstanding on the performance of the debt totaled $23.5 billion. Similarly, J.C. Penney, the ailing department store chain, had total debt of some $8.7 billion, but swaps outstanding on the debt totaled $19.3 billion.

Those gaps suggest excessive speculation, though it is hard, if not impossible, to gauge the precise exposure of funds to big losses. What is known is that a hedge fund that is betting on a company’s default has an incentive to push it over the edge. Conversely, a fund that is betting a troubled company will not default has an incentive to keep it afloat, at least long enough to avoid a big payout. Either way, the company becomes a pawn in a financial game.

Speculative activity is likely to increase. Last month, Congress repealed an anti-speculation provision of Dodd-Frank that would have prevented federally insured banks from conducting several types of swap transactions. In addition, the Federal Reserve recently gave the banks two extra years to meet a Dodd-Frank provision requiring them to sell their investments in private equity funds and hedge funds.

And when the 2 yrs are up, the Fed will extend the deadline for 2 more yrs and then 2 more after that and so on and so on.

The Democrat minority will, of course, “compromise” by unconditionally surrendering when their corporate sponsors tell them to.

And so it goes.

Hillary and The Liberals ’16 (Updated)

The year before an election year, it is perhaps appropriate to start talking about Democrat hopefuls, party goals, and what the base of the party – liberals – will do when the Third Way Masters decree yet another Republican-lite candidate. If we’re going to have an impact on the process, we’ve got to figure out how to make an elite that believes in coddling corporations for the sake of donations understand that there’s more to democracy than raising $$$ to get elected with.

This will not be easy. Continue reading

The Conservative Double Whammy

For several weeks now, the American Legion has been running adds asking for donations – $20 a month – to help wounded veterans from the Iraq war. Nothing wrong with that but this: the core of their pitch is that “we” made promises to take care of them that “we” didn’t keep and now it’s time for “all of us” to step up and keep “our” word to those harmed when they were in “our” service.

The tone is one of finger-wagging accusation and “you oughta be ashamed of ourself” sadness that “we” let down “our” vets by cutting the medical benefits they were supposed to get. Sounds like AL is doing its patriotic duty toward our fighting men, doesn’t it? But here’s the rub: “we” didn’t cut those services. The people who did – Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress – were universally supported, financially and otherwise, by the same American Legion that is now tut-tutting at us for allowing it to happen. Continue reading

The Myths of Christmas

Reprinted from 12.24.06 – And it will continue to be printed until the O’Reilly-originated “War on Christmas” BS ends. There’s no antidote to lies except truth.

This would be the time, if ever there was one, to reflect on the meaning of Christmas, but before we can do that to any purpose we need to clear away some of the dead wood by exploding a couple of the myths that have built up around it since the holiday became popular in the late 19th century. Chief among these is the legend that Christmas is Christian, or even religious. Continue reading

New Democrats = Old Republicans: Corporate Welfare in the Spending Bill

Democrat support for the Keystone pipeline – a favor to our domestic energy corporations and an outright give-away to a foreign energy company for which Americans will assume all the risks, financial and environmental, while reaping zero benefits for themselves – has become a flashpoint for liberal dissension from the party line, and rightfully so. Support for this pipeline as a “keystone” of US energy policy is inexcusable on every level. Even politically, it makes little sense. There is no constituency in America that’s going to benefit from this project.

Except the oil companies.

If you still doubt that the Dems have deliberately made themselves over as “the other corporate party”, you need to look at the spending bill they’re about to vote on, a bill that has active, arm-twisting support from Obama and his admin. In it are massive govt handouts, and not just to the energy industry. Continue reading