Does this really deserve its own post? Whatever happened to TMB’s commitment to quality posts?
Perhaps it’s a call for someone else to submit something … :)
One thing is necessary to appreciate the humor of the Get Fuzzy comic. Bucky is a conservative who hates both liberals and ferrets.
Eh, at least the post wasn’t about the pig and lipstick thing.
I heard both Obama and McCain will be at ground zero tomorrow. It should be quite interesting with all the “truther” loons out in full force.
I think it’s funny. Not every post can be a fully researched essay.
Keep up the good work, Dennis.
I agree that the post was sub-par (or over par – I’m not sure I understand golf metaphors yet), but I was looking for a little comedy relief, I guess.
I’m with Dennis – if this lousy comic is what it’s come to, we need more people to post.
I agree with Clayton that there needed to be a little something more to this post – at least enough text so I knew what I would be getting before I clicked the link. Perhaps a nice little paragraph about Bucky the Cat’s political stance, or perhaps just as a comment on the earlier post on photoshopping “hoax’ pictures. However, as I lack the political background or deep-thoughts which frequent this blog, I’m just going to have to nominate Clayton to write a post. If he’s the Clayton I think he is, than he’s more than up to the task of contributing a full dissertation.
I find posts like this perplexing and difficult to swallow. It is at first as if we are to take some outrageous assumption at face value, only to be slapped in the face later as we are told it was all in jest and to be laughed at, as it happened regarding moustaches at BCC. “Lighten up,” some people will say. WELL I DON’T WANT TO LIGHTEN UP, I want people to treat others fairly and with respect! I don’t think that is too much to ask.
The original posting, which I found a bit confusing, reminds us, appropriately, of the statement by Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, that the campaign is “not about the issues.”
I agree with Leo; this campaign is not about the issues.
But I think it’s silly to assume that the problem is one-sided. The Obama campaign is largely a personality thing, not an issue thing. For example:
Consider Obama’s ever-changing stance on trade. When campaigning in Ohio, he was vehemently anti-NAFTA, citing misleading statistics about how many jobs it destroyed (without citing the accompanying statistics of job creation, which exceeded job losses). Then his chief economist tells the Canadian consul, rightly disturbed about the rhetoric, that Obama’s trade talk is just political posturing. Then Obama continues his anti-trade talk, until going to San Francisco and claiming that anti-trade sentiment is the result of bitterness. This coupled with the fact that when a candidate publicly promises belligerent, unilateral trade policy while criticizing the GOP for unilateral foreign policy and how it angers our allies, I get a little disillusioned.
See what’s wrong with this picture?
For Obama, the trade issue is not really about trade. It’s about his cult of personality. He is the savior of the middle class. He will tell them what they want to hear. If they want to hear anti-Big Oil talk, despite its uselessness as a way to fix the energy problem, he will give it to them. If they want to hear anti-corporate talk, despite the fact that his corporate tax policies may destroy job-creation incentives, he will give it to them. The masses don’t like hearing the hard truth about economic tradeoffs – equality vs. growth – so Obama is not going to tell it to them.
Candidates don’t believe in issues or teach about issues; they use issues as a tool to get votes. Further, issues are a last resort. If they can use personality and fluffy rhetoric instead, they will do just that.
From the beginning, the Obama campaign has been about the cult of personality that is His Hopeness, Barack Obama. McCain’s has been about deifying then imitating Reagan while touting a war record as evidence of FP experience. Neither campaign focuses on issues.
That is not to say that all or most Obama supporters are in a cult; nor does it mean that McCain supporters are gullible idiots. Observers like Leo and I do actually look into issues and choose our candidate based on them (and have lengthy arguments about those issues). But this is in spite of the campaigns, not because of them.
Leo, let’s stop pretending that all of this is one-sided. McCain is not the only one using attack politics. McCain is not the only one drawing attention away from issues and toward his personality. The endless, dramatized, Greek-column-clad, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for”, hope and change and warm fluffy rhetoric from the Left is just as non-issue as is the Right.
I agree that Obama tried to play it both ways on trade. But so did Clinton. On trade, however, there is a difference on issues. The GOP brand of unrestricted markets will lead to job creation overseas. The Democratic brand is more sensitive to market excesses. Since the Chinese have fewer labor protections and environmental protections, some trade restrictions are in order. As a conservative, I would imagine that you are dismayed by China’s weak enforcement of intellectual property rights, and would agree with me that we need to put some restrictions on trade as the Chinese now practice it.
And I agree that personality and identity politics always plays a role. And I don’t see why it shouldn’t play some roll. Do you really think the GOP convention wasn’t about creating their own cults of personality around McCain and Palin?
As for issues in general, the GOP is running a revolution against itself. Their theme is now change, but change from what? Do they mean only Republicans can clean up the mess the Republicans have brought us? In what way does McCain-Palin differ from Bush-Cheney? The GOP can only run away from issues if they say they are for change and keep the Bush-Cheney policies, platform, and philosophy of government. If they say they are for the policies of the last eight years, then they can run on issues. Sarah Palin may not know what the Bush doctrine is, but when it is explained to her, she knows she is for it.
Steely-eyed Vladimir Putin has figured out that the court makes the king. Bush isn’t in charge. The GOP political court is. See http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article4734894.ece So if we keep the same GOP establishment and the same political philosophy, the next king will do the same things. The changes will only be cosmetic. (The term isn’t meant as an insult to Sarah Palin, though at least Sarah Palin won’t be running the government from a secure, undisclosed location.)
The reason hope and change have been popular is that the vast majority of the country sees the country as on the wrong path. So when someone says he will bring change and people hope that things will change, Obama is mocked as his Hopeness by the agents of the status quo. What is hopeless is to keep the same party in office with some fresh faces (or at least one fresh face) and hope that things will really change.
Ryan, I assume you voted for Bush twice. I assume that if McCain = Bush III you don’t really have a problem with that.
Ryan’s comment, and he does have some very thoughtful comments even though I often disagree with him, has made me think about the primaries. The primaries on both sides were largely issue free. The differences among the Democratic candidates on the issues were relatively small, with the exception of the liberal Dennis Kucinich. On the Republican side, the differences among the candidates on the issues were also relatively small, with the exception of the libertarian Ron Paul. The system didn’t allow the ideas of Kucinich or Paul to get much traction, not because their ideas lacked merit, but because the candidates were perceived to be marginal candidates. At any rate the primaries were largely issueless.
The general election, however, should not be issueless, but we are heading into a campaign where the media and the electorate are not yet focusing on the issues. You can blame one party or the other or the media or the electorate for that, but that is the current state of the campaign. An issueless campaign generally favors the status quo, but everyone says they are for change this year. Go figure.
Maybe I’m just falling behind here, but I just figured out that Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment last week was nothing new. He used it before Palin came along and McCain himself has also used it before. For once, I’m actually glad I sat through clips of “The View.” :)
Here are a couple of clips:
I was a McCain supporter a year ago. I am not anymore. When you and I debate, I come off as a conservative because you predictably side with Obama, regardless of the merit of his case. I have the same effect on the conservatives I argue with, who assume I am a liberal. I am definitely right of center, but not as much as you think.
With the job issue, I am still, after all this time, interested in a discussion of tradeoffs. I criticize Obama’s economic policies not because they lack merit. They will be effective at reducing inequality and increasing fairness, which is important. But the tradeoff is that those same policies will not create jobs. Who do you suppose creates the jobs in this country? It is the owners of capital, the upper-middle class and above. Raising taxes on the “rich”, increasing capital gains taxes, and going after corporations is a worthy plan for reducing inequality. But it is also a good way to reduce/eliminate incentives for investment in things that will create jobs. This is very, very basic, Econ 100 stuff. What Obama refuses to talk about is the tradeoff: by increasing equality, he is also reducing our ability to grow and increase the size of the pie for everyone.
Trade, on net, creates more jobs than it destroys. Perhaps it is unfair to some to level the trade playing field; but it is unfair to others, who could gain from it, to be protectionist. The solution to trade problems is not protectionism (although in some cases, like the intellectual property one you cite, it is appropriate. But Obama was talking about NAFTA, even blaming it for shipping jobs to CHINA! CHINA IS NOT IN NAFTA!). The solution is better training/education so that workers have the tools to remain competitive and gain from trade.
Let’s stop pretending that Obama’s plans don’t have any weaknesses. The nature of economics is that it involves tradeoffs – when some win, others lose. Increasing equality means decreasing job growth, because you change incentives. Equality is a good thing. Growth is also a good thing. These are tradeoffs.
I understand what you are saying about change, and I understand why people want it. I want it too. My problem with Obama is that the “change” element of his platform is limited to rhetoric. He doesn’t have a history of being a changemaker, nor does his platform promise to be different from what the Dem congress has been doing (or not doing) for two years. So, yes, he will bring change compared to the Bush admin. But this talk about fundamentally changing Washington is absolute baloney. That place rarely changes, especially when the person who claims to change it is a product of its partisan politics. Obama’s platform is not going to really change Washington.
As an expansion of my statement, “when some win, others lose”: sometimes the winners end up losing. Government handouts help people in the short run, but eliminating incentives for job creation may hurt them more in the long run. Jobs are better than handouts, and high taxes on capital discourage firms from creating jobs.
It is often assumed that there is a trade-off between growth and economic equality. While this may well be true to some extent, I am not convinced that the trade off is as automatic or as dangerous to growth as believed. Moreover, carried to extremes, economic inequality is counterproductive to social order and growth. In any event, the government has been leaning so far to the growth at all costs side (against the environment, against the middle and lower class, against regulation) that it is time to put in some balance. The more regulated and socialized economies of Western Europe have still managed respectable economic growth while avoiding to a large extent many of the social evils of inequality.
Sound economic growth will require sound investment in R & D, education, immigration reform, better market regulation, a discussion of a national industrial policy, and a new energy policy, all things the Democrats have been advocating.
My concern with NAFTA is that allowing free movement of goods while restricting the free movement of labor is economically unsound. We may also need to think about a Marshall plan for Mexico, or what JFK called an Alliance for Progress. The income gradient across the U.S.-Mexico border may be the steepest in the world. That needs to be addressed.
It is true that whether Obama or McCain is elected, there will have to be trade-offs. People will be asked to make some sacrifices. I think it is time for the most well-to-do to make more sacrifices and for the military-industrial complex to face some cut backs. This would be real change.
An Obama administration would undoubtedly not be able to change everything in Washington. Human weaknesses and failings will remain. Special interests will remain. Our problems are so big that they will take a long time to address. The inertia of the system is so great that many things will remain unchanged. What an Obama administration could bring about is at least threefold. (1). A rejection of the plutocratic notion that growth is to be obtained primarily by tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of markets. (2). A less interventionist and unilateralist foreign policy. (3). Attention being paid to the concerns interest of groups (environmentalists, minorities, urban dwellers, etc.) that have been almost totally shut out of the White House for eight long years, while (one hopes) not totally shutting out groups on the red side of the red/blue divide (see Obama’s 2004 keynote address or his books for his recognition of their concerns). In short it would be a movement against plutocracy and warmongering, and for a deeper democracy. The Democratic Congress has made less progress on these items that might otherwise have been hoped because the GOP still controls the White House and enough of the Senate to block most Democratic initiatives.
And a McCain administration? One suspects little change or perhaps a doubling down on the Bush policies. More tax cuts, more war, and a further division of the country.
I’ve found a good website that I thought I’d share. An entertaining way to find out whether the candidates are telling the truth or whether their pants are on fire. :)
I ran into that site a couple weeks ago. I really like it because it is very user friendly. You can monitor the accuracy of different claims at a very quick glance.
Leo, I like your latest comment.
“My concern with NAFTA is that allowing free movement of goods while restricting the free movement of labor is economically unsound. We may also need to think about a Marshall plan for Mexico, or what JFK called an Alliance for Progress. The income gradient across the U.S.-Mexico border may be the steepest in the world. That needs to be addressed.”
I agree with that 100%. It is indeed inconsistent for the Right to claim belief in “free markets” when they don’t include labor markets in their definition. I believe McCain/Kennedy was probably the closest we’ll get to an immigration solution, and I am disappointed that Obama folded on it. It was especially disappointing when the Right railed on McCain for it (and he folded).
And, there is much more we can and should do for Mexico. Very well said.
Your argument in favor of Obama is very persuasive – the most persuasive I’ve heard yet, since it has cut out the nonsense that accompanies all his promises. You said, “(1). A rejection of the plutocratic notion that growth is to be obtained primarily by tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of markets. (2). A less interventionist and unilateralist foreign policy. (3). Attention being paid to the concerns interest of groups”.
I think in office he will stick to #2, though his trade rhetoric should be considered unilateralist (hence Canada’s concern).
3. With regards to growth and wealth inequality:
Let’s not forget that the poorest in America already don’t pay taxes – in fact, the bottom 40% of America receive money from the government. Further, in percentage terms, the Bush tax cuts (though I don’t support them) had larger tax cuts for the poor. This “tax cuts for the rich” rhetoric is true in dollar terms, but when the bottom half of the country already doesn’t pay taxes, it’s hard to imagine a tax cut that hands them even more money that what a minimal marginal cut for the rich would do. In other words, while we have a long way to go for inequality, let’s stop pretending that the rich aren’t paying taxes. Those who make anything near $200,000 per year are paying at least half their money to taxes, which is a pretty big commitment.
Your comments about growth are, mostly, unsubstantiated by economic empirics or theory (though they may be true). The bottom line is, for the private sector to create jobs, they must have incentives. Anybody who has taken a Finance class knows that investment decisions – aka jobs – depend directly on tax rates. Increase tax rates, investments automatically go down.
Yes, inequality has an effect on growth. The largest effect, in the literature, is that it causes voters to demand economic policies that will stifle growth (as is happening now). We can probably thank Reagan for the current problems, as much as anyone.
Further, political instability is an obvious effect, as you argue, but not as proximate as skewed incentives. In other words, I’m asking for some balance. AND, some honesty. Let’s make a plan that addresses inequality while maintaining incentives for job growth. Obama’s plan only does the former, though he promises both (disingenuously).
As for R&D, I agree that the government could do better. But the problem is political capture. For example, the corn ethanol debacle. Had the private sector tried ethanol, without the govt, it would have quickly recognized the problem and moved on to a new idea. But the government, once committed, is stuck to ideas no matter how bad they are. An even better way to spur R&D is to create incentives for the private sector – for example, the pigovian gas tax which provides huge incentives for alternative energy development without the government having to spend a dime. I believe that conservatives are wrong when they assume the government should never intervene – this kind of tax is a great intervention. But I also believe that liberals are wrong when they assume the government should do all the heavy lifting. The government should create environments in which the private sector develops solutions. This is much more efficient.
I believe that the government can have tremendous influence over the direction of the economy without having to make the investment choices that government is so bad at (again, political capture and its consequences). Government should seek to guide the private sector in the direction that best serves public interests. This makes straight-ticket liberals angry at me, with straight-ticket conservatives equally mad. This is the problem with partisanship.
I believe Obama contributes to this problem, just as McCain does. So forgive me if I can’t get the leg tingles that everyone else seems to have.
“The Democratic Congress has made less progress on these items that might otherwise have been hoped because the GOP still controls the White House and enough of the Senate to block most Democratic initiatives.”
Well, should Obama get elected, he will have both branches. I will be very, very surprised if he delivers even half of his big promises (like reversing the rise of the oceans). I will be even more surprised if he reduces the national debt by 1 penny. One party controlling both branches will lead to massive spending without discipline. All the criticism leveled at Bush for the debt, while valid, will be equally applicable to Obama within a year (I’ve seen estimates at between $300-400 billion increase in the deficit in the first year under Obama!!!). I’m not saying that the GOP is any better. I am simply saying that Obama is no different.
In other words, while you can currently blame the GOP for Congress’ dismal performance since the Dems took over, who will you blame if they fail when they control two branches?
And on the topic of “Obama is free from special interests”, I hope everyone saw last week’s widely reported news that Obama is the third highest recipient of money from Fannie and Freddy (behind Chris Dodd and John Kerry). I expect this from politicians of both parties, including the ones who tout their “free from special interest” credibility.