Saturday, June 04, 2011

How serious are we?

You might know I comment on a couple of blogs around Pittsburgh. On one blog (an unabashed liberal one), a particular conservative commenter complained that he wanted to a have a discussion of policy and ideas, but that liberals do not want be serious, they just make fun of people like Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum (who are, one has to admit, easy targets). Well, fair enough, I say, but when we talk about policy and ideas, what common ground are we using? Republican or Democratic talking points? Or perhaps economics? Whose economics, one might reasonably ask. Isn't there some level of economics we could reasonably agree on, such as the texts written in the 1970's by Paul Samuelson or William Baumol? The thing is, those texts would say that government spending during the Great Depression helped ameliorate that Depression and revive the economy. Which means that Republicans either have to say those icons of economic thinking (Samuelson, Baumol) were/are wrong, or concede that Obama and the Democrats had the right approach with the stimulus.

So we have these twin notions, whether we are going to talk about actual issues, and whether any Democrats can be serious. Into this conversation comes a man who has a big soapbox. Jack Kelly's column today is about the Anthony Weiner scandal, and then he turns to a peripheral point in the discussion of the Republican assault on Medicare. The Republicans may not like the fun Democrats have talking about Palin, Santorum, Trump, Gingrich and Bachmann, although it is not the Democrats fault that the Republican base makes people like that popular by paying attention to them.Yet the Republicans also want to claim to be the adults in the room, taking serious stands on government spending and the economy. Well, if you turn around and want to talk about Anthony Weiner's tweet of his erection, then you want it both ways. And saying the Democrats did it first is kind of the opposite of being the adults in the room.

Meanwhile, I have no idea about the comment that Kelly says Debbie Wasserman-Schultz made about Paul Ryan's plan. I assume that he is telling the truth, that she suggested insurance companies would be able to deny coverage and drop them for pre-existing conditions. Why wouldn't private health insurance companies be able to do these things? Could it be the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act"? The one passed by the Democrats in Congress, and signed by President Obama? I can see where Republicans would want to stress how silly it is for Representative Wasserman-Schultz to be saying that, after all, its not like the Republicans want to repeal the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act"...

Jack Kelly has no respect for his readers, he actually thinks they're (you're) stupid. He undermines any thought of having an "adult" conversation about what Republicans claim are important matters. The issues they are using to justify laying off thousands of public employees.

To me, the real story about Ryan's plan is the performance of the private health insurance corporations when they were contracted by Medicare to administer Medicare plans on behalf of the government (they ended up costing more than regular Medicare). I am sure that conservatives/Republicans will talk about that in the 2012 campaign...

In today's PG Forum pages, there is also an interesting piece on taxes by Bruce Bartlett, sort of the exact opposite of Kelly's column. Bartlett worked in the Reagan White House and for Bush one, but apparently is interested in how the economy really works. So his essay on taxes is a good reminder of how a "progressive tax" structure really works. To use income taxes as an example, let's say you make thirty grand a year as a single person. The first $8,500 is taxed at 10% and the dollars from $8,501 to $30,000 are taxed at 15%. The effective tax rate ends up being 13.5%. Bartlett argues that current US corporate taxes are at a historic low, and share the lowest rate with Turkey among OECD nations. Based on that fact and Republican rhetoric, our economy should be roaring instead of limping along with 9% unemployment (not counting the long term discouraged unemployed) and a 2.6% growth rate (negative last year, zero the year before).

I am sure that conservatives/Republicans will discuss the difference between our actual tax rates and our lack of strong economic performance (as predicted by their talking points) as they press their calls for lower taxes ...


spork_incident said...

It's been my experience that trying to have an adult, fact-based conversation with today's breed of conservative is rather like speaking Etruscan to a cat.

We're dealing with people who think that all Democrats (or conservatives who deviate from the talking point of the day) are socialists, and the term "socialism" encompasses every bad, evil, or at least non-conservative political philosophy in history (Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin).

Actual traditional, sane conservatives still exist but they seem to prefer silence to taking back their philosophy/party.

Until modern conservatives embrace basic logic, a respect for facts, and accepted definitions for words, there's no point in trying to have a rational conversation with them and ridicule is the best option.

And Jack Kelly is too hackish to be published even in World Net Daily.

A Spork in the Drawer


EdHeath said...

I do agree with you, Spork, with a couple of caveats.

I do think we will need to deal with our debt and continuing deficits eventually. But I think anybody reasonable would agree that now is not the time to do so. But the Republican switch from emphasizing unemployment last summer (before the midterms) to screaming about the debt is, to me, just insulting. And of course there are basic disagreements about how valuable extra dollars are in the hands of the wealthy (a situation involving lobbying that is uncomfortably close to corruption).

There are a few conservatives who are willing to meet liberals/progressives somewhere towards the in middle (probably not precisely there, but then some liberals don't want to move too far from the left either). That Bruce Bartlett and perhaps David Frum could be reasonable examples. The problem might be that a) Bartlett and possibly Frum might be at best almost alone and b) they might have lost any influence they have with other conservatives.

Etruscan? I think you have better odds that your average (older) conservative would understand your Etruscan than that your average (possibly younger) liberal or even me would understand how to get an Epson EPL-7500 laser printer to work with a PC running Ubuntu (hey, speaking Geek to me). Maybe the reason we have trouble getting cats to cooperate with us is because we stopped speaking Etruscan to them.

But I do agree that speaking (what was called in 1980) neoclassical economics to conservatives is surprisingly futile.

spork_incident said...

The problem with "meeting in the middle" is that that darned Overton Window has shifted so much since Carter (who, regardless of what conservatives believe, was pretty much a proto-DLC economic conservative) that the middle is pretty far to right.

I understand the political dynamics at work but the problem as I see it is nobody who matters is making a case for more progressive economic policies; yes, the debt is a major long-term problem but for the short- and middle-term the bigger problem is lack of jobs, lack of investment. "Austerity" sure as hell isn't working Europe, especially the UK. In a sane world the Ryan Plan would have been laughed into the dustbin of history rather than being treated seriously by "liberal" smarties.

spork_incident said...

Whoops, didn't mean to publish yet.

At any rate, it's pretty clear that some form of austerity is going to be inflicted on us. Huzzah.

Yeah, the likes or Frum and Bartlett have been purged from the conservative movement. Frum, especially, I don't trust anyway.

What I know about Ubuntu...well, the last time I played with a Linux distro was in the late '90's. I reckon things have changed since then!


EdHeath said...

Well, again, Spork, I agree with you but we are moving a little bit further than I intended my comment to go. I was thinking basically about people who post or comment on blogs, or at most about pundits (people who might should matter but basically don't). I have no faith that politicians will tell us the truth, except perhaps that Herman Cain will tell us truth as he sees it, and will either flame out in a nanosecond or be the most popular President in history. So I don't expect debate between the parties to be useful at all.

The Epson EPL-7500 dates from the early nineties. My problem is that things have changed since then, and my early postscript printer has been consigned to a dust bin of history.