Touchstones

I’m afraid that TPM writer Brian Beutler’s “Biggest Challenge” piece is actually more “noise” than “touchstone” as David Kurtz calls it. It is absolutely the left-of-center CW that Obama should not have parroted GOP fiscal rhetoric, particularly on the debt. I hear it every day. It is, no doubt, true.

The trouble with the “touchstone” imprimatur is that this fact is basically irrelevant. Ask yourself if we would be materially better off if Obama had made the strong Keynesian argument early on, when only Paul Krugman and a handful of liberal economists supported such a measure. One, it would never have passed (the argument the administration made at the time about attempting a bigger initial stimulus) and two, Obama would have been way out in left field with no policy success to show for it.

Would the public be better educated about macroeconomic theory? If practically the entire global field of professional economics – from Chicago to Berlin – still doesn’t get it, I see no reason to believe that such a campaign would have educated John Q. Public to any great extent.

Obama’s problem isn’t that the public is confused about deficits or the stimulative effects of short-term deficit spending (they actually understand quite well that the government should be focusing on jobs and economic growth before deficits and debt, even Republicans), Obama’s problem is that he’s being blamed to a certain extent for the current economic conditions.

Obama’s rhetorical failure was not coming out of the bi-partisan box when the new Republican House was sworn in and calling on John Boehner to pass a jobs bill every single day since then, putting the responsibility and blame squarely where they belong. His bi-partisan Kabuki has worked wonders on the likes of Chris Matthews and David Frum but it has left the public deeply confused about who is to blame for not fixing our economic malaise.

Obama’s “biggest challenge” isn’t that he failed to differentiate saltwater from freshwater economics, it’s that he failed to differentiate the Democratic brand. That’s what too much fake bi-partisanship will do for you. In this case, not making it clear who is to blame.

The Reverse Bullworth: Come On!

You’ve seen the historic abuse of the filibuster becoming standard procedure. Now the unprecedented economic blackmail we just lived through and are fated to revisit all too soon reveals a frighteningly undemocratic new normal for how business is conducted in the Nation’s capital.

The thought occurs, why haven’t we seen this before?  Why haven’t we seen the radical right (or left for that matter) act so irresponsibly as to put the nation’s economic vitality at risk just to score political points?

Part of it maybe what I’ll call a “Reverse Bullworth.”

Remember the 1998 Warren Beatty movie, Bullworth. Come On!  You remember.  Hum along to the Bullworth Obscenity Rap:

Bullworth:
Obscenity? The rich is getting richer and richer and richer while the
middle class is getting more poor/ Making billions and billions and
billions of bucks/ well my friend if you weren’t already rich at the
start well that situation just sucks/cause the riches mother fucker in
five of us is getting ninety fuckin eight percent of it/ and every other
motherfucker in the world is left to wonder where the fuck we went with
it/ Obscenity?/ I’m a Senator/ I gotta raise $10,000 a day every day
I’m in Washington/ I ain’t getting it in South Central/ I’m gettin it in
Beverly Hills/ So I’m votin from them in the Senate the way they want
me too/ and-and-and I’m sending them my bills/ But we got babies in
South Central dying as young as they do in Peru/ We got public schools
that are nightmares/ We got a Congress that ain’t got a clue/We got kids
with submachine guns/ We got militias throwing bombs/ We got Bill just
gettin all weepy/ We got Newt blaming teenage moms/We got factories
closing down/ Where the hell did all the good jobs go? Well, I’ll tell
you where they went/My contributors make more profits makin, makin,
makin, Hirin’ kids in Mexico/ Oh a brother can work in fast food/ If he
can’t invent computer games/ But what we used to call America/ That’s
going down the drains/How’s a young man gonna meet his financial
responsibilities workin and motherfuckin Burger King? He ain’t! And
please don’t even start with that school shit/ There aint no education
going on up in that motherfucker/ Obscenity? We got a million brothers
in prison/ I mean, the walls are really rockin/But you can bet your ass
they’d all be out/If they could pay for Johnny Cochran/ The constitution
is supposed to give them an equal chance/ Well, that ain’t gonna happen
for sure/ Ain’t it time to take a little from the rich motherfucker and
give a little to the poor? I mean, those boys over there on the
monitor/ they want a government smaller and weak/ but the be speakin for
the riches 20 percent when they pretend they’re defendin the meek/ Now,
shit, fuck, cocksuker, that’s the real obscenity/ Black folks livin
with every day/ Trying to believe a mothefuckin word Democrats and
Republicans say/ Obscenity? I’m Jay Billington Bulworth And I’ve come to
say/ The Democratic party’s got some shit to pay/ It’s gonna pay it in
the ghetto/

Yeah, it’s written by that hero of liberal movie aficionados everywhere, Aaron Sorkin of West Wing and American President fame.  Who else?

Over a dozen years later, after enduring the worst Bush/Cheney and a GOP Congress could bring, and things ain’t gotten any better.  Now they’re in the process of doing to us what they couldn’t even get done with that kind of power and influence controlling the entire government, dismantling the social safety net via extortion — something they didn’t have enough balls to try under the Clinton administration. Why?

Why don’t they fear a backlash? Why didn’t they try this before?  To me, the take-away money quote that sums up the whole movie’s message was this:

Angry black woman:
Are you sayin’ the Democratic Party don’t care about the African-American community?

Bullworth:
Isn’t that OBVIOUS? You got half your kids are out of work and the other
half are in jail. Do you see ANY Democrat doing anything about it?
Certainly not me! So what’re you gonna do, vote Republican? Come on!
Come on, you’re not gonna vote Republican! Let’s call a spade a spade!

What’s the reverse of that then? The thing that kept the GOP from complete radicalization for decades (if we only knew then how bad they could truly be when unleashed) was fear of a backlash.  Because unlike minorities who had been purposely vilified and overtly ostracized and insulted by the Republic party for more than a century of fighting civil rights and Jim Crow tactics who would never switch to the other side, the white Republic base could indeed turn their backs on a GOP (and occasionally did) who have always taken pains to spread the fable that “both sides do it” and there’s not a whisper of difference between the two parties.

Now, with their uniting principle the failure and defeat of President Obama, they can afford the take one particular segment of the GOP base for granted.  The modern GOP can afford to act like terrorists, irresponsible children, just plain stubborn asshats and they will never alienate the willfully ignorant, bigoted backbone of the T-Bagger consortium no matter who they hurt in the cross-fire or how bad they make the economy.

Come on, what’re they gonna do? Vote for the black guy? Come on!
Come on, they’re not gonna vote for the black guy? Let’s call a racist a racist.