All Campaign, No Government

Congress won’t do anything significant between now and the election.  Then they’ll have a lame duck session and won’t do anything then either.  So the government is effectively shut down for the next nine months, till the end of January 2013.

I know some of us, mostly Republicans, think that’s a good thing because they want less government.  But they’re not getting less government, they’re getting outdated and inefficient government.  We desperately need reform in so many areas — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, energy, immigration, weapons systems, the tax code.

We pride ourselves on innovation and ingenuity in our business sector.  But what’s the point of having a dynamic private sector harnessed to a stagnant public sector?

Hey, GOP, Darwin and Keynes Were Both Right

I guess it’s too much to ask from folks who can’t accept Darwin, but why can’t the GOP recognize that Keynes was right?  They look at Europe and draw exactly the wrong conclusions.

From “Europe’s Ills Reach the Heart of the Presidential Race,” Richard W. Stevenson, NYT:

“But whichever side of the ocean you are on, few topics are more ideologically divisive than fiscal policy, so it is no surprise that left and right are drawing very different conclusions from what is happening.

“From one perspective, the European experience provides yet more evidence that trying to cut budget deficits too aggressively can backfire in a big way when economies in most nations remain fragile.

“Britain’s austerity experiment in particular has been judged by economists to have been ill-timed and poorly constructed at best.  It is a reminder, in the consensus view, that the basic tenets of Keynesian economics — primarily, that government spending plays a key role in maintaining demand when the private sector is struggling in a financial crisis — remain as valid as ever.

“In the United States, the British experience is being held up by Democrats and mainstream economists as an object lesson in the risks inherent in aggressive short-term budget cutting amid signs that the recovery could be losing traction again.

“However flawed the stimulus plan that Mr. Obama pushed through Congress in 2009, fiscal policy has helped the United States generate stronger growth rates coming out of the recession than Britain or the euro zone countries as a whole.”  Emphasis added.


Right Track/Wrong Track/More Wrong Track

My husband, who will vote for Mitt, keeps reminding me that back in 2008, I kept telling him to ignore head-to-head polls, favorables/unfavorables, and anything except right track/wrong track stats.  By that measure, President Obama is currently not doing well, with wrong track voters at about 61%, and right track voters at only about 32%.

But I think voters also realize that just because they think the country is on the wrong track doesn’t mean they should vote for Mitt.  I’m convinced they recognize that in addition to the right track and the wrong track, there is a “more wrong” track, and that is where the Mitt express would take us.

It’s the track that Europe’s on right now, and the GOP is all for the sort of drastic austerity that would take us further away from the right track.

It Would Be Ironic If…

I think President Obama will be re-elected.  But one of the things that could cost him the election would be if the economic crisis in Europe spins out of control and has consequences here so dire that Americans lose turn to Mitt out of panic.

It would be ironic if Europe costs Obama the election because the same policies that are ruining Europe and causing further economic contraction and suffering — too much emphasis on austerity without enough emphasis on growth — are the ones the Republicans favor and Mitt wants to impose on us.

Greece Is the Word

The false talking point that the U. S. is on the path to becoming Greece is popular among GOP politicians and pundits, designed to strike terror into voters’ hearts and make them vote for Mitt.  The effectiveness of this lie depends on voters knowing a little, but not too much.

To be scared about our becoming Greece, voters have to know that Greece is in huge trouble.  But they can’t know that the analogy doesn’t hold, that we are nothing like Greece.  Fewer votes know this.  Fewer voters will stop to think that we have our own floating currency, while Greece does not; that we have a central bank, while Greece does not; that we can print money, while Greece cannot.  Fewer voters will know the actual numbers of the incredibly low rates at which the U. S. borrows money and the incredibly high rates at which Greece borrows.

This cynical GOP strategy proves the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  A Republican victory in November relies on low-information voters.  For the Obama campaign, more information will lead to more votes.

Must Read About Our Troops

Nicholas Kristof has a breakthrough  column today, “Veterans and Brain Disease,” NYT.

He writes about the autopsy of a Marine who committed suicide after two tours in Iraq:

“His brain had been physically changed by a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E.  That’s a degenerative condition best know for affecting boxers, football players and other athletes who endure repeated blows to the head.

In people with C.T.E., an abnormal form of a protein accumulates and eventually destroys cells throughout the brain, including the frontal and temporal lobes.  Those are areas that regulate impulse control, judgment, multitasking, memory and emotions.

“That Marine was the first Iraq veteran found to have C.T.E., but experts have since autopsied a dozen or more other veterans’ brains and have repeatedly found C.T.E.  The findings raise a critical question:  Could blasts from bombs or grenades have a catastrophic impact similar to those of repeated concussions in sports, and could the rash of suicides among young veterans be a result?

“‘P.T.S.D. in a high-risk cohort like war veterans could actually be a physical disease from permanent brain damage, not a psychological disease,‘ said Bennet Omalu, the neuropathologist who examined the veteran.

“The discovery of C.T.E. in veterans could be stunningly important.  Sadly, it could also suggest that the worst is yet to come, for C.T.E. typically develops in midlife, decades after exposure.  If we are seeing C.T.E. now in war veterans, we may see much more in the coming years.

“C.T.E. leads to a degenerative loss of memory and thinking ability and, eventually, to dementia.  There is also often a pattern of depression, impulsiveness, and, all too often, suicide.  There is now no treatment, or even a way of diagnosing C.T.E. other than examining the brain after death.”  Emphasis added.

This article made me wonder if what was called “shellshock” after WWI may have been C.T.E.  Also, much of what we’re doing for our veterans right now may be a complete waste — if they have C.T.E., anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs and cognitive therapies like anger management won’t provide any relief.




Mitt’s Cotton Candy Speech

I both watched and read Mitt Romney’s speech in New Hampshire ushering in his general election campaign.  While the speech got good press, both for Mitt’s improved delivery and for its message, I thought it was nauseating.  His tone was condescending, as if we were all grade-school children, and his content was cynical.  As for policy or substance, Mitt stood before us and spun a giant cone of cotton candy.

He promised us a “better America,” but he didn’t say how.  He said that he wanted to know “what you think we can do to make this country better.”  Um, Mitt, you’re the candidate, that’s kind of your job.

But then he said he’d tell us “a little bit about myself.”  So I thought, ok, now he’s going to get into some policy.  But no, he said he’d tell us about Ann and his kids and grandkids and how much he loves this country and what a success he’d been in business.

When he said, “And after 25 years, I know how to lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job-creating economy,” I was sure he was finally about to tell us how.  But he just left us hanging again at he “knows how,” without sharing what he knows, and immediately pivoted to criticizing President Obama.

After talking about Obama’s government-centered vision, Mitt said he had a very different vision.  So again I thought he was going to offer some substance.  You know his vision?  It’s “an America driven by freedom where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans.”  Who the hell wrote that — Chauncey Gardiner?  He faults Obama for still blaming George Bush.  Mitt seemed to be blaming George III.  If only we had our freedom, if only we could pursue happiness, if only we had free enterprise…  Oh, wait, we’ve had all that for about 230 years.

The pandering was so over-the-top it could have come from an SNL sketch.  Mitt did shout outs to single moms working two jobs, couples on food stamps, and grandparents who can’t afford enough gas to visit their grandkids.  Forget all that tough primary talk, new “general election” Mitt feels your pain.

It got especially deep when he said that as he looks at the unemployed, “it breaks my heart.”  This from the guy who caused so many Americans to become unemployed when he ruthlessly ran Bain Capital, thinking only of his bottom line and not those who would hit bottom because of him.

There were the usual hyberbolic howlers:  “With Obamacare fully installed, government will come to control half the economy, and we will have effectively ceased to be a free enterprise society.”  “We’ll stop the days of apologizing for success at home and never again apologize for America abroad.”

Mitt looked good by comparison when he was surrounded by the unqualified and the extreme, by Cain and Bachmann and Gingrich and Santorum and Perry.  Without them, he looks like the same insincere empty suit he was last time around.

Terrible speech, terrible candidate, terrible campaign.

Fox News Goes After Its Mole

It’s not good to piss off Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, and Fox News.  The Fox Mole, Joe Muto, reports that they are going after him for grand larceny!  He was served with a search warrant that resulted in his iPhone, laptop, and notebooks being taken.

Muto tweets, “I should have done something more innocuous, like hacked a dead girl’s phone and interfered with a police investigation.”