Saturday, August 07, 2010

Dr. Evil brings flying monkeys to Wisconsin.

Hi everybody,

This season's political hyno-meme from the right wing will be the national debt since... well, they can't run on anything they've actually said or done in the past decade.

I noticed that a bunch of local Republican politicians in Wisconsin began using it all at the same time, and then a few commercials appeared with debt as their central theme: again, at the same time.

So, looks like debt is the drum beat for this year's Republican lock stepping. It is, of course, a wedge issue disguised as accounting.

Saturday's column.

You know the political season is getting started when you catch sight of your very first flying monkey. It lets you know the migration is underway. More are coming. This year’s first flying monkey is a Republican talking point and it appeared in a cute commercial I saw last week.

It shows Uncle Sam digging a big hole. A voice says the national debt is too big. A little girl appears at the edge of the hole and asks Uncle Sam to stop digging. The end. Looks good, right? Too much debt is bad for the country. I’m nodding and starting to consider sending in my Tea Party membership form -- until the fine print appeared. The commercial was financed by something called the Employment Policies Institute. Hmm, says me. Where there’s flying monkeys there’s usually a wicked witch.

There is.

This flying monkey will be the first of many howling about the national debt. The national debt will be this year’s OJ Simpson trial. Like all effective propaganda, it’ll be diverting but irrelevant, make some of the participants lots of money, and will be designed to circumvent the public interest.

Mainly, this year, howling about national debt is intended to give us all amnesia. The Republican Party needs to make the rest of us forget that they have no new ideas, that everything they’ve said in the last 2 years is a retread of the same economic policies that put us in the current mess we’re in. Maybe the Tea Party needs a new flag that says “Don’t Re-Tread on Me!” I’d fly that one.

For nearly 30 years Republicans have clung to an economic model grounded in the Wild West and an ethics grounded in Greed is Good, and they aren’t going to sober up just because they crashed the entire economy two years ago. Even though David Stockman (Ronald Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget) and Alan Greenspan have come out against current Republican economic strategies, nobody in the Party apparently wants to hear “last call” on the Bush Tax-Holiday they’ve been enjoying. The best way to keep the party going is to make sure that their owners, the wealthiest 1% of Americans, continue to enjoy the good life -- even if that means putting the deficit, and our national debt, and the rest of us, into an even deeper hole.

Just like in the commercial. Get it?

It’s perfect Rovian misdirection. They’re going to distract everyone this year by blaming Democrats for the national debt even though, historically, Republicans have not demonstrated any more restraint on spending than Democrats.

The distraction is already working.

I’m afraid even Mr. Gannon, who appeared in a guest editorial last week to take issue with my column on Senator Feingold’s record of fiscal responsibility, has been taken in by this attractively howling propaganda. He wrote that after 2006, while Democrats were in control of Congress, the national debt increased dramatically -- and from this it's clear that the national debt is the Democrats' fault, right?

Only partially. The observation is accurate but it’s more truthy, as Steven Colbert would say, than true. It overlooks the fact that although Congress passes bills, only a President can sign them into law.

What about Presidents and the national debt?

If we map US Presidents against increases to the national debt, in point of truthy fact, we find that the largest increases in history took place under Presidents Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. In fact, since 1945, as a percentage of GDP, the national debt has NEVER INCREASED when a Democrat was President of the United States.


Weird, right? I know. And yet, there it is.

That is how flying monkeys work.

It’s enough to make you wonder about what’s true -- and that’s where we all have to begin: we have to wonder about what’s true and then go find out.

But there are people who want to make this difficult for us and one of those people created that new commercial on the national debt. He isn’t a witch, so far as I know, but back in July 2007, 60 Minutes called him “Dr. Evil”.

His name is Rick Berman.

Mr. Berman operates over 15 ‘advocacy’ groups to promote the interests of his clients. He got his start working for the tobacco industry. He has a couple of anti-union websites, one specifically targeting teachers unions for working against the interests of teachers. There’s a monkey with wings on it. Oh, and one called “PETA kills animals” and a group that fights tightening laws against drunk driving. He was also the first to attack ACORN, on behalf of the restaurant industry, because ACORN supported a minimum wage the food industry opposed. And remember that flying monkey about minimum wages actually hurting the poor? That was one of his. In fact, the idea that a minimum wage is bad for the poor and would actually drive the poor out of the job market is the operational theme for the Employment Policies Institute, the same “group” that sponsored that cute flying monkey of a defeat-the-debt commercial. [They've already released a second commercial in Wisconsin this week.]

So, be careful around the flying monkeys this year. They aren’t dangerous by themselves, but they are distracting and, while you’re caught by the spectacle, one of them is likely to grab Toto.

And remember, they don’t work for you.




DanBack said...

I'm not into the headline your editor wrote.

Mpeterson said...

lol. They ignore my suggestions in favor of cheesy. Maybe there's something I don't understand about their readers...

monte.schmiege said...

With respect to your blaming Regan's tax cuts for higher debt and your claim that the top 1% don't pay their fair share (whatever that is), please see this from the Joint Economic Committee of Congress in 1996:

It is rare that the Executive and Legislative branches are overwhelmingly controlled by one party. When not, there's horse-trading that often involves spending, bribing, or extorting, whichever you prefer. Unfortunately, that's the nature of the beast. When we have one party rule, as now, all limits are off unless the pary ruling has common sense. It's pretty clear, the Obamacrats have no common sense.

The recently passed Stimulus 9, or whichever it is, is an example. More money to bribe the unions and educrats, extorting from the states to spend even more in the future, requiring them to raise education spending or give back to the federales the gifts received.

In this way, my money goes to profligates and spendthrifts and lines the pockets of extortionists and blackhearts. It's not about education. I bet the best education could be done for one quarter of what is spent if mom and pop were serious about their kid's educations and less so about their recreations. It's not about education. It's about political power, favors and favorites. It stinks, pure and simple.

And the Republicans who are elected in November better know the meaning of thrift, or they will be goners, too.

Mpeterson said...

I'm well aware of it, and thank you Mr. Schmiege for posting it up. I guess I'd say that any document which begins by calling the CBO out as under the thumb of the other party makes me wonder about it's objectivity. I'm afraid I'm unable to make the Mellon situation fit into the 1980's and trust Mr. Reagan's budget director -- as I did then, in fact -- who gave a much better prediction of the results of voodoo economics. We got lots of voodoo and not a lot of economics.

What we do know is that in the past 30 years the rich have gotten richer and had their tax burden cut in half, while the poor got poorer and those of us in the middle class have seen our wages go nowhere.

I'm unable to believe you'd find that to be a good way to implement the Constitutional charge to promote the general welfare. You don't do that by making more poor people and shipping jobs overseas.

For "fair share" I'd urge you to look into the work of John Rawls, John Dewey, and Aristotle. If you plot a regression you'll land roughly on my understanding of what "fair" should be.

On the other hand, I find myself unable to disagree with much of what you've said. I repeat it on a regular basis: I haven't seen a real Republican fiscal conservative since the 1970s.... maybe Bob Dole. Otherwise, the Republicans have been taken over by a bunch of whack jobs with a social mission that's outweighed what we used to count on as sound economic sense.

Thank you again for your comments.