Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

15 April 2011

Teaching the Retarded


In the maelstrom of daily politics, it’s easy to forget that the President is an educator. He professed about four times as long―twelve years―as he organized communities in Chicago. That length of teaching experience matched his entire political experience before he ascended to the White House.

At the University of Chicago, where he taught, his students were hardly slow ones. They were among the best in the nation. To teach them well, which he did, the President had to be a quick study. Now he’s learned how to teach much slower learners, namely, the so-called independents whose confusion and misguided votes have made our nation a dystopia.

As always, the President’s sense of timing is impeccable. Although still at some risk of inflation, the nation is visibly emerging from the economic catastrophe his predecessors aided and abetted. And the risk of a government shutdown has temporarily abated. So he now has an unbroken “semester” of nearly eighteen months, until the next presidential election, to teach the retarded what the GOP is really all about.

Quicker learners now know that the GOP has no substantive policy―at least none that makes any sense. Its energy policy is “drill, baby, drill!” But Peak Oil has passed, and the developing world is growing much faster than we are. So oil prices will rise without end, bringing us economic ruin.

As for global warming and the threat of climate change, the GOP’s policy is simple. Play the ostrich and keep your head in the sand. That policy didn’t even budge after the GOP’s most credible advocate changed his tune and accepted the conventional scientific wisdom.

The GOP’s policy for finance is as simple and as misguided. Let the Big Boys play. Don’t stop their gambling and swindling, which account for most of the business the profit we have left. And by no means let someone who understands both what they do and its huge risks (namely, Elizabeth Warren) guard the henhouse. Keep the foxes in charge.

As for other issues, the GOP recognizes none. It’s hard enough to keep human history’s greatest propaganda machine focused on the lie du jour. Disputing the President’s birthplace and legitimacy, falsifying his religion, lying about the prevalence of abortion and its causes, and lamenting the loss of small-town “values” that are historically retrograde and haven’t existed for the vast majority of Americans for decades―these are the “issues” the GOP uses to distract Americans from things that really matter.

So it’s not surprising that the GOP has focused primarily on the deficit. That’s the only drum it can bang that makes any sensible noise at all.

Never mind that Republicans from Reagan to Dubya and Cheney decreed that “deficits don’t matter” when they were in power. Never mind that a recovering and growing economy will produce more tax revenue and cure the deficits in due course, albeit slowly. Never mind that our deficit is nowhere near as big a problem as energy, global warming, financial gambling, infrastructure decay, deteriorating education, and gross inequalities of opportunity and income between the rich and the rest of us.

The deficit, at least, is real. It’s a big, scary number. It reminds ordinary people of the debt with which the GOP policy vacuum has forced them to live in order to survive. And best of all, human history’s greatest propaganda machine has managed to convince a critical mass of voters, contrary to fact and memory, that the deficit, like the Great Collapse of 2008, is all the President’s fault.

So insofar as real policy goes, as distinguished from “social” issues and the President’s race, the deficit is all the GOP has got. No wonder they bang that drum so hard; it’s the only real instrument in their band!

But now, with the GOP having backed down from being the villains in a government shut down, the President is in a position to demonstrate this fact. His is a simple proposal, which even the retarded can understand. Want to lower the deficit? Fine. Raises taxes on the rich. Don’t ask the poor and middle class to pay, either directly through an historically unfair share of taxes, or indirectly through reductions in Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and the myriad government services, from libraries to police and firefighters, which the rich can provide for themselves but the rest of us cannot.

This strategy puts the GOP in a simple fork. Agree to raise taxes on the rich, and the GOP gives the lie to their consistent trickle-down “policy” over the last thirty years. Coincidentally, they do the right thing and admit the justice of the Democrats’ position. Fail to agree, and the GOP quite visibly puts the interests of the rich and powerful above the interests of the rest of us.

Of course, that’s what the GOP’s been about for 31 years, ever since Master Swindler Reagan, which his Irish charm, stole the nation’s heart, soul and wallet. But not enough people see it yet to stop the Great Swindle that is now three decades old.

So we now have a great experiment in public education. Can a president trained as an educator overturn three decades’ worth of consistent and spectacularly effective propaganda, and teach the American people that the GOP have three goals only: (1) to win at any cost, (2) to further enrich their rich patrons, and (3) to soak the poor and middle class for that purpose and to keep them tractable?

Classes begin now and run for eighteen months. Let the teaching begin.

Footnote: In testimony before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology this March 31, Professor Richard A. Muller of the University of California at Berkeley, a self-professed climate-change skeptic, testified as follows [unpaginated page 5]:
"Did . . . poor [temperature-measurement] station quality exaggerate the estimates of global warming? We’ve studied this issue, and our preliminary answer is no. [emphasis in original]"

"The Berkeley Earth analysis shows that over the past 50 years the poor stations in the U.S. network do not show greater warming than do the good stations."

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