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

20 September 2011


To the wolf, the sound of a trap slamming shut is a terrible thing. A shaft of pain accompanies the noise. To the sheep and the farmer, it is a comforting sound. It signifies one more predator off the field.

So it was yesterday when the President promised to veto any debt-reduction bill that does not raise taxes on the wealthy.

The henchmen of the middle class’ assassins—Messrs Boehner and McConnell—apparently didn’t feel the pain. After all, they are not the wolves; they are the wolves’ shills. So blithely and dumbly they stuck to their script. Boehner went so far as to decry “this administration’s insistence on raising taxes on job creators[.]”

But people who are unemployed or worried about becoming unemployed are tired of hearing that refrain. If the rich who shun taxes are “job creators,” what jobs do they offer? And when will they start?

Their taxes are nearly the lowest they’ve ever been. Corporations have the largest collective cash hoard in memory, variously estimated as between $1.5 and $2 trillion dollars. And their costs to borrow more are next to zero, thanks to the Fed printing money.

This situation has pertained for more than a year. So where are the jobs?

There are only two possible answers. Either the “job creators” are waiting to remove the President from office and make their kleptocracy complete. Or, whatever happens in politics, they won’t create jobs until demand picks up. In the second case, our economy has to pick itself up by its bootstraps without their help. Some “job creators”!

Everyone who can read and reason now knows there is no other realistic possibility. Cutting taxes on the rich won’t produce jobs—not even if we cut them to zero—because their goals have nothing directly to do with jobs. They want to make money by selling things, which requires demand. You can’t sell things if you have no customers. Or maybe they think they can “run the table” by clearing all progressive or even centrist opposition if they just keep the myths and lies alive a little longer. How even that will create demand they don’t say.

As always, the President’s timing was impeccable. He waited for the news to sink in about the Republican debate in which every single GOP candidate rejected a hypothetical debt-reduction deal with ten parts spending cuts and one part tax increases. Now everyone who follows the news knows that the GOP is the American Taliban, following bearded imam Grover Norquist to martyrdom regardless of the consequences—the same Norquist who would turn our students into indentured servants.

The President’s proposal of yesterday is not too far from the hypothetical case that all Republican candidates rejected. It consists of $800 billion in tax increases for $3 trillion in debt reduction, or a ratio of spending cuts to tax increases of a bit less than three to one. If the GOP’s presidential candidates are serious about not accepting a ten-to-one deal, the party surely won’t take three to one.

Thus, you might say all this is political theater. But more to the point, it’s all part of teaching the retarded. Informed people who follow the news know what the GOP’s real goals are. The so-called independents—people who don’t know or care enough to focus for more than a few minutes a year—need to be taught.

So we are in a nationwide course in experiential learning, and the President is our teacher-in-chief.

For people like me, who’ve followed the President closely for four years now, none of this is a surprise. He is a master of timing. And as a former professor he can assess his “students’” abysmal state of ignorance and indoctrination.

With so many biased against him based (consciously or unconsciously) on nothing more than his dual race, he could not risk seeming intransigent himself. So he had to let the GOP drive itself into an extremist corner. And now it has. There’s nothing it can do. Like the Taliban, it has tied itself up in knots of orthodoxy. Imam Norquist will have his due.

This is just the first of many traps the President will spring as the campaign season gets under way. When the series is done, the wolves’ shills will be boxed, caged and hog tied, and the President will win. The more vital question is whether he can bring the House with him and enough of the Senate to overcome the automatic filibuster and get something done.

Yet there is one other question. How long will it take his fair-weather supporters—the perpetual carpers, whiners and lamenters—to see the game and wise up? The answer is largely of sociological, not political, importance because at the end of the day, they will have to support him. The alternative will just be too horrible, even if it’s not Perry. Those who didn’t learn to vote for the lesser of two evils in 2000 should have by now.

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  • At Tue Sep 20, 11:18:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I sure hope your right that the "president will win" a second term.

    But I'm afraid the voting masses will want to make a change just for the sake of change because it may make them feel empowered. It is also scary that just when you don't think the GOP will find anyone dumber than Sara Palin, they go out and find Michele Bachmann!

    I'm hopeful that given the president's fund raising skills that he'll run enough 30 second commercials (the average voters attention span if it is not too serious of a commercial)to gather enough votes for four more years.

    Best, R.H.

  • At Wed Sep 21, 08:53:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Jason said…

    Good post, Jay. I love your take on independents. I get so tired of watching the mainstream media (especially CNN) romanticize the "independents" in every election season, running endless man-on-the-street interviews with the sort of hapless nitwits who can't decide whether Sarah Palin or Joe Biden would be a better Vice President. The larger the rock someone's been living under all his life, the more likely CNN is to thrust a microphone in his face and broadcast his political opinions on national television.

  • At Fri Sep 23, 05:34:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm one of Obama's perpetual carpers and whiners. His approval is hovering around 39%, because he is incredibly weak and unwilling to stick his neck out for anyone who doesn't have deep pockets. He's also very conservative for a Democrat, to the extent that he is more concerned about the long term debt vs. unemployment in the present. Obama has surrounded himself by bankers and insiders and systematically rooted out progressive voices in his administration. There's a legitimate argument to be made that maybe the Democratic Party needs to lose this election in order to make the point that it can never again alienate its base. And maybe America needs to suffer through another Republican administration, in order to learn the lesson we should have learned after Bush's first term.

  • At Sat Sep 24, 09:36:00 AM EDT, Blogger jay said…

    Dear Anonymous,

    I suspect you are the same person who made a similar comment to my post “Why Obama Will Win Again . . .” So I refer you and other readers to that comment and my replies (the last three comments).

    But there are two points worth making again. First, no evaluation of the President can be complete without a full list of his accomplishments.

    Besides saving us and the world from a second Great Depression, he’s: (1) gotten thirty million people health insurance, (2) ended “pre-existing condition” exclusions, (3) ended canceling your insurance when you get sick, (4) ended “Don’t ask—don’t tell,” (5) toughened environmental regulations to deal with carbon and global warming, (6) got auto makers to agree to vastly increase fuel efficiency, (7) provided subsidies for clean energy and green jobs (which are now under attack), (8) killed bin Laden (something his two predecessors could not do!), (9) begun to wind down our two endless wars, (10) took down Al Qaeda without declaring war on sixty countries, (11) found a decent strategy (drones and ninjas, not big wars) to fight terrorists, (12) passed legislation that will considerably downsize our military-industrial complex if congressional gridlock remains, and (13) increased our cooperation with Russia, China, India and the developing world in both counterterrorism and economic development.

    All of these are solid accomplishments, and all are on the progressive side. None of them would have occurred in a GOP administration.

    The President is not “incredibly weak.” He’s cerebral, deliberate and thoughtful. That’s something new in American politics. If you prefer the persona of shouters like Limbaugh and Beck, imagine what living under their rule would be like.

    And if you think we need “purging” with a Republican administration to reach true progressive Nirvana, I couldn’t disagree more. We just survived eight years of GOP rule under Dubya, and they nearly destroyed us. Have you forgotten so quickly?

    The GOP is no longer a political party. It’s a cabal that has collected every extremist in the nation—xenophobes, racists, anti-abortion nuts, homophobes, gun-nuts, radical libertarians, and immigrant bashers—and somehow got them to support bossiest policies favoring corporations and the obscenely rich. Do you think our Republic can survive four more years of rule by such a gang, let alone eight, when it’s just barely limping along under a good president hobbled by Congress?

    There are no shortcuts to restoring our democracy, let alone our greatness. It’s going to be a long, hard slog. Going backward is not an option, which is what any GOP administration would do.



  • At Sat Sep 24, 11:01:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dear First Anonymous and Jason,

    In different ways, your comments reveal a flaw in the very fabric of our democracy.

    Our Founders worried about “faction,” or partisanship, but didn’t do much to prevent it. In fact, they started our earliest political parties.

    Faction is not so bad when the parties are fluid and flexible. They are most often in parliamentary democracies, in which several parties often must form a coalition in order to govern. But what happens when there are only two factions, and they become ossified, as with us?

    The outcome then is close to anarchy. The nation vacillates between extremes, and nothing gets done. Or what gets done in one regime gets undone in the next, as the GOP is threatening to do with so-called “Obamacare.”

    Worse yet, those not in either opposing faction—mostly those who don’t know or care—end up controlling the country. They are hardly the best ruling class.

    I think the President understands this dynamic and is trying to arrest it with bipartisanship. At times, that approach frustrates progressives (conservatives, too!). But there is a real risk that, absent some general political breakthrough not evident today, our political duopoly—which puts clueless and manipulated independents in charge—could become a stable dystopia.

    A third party might destabilize the duopoly. But if it came from the progressive side, it would inevitably produce a GOP victory. I don’t think we can afford to take that chance with the GOP in its present state. So the President’s dissatisfying brand of bipartisanship may be the only effective antidote that we can suffer now.

    More generally, this problem throws a shadow over the very theory of democracy. I am working on an essay on these points, comparing Western democracy with China’s government. In it, I reach some surprising and disturbing conclusions about the relative efficacy of China’s government and ours, especially with regard to stability, continuity and successorship.

    Unfortunately, the essay is a bit long-winded, but I hope at least some readers will have the patience to wade through it.



  • At Sun Oct 09, 03:19:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Joe said…

    All the pseudo-intellectual rationalizations you engage in do not change the fact Obama is nothing more than a classic tax and spend Democrat whose only credentials for the job was a short legislative stint and experience as a community organizer, whatever that is.

    I find it offensive that you see legitimate criticisms of his policies as racism. That is an old card that has no place in a rational political debate. Herman Cain's growing popularity should be enough to tell you Obama's opposition is based on ideology and not race.

    I am continually amazed by the unwavering support Obama receives from his own party despite all the evidence he has no problem abandoning them if it serves him politically. His willingness to consider cutting Medicare and Social Security, the corruption and crony-capitalism that is Solyndra, and his appeasement of Goldman Sachs should be enough to open the eyes of most Democrats to his true nature.

    I am making an assumption here, but if you have the resources to be able to donate 10K to his campaign, you are likely in the group he is targeting for not paying their "fair share". May I suggest, in the spirit of his desire for wealth redistribution, that you send a check directly to me?

    Joe Minnehan
    Des Moines, Iowa

  • At Sun Oct 09, 06:07:00 PM EDT, Blogger jay said…

    Dear Joe,

    That fact that you bothered to submit a comment to a blog with which you seem to disagree suggests that you may not be so sure as you sound. So I’ll treat you as persuadable.

    Let me start with your last paragraph, which I think lies at the root of your doubt.

    I and people like me are not your class enemy. I worked hard for 45 years, in three careers since college, to get where I am. I’m comfortable, but not rich. And as I've written publicly, I would be happy to pay higher taxes if they would go to educating you or your kids, paying teachers, police and firefighters, building infrastructure and generally making our country the kind of place that you and I would both like it to be (again).

    Your real class enemies are the people who have more money than you or I will ever see, ship our jobs overseas, and want us taxpayers to bail them out when they make stupid or dishonest decisions. Because they control Congress, the courts and the press, they’ve been able to pull that off, time and again.

    I doubt even you believe that John Boehner or Mitch McConnell will lift a finger to stop them. Think Mitt Romney will? He’s one of them.

    As for the issue of race, I don’t know you, so I make no assumptions about you personally. But I do note that Cain is a “safe” person with whom to claim racial tolerance. He has absolutely no chance of becoming the Republican nominee, let alone President, so there is no risk of being governed by him, unless (briefly) you’re eating a Godfather's pizza.

    Obama is President and we all are governed by him right now. I think a lot of people, mostly unconsciously, just don’t feel comfortable about a person of his dual race being the ultimate leader. To discover whether that applies to you, you have to imagine how you would feel if he were wholly white and look deeply into your own heart. You also might want to read my essay “One of Us.”

    The tragedy of superficial name calling like “tax and spend Democrat” is that Obama is the only politician in any position of power today who actually cares about working people and is trying to improve our lot. Why do you think he’s pushing his jobs bill so hard? And why do you think Boehner and McConnell and crew are resisting adamantly? Do you really think they care about you, your job, or your tax burden?

    Think deeply about these questions, Joe, and you may come to some surprising conclusions. Obama may not be FDR or even LBJ. But even they couldn't be what they were today, with Wall Street in virtually absolute control of every lever of power.

    He's the best we've got now and our only hope, unless you think Mitt-the-company-downsizer is on your side.




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