Daily Archives: 28 Dec 2012

Drinking with Boehner

John BoehnerLook. I’ve heard that John Boehner is a chain-smoking drunk. And that’s why I want to have drinks with him. Other than his politics, he sounds like my kind of guy. That’s why we should spend an evening drinking together. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t think I’m going to change his mind about anything. Frankly, I don’t think he has much in his mind to change. Whenever I hear him railing against the president, when I hear is this: “Let’s get out of here and go have a good glass of pinot.”

In this way, we are of like minds; we are copacetic. I want to discuss all the girls he loved before. I want to know if he has any tattoos. And I want to probe him about whether it wasn’t a major mistake to major in Business Administration. If he hadn’t done that, he might be a Democrat now.

Most of all, I want to see what is going on in the inside of this man. Because I don’t think he gives a damn about the politics that he is in the center of.

At least, that’s what I want to believe. Because if he really does care about what he’s doing in Washington? Then he’s a total dick.

Afterword

I also want to explain to him how his last name is pronounced.

Chris Matthews’ Bouncing Ideology

Chris MatthewsI have long had major problems with Chris Matthews of MSNBC. Listening to him now, he really comes off like a real liberal. But I remember back when MSNBC was conservative and Matthews was right there with it. In addition, he seems to have been the major push behind MSNBC firing Phil Donahue in 2003.

There’s no doubt that Matthews is a hypocrite. Digby has written before about Matthews’ changing position on Bush. In 2003, he was very impressed with President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” photo opportunity. He said, “This week the president landed the best photo op in a very long time. Other great visuals: Ronald Reagan at the D-Day cemetery in Normandy, Bill Clinton on horseback in Wyoming. Nothing compared to this, I’ve got to say.” (Fareed Zakaria was similarly impressed.)

But in 2010, Matthews was all turned around. He said, “The incompetence became downright staggering when the Commander In Chief pranced onto an aircraft carrier with a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner flying overhead. The bozos couldn’t even get the PR right.”

We are perhaps best off assuming that people on the television are just actors. They just play a part. Put Rachel Maddow on Fox News, and she’ll mold herself into the part. I’m not saying here that Maddow or even Matthews aren’t liberal. But like anyone, they can highlight some views and suppress others. And for a million bucks (or more) per year, they can highlight anything you want.

This year, Chris Matthews is being paid to highlight this:

Stupid and Evil Deficit Scolds

Paul KrugmanKrugman posted an article that I quite agree with, A Double Shot of Misunderstanding. Basically, he says that there are two kinds of deficit scolds: stupid and evil. He doesn’t put it that way, of course; he writes for the New York Times, after all. But I feel sure that late at night he turns to Robin and says, “Those deficit scolds are a bunch of fucktards!”

The evil group (the FUCKtards) are people like Pete Peterson. They are people who claim to care about the debt, but who really only use the debt to accomplish other goals. As Matt Yglesias pointed out, Quakers running around screaming that we had to fix the debt by cutting military spending would not really be interested in the deficit. Similarly, Fix the Debt (one of Peterson’s many front groups) claims to care about the debt and yet it calls for cutting income tax rates.

Let me be clear: I understand that someone genuinely interested in the deficit might say we shouldn’t raise rates because it would hurt the economy. But to call for lowering them? That’s madness. What’s more, raising taxes on the rich will not harm the economy nearly as much as cutting spending on the poor. It is clear that the primary goal of Fix the Debt and the many other groups just like it is to cut spending on the poor. They do this because they simply don’t like these programs, not because there is anything about these programs that is destroying our budget. The following graph from Kent Conrad (who is in the stupid category discussed below) presents the following graph that ought to put our budget picture in focus:

Government Revenue when we have budget surpluses

Republicans are fond of saying, “Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.” I’ve heard John Boehner say this many times. (Note: in the video he presents extremely misleading data that depends almost entirely on the increased cost of healthcare; he is an evil man.) But the graph shows that Washington does indeed have a revenue problem. Yet the Very Serious People don’t want to deal with this. They want to “lower rates and broaden the base.” This is code for lowering rates and cutting deductions. It is a simple matter to cut taxes later. It is trivial to bring back deductions. The Very Serious People are not serious about the deficit; they are serious about inflicting pain on the poor.

The stupid group (the fuckTARDS) are composed of people like Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. As I reported yesterday, he seems to think that the Fiscal Cliff is some kind of debt explosion, when it is exactly the opposite. As Krugman says, people like Schultz are still very dangerous because they are part of Fix the Debt and allied groups. In his letter to employees, Schultz provided a link to the Fix the Debt website. (The website is a mess of platitudes; it is very hard to get to what policies they actually recommend; this is because they aren’t policies most people would agree with.)

The stupid group provides a patina of reasonableness to the whole endeavor. Sadly, this group is overflowing with Democrats. They are useful fools in what is inevitably a bait and switch. As long as one doesn’t look too closely at the evil deficit scolds’ ideas, one can assume they are good intentioned. But once it comes down to a deal, it will turn out that it is very conservative.

This is what happened with welfare “reform.” By accepting the framing that welfare somehow caused poverty, the liberals ended up destroying the program. The truth is that there is no debt problem in the United States. There is a healthcare problem: we pay twice what we should for our healthcare. But this isn’t even in the discussion of the budget. And so what the deficit discussion is really all about is cutting liberal programs that conservatives hate.

Don’t be stupid or evil.

The Danger of Coming Together

It is always a problem when I watch Ezra Klein host The Rachel Maddow Show. This is because I read Wonk Blog every day—just look at the list on the right. But every once in a while, he will put together some really great television that goes beyond what he’s already written online. He did that last night when he discussed the Starbucks call to “move together” that I discussed in a different context yesterday. This is a really great segment: