Fiscal Cliff Apocalypse

Post Fiscal CliffFor weeks now, Dean Baker has been sarcastically noting the apocalypse that news agencies like the Washington Post were predicting. Today, as I walked to the grocery store, I saw kids playing at the skateboard park—it was a nice day.

And yet: we had gone over the Fiscal Cliff! The sun shine?! The bird songs?! The utter lack of lakes of molten sulfur?! How could this be?!

So I decided to write to the brilliant Dr. Baker:

I don’t know how things are on the east coast, but here in California: burned out cars, corpses litter the landscape. I can’t believe we went over the fiscal cliff.

The horrors!

-Frank

PS: Happy new year and thanks for all your help this last year!

He responded in kind:

Pretty good—could only read this on power from the backup generator—running low on water.

Happy New Year,

Dean

Donations can be sent to:

Center for Economic and Policy Research
1611 Connecticut Avenue, NW Suite 400
Washington, DC 20009

Let’s all get through this together.

Douchebag Named Word of the Year!

Michael StrickingsMichael J.W. Stickings, the founder and head of The Reaction (where I write) is not what I normally think of as a funny guy. Just look at that picture. Doesn’t he look like a guy who beat you up in high school? Yet he was pretty funny today. He put together a new yearsy kind of article where he (following Edward Albee) goes a long way out of his way to come back a short distance correctly.

(Did I ever tell you about the time I met Edward Albee? The great thing about gay men is that young men don’t have to be anything particularly special to charm them. I know that women would say the same thing about heterosexual men. But that is useless to me. I have at least once been a young man. Anyway, Albee is a great man. But I disagree with him about At Home at the Zoo.)

Michael goes through various dictionaries’ “word of the year.” Frankly, I think such exercises are stupid. And as his summary shows: this is especially true of this year. But the word of the year according to Michael (and I agree) is… Well, let’s let Michael explain:

At this political blog of ours, though, it would appear that one word emerged this year as our winner, and it’s one that played a big role in our election coverage. No, not “hope” or “change.” Those are so 2008, and, besides, with President Obama unchallenged in the primaries and running pretty much as a known commodity in the general election, this was a year dominated by the Republicans, specifically, once the detritus was cast aside (Bachmann, Cain, Santorum, Trump, Gingrich, etc.), by Willard Mitt Romney.

And back in January, on the 19th, long before he had the nomination sown up, and with still so much drama to come, we set the tone for the year to come:

Yes, douchebag. It was our definition of Romney and it’s now our Word of the Year for 2012.

We could go with synonyms, of course. “Romney” might work. Although it never took off like santorum, a word that means “to defecate in terror” is more useful to me.

Reliving the Recount

Recount filmThere were certain liberal commentators during the first decade of this millennium who really pushed the idea that George W. Bush was smart. I tended to side with them—at least against those who said that Bush was stupid. It is clear that Bush was not stupid. But over time, I began to see that Bush was not smart. He was wily. I think that’s clear: wily, but truly smart—in the sense that I am (which is not saying that much)—no.

Watching the HBO produced movie Recount, makes me think this is more generally true of Republicans. There was no new information in the film; I know the story. But it shows it from the inside and by all accounts (especially those of Republicans), it is accurate. And what you see are a bunch of Democrats working in good faith and a bunch of Republicans gaming the system: anything to win. Nowhere is this more clear than in the Brooks Brothers riot.

Look: I understand. If you have no real grassroots support, you pretend. I understand that the Tea Party is 90% AstroTurf. Liberal groups start with no financing and no cheer leading from major media outlets. Conservative groups need a lot of help. I accept that. But to hire operatives to pretend to be protesters, that’s not acceptable. That makes ratfucking seem quaint.

At one point in the film, Ron Klain (played by Kevin Spacey) says, “I’d just like to know who won this fucking election!” This is not a question that the Republicans are asking. I think this is because the Republicans already know. There’s a reason that the Republicans put 20,000 non-felons on their list of felons who cannot vote. This is why the Republican Party is pushing to overturn the Voting Rights Act. And in the film, this is why the Democrats are thrilled at a state-wide recount and the Republicans are not. Republicans know—and there is no doubt of this—that when a lot of people vote, they lose. What’s more: if all the people voted, they would always lose—and lose big.

It is depressing to get dragged through this whole thing again. But most of all, it just reminds me of what might have been. I wasn’t a big Gore fan then and I’m not now. But can anyone question that we would be in a better position now if Gore had been made president as the actual votes in Florida indicated? It is possible that there would have been no 9/11. I don’t say this because I think so highly of Gore, but there is no question that his staff took the threat of terrorism seriously. We also wouldn’t have had the huge tax cuts. We would not have had the huge corporate giveaway that is Medicare Part D. And most of all, we would not have had the Iraq War.

But even more, the 2000 Supreme-Court-decided election did this: it proved that we only have a democracy if we fight for it, because one of our major political parties is completely against it.

Afterword

There is one critical point in the movie where Joe Lieberman breaks ranks on the counting of overseas ballots. I think a strong case can be made that this was really what lost Gore the election. Regardless, it is typical Lieberman. Lawrence O’Donnell often makes the case that Democrats in red states should be cut some slack. He specifically refers to Ben Nelson of Nebraska. But this doesn’t follow for Lieberman. He comes from a blue state. He is simply the kind of guy you don’t want on your team. Regardless of the good he does, it is outweighed by his gross incompetence and inconsistent policy positions.

These Are Not Very Bright Guys

I love this clip from All the President’s Men. It seems to sum up so much, “The truth is, these are not very bright guys.” Deep Throat says this about the Nixon White House, but this last few weeks I’ve thought it applied equally well to the Obama White House:

I think this can generally be said about the world. My experience in life is that nothing is that hard to understand. If it seems so, you have a bad teacher. But more to the point, when I was younger, I used to think that the people who ran political campaigns must be really smart. This isn’t the case. Commentators seem shocked when a campaign does something stupid. But they shouldn’t be. The campaigns are staffed by ordinary people doing the best job they can. Campaigns are messy with lots of crises. Is anyone fooled into thinking that James Carville is brilliant? “It’s the economy, stupid”? So Carville had learned the most basic finding of political science. He must be a genius!

In the case of the Obama White House, I know everyone is smart. But they aren’t that smart. If they were, they wouldn’t be relying on Republican missteps to save them.

“Forget the myths that the media’s created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys.”

Romantics Anonymous

Romantics AnonymousI have a special fondness for French comedies. They tend not to take their stories too seriously. No great effort is made to create a dramatic plot. You’ve got a boy and a girl. They try to get together, but there are problems. This is what is funny. They work out the problems without too much angst. And they kiss. Curtain.

Last night, after spending hours and hours fuming over Washington politics, I brought in the new year with a delightful comedy: Romantics Anonymous, or Les Emotifs Anonymes. It tells the story of two social misfits, Angelique and Jean-Rene. She goes to a support group for what is translated as “emotional” people. Better would be “anxious” or “socially awkward” or just “shy.” Jean-Rene ought to go to this group, but he has a private therapist instead. Most of the comedy revolves around Jean-Rene’s repeated freak-outs in his attempts to woo the obviously eager Angelique.

There is much more to the film. It all revolves around chocolate manufacture, for example. But mostly, the two main characters are just so adorable, you can’t help but enjoy being in their presence for an hour and a half. I wish I had more to say, but it really comes down to this: it made me happy, and damn little does these days.

Here is the trailer, which gives a very good idea of the film:

Afterword

Netflix recommended the film to me based upon three other films. The first was Charade. I can see that to an extent. The second was the TV series Better Off Ted. That’s kind of a stretch, but I kind of see it. The third was Moon. I have no idea how that fits. I like all of these films a great deal of course. But the connections are tenuous.

Prelude to a Catastrophe

Over the cliff and onto catastropheFor the record, the Senate Fiscal Cliff deal is worse than indicated early yesterday. It doesn’t raise capital gains tax rates as high as thought: only up to 20% and only on incomes above $450,000. It does not tax dividends as regular income. The estate tax was not raised as high as it should have been, thanks largely to fucktard Democrats. The sequester will only be delayed for two months; what’s the point? Doctors get more money, but the payroll tax holiday is ended. As I wrote this morning, this is very bad. And we get a 9-month farm bill. Nine months?!

It isn’t horrible. But again: this is all we get when the Democrats hold all the cards. Just wait for a month or two when the Republicans hold all the cards. What are they going to demand? Burnt human sacrifice? This morning, Paul Krugman points out the real demon in this deal:

So why the bad taste in progressives’ mouths? It has less to do with where Obama ended up than with how he got there. He kept drawing lines in the sand, then erasing them and retreating to a new position. And his evident desire to have a deal before hitting the essentially innocuous fiscal cliff bodes very badly for the confrontation looming in a few weeks over the debt ceiling.

He goes on to say that if Obama does a good job managing the debt ceiling fight, then this deal will look pretty good in retrospect. But really: how likely is that? The truth is that the president has shown he was bluffing with all his tough talk about stopping this hostage taking before it becomes a habit. And now the Republicans have talked themselves into believing that Obama was so mean to them in this last negotiation, they will feel entirely justified pushing the debt ceiling to the limit. And because they believe that Obama will fold, this game of chicken will very likely end in government default.

If that happens, the fault lies with the president. We can’t blame the Republicans; they are clearly crazy and we have long known that. Obama could have trained them not to play these games. Instead, he trained them to play these games. It seems that he is no more seasoned a politician than he was four years ago. He reminds me of a child crying in the playground because the other boys won’t play fair.

I fear this deal is nothing more than a prelude to a catastrophe.

Republicans Hate You

Fuck America: Vote Republican!

Just a quick note. Everyone in Washington is happy to let the payroll tax holiday expire. This includes (probably especially) the Republicans. That will be a rise of 2% in total wages taken in taxes. There are no deductions. Nothing is returned at the end of the year.

Yet the “reasonable” Republicans can’t accept taxes to go up by even two percentage points on incomes over $250,000 per year. Note that these earnings are subject to no payroll taxes. None!

That’s the Republican Party all over. In fact, that’s the old Republican Party. That’s the party that is still fairly reasonable by modern GOP standards. A 2% of total wages increase in taxes on the middle class? No problem! A two percentage point increase in taxes on the rich? No way!

Afterword

The difference between these two figures is that the increased net tax rate on the poor would be at least as large and probably notably larger than that for the rich. But just assume they are the same. This is an outrage even under the best circumstances.