It Is Time to Reconsider Jimmy Carter’s Presidency

Jimmy CarterYou probably heard the sad news, Former President Jimmy Carter Reveals Cancer Diagnosis. While it is true that he’s 90 years old, I still had hoped that he would be around for many more years. But we can be grateful that it is his body and not his mind that is being attacked. I always thought Ronald Reagan’s last years were tragic — alive but dead in a public sense — and a personal sense.

The one thing I really didn’t like about Carter’s presidency was his return of the Cold War. In that way, both Nixon and Reagan were more liberal than he was. And there is an interesting irony today, where the Republican Party is much closer to Carter with regard to Russia and China, than they are to Reagan. But in their minds, Carter was some foreign policy wimp. But it shouldn’t come as much of a shock that they are a bunch of idiots who don’t know a thing about history.

What everyone will admit is that Carter is a man of integrity. Sadly, Republicans now think that being a total jerk and unethical to boot is a prerequisite for political power (and they wonder why Trump is doing so well). As a result, it is what makes Carter great that they see as disqualifying. But even they will admit that he isn’t a liar. But they hate some of the things that he says — precisely because they are true. Consider this, for example:

Jimmy Carter

At this point, I don’t think that anyone — including Carter himself — knows what the prognosis is. But it doesn’t sound good. He had gone in to have a growth on his liver removed. Once inside, doctors found that he had cancer and that it had spread to multiple parts of his body. So I’m thinking he only has about a year.

It’s a good opportunity for the nation to reevaluate his presidency. Because just as Ronald Reagan’s is almost completely mythical in its laudatory content, Carter’s is equally mythical in its disparagement. Carter was actually a very good president during very difficult times. And Reagan is wrongly given credit for a great deal of the good that Carter did. He was the prototype of the modern Democratic president: competent and realistic without a great deal of ideology. That’s pretty much the opposite of the modern Republican president. Carter is a national treasure, and more people ought to realize that.

I hope that Carter somehow makes a recovery and that we have him around for many more years to come.


Based upon the title of this article, I did a Google search and came up with a couple of articles you might want to check out:

Jimmy Carter Was a Lot Better President Than Almost Anyone Ever Admits
A President’s Day Reconsideration: Jimmy Carter

How Claire McCaskill Worked the Rubes

Claire McCaskillTom Kiley, my pollster, turned up some findings that seemed crazy to me. For example, less than one quarter of the likely Republican primary voters believed that Barack Obama had been born in the United States. These were the voters who could help tip a Republican primary to an archconservative, but that conservative would have a hard time winning the state. Yes, it was a three-way primary of equally viable candidates, but a subset of energized people with strong religious convictions and serious aversion to gay people, public schools, immigrants, and reproductive choice could help elect someone like [Todd] Akin…

Using the guidance of my campaign staff and consultants, we came up with the idea for a “dog whistle” ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people. I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad—and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad.

—Claire McCaskill
How I Helped Todd Akin Win — So I Could Beat Him Later

Security and the Unaccountable Power Elite

Hillary Clinton LaughingIt seems that the FBI has found two top secret documents on Hillary Clinton’s email server. In the most fundamental sense, I don’t especially care. Our government does almost nothing but classify documents. At this point, I assume even top secret ones are nothing but embarrassing information. I’m sure that in a century historians will have a lot of fun going through them. They’re going to say, “This government really didn’t want it’s people to know what was going on!” Because that is what the vast majority of classification is all about: stopping the American people from knowing the things that their government is doing.

But the other side of this is that Clinton hasn’t exactly been a supporter of transparency. She is definitely behind the surveillance state. So it is hard to be too sympathetic to her. And there is the other issue of inequality in America. Clinton will almost certainly not be prosecuted for this. That isn’t because she’s Hillary Clinton. In fact, her being Hillary Clinton is probably the only thing that makes me hedge my bet slightly. She’s part of the power elite. She’s like David Petraeus, and we don’t go after people with actual power. There are always apologists around to explain how the law shouldn’t apply to them.

Glenn Greenwald wrote a typically excellent article about this divide, Hillary Clinton on the Sanctity of Protecting Classified Information. He mentioned a number of people who the administration moved heaven and earth to go after for the most minor of “crimes.” That includes people like Thomas Andrews Drake, who as is typical, had almost a dozen charges dumped on him, only to end up pleading to “one misdemeanor count for exceeding authorized use of a computer.”

The focus of Greenwald’s article is on Chelsea Manning. None of the documents she released were top secret. They were simply classified. And as Greenwald noted:

It goes without saying that the US government wildly overclassifies almost everything it touches, even the most benign information. As former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden said in 2010, “Everything’s secret. I mean, I got an email saying ‘Merry Christmas.’ It carried a top secret NSA classification marking.”

But Clinton wasn’t understanding of Manning’s actions. At the time she said, “I think that in an age where so much information is flying through cyberspace, we all have to be aware of the fact that some information which is sensitive, which does affect the security of individuals and relationships, deserves to be protected and we will continue to take necessary steps to do so.” But that’s the irony. When someone like Manning releases classified documents as an act of what she (and I) think is the public good, it is seen as the worst possible thing. But when someone like Clinton releases them out of incompetence or laziness, well, we all make mistakes.

Of course, the Republicans are going to have a field day with this. But that’s just partisanship. If Clinton were a Republican, Fox News would spend the day spinning it as No Big Deal. Instead, it will spend the day spinning it as the Worst Thing Ever. And maybe this scandal will hurt Clinton in the presidential election. I don’t actually think anyone but the partisans care. Most people are with me in believing that classified documents are mostly a crock. In the end, the economy will trump all.

As for me, all this shows about Clinton is that she’s something of a hypocrite, which is not news. It’s much more important in what it says about our political system. We are not, as John Adams claimed, “A government of laws, and not of men.” Who you are is far more important than what you do with regards to the judicial system.

No Inflation in Sight But Still They Fear

Dean BakerLast Friday, Dean Baker wrote, Job Growth Remains Strong in July. He actually wrote that the jobs report is “moderately positive,” which, if you know anything about Baker, is high praise. But it isn’t anything especially great. It is just that the economy is continuing to grow as it has been. And wage growth is poor. If we look at the last three months, wages are less than 2% higher than they were during the same period a year ago. Accounting for inflation, that’s an increase of about 1%. So we are hardly seeing liftoff with pay. And this is with over a decade and a half since the middle class has seen much of any increase in wages.

Most people know that the standard unemployment rate — 5.3% right now — doesn’t mean much. It doesn’t include people who want jobs but have simply given up looking. And it doesn’t include people who are working part time but want to work full time. The best way to look at employment is with the Employment-to-Population Ratio, which is bizarrely abbreviated EPOP. And it paints a very disturbing picture of the economy. The standard one uses all employees. But this one shows only prime age men (25-54), in order to cut out demographic factors (aging workforce).

EPOP 1996 - 2015

What most disturbs me about this is that our peaks seem to be going down over time. And if you look at numbers dating back to the 1950s, it is even worse. The number stayed pretty constant until the late 1960s, and then it has been all down hill from there. This is largely due to women entering the work force. But this only makes the case that much more strongly. It used to be that families could better support themselves with a single paycheck. That’s just not so anymore. Regardless, the EPOP for all workers peaked at 81.5% in 2000 and is down to 76.7% as of last year. And it looks like we are headed for a new (lower) normal.

What’s so aggravating about this is that despite the data, there is still a constant push to slow down the economy. The claim is that inflation is about to take off. Well, let’s consider that for a moment. The Federal Reserve is supposed to have a 2% inflation target. The idea is that sometimes it will be a little above that and sometimes a little below, but overall: 2%. Now I think that is too low. I think our target should be more like 3% or 4%. The 2% target is just something that Alan Greenspan pulled out of the air. But it is certainly the case that a 2% inflation target is better for the rich and a 4% target is better for workers. So you decide what is really going on.

But the Fed can’t even manage to meet its 2% inflation target. The inflation rate of the last year was only 0.8%. The inflation rate of the first six months of this year has has been slightly negative. Now, I understand: what the Fed does is hard. It is not always possible to get the inflation where it ought to be. But the question on my mind is why the Fed has been making noises about raising interest rates for the last year. I would think they would be freaking out about the low inflation, not looking for ways to slow the economy down. If ever there was a time to push for increased wages and some inflation, it is now.

It doesn’t matter, apparently. The Federal Reserve is not just supposed to keep inflation low, it is supposed to keep unemployment low too. But as Matt Yglesias asked several years ago when Ben Bernanke was the Fed chair with unemployment at 8.2% and inflation less than 2%, “If the unemployment and inflation rates were reversed, would the Fed do something about it?” It’s a rhetorical question, because we all know it would have been working night and day on the problem. But the fact that poor people who no one on the Fed knows aren’t able to find jobs is never a pressing issue.

Anniversary Post: Cleopatra’s Suicide

CleopatraOn this day in 30 BCE, Cleopatra killed herself. I must admit to having always thought of her as more or less mythical — like Helen. Her life has been so fictionalized that I didn’t imagine that there was much of a core there. But there is. And it is quite amazing. She was a remarkable woman. And I assume very clever. She really did manage her power well. The fact that it all ended rather badly is no fault of hers.

She was probably just too young to successfully navigate her relationship with Julius Caesar. And her bet on Mark Antony was a solid one. What’s a woman to do? None of this is to suggest that she wasn’t also a psychopath. But that is generally what I think of all such rulers. One does not live in a world in which people think that God gave them the right to rule over all others without also being insane by modern standards. Cleopatra had no trouble killing anyone who she thought posed a threat to her.

As to the sanity of modern people, I don’t think much more highly. In particular, emperors of old were deluded about their places in the cosmos. But most people I know are equally deluded about their lesser places. Everyone takes joy in all the things that make them them — as if it were their own doing rather than a gift. I’m certain that if we ever figure out consciousness, what we will learn is that we are just machines and our sense of self nothing but a trick.

And I guess that means that Cleopatra wasn’t really remarkable; she was just what she was programmed to be. But it’s interesting to my pre-programmed mind.