The socialist free-marketer

August 31, 2009

Oh the irony of ironies.  While News Corp is off calling Obama a socialist he is quietly pushing reforms Republicans have wanted for decades: Introducing competition to public schools via charters.

Republicans are hammering Obama because the unemployment rate is about to go over 10% (Gingrich says the stress tests “have already failed” because they were based on a lower number), and many Democrats in Congress are getting anxious about a tough reelection if the numbers don’t get better soon (and therefore are less willing to stick their necks out for the president).

But my money is on much better numbers turning out for August, maybe even coming back under 9%.  Here’s why:

  • Summer Jobs that typically are filled by high school students this year are going to be picked up by displaced workers, even though overqualified.  Teenagers unable to find jobs will have less money for games, clothes and to save for the Fall, but nevertheless they will not be claiming unemployment benefits.
  • Stimulus package: Construction projects will finally start coming online.  Not the big rail and infrastructure projects to be sure, but definitely the smaller ones, such low-income housing weatherization and city roads.  Also tax incentives for energy efficient windows and solar energy have kicked in, and these retail type contracts are ramping up as banks start lending again and contractors start marketing them aggressively.  Then there is the undocumented worker factor: A sizable portion of construction work used to be done by illegal immigrants (20% ??), especially with small 5-10 person contractors.  Many of these workers have gone back to their homelands, so for every 9 legal construction workers that were laid off, about 10 will now be hired back for a comparable project.
  • College grads: More than usual they will go into volunteer work (unpaid or sponsored by the expanded Americorps), delay graduation, pursue graduate degrees, travel for a wile if they have the resources, or stay with their parents (without collect unemployment).
  • Chinese stimulus: We’ll start feeling the effect of Chinese projects on our durable orders numbers.

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these.  It just wasn’t fun anymore to watch them self-destruct.  But Limbaugh really merits one this week:

He calls on his dittoheads to boycott GM.

That’s, of course, preposterous and even treasonous, as we are talking about the jobs and lives of fellow Americans who happen to be in dire straits at the moment and who would have had it much worse had all of us (the taxpayer) not come to their rescue.

So this strikes me as just another nail in the GOP coffin as it will push Ohio, Indiana and other swing states even more towards the Democratic column.  That’s true even if Rush’s dreams come true (Obama’s policies fail miserably or there is another terrorist attack).

And all for what?  I see no upside for the party.  This won’t get them any additional votes, even in the South.  Maybe better ratings, if that.

In fact, if anything I think this will be helpful to GM (and the administration):

Say Rush gets 20% of his listeners (which total about 10-15% of American adults) on board with this.  That’s about a 2% loss of market for GM.  But every action has an opposite reaction, and if this gets even just 10% of the rest of the country to look at a GM car out of patriotism and solidarity (and perhaps disgust), that’s a gain of 9%.  Resulting in a net market gain of 7%

So thank you Rush!

Why is every other post in the lefty blogosphere about gay marriage or torture?

I understand that everyone’s got to keep the pressure on so the administration will follow through on promises made for every pet issue.

But let’s have a little perspective: Healthcare reform is the central issue of this administration.  It touches all of us every day, not just a small percentage (gay rights), and not narrowly (detainee policies).

We like to goad about the GOP being rudderless and leaderless but hey, we’re not doing a very good job following our own.

C’mon people, focus: Healthcare, healthcare healthcare!

P.S. Really, whatever your favorite advocacy organization (here’s one), please send them a few bucks this week.  The insurance industry will be spending 100 million in the next weeks to fight off reform (more specifically, to get 50 million new customers, on the taxpayers’ dime, without changing their ways).  So how many ads can the good guys afford?  It’s up to you and me.

This is what happens when a party is full of fanatics instead of principles:

In what one might call a biblical move, Christian philanthropist Howard Ahmanson — one of three major funders of the campaign for California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages — has abandoned the GOP for the Democratic Party.

No one ever said the multimillionaire isn’t idiosyncratic.

In a rare interview Thursday, Ahmanson shared some of his thoughts about why he switched parties. In a word, taxes.

Specifically, he was offended by the California Republican Party’s insistence during a recent state budget battle that there would be no tax increases for any reason, no matter what. “They’re providing one issue, and it’s just a very silly issue,” Ahmanson told me by telephone.

Limbaugh’s memes

February 28, 2009

I’ve never listened to Limbaugh’s show, so I thought I’d check out his CPAC keynote to see what he’s peddling first hand.

The main theme seems to be that Obama is punishing excellence and achievement by taxing the wealthy more.  This is pretty standard GOP meme and it is wrong in several ways:

  1. We are basically going back to the old rate under Clinton, after having had a huge tax break on upper incomes which did not help the economy, and produced huge deficits under Bush (something conservatives conveniently have no problem with).
  2. I don’t buy that a successful individual will decide to work any less hard because his total tax bill is between 0% and 11% higher (due to a top marginal rate of 39.6% instead of 35% above 250k only).
  3. We are still nowhere near the 70-91% top tax rate we had much of the 20th century.

He supports this with the usual argument that the top 5% income bracket pays over 50% of all taxes (citing NY numbers specifically).  This is so deeply flawed it really needs to die:  It hides the fact that those 5% top earners have increased their income thousands percent in the last decade while the lower 50%’s wages have remained stagnant.  So if anything the statistics illustrate just how grave the income equality gap has become (in fact I think Democrats should confront this head on and own this argument).

Another recurring claim is that liberals just want control.  This is just thinly-veiled fear mongering and conveniently hides that it goes both ways:  Conservatives are constantly intruding in people’s lifes: Their phone conversations, their reproductive choices, their sexual choices (e.g. gay marriage or gays in the military), their choice to have or not have a cross at their courthouse, their choice not to pray at school, their choice to die in their own terms, their choice to use recreational drugs.  Let’s be real here, both sides want control: Liberals want control to allow everyone to do whatever they want, conservatives want control to ensure everyone lives by their Christian code of values.

Some other statements (paraphrasing):

  • More Americans live as conservatives than any other way, even if they don’t vote that way:  Very comforting to your base, but impossible to support, and in fact very wrong if you believe the polls these days.  He could point to party id polls (more people consider themselves conservative than liberal), but I believe the third of the population that are independents these days just want pragmatism over inptitude, and right now choose Democrats.  Also after 8 years of the word ‘liberal’ getting a bad name I think it will come back.
  • The media (i.e. the drive-by media) is against you:  So don’t listen to any of them and only listen to me instead.  Enough said.
  • Obama is busy fomenting anger and fear:  I think Obama is definitely challenging the populist anger simmering across the country, which is brilliant; better to let us know he’s on our side and get us behind him in effecting the change we want (and voted for overwhelmingly).  I understand Rush would have a problem with this since many of the pitchforks are pointed at him.
  • We (conservatives) don’t hate anyone: Hahaha.  Empty words.  I’ve read the quotes (from his show, Michael Savage, etc.).  I actually put myself through Hannity every now and then.  The hate oozes.  Every second is filled with fear and hate.  Mr. Limbaugh, you can’t tell me that up is down or day is night.
  • Barney Frank and Chris Dodd caused the financial crisis: I don’t even need to refute this ridiculous claim.  Rush, stop covering Phil Gramm’s ass.  Can anyone in your movement ever accept responsibility for anything?

Then it got more tactical… conservatism doesn’t need to change, we don’t need to be going after the Walmart vote or the Hispanic vote or whatever.  So that was it for me… things to do.

Newt Proves Holder’s Point

February 27, 2009

Devilstower makes a subtle but remarkable point about Gingrich’s criticism of holder’s recent ‘nation of cowards’ comment:

While Newt joined in the pile-on to the blunt phrasing Holder used, Newt was too afraid of talking about race to even mention the subject of Holder’s comment.

In other words, Newt Gingrich proves that — at least as far as conservatives go — Holder was absolutely correct.

First they give away whatever seats they have left in the Rust Belt, and even some in the South, by opposing any help to Detroit.

Then they give Obama carte blanche to NOT work with them on the upcoming major legislation (70% of public now considers them ‘the party of NO’ while viewing Obama as conciliatory and fair).

Now in California, by their intransigence, they have singlehandedly ensured that the 2/3 rule for passing budgets is repealed in an upcoming ballot.  This will effectively take away what little shred of power they still have in the state.

Boiling over

February 8, 2009

Just came back from an Organizing for America recovery house meeting.

It was half twelve-step support group (hi, my name is Andy and I/my brother/my friend just lost his job/pension/savings), and half organizing a response to the Republican nonsense machine.

The outrage against the way Republicans had made a mockery of this recovery bill (while the country burns) is boiling over.  I’m talking pitchforks.

I’m probably giving him too much credit, but it almost feels like Obama’s bipartisanship little stint was (among other things) a way to rally his own troops.

We’ll see this week just how much of a backlash there is against the dittoheads.

Obama outfoxes again

February 7, 2009

I totally agree with Andrew Sullivan:

Politically, as the dust settles, I suspect Obama outfoxed his opponents, again. They are playing the 24 hour news cycle game. That’s all they know (ditto cable news). Obama isn’t. That’s why he’s president. Eventually, they’ll figure it out.

Republicans were never going to support it.  But Obama genuinely reached out to them, and in slapping his hand so resoundingly, they have justified him in going his own way when restructuring the banks, reworking health coverage, and all the other important legislation that is coming.