Free Markets, Free People
The more I read political spin these days, the more I feel the shadow of Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” from “1984” trying to solidify its existence.
Yesterday’s disastrous GDP numbers were followed up by this nonsense from the White House:
The estimates found economic growth slowed to 1.5 percent last quarter – down from 2 percent the previous quarter and 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 — but the chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers said that at least it’s still growing.
Yes indeed. “Still growing”. That’s a bit like saying a baby born without a brain and being kept alive on life support is “still alive”.
Technically true, but in the case of the baby, a condition everyone would agree is a tragedy. In the case of this economy, as stated, those numbers are a disaster.
"Today’s report shows that the economy posted its twelfth straight quarter of positive growth," Alan B. Krueger wrote in a statement. "Over the last three years, the economy has expanded by 6.7 percent overall, and the private components of GDP have grown by 9.9 percent."
Yes sir, the private sector is “doing fine”. 9.9% growth in three years! As for the GDP (which is forecast now to be at an annual rate of 1.3%), hey, it’s still growing.
Unsaid by the spokesman for the Ministry of Truth, is just “growing” just isn’t good enough to be considered “positive”. Rule of thumb?
Therefore, economists agree the ideal GDP growth rate is more than 2%, but less than 4%. In between the two recessions, the annual economic growth rate was ideal:
- 2.5% in 2003.
- 3.9% in 2004.
- 3.2% in 2005.
- 2.7% in 2006.
- 2.0% in 2007.
What economists are also coming to agree on is excessive debt – like that we’ve run up – puts about a 1.2% penalty on GDP. Or said another way, we’re unlikely to see GDP growth return to the “ideal” anytime soon, given the 10 year plan by government to spend 46 trillion dollars we don’t have. If you’re wondering what all that means, consult the Japanese economy for the last two decades. That’s likely the new “normal” with the policies in place from this administration.
But hey, if everyone would rather talk about Mitt Romney’s wonderful European adventure (hey, at least he’s not bowing to everyone in sight), that’s fine. It is certainly something the Ministry of Truth would approve.
In our apparent rush to be just like Europe, I wonder if our leaders would think this was a good idea:
The UK’s tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.
You know, George Orwell was an Englishman and, it seems, knowing their proclivities, he was right on target with "1984". Not the year, the outcome.
Besides the practical reasons for not doing this, the premise under which it operates is horrifying. It says, "the government has first claim on all money earned in this nation." That may indeed by true by law, but this would make it true in fact. It would essentially turn the government into your paymaster.
Never mind the huge and assuredly bloated and inefficient bureaucracy that would grow up around this, or the cost to taxpayers (who ironically, would then get less in their pay check than previously because of it), just what in the world would cause anyone to offer such a suggestion except the belief that government owns all the money anyway?
The proposal by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stresses the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid.
You see, per the suggestion, it would be better for the government if this was implemented. Not you, government. You would pay for it of course and it would most likely cost you a pretty penny, but then you’re there to support government and make things easier for the bureaucrats – don’t you see?
Move a long citizen, nothing to see here. Just report to work early or we’ll dock you paycheck.
A “tax amnesty” ad from Pennsylvania:
Big Brother has nothing on these folks.
Stephanie Gutmann brings up something I’ve noticed. She starts with an Orwell quote:
“The program of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor…All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies, perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters perhaps even — so it was occasionally rumoured in some hiding place in Oceania itself.”
1984 by George Orwell
She then says:
In the passage above, and throughout 1984 and Animal Farm, George Orwell illustrates how regimes with tentative hold over beleaguered populations deflect anger away from their own corruptions and mistakes with the deployment of a greatly embellished, even invented, external enemy.
There are many things that bug me about Barack Obama — the insane laundry list speeches, the silly rhetoric, the hostility to the free market — but these are all talked about. He has another habit that hasn’t been talked about so much and, of all the things he does, it makes me the most queasy.
It’s pretty subtle, but I think it’s worth keeping an eye on because, if it were to become full-blown, it has the potential to be the most socially damaging element of his presidency.
I’m talking about what I’m going to call his Goldstein-ism, his tendency to make veiled, dark allusions to a recently vanquished “other”, an evil being (he is never specific) who is, he always implies, the real cause of all our problems.
His references to his “inherited” problem, to bankers, greedy Wall Street and his “predecessor” are all too common, not to mention Limbaugh and Hannity.
So why this tendency to attempt to deflect criticism by blaming it on others? Well, consider the Obama march to the presidency. His entire campaign was based on how bad George Bush was and how necessary it was to replace him. Bush was Obama’s “Goldstein”. And Obama used Bush to deflect attention from his own paper thin resume and lack of experience. He managed to make Bush so bad that those things didn’t matter to most Americans who bought the characterization.
But Bush is gone now. And Obama has no specific “Goldstein” with whom he can shift blame and/or deflect attention. But Gutmann points out, he still tries to use Bush when possible. For example:
Monday was full of terrible economic news. It was another day of “unstoppable selling on Wall Street,” according to AP, a day in which Foreign Policy said ” the markets were sending an unambiguous signal that the U.S. economy is now headed in the wrong direction.” How did the administration respond?
I do not think it a coincidence that late in the day the administration “threw open the curtain on years of Bush-era secrets” as the ever in-the-tank Associated Press put it, with the release of memos “that claimed exceptional search-and-seizure powers…”
Soooo, what was in these scary-sounding memos? Midway down the article AP explains that the memos detailed possible legal rationale for tactics the Bush admin was considering using in its anti-terror program. You’d have to read further still to see that the “Bush administration eventually abandoned many of the legal conclusions.” Nevertheless, AP harrumphs, “the documents themselves [about stuff that had been discussed] had been closely held.” But who cares what the article actually said: It generated a nice headline — “Obama releases secret Bush anti-terror memos” — during a day the populace might have been thinking disloyal thoughts about the their president’s direction.
Of course this gets harder and harder for Obama to do, and besides, it’s unseemly if a president does it – that’s what minions are for. And as Bush fades, a new Goldstien is necessary. Enter Robert Gibbs, Rush Limbaugh, and others:
Jim Cramer. Rush Limbaugh. Rick Santelli.
What do they all have in common? Most likely, none of them is getting invited to the White House Christmas party.
All three media personalities have been singled out by President Obama’s press shop in the course of less than two weeks. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, in doing so, has shown an unusual willingness to spar with cable and radio hosts who take shots at his boss.
The rebuttals have ranged from playful ribbing to disdainful scolding.
One of the things we didn’t see, for the most part, was these sorts of assaults on people who weren’t the political opposition during the Bush years. And, in fact, few assaults on those that were in the political opposition. Never once was Keith Olberman or a host of others called out from the White House Press Secretary’s podium. In fact, they were mostly, if not completely ignored. But obviously the same can’t be said of the Obama White House.
So, you have to ask, “why”?
Try Rule 12 from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals“:
RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.
As you recall, Mr. Bi-partisan, “heal the nation” Obama did have one thing on that thin resume – he was a community organizer from the Saul Alinsky school of organizing.
And as for the attacks coming from the White House Press podium? Rule 5 covers that:
RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
After watching the man for two plus years, I’ve come to realize this is more than a tendency, it’s his modus operandi. And one should assume his administration will reflect the bosses MO when dealing with criticism. The difference is Obama has himself under pretty tight control. I’m not so sure that can be said of some others. And that’s where Rule 6 comes in:
RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.
The danger with Rule 6 as it is now being executed gleefully by Gibbs (“There are very few days that I’ve had more fun,” Gibbs said.) is that he (and others) will overreach. They always do. And it certainly came as no surprise to me to find out Rahm Emanuel was involved in the Limbaugh attacks. So my prediction is this new and advanced “politics of personal destruction” campaign that this administration has embarked on will blow up in their face at some point.
But that doesn’t detract from Gutmann’s point about Obama’s tendency to need and rely on a “Goldstein”. I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but it seems to indicate, at least to me, a deep-seated sense of insecurity. If I had no more experience than Obama has, I might be looking for such a scape-goat myself. Knowing that, however, damn well doesn’t make me feel better about it though. But we shouldn’t be surprised when a Saul Alinsky trained community organizer acts like a Saul Alinsky trained community organizer, should we?