Free Markets, Free People
Personally I think of Steve Benen as a bit of a lightweight when it comes to political analysis. But he can be counted on to faithfully repeat the left’s talking points, or absent that, come up with some off the wall theory (sometimes involving conspiracy) to try to explain and demonize the right. A recent wig out involves a vast conspiracy of right-wingers who want to see the economy stay sickly for political purposes. And it is all because, as he implies, the right-wingers "actively dislike the United States".
NONE DARE CALL IT SABOTAGE…. Consider a thought experiment. Imagine you actively disliked the United States, and wanted to deliberately undermine its economy. What kind of positions would you take to do the most damage?
You might start with rejecting the advice of economists and oppose any kind of stimulus investments. You’d also want to cut spending and take money out of the economy, while blocking funds to states and municipalities, forcing them to lay off more workers. You’d no doubt want to cut off stimulative unemployment benefits, and identify the single most effective jobs program of the last two years (the TANF Emergency Fund) so you could kill it.
You might then take steps to stop the Federal Reserve from trying to lower the unemployment rate. You’d also no doubt want to create massive economic uncertainty by vowing to gut the national health care system, promising to re-write the rules overseeing the financial industry, vowing re-write business regulations in general, considering a government shutdown, and even weighing the possibly of sending the United States into default.
You might want to cover your tracks a bit, and say you have an economic plan that would help — a tax policy that’s already been tried — but you’d do so knowing that such a plan has already proven not to work.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Does any of it sound familiar? In the context you’ve presented it, Mr. Benen – uh, no. It sounds contrived and fanciful – a wish a political hack would love to be true so he could use it to brand the opposition as unpatriotic and evil. Not that it being untrue will stop Mr. Benen from using such implications – this article is proof of that.
But you really have to suspend disbelief and pitch logic out the window to end up where Benen is with this particular piece. Cherry pick things that support your hare-brained thesis, give them a conspiratorial twist and bingo, you’re on your way to branding the opposition with something you’ve wanted to put on them for quite some time.
Benen then brings out some supporting fire:
Budget expert Stan Collender has predicted that Republicans perceive "economic hardship as the path to election glory." Paul Krugman noted in his column yesterday that Republicans "want the economy to stay weak as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House."
Got to love the hard hitting "Republicans "perceive" economic hardship as a path to election glory." Pure unsubstantiated speculation (unsupported by anything credible – certainly not Benen’s conspiracy theory nonsense). Always fun to see a Democratic operative speaking about “Republican perceptions”, something I’m sure he’s absolutely tuned in on.
Certainly the state of the economy has worked to the detriment of the Democrats, but concluding a continuing poor economy is of value to the Republicans completely misses the message of the midterm election. And as Benen demonstrates, as does Krugman for that matter, he missed the message too. Not that anyone should be surprised. The Democratic Congress missed it as well (see lame duck legislative priorities) as did the President.
Benen also turns to Matt Yglesias, a truly objective source, to give his batty theory some legs:
…I know that tangible improvements in the economy are key to Obama’s re-election chances. And Douglas Hibbs knows that it’s key. And senior administration officials know that its key. So is it so unreasonable to think that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner may also know that it’s key? That rank and file Republicans know that it’s key? McConnell has clarified that his key goal in the Senate is to cause Barack Obama to lose in 2012 which if McConnell understands the situation correctly means doing everything in his power to reduce economic growth. Boehner has distanced himself from this theory, but many members of his caucus may agree with McConnell.
Which is just to say that specifically the White House needs to be prepared not just for rough political tactics from the opposition (what else is new?) but for a true worst case scenario of deliberate economic sabotage.
Then it time for the cherry on top – liberal commenter Jonathan Chait:
Establishing motive is always very hard to prove. What’s more, the notion of deliberate sabotage presumes a conscious awareness that doesn’t square with human psychology as I understand it. People are extraordinarily deft at making their principles — not just their stated principles, but their actual principles — comport with their interests. The old Upton Sinclair quote — "It is difficult to make a man understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it" — has a lot of wisdom to it.
I don’t think many Republicans are actually trying to stop legislation that might help the economy recover because they know that a slow economy is their best route to regaining power. I think that when they’re in power, consequences like an economic slowdown or a collapsing industry seem very dire, and policies to prevent this are going to sound compelling. When you’re out of power, arguments against such policies are going to sound more compelling.
Really? Or is it, as has been the case with most of the legislation the 111th Congress has passed or attempted to pass, just abysmally bad law? Occam’s razor, Mr. Chait. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. In the case of the legislation passed by the latest Congress, sometimes crap is just crap.
But back on point, does anyone see what’s going on here? It is "victimhood" time on the left. They will still control the Presidency and the Senate next year, but they’re already setting up the "Republicans are evil and are really in control of the government, so whatever happens isn’t our fault" meme. Benen seems to realize that the current Congress and President have done an awful job with the economy. In fact, other than quickly throwing a few trillion dollars we don’t have at it (and which has seemingly had no measurable positive effect) they’ve ignored it for their ideological agenda items. And, because of that, and the obvious probability that the economy will not be in the shape necessary to give the President and Democrats a leg up in 2012, it is time to start switching the narrative and project the blame on the usual suspects.
And what better way to do that than to start yelling conspiracy theory (well sorta, kinda) and cobbling together disparate facts and fanciful rhetoric into dubious implications for a new narrative?
Premise: The Republicans are evil, only interested in regaining power (one assumes to finally destroy the nation) and will do whatever it takes to secure that power, to include sabotaging the economy. Why? Because they “actively dislike the United States”.
This from a group of people that actively worked for eight long years to sabotage (no conjecture here, the record stands on its own) a Republican Presidency and flat had tantrums if you ever questioned their patriotism or motivation.
But, as they say, that was then and this is now. And now, of course, it’s “different”.
o, I’m not going to go into another long dissertation/Fisking. We all know how I feel. Instead I’ll just point out that Mr. Fischer is still trying to justify his nonsense and using every tactic known to those losing an argument in an attempt to salvage his battered ego. My third rebuttal (and it is extremely polite if I say so myself) is comment 5 – just below Scott Jacob’s.
[First posted at BlackFive.net – but it is a follow-up to a story I posted here recently. This is a guy who has been comfortable in his little echo chamber spouting off about his pet theories and, I supposed, mostly getting affirmation. Then he got outside that little box, his nonsense leaked into the larger blogosphere and he’s gotten absolutely hammered – and deservedly so. He remains completely clueless as to the reason.– McQ]
You know, some guys ought to figure when to just shut up, fold their tent and take their due. Not our boy. Bryan Fischer, Mr. "Feminized the MOH", is back for more. In a follow up post (not even at the same blog – got to hot there I’d guess), our hero says:
The blowback to my column of two days ago, in which I argued that we seem to have become reluctant to award the Medal of Honor to those who take aggressive action against the enemy and kill bad guys, has been fierce. It has been angry, vituperative, hate-filled, and laced with both profanity and blasphemy.
Oh, my. Who needs the skirt now? Looks like the reaction may have "feminized" Mr. Fischer a bit. As for blasphemy, let me tell you something sir – I’m on the side of angels on this one.
Of course Fischer still has no clue about the reason for the outrage he spawned (or he’s chosen to ignore it) and falls back on the age old dodge that most that don’t have an argument use when cornered – ignore those who ate your freakin’ lunch in reply to that bad joke of a post and claim, "these people didn’t read what I wrote". No really – that’s his argument:
What is striking here is that readers who have reacted so viscerally to what I wrote apparently didn’t read it, or only read the parts that ticked them off. I’m guessing a fair amount of the reaction has come from those who didn’t actually read the column, but read what others said about the column. It’s been fascinating to watch.
What is really both striking and fascinating is how clueless this bozo is – utterly unaware and truly out-to-lunch. Hey, meat head, the visceral reaction was to the stupidity of your premise. It had to do with you using "feminized" as a pejorative (look that up if that skipped by you skippy) and in conjunction with the Medal of Honor. It had to do with the fact that you were ignorant about the MOHs that have been given in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, that’s right – ignorant. As in “uninformed”. Don’t know what you‘re talking about. Check?
Here you have a lame duck Congress dominated by Democrats and a president who admits his party was “shellacked” in the midterm elections with a chance to partially redeem themselves and focus on the people’s priority – jobs and the economy – and what do they do?
Or to put it another way, they’ve chosen to double down and push their political agenda vs. heeding the message sent by American voters on November 2nd and pushing that aside to give jobs and the economy the priority.
Pure arrogance. But an indication of the fact that the administration has absolutely no real intention of “triangulating” anything or “pivoting” in any direction. The supposed “pragmatic” president shows his true ideologue colors.
This should be something the GOP captures and preserves in amber for 2012. This is precisely the worst thing Democrats could do, but apparently they simply can’t help themselves. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Harry Reid still presides over the Senate and what comes to the floor there and House Democrats just reelected the liberal leadership that cost them over 60 seats in the midterms.
But hey, it’s their party, their strategy and their arrogance.
The GOP’s job is to record and remind in 2012.
You know, for the most part I’m not one to throw around inflammatory words if I can help it. I think their use normally marginalizes the person using them as most folks tend to immediately turn off whatever that person has to say thinking them to be an extremist.
But frankly, I just don’t know how else to describe what I see going on out there. Listening to current and former TSA officials say things like “hey, no one likes 4th Amendment violations, but we’re going to have to do it”, just sends a chill down my spine. Talk about the banality of evil.
That’s not the only example. Take cell phones for instance. Your benevolent, freedom loving government is considering requiring technology in future cars that will allow them to disable cell phones.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said using a cell phone while driving is so dangerous that devices may soon be installed in cars to forcibly stop drivers — and potentially anyone else in the vehicle — from using them.
“There’s a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we’re looking at that,” said LaHood on MSNBC. LaHood said the cellphone scramblers were one way, and also stressed the importance of “personal responsibility.”
“I think it will be done,” said LaHood. “I think the technology is there and I think you’re going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones. We need to do a lot more if were going to save lives.”
Emphasis mine – but it highlights the rationalization used by government drones to restrict your freedoms and violate your rights. It is the new “for the children”, the latest of excuses used to limit your freedom.
The TSA and the nonsense spouted by LaHood are only the most visible examples of this growing phenomenon. Government, under the rationalization that it had to save us from financial failure, has intruded upon and taken over vast areas of the economy – health care, car companies, financial institutions.
It’s even trying to further expand its intrusion into the food production industry with a bill now being debated in the Senate (and which has 7 GOP senate cosponsors). The bill would place restrictions on even hobbiest farmers. It would also expand the powers of the FDA and place some power in the hands of Homeland Security.
That’s not the only attack going on in that area.
And the usual suspects are all for this sort of thing. Oh, of course, you’ll hear them claim publicly about how important our freedoms are and how we should work to preserve them, but when blatant examples of right’s violations surface, they side with security over rights.
They’re also not at all concerned anymore with what they used to decry when it was the opposition holding the presidency. Remember the outrage on the left about the so-called “imperial executive”, George W. Bush? Remember the promises of reversing that if Barack Obama won the presidency?
Apparently that’s not that big of a deal anymore:
Former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff John Podesta, now the head of the Center for American Progress, called on President Obama to push forward with his agenda using federal agencies and executive branch power Tuesday, even though Democrats were dealt a blow in the recent midterm elections. Podesta said the American people want the president to move forward with his agenda.
“I think most of the conversation since the election has been about how President Obama adjusts to the new situation on Capitol Hill,” Podesta said. “While that’s an important conversation, it simply ignores the president’s ability to use all levels of his power and authority to move the country forward.”
“Forward” toward what, Mr. Podesta? Creeping fascism? Heck, it’s not even creeping anymore.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." – Ben Franklin
We’re rapidly approaching deserving neither. Freedom means risk. Security, in the hands of government, means oppression in its name. If you can’t see that growing more and more everyday, you’re simply blind. Time to say "stop this madness" and "hands off my freedoms" with a bit of emphasis and mean it.
Read the following two paragraphs and tell me which conservative publications editorial board had this to say about President Obama and the current political situation in which he finds himself.
Shellacked at home, shellacked abroad. President Obama’s Asia trip is extending a losing streak with the latest setback – a refusal by other major financial powers to follow his lead to revive the global economy.
The president’s nostrums, which began with a call for stimulus-style pump priming by other nations, had evolved into a plan to ease wild swings in currency values and overboard trade imbalances. But he got next to nothing in showdown meetings with other leaders of the G-20 nations, or major economic powers. U.S. leadership, once taken for granted, has all but vanished, and no one’s in charge.
If you guessed Wall Street Journal, Washington Examiner or Washington Times, give yourself zero points for this particular exercise. It was a trick question – the answer is the San Francisco Chronicle.
That’s right. Nancy Pelosi’s hometown newspaper, the paper of record for one of the most liberal cities in one of the most liberal states in the union seems to be acknowledging in fairly forthright terms the diminishment of the US political leadership both here and abroad.
They are also acknowledging something else that the left has been loathe to admit during these past two years. That diminished political stature is the result not just of circumstances but because of a real lack of leadership. When the Chronicle uses the words “no one’s in charge”, they’re not alluding to the financial situation being the problem, they’re making the point that the president is not exercising the basic leadership necessary or expected to do what must be done to maintain what was once “ taken for granted.”
There’s no danger of reading too much into the Chronicle’s two lead paragraphs. It is a very clear in its message. The President of the United States is not living up to expectations. And even his greatest supporters are beginning to see the results of that problem.
The administration likes to tout the fact that they have restored the good name of the US among the nations of the world after its purported decline during the Bush years. That’s a hollow claim if this is the result. “Good names” do not bring foreign policy success – only hard -nosed leadership focused on doing what is best for the country accomplishes that. And this president has exhibited far too little if any of that thus far.
If nothing else what this presidency should again establish as a guiding principle for voters in the next election is “there is no substitute for experience”. Experience is where leadership is developed and honed. Experience produces a record by which those who choose our political leaders can go for proof that a person is up to the job they’re pursuing.
The San Francisco Chronicle, among others, is learning that reality has certain rules that you simply can’t waive away. With Obama, voters did what speculators did during the dot-com bubble. They pretended that the law of economics no longer applied to that particular segment of the economy and it was alright to waive away conventional economic wisdom about P/E ratios and plunk down billions on companies who’d never made a dollar or sold a product.
Economic reality soon burst that fantasy with devastating effect and devastating losses.
Because of the same sort of thinking, we now suffer with a “leader” who has never led anything, never learned what it means to lead and is, frankly, out of his depth both domestically and on the foreign stage. The disastrous Asian trip simply reaffirms the point.
If we manage to survive the next two years under this administration there’s perhaps another very important lesson voters should take the polls when they next choose a president: the White House should never again be treated as an OJT position.
Some goob who I assume thinks he knows what he’s talking about has decided, based on something he read in the Wall Street Journal, that the Medal of Honor has become "feminized".
That’s right – "feminized". We all know what that particular little code word means, don’t we?
He couldn’t just say, on the day SSG Sal Giunta became the first living recipient since Vietnam to receive our nation’s highest honor, "well done and well deserved". Oh, no. He had to make a point to try to cheapen the award by qualifying it somehow.
Here’s what he said:
The Medal of Honor will be awarded this afternoon to Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta for his heroism in Afghanistan, and deservedly so. He took a bullet in his protective vest as he pulled one soldier to safety, and then rescued the sergeant who was walking point and had been taken captive by two Taliban, whom Sgt. Giunta shot to free his comrade-in-arms.
This is just the eighth Medal of Honor awarded during our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Sgt. Giunta is the only one who lived long enough to receive his medal in person.
But I have noticed a disturbing trend in the awarding of these medals, which few others seem to have recognized.
We have feminized the Medal of Honor.
According to Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, every Medal of Honor awarded during these two conflicts has been awarded for saving life. Not one has been awarded for inflicting casualties on the enemy. Not one.
Bullsquat you dope. Now being the nice fellow that I am and thinking this guy just isn’t worth giving any visibility I decided to tactfully handle it locally. I.e. I’d leave a message on his blog demonstrating how out to lunch he (and apparently McGurn) were. Here’s what I left:
You are completely and utterly wrong as is McGurn.
For instance – the first MOH in Iraq:
Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq on 4 April 2003. On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith’s extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division “Rock of the Marne,” and the United States Army.
Don’t know about you, but the death of 50 enemy soldiers and the wounding of many more certainly speaks of “killing people and breaking things” so you can sleep safely at night.
You ought to review Robert James Miller’s MOH as well. It was recently awarded.
Instead of taking McGurn’s word for such things try reading the citations.
The MOH is not something which has been “feminized” for heaven sake.
It is easy to be cynical about politics today, especially for long-time observers. Years of watching fingers carefully placed in the political wind to determine its direction has given those watching the process a decided and well earned reason for cynicism.
But that has to be leavened somewhat with the understanding of how this political process works, why the incentives it offers is one of the main reasons it is broken, and then applaud actions which – no matter how seemingly small or insignificant they are – work toward changing those incentives in a meaningful way.
It has been said by many that “earmarks” are both trivial and insignificant when it comes to the budget deficit. They’re barely 1% of the budget. We’re told they’re no big thing in world of trillion dollar deficits.
Yes they are significant. For many reasons. Most obvious among them is they’re part of that incentive system that encourages profligacy and waste. As one wag pointed out, they’re the Congressional “gateway drug” for profligacy and waste on a much grander scale.
Secondly while it is easy to waive away “1%” of the budget as “insignificant”, you have to ask, “is it really?” Certainly in terms relative to a 2.8 trillion dollar budget, a few billion dollars doesn’t seem like much. But it is.
We know – all of us, even the left – that we must cut spending. Period. There’s no argument about that. The argument is where we cut. And how much. Cutting 1% of spending wrapped up in earmarks should be a “no-brainer”. It is a good first step. If you’re going to say to the country, “we’ve all got to cut back”, what better way – speaking of leadership – is there to make the point than to cut out spending that is advantageous to you politically.
That’s certainly the case with earmarks and has been for decades. It is the Congressional method of using tax dollars to help ensure a high return of incumbents on election day. So the symbolism involved in cutting them out is important. Especially, as I noted, when the country is going to be asked to take cuts in things which they find advantageous to themselves.
That all brings me to Sen. Mitch McConnell essentially reversing himself and signing on to the earmark ban. I’m cautiously optimistic that the GOP leadership is actually beginning to get the message that I think was transmitted loud and clear on November 2nd. Said McConnell:
“What I’ve concluded is that on the issue of congressional earmarks, as the leader of my party in the Senate, I have to lead first by example,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Nearly every day that the Senate’s been in session for the past two years, I have come down to this spot and said that Democrats are ignoring the wishes of the American people. When it comes to earmarks, I won’t be guilty of the same thing.”
Good. What I’m not going to do is look this particular gift horse in the mouth and try to determine whether it is a cynical political ploy or genuine. I’m simply going to take it at face value and put a plus next to earmark reform. I’ll take McConnell at his word and demand that he now be consistent in applying the same received message to areas of spending that will indeed make a huge difference. Or said another way, I appreciate the sentiment and the symbolism of the earmark ban, but that doesn’t satisfy me or anyone else. It just indicates some seriousness and willingness to do what is necessary to rein in the government’s spending. While appreciated, it in no way means anything much more than that.
McConnell acknowledges the “wishes of the American people”. Those wishes were clearly expressed as a much smaller, much less costly and intrusive federal government. Banning earmarks is as good a place to start as any. But the serious work of cutting government down to size must continue immediately after the ban is in effect. The electoral gods will have no mercy on the GOP in 2012 if the American people don’t see a concerted effort by the party toward that goal.
Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know, what they did was destructive to personal property and isn’t right. But I’m having a hell of a time working up any real anger over that:
Shortly after finishing their protest at the funeral of Army Sgt. Jason James McCluskey of McAlester, a half-dozen protesters from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., headed to their minivan, only to discover that its front and rear passenger-side tires had been slashed.
To make matters worse, as their minivan slowly hobbled away on two flat tires, with a McAlester police car following behind, the protesters were unable to find anyone in town who would repair their vehicle, according to police.
The minivan finally pulled over several blocks away in a shopping center parking lot, where AAA was called. A flatbed service truck arrived and loaded up the minivan. Assistant Police Chief Darrell Miller said the minivan was taken to Walmart for repairs.
I’ve defended the rights of these cretins to do what they do as an act of free speech, a right that only has power if those we disagree with are able to exercise it as well. But I think these scumbuckets are the dregs. And while I don’t condone what was done to their tires, I can understand the anger that might drive some to do it.
What I found most enjoyable, however, was the fact that the repair shops refused them service. We call that the "consequence" of exercising your right of free speech.
Oh, and this:
Even before the protesters discovered their damaged tires, they faced off with a massive crowd of jeering and taunting counterprotesters at Third Street and Washington Avenue, two blocks from the First Baptist Church, where the soldier’s funeral was held.
Miller estimated that crowd to number nearly 1,000 people, and they not only drowned out the Westboro protesters with jeers, but with raucous chants of "USA, USA."
You don’t pull that sort of stunt in Oklahoma. My wife’s an Okie. I know of what stuff they’re made . And its pretty stern.
Rest in peace, Sgt. McCluskey.
I love you, McAlester.