Why "Founderstein"? Read the original essay here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

On Rush and Rosen: Both Sides Have Crazy People, but One Side Listens to them More than the Other

By now, pretty much everybody knows what Hillary Rosen thinks about Ann Romney, what Ann Romney thinks about raising children, what Barak Obama thinks about Ann Romney raising children, and what Sarah Palin thinks about grizzly bears. Less clear in all of the hubbub is whether or not there is still a Republican War on Women and whether or not Democrats have now entered said war on the side of those who hate stay-at-home-moms. Meanwhile, Americans are pretending to be disgusted by all of the “cheap partisan dialogue” that is not cheap partisan dialogue at all, but rather expensive political theater of the sort that Americans really love. Need proof? Ann Romney now has more Twitter followers than Justin Bieber.
        Republicans, especially, seem to be enjoying putting Democrats on the defensive on women’s issues for once. It has only been five weeks—and a political lifetime—since the Republicans themselves were in the awkward position of trying to defend one of their media stars for calling a pro-contraception law student a “prostitute” and suggesting that she post sex videos to the Internet.
        In a world where major news items must be limited to 140 characters, distinctions tend to get lost in the shuffle. This has produced a sort of equality-of-outrage mentality that lumps the several recent media events into a tweetable equation: Rush/Newt/Rick/Mitt/Republicans hate women and think that law students are prostitutes, but HillaryRosen/HillaryClinton/ Obama/Democrats hate stay-at-home moms—so it’s all kind of equal and we can focus on who has the best hair. This is how we play the “equality game.”
        Let us assume for a moment, however, that there really is a rough equality between March’s fiasco and April’s—that calling women who don’t work outside the home “women who don’t work” is comparable to calling women who use contraception “prostitutes.” Let us also assume that Hillary Rosen’s position in the Democratic Party is roughly comparable to Rush Limbaugh’s position in the Republican Party (i.e. both are media commentators and neither is affiliated with any particular candidate or campaign). Even if all of these factors are equivalent, the responses of the actual candidates were miles apart, and this difference tells us something crucial about the current state of our two party system.
        When news of Rosen’s faux pas broke, the Obama team moved quickly and decisively to repudiate the comment. Campaign manager Jim “No Relation” Messina took to Twitter within minutes to say that Rosen’s comments “were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize.” David Axelrod, Obama Communications Director, followed up with “Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive.” And within a day, Obama himself went on TV and rejected both the idea that stay-at-home moms don’t work and the practice of criticizing a candidate’s spouse. Rosen could not have been more repudiated.
        And what did Governor Romney say when asked to comment on Rush Limbaugh’s patently offensive statements about women who use contraception” Here it is: “I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used. I’m focusing on the issues I think are significant in the country today, and that’s why I’m here talking about jobs and Ohio.” In other words, “Rush will be Rush.” This is not a repudiation; it is barely even not an endorsement.
        Now, I am not na├»ve. I maintain no illusions that Romney is a woman-hating moral coward or that Obama is a courageous idealist willing to defend SAHMs at any cost. Both men gave carefully crafted statements that reflected their respective political realities. Obama had the luxury to take the moral high ground because the far left—the sorts of people who would agree with Hillary Rosen—are not a significant political force in his party or in the general election. Romney could not repudiate a clearly irresponsible statement because a large number of the voters he is currently courting agree with Limbaugh and would be outraged by an attack on their hero. This tells us that one side is clearly more beholden to, and less willing (or able) to police, its own wack jobs. And that is a big problem.
        As someone who usually hangs out near the political center, I find the Romney response terrifying--not because of what it says about Romney per se, but because of what it says about the political context in which any Republican candidate must now operate. Are there irresponsible people on both the left and the right? Yes, absolutely. Are there people with silly, stupid, insensitive ideas on both sides? Of course. But when a liberal pundit implied that stay-at-home moms don't work, the Democratic administration immediately condemned the remark in the strongest terms possible. In a very comparable situation, the presumptive Republican nominee bent over backwards to accommodate both the offense and the offender--not because he wanted to, I will gladly concede, but because he had to. And it is the reason that he had to that scares me the most.
in the current historical moment, one of the major political parties is demonstrably more dependent on its crazy people than the other one is, and this has definite implications for how they will and do govern.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tax Cuts are Magic: Why We Need the Ryan Budget

        The Ryan budget is back, and just in time. It has been so long since we have had a major tax cut that it is a near-miracle that our entire economy has not imploded. President Obama, of course, has engaged in blatant class warfare by denouncing the plan as “Social Darwinism. ” But the Republicans are holding their ground, as well they should. The most fundamental assumption of the modern conservative ideology is at stake, as well as an incontrovertible truth of theology and metaphysics: that tax cuts are magic
        That’s right. Magic. Unlike the cold rationality of the “Obama Theory”—that generating more revenue will allow us to pay for more things, including paying down the debt—the Republican model harnesses the power of magic to make government revenue grow by making absolutely sure that there is less of it. And the Ryan plan is all about magic. By slashing Pell Grants, Medicare, Food Stamps, and nearly every other service for the poorest of the poor in America, he is able to give a vanishingly insignificant tax break to most Americans, a huge tax break to those earning more than $200,000 a year, and still balance the budget despite not producing anywhere near the revenue to do so. That is why magic is so cool.

          This may sound counterintuitive, but, of course, most magic does--that's why it's magic, after all. That tax cuts have never actually produced a balanced budget—and have, in fact, always exploded the deficit—is not due to their lack of magic powers; it is because those who have gone down this road—such as Ronald Reagan in 1981—lost faith in the magic. (Reagan, you will recall, raised taxes 11 times after his initial cut).
        How far have the original Reagan tax cutters fallen away? Well, consider this little bit of Benedict Arnoldism: Reagan’s own senior economic analyst—one of the architects of the tax cuts—now claims  that increasing revenues was never even part of Reagan’s plan. “No serious Republican economist ever said that a tax reduction would recoup more than about a third of the static revenue loss,” Writes Bruce Bartlett in his Fiscal Times column. And Reagan’s tax cuts, he points out resulted in revenues that, in constant dollars “were $66 billion lower in 1989 as a result of Reagan’s policies.”
        As we so clearly see, it is not just Democrats, but apostate Republicans who hate the magic. And make no mistake about it. Faith in the magic of tax cuts is every bit as important as faith in Jesus—because tax cuts make Jesus happy. This is stated very clearly in the Bible. In 1 Kings 12, what did God do when the evil king Rehoboam wanted to raise taxes after his father Solomon had almost bankrupted the country with his self-glorifying public works projects? He split Israel into two countries; that’s what he did. And he’ll do it again if we try to raise taxes the way that Rehoboam did.
        And this is why the tax cut issue is so important for the Republican party. It unites the faith of the two great halves of the conservative coalition: the business conservatives, who know that tax cuts are magic, and the Christian conservatives, who know that raising taxes will tick Jesus off. When Senator DeMint says that conceding anything to the democrats on taxes would destroy the GOP, he speaks with the authority of absolute truth. What could possibly be more destructive than getting on the wrong side of Magic and Jesus on the very same day.
        In a recent column on his “Capital Gains and Games” blog, Magic/Jesus hater Bruce Bartlett writes:
Distributionally, the Ryan plan is a monstrosity. The rich would receive huge tax cuts while the social safety net would be shredded to pay for them. Even as an opening bid to begin budget negotiations with the Democrats, the Ryan plan cannot be taken seriously. It is less of a wish list than a fairy tale utterly disconnected from the real world, backed up by make-believe numbers and unreasonable assumptions. Ryan’s plan isn’t even an act of courage; it’s just pandering to the Tea Party. A real act of courage would have been for him to admit, as all serious budget analysts know, that revenues will have to rise well above 19 percent of GDP to stabilize the debt. 
          Well Mr. Smarty-pants, RINO, traitor-to-the-Gipper guy, I’m here to tell you that you are WRONG. Its not about connecting your assumptions to some atheistic, Jesus-hating "real world" logic. Magic is not SUPPOSED to be logical. It’s about faith. It’s about religion. It’s about knowing something deep within your heart and making that special something the basis of your life. And that special something is simply this: that tax cuts are magic.