Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken or the Egg: Who Went Crazy First, Candidates or Supporters?

As I like to, I remind readers that there are Democrats that are loopy from time to time. One thing's for certain, though: people on the left (oops, the Democratic Party is a centrist party, but...) rarely need to dissemble, distort, or delude in order to establish a policy outlook.

Republicans too crazy for this conservative?
Last week, conservative and former Bush speechwriter David Frum announced he was leaving the public radio show Marketplace where he'd been a regular, doing the point-counterpoint with liberal and former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. Frum felt he could no longer represent today's conservatives in the Republican Party, so he resigned his position as commentator for the show.
So long as the topic is “green jobs” or NLRB regulations or immigration, my thinking aligns reasonably congruently with the current conservative consensus.
But on the issues that today most passionately divide Americans – healthcare reform, monetary policy, social spending to aid the unemployed, and – soon – the American response to the euro crisis, I have to recognize that my views are not very representative of the conservative mainstream.
When speaking wholly and declaredly for myself, I can shrug off (admittedly – with some regret) the distance I have drifted from old comrades. When I’m called on to do point-counterpoint, I can’t deny that there is something false about the situation. The many listeners to Marketplace who share the consensus conservative view are entitled to hear somebody articulate that view as well as it can be articulated. The listeners who do not share the consensus conservative view would benefit even more from a strong presentation of that alternative opinion.
If I can’t or won’t do that job, then I should make way for somebody who can and will.
Frum said it very politely when he said, "...I have drifted from my old comrades." I've been watching and listening, Mr. Frum, and it ain't you that have been drifting.

So, taking the lead from David Frum, let's do an exercise. Who has moved where and why? I use this frame to take a look at the candidates and their supporters. Who went batshit crazy first?

Reagan raised taxes? Impossible!
Michele Bachman (from the Des Moines Register:
Bachmann argued that taxes are too high, and called for a return to the tax policies of the 1980s.
“We had an economic miracle in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan,” Bachmann said. “I want to bring those positive solutions into the tax code.”
But the rates of taxation for both the top and bottom tax brackets throughout most of the Reagan administration were actually higher than current tax rates.
For most of Reagan’s two terms in office, the taxpayers in the highest income bracket were taxed at 50 percent – while today the highest rate is 35 percent. Taxpayers in the lowest bracket, meanwhile, paid income taxes at rates ranging from 11 to 15 percent between 1981 and 1989; today they pay 10 percent, according to data from the National Taxpayers Union.
Bachman is so enamored of Ronald Reagan that it never occurred to her to read her history. Taxes + Reagan = Paradise!

Things go better with Koch.
Herman Cain's 999 plan doesn't stand scrutiny, baked as it was in the ovens of a Wells Fargo financial advisor in Ohio, Rich Lowrie. Cain admitted it might raise "some people's taxes," without owning up to the fact that it drastically shifts the tax burden from the rich to the poor and middle classes while also driving down revenues severely. Paul Krugman points out how it's also a job killer:
But seriously — or as seriously as anything involving Cain can get — Jared Bernstein has a good summary of the reality of nein, nein, nein. The key point is that each of the nines is a tax that would more or less fully fall on middle-income families, who in addition to paying 9 percent of their income in taxes would find their living costs 9 percent higher and their wages 9 percent lower. That’s a 27 percent tax, way above the average federal taxes now paid by middle-income households.
Now it turns out that Cain is essentially a Koch brothers plant. He's been working since 2005 for their Americans for Prosperity, a political outfit for advancing their own personal business interests.

If the 999 plan and help from the Kochs are the reasons for Herman Cain's ascendency, rational people should bring him back to Earth soon.

One way to solve America's problems: Drill!

As for Rick "drill, baby, drill, frack, baby, frack" Perry, his economic plan is a major dose of Texas hokum. He might be right that more drilling and digging and shooting bad chemicals into the ground will produce jobs, but so will supporting green technologies. All more oil and gas can do is lower the price on the spot market for a time. Going green helps us get off the oil grid -- and doing the same thing to oil and gas prices, too, by the way. As for fracking, well, it's virtually unregulated due to the 2005 energy bill passed by a Republican congress and signed by George Bush.

Perry called this "an act of God." Please let him be president!

We shouldn't forget Newt Gingrich, who got some attention at the Bloomberg economic debate in New Hampshire by recommending that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd be arrested for their Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill passed in 2010 and signed by President Obama. Well, maybe we should forget him. Newt, your time in the sun is over.

You'll notice I haven't gotten to "front runner" Mitt Romney yet. Part of that is because his economic plan rests on criticizing Barack Obama's record --  the stimulus bill, the Affordable Care Act, Ben Bernanke's actions at the Fed, bailing out the auto companies -- and is pretty weak tea disguised as good hair and a strong chin, and part of it is because it's hard to know if he really means it. Obama, being a centrist with bipartisan designs has governed as a "Romney Republican," meaning Mitt's dad George Romney. We have no idea how Mitt would actually govern.

Oh, wait, we do. In his one brief term in office as governor of Massachusetts, he was pro-choice, backed a health care plan that channels Obama's, and governed as a moderate centrist, sort of like Obama. So why is he all wildly conservative now? Oh yeah, the Tea Party...

I could go on and on, but at some point what Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul have to say just has to be forgotten. Too many clowns in the car.

So as you follow the rest of this wacky Republican primary season (or seasons, it seems), frame your observations this way: did these candidates go crazy, or did their supporters drive them crazy? I honestly can't tell.

Update: Comedian, TV write-producer, and New Yorker writer Andy Borowitz was on San Francisco's KQED City Arts and Lectures, and he made the comment that the Republican field is taking on the appearance of a "prank." I forget the exact phrase, but it cracked me up. I couldn't find a permanent link to the broadcast, so here's the Google search page where I found a temporary one. Good luck.

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