Two vignettes from American political discourse, Summer 2011:

1. Warren Buffet, patriarch of the "celebrity CEO"/Kindly Market Oracle phenomenon, took to the nation's op-ed pages to state, "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice" and raise taxes on millionaire households, including capital gains and dividend taxes. He discussed the 400 highest-earning households, the "Super Rich", with authority; he is not only one of them, but he knows the majority of them personally. I choose not to participate in the kind of idolization we are urged to direct toward men of great wealth like Buffet, but it is clear that in this instance he is making a reasonable, obvious, and economically sound argument. This is what the kids might call a no-brainer.

2. Chuck Asay of the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph, a syndicated columnist described as, "one of the few quality conservative cartoonists working in the industry today," offers this take on the same situation (click to embiggen):

It matters little how cogent an argument Buffet can make – this much more accurately reflects the way we see the plight of our social betters. The heroic Job Creators (and their friend Free Market) are being asked to carry the weight of the rest of us, be we the elderly, Unions, or god forbid College.

While the cartoon is easy to interpret, it is at the same time baffling. The scenario implies that Job Creators actually want someone to take over the oars or would allow that to happen if Entitlement Nation offered to help. And of course Entitlement Nation doesn't want to take the oars; it only wants to stare and say "Oh, help me, Popeye!"

Moreover, what exactly is Entitlement Nation supposed to do on a boat with two sets of oars? Perhaps the Job Creator and Free Market could bear the blame of using such little foresight when designing that product. Most importantly, though, is this Entitlement Nation-to-Job Producer ratio representative? If so, this only highlights what a small share of the population our political system, as Buffet points out, is catering to.

Job Creator and Free Market love this situation. They wouldn't have it any other way; they want control of the oars and great masses who are docile, worshipful, and compliant. Just look at the numbers and you'll see why. If everyone finally wakes up and realizes that the boat is going over the edge, guess who's getting thrown overboard or getting brained with an oar first. This is, in short, a very stupid metaphor that depends on the patently silly pretense that we all want nothing more than for our Job Creators to save us. Something tells me that everyone would chip in if the opportunity to do so existed, but since the Job Creators and Free Market only made oars for themselves I guess we're all going over the damn edge.


  • Back before I valued my time as much as I do now, I used to read a ton of editorial cartoons. I read dozens. And I can say that Chuck Asay is one of the best conservative editorial cartoonists working today. By the same token, he is also dumber than a bag half-full of retarded hammers.

  • We've secretly replaced little Charlie's usual Playboy stash with dark, sparkling Ayn Rand. Let's watch and see if they notice…

  • Au contraire, mon frere! The cartoon is actually subtly subversive, and is drawn from a progressive viewpoint. The key is that the fattest, most out-of-shape people in the entire boat are in charge of the rowing, which implies that the our current batch of Free Market and Job Creators are *really* not up to the task. By the look of things, if you let the Union guy and the College girl row, we'd be in pretty good shape. So the overall message is actually that the fat cats who are sucking the nation dry need to get out of the f'ing way, cause they're about to send us over a cliff.

    Either that, or this is a poorly thought-out cartoon.

  • Can we please just admit that the term "free market" is totally empty? Why is it so often that in the states "freedom" means "freedom of employers to fuck their employees in whatever way they see fit"?

  • @Hoosier: To expand your observation on "free market".

    Ever notice that you can't say free market, IP (copyright/patent) and China in the same sentence with the "Free market" set?

    So let's see, at one point China's market was about 80% unregulated in regards to IP. Our markets are so tightly controlled that some monkey can slap a patent something that has been there since life began on this planet and get away with it.

  • I really wanted to appreciate Warren Buffet’s OpEd… but something felt all wrong about it. Did anybody notice this?

    “Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues.”

    The whole gallant offer to share the sacrifice (which would not even remotely resemble what you or I would think of as “sacrifice” — not that it should, but let’s not kid ourselves, either) reinforces the ideas that “We must do something about the deficit!” and “Social Security will soon go bankrupt!” and so on… the bullshit, ass-backward, intentionally delivered economic fallacies that will make sure everybody except the super-rich has a great chance to be fucked over royally in the next decade or two.

    There’s no way that “sacrifice,” if it happens at all, will remotely yield an amount of revenue necessary to offset the government spending that is so desperately needed, *now*, as the short- and long-term damages of this recession/depression/disaster mount before our eyes.

    Sadly, the whole “cuts, cuts cuts! — what about revenue?” squabble has been an effective diversion. Pissed off that the rich weren’t made to help reduce the deficit, the Left once again forgot that the deficit isn’t the problem in the first place.

  • The cartoon also fails to point out that College Girl *joins* the Free Market (by becoming gainfully employed, with a greater salary than what she can expect without a college education) and *becomes* a Job Creator (by spending the money she earns and creating a demand for the products she likes, and possibly even starting her own business) whenever she finishes her degree. The Elderly *were* in the Free Market when they were employed during their most productive years, and they still *are* Job Creators (because presumably they are still spending money on maintenance for themselves and their dwellings, even if they aren't going for extras like round-the-world cruises).

    And the voters actually buy this shit.

  • Your interpretation of Asay's cartoon is a little off. It's the BOAT that's labeled "Entitlement Nation." That's the key to understanding why there are only two sets of oars. I think it's meant to say that the nation is rigged so that the poor and undeserving (unions, students, retired, democrats, etc., as pictured) are being given a free ride by the big husky FREE MARKET and JOB CREATORS. Who are the victims here, since they've been saddled with such a massive burden as the boat/nation is heading for a waterfall. In other words, it's the exact opposite of reality. Well, except for the relationship between the nation and the waterfall. You probably interpreted the cartoon the way you did because you were looking for a reasonable, rather than reprehensible, message.

    But this is a guy who uses people on bicycles and pictures of clean energy sources to represent the ultimate liberal dystopia. Sooo…

  • This was fun. I love surprises.

    The big flaw–and very telling condition–of Asay's cartoon is that we're all in the same boat. The ultra-rich, not known for philosophic depth or long-range vision, don't see the connection between their welfare and the status of the great American unwashed, the undernourished, unschooled, incarcerated or lately downsized, all who will ultimately–do now, in fact—affect their quality of life. Asay's boat belies the "I've got mine; you get yours" mentality.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    All that was missing from that cartoon was Mallard Fillmore flying over and shitting on people on the 'Entitlement Nation" side of the boat.

    Conservatives are not, and can not be funny.
    They suffer from an 'irony deficiency.'

  • Conservatives, simultaneously apoplectic about the coarsening of the nation, and too well-mannered to say anything to their patrons about the need for jobs here. Perhaps MBA programs might include some older literature, that would highlight the more dubious joys of unregulated free markets, maybe Dickens, Twain, even Arthur Conan Doyle would serve to remind them that their ancestors were not idiots.

  • Hit the nail on the head, Gulag. Conservative attempts to be funny almost always tend to be tragic. I think even conservatives realize this sometimes.

  • Only in Conservative Fantasy Land are things people pay for called " entitlements" and the people who send every decent job overseas " job creators".

  • The biggest flaw with the cartoon, and the analysis, is the belief that there is only one boat and we are all in it.

    I don't want to go all John Edwards, but are actually two boats…

  • Elder Futhark says:

    Someone already pointed out that "Job Creator" and "Free Market" are disgusting softbodies clearly not up to the task of rowing the boat. And then, unless "Job Creator" is wearing a wig, he looks like a she, and so really should be called "Job Creatrix", and then maybe give her a whip too, since the word reminds me of "dominatrix"but then also felxatrix which is hot. And then, where is the elephant? Did the elephant already jump out of the boat? That would make sense, but then, there should still be some sign of the elephant, and there is none. There are two jackasses there, and one has some pretty nice jugs on her. But then again on closer inspection, no, they're not, I'm just a little tit-happy today. So again, you've got the jackasses, but no elephat? I guess if they're were an elephant in the boat it would look like it was going to capsize and we wouldn't want ot give the impression that some fat-ass elephant was lan impediment to progress. Unless it was a midget elephant, or held a feather in his trunk, and was accompanied by negro crows, but that night be interpreted the worng way.

    But anyway, are any of them really in danger? I mean, you really can't see anything pas the edge of the water that looks dangerous except for some puffy clouds, which, through a long chain of word association might be threatening to the tea tards amongst somehow. Puff clouds. Puffy combs. Sean puffy combs. Gangsta rap. Gangster. Criminal. Rape. Murder. Murderer. OJ. Obama. There we go!

    Anyway, no, I'm inclined to believe that a metaphorical structuralist like Chuck, given that he is probably a biblical literalist, is drawing the edge of the flat earth, and so there's nothing down there, no dangerous rocks to crash on, just, you know, air, and so if they fall off, why they just keep falling forever and ever, amen!

  • @c u n d:
    Except that, at some point in the '80s, shock humor was lost by the National Lampoon generation and handed over to the jocks. That's why so much "cringe comedy" (Nick DiPaolo is the obvious example) sounds suspiciously like right-wing whine radio and still, in 20-fucking-11, gets points for its un-"PC"-ness.

    I feel the same way about Buffet's op-ed that I feel about a medalist in the Special Olympics. He can't quite shrug off the fog of his free-market retardation, but he's relatively high-functioning. As long as the rich are our royals, and most of them are circling their wagons against the oncoming peasant hordes, I'm glad there's one of them with a modicum of foresight and balls.

    I feel the same way about Chuck Asay that I do about this guy:

    As with the writers who get FJM-ed, my fondest hope is that he reads this post and is ashamed of himself. I doubt it's happened once.

  • Make the ship a slave ship and label it the free market. The job creators are the slave holders and we are all shackled and doing the rowing for the job creators. Then, have the job creators whining that we cost too much to feed and we ask for all these ridiculous things like blister ointment and clothing. Then it's a more accurate representation of what's going on today.

  • I don't think you guys are giving Chuckles enough credit. He at least quasi-shows Obama trying to convince "job creators" like Jeffrey Immelt to save the boat. Your average wing-nut thinks Barry the Socialist is actively rowing like Ben-Hur towards the precipice because he hates America or some shit.

    Yes, the bar is set extremely low.

  • I was listening to an interview with some economist on Bloomberg news yesterday. The discussion was about Buffet's editorial. At one point in the conversation, the interviewer says, "So, what do you say to the people who argue that the super Rich pay the majority of taxes so there's no reason to raise taxes on the rich?" I started yelling at the radio in my car saying, "They pay the most tax because they own most of the wealth!" Easy answer. Of course, the economist ho-hummed the response saying something along the lines that that may be a valid argument but there is some validity also to the idea that revenues need to be increased. I started yelling, "No, that's just not true." I am so tired of this nonsense where 1. We have to act like the Right has valid arguments any more, and 2. That we can't just openly counter their arguments without being apologetic. Since when did the Right suddenly corner the market on morality and ethical thinking?

  • In response to Da Moose, a distinction should be made to the "wealthy" and those high incomes. We do not tax the wealthy, we tax high-earners– much different. Think about the distinction and the ramifications. Think paris Hilton versus a 32 yr-old brain surgeon just out of fellowship with $250K in student loans. Who gets punished in the current system.

    My solution: a one-time 1% tax on all assets. Budget balanced, Medicare and Social Security funded in perpetuity. Done and done.

  • Conservatives really shouldn't try to do humor. They're just not very good at it.

    At best it comes off as lame and at worst it gets downright creepy.

  • @Tony61

    Exactly. I would draw the picture with the people in a rowboat with no oars, while the "job creators" drive circles around them in a speedboat that has a whole mess of oars on board.

  • Think paris Hilton versus a 32 yr-old brain surgeon just out of fellowship with $250K in student loans. Who gets punished in the current system.

    The person who cleans their houses for sub-minimum wage. I know how these trick questions work

  • I think I’ve figured out how the cartoon needs to be reworked a bit. It can still be called “The Obama Plan” but Free Market and Job Creators, both monstrously fatter to the point of near-immobility, are on shore with an enormous stockpile of oars at their side. Approaching the falls is a 12-foot lifeboat stuffed to the gunwales with 300 million tiny people, many of whom are vainly trying to paddle away from the waterfall’s edge with plastic forks they stole from the QuikStop right before they got fired. Job Creators is rooting around in a Prada shopping bag for the loot she received in exchange for “creating” 12 minutes of a commission-based service-sector job that morning after brunch, but neither she nor Free Market seems to
    have noticed the approaching catastrophe, or the rescue that could be enabled by tossing some oars across the churning water (or by simply turning off the waterfall spigot sticking out of the ground in plain sight next to them both). Even though no one is paying him the least attention, President Obama stands shakily in the boat, calling across to the shore, “Thanks for saving those oars, you guys. Are you getting enough of this water up there to your heated pool?”

    But I'm also quite partial to Ed W's interpretation.

  • There are few things sadder than conservative attempts at humor. Let's see…we've got:

    Larry the Cable Guy: Fake redneck mocking working class people and talking about farting. That is when he's not demonizing Muslims or gays, of course.

    Dennis Miller: Dennis Miller's about as funny as the time when Romanos IV Diogenes was betrayed by his rival Alexandros Doukas at the battle of Manzikert in 1071, thus opening Anatolia to the Turks. No wait, scratch that, Dennis Miller's not nearly as funny as that was. (Trust me)

    Rush Limbaugh: Only "funny" when trying to explain an overtly racist statement by claiming it was a joke. Nevermind- also not funny at all.

    Jeff Dunham: Racist ventriloquist. Oh boy!

    This all reminds me of one of my favorite conservative articles, one where a blogger gets all butthurt about Sesame Street supposedly making a crack at Fox News(though they also made puns on other networks such as CNN). The blogger launched a full attack on the children's program, then declared that conservatives have all the "cool" people; among them Glenn Beck. Yeah, because chalkboards and early Cold War Mormon fundamentalist conspiracy theories are all the rage with young people these days.

  • Humor, probably only exceeded by music, in our culture is about as subjective and taste driven as you can get.

    Surprise, Surprise! (bb in his Jim Nabors/Gomer Pyle voice) flaming ass Libs think Conservatives are funny as cancer on a stick.

    I think Geneanne (however the hell you spell it) Garafalo "stinks on ice." But that probably has a lot to do with her attitude and politics

    What next? The sky is blue?


  • >> While the cartoon is easy to interpret, it is at the same time baffling. <<

    Why is it baffling?

    Just toss the good for nothing freeloaders over this side and let them suffer their fate. Obama, also too.

  • The funniest scenario here would be that Job Creator and Free Market would then start rowing faster, because they are scared of the threatening black person who somehow managed to make his way onto their joy ride. The nerve of some people!

  • Major K:

    The lines between humor, political commentary and polemic are sometimes fine. You take offense at what you think is a lame attempt at one of the three – what you see as humor.

    Obviously, with all the vile and offensive stuff (from my perspective) that goes on here, I have chosen to not be offended or I just wouldn't read G&T.

    Since we do not have a Constitutional Right (Yet) to be free from being offended, you have that option as well.

    However, some day soon we'll all get our minds right, er Left, and we on the Right will not be allowed to say offensive things.

    Oh Happy Day!


  • Jan van Werth says:

    Whenever I hear the "argument" that the super-rich pay already the greatest portion of taxes, I'm waiting for someone to answer with the figures that count IMO: a) percentage of taxes paid (that's what's always given) AND b) percentage of wealth owned (income plus assets or something like that). My guess is that a is significantly lower than b, in which case the argument is vacuous. If the two figures are similar, I would be willing to consider it OTOH.

  • What happens when Job Creator tries to put a collar around Free Market (as all Job Creators long to do), and Free Market responds by throwing a fit and his oars over the side, and Job Creator says "screw this, I've got a yacht tied up on shore," and takes his oars with him as he jumps overboard, and then Obama tries to save everyone left in the boat by patiently trying to convince Job Creator that even though he's wonderful and deserves all the oars in the world (even the ones he got just by virtue of living on the richest boat in the world), if Job Creator could just give one oar back — even temporarily, like a loan or something — so Obama can row the boat away from the falls…
    What happens then? Oh, wait, I guess that's where we are now.

  • You could also read this as a progressive dig at Obama…

    The self-proclaimed Free Market and Job Creators (I assume they custom-ordered their own tee-shirts) have been rowing us ass-backwards towards the brink of watery death for a while now (even though Roosevelt got the ship pointed in the right direction a long time ago), and Obama's poor leadership is just encouraging them to row faster and destroy us that much sooner. Meanwhile, the people who would like to move us in the right direction are kept from the oars of power. But the jokes on the rowers, 'cause when the whole friggin' boat goes over Niagra and hits the rocks below, we're all gonna die.

    There, now – that works much better, doesn't it?

  • @bb

    I just don't think the Right does humor very well. When one of them asks me "Where's your Rush Limbaugh?" I reply "Where's your Jon Stewart?"

    They do outrage a lot better than we do but humor doesn't seem to be one of their strong points. The only conservative I've ever found mildly funny was P.J. O'Rourke, and I'm sure he's been labeled a "RINO" or worse over on the right.

  • Outrage is the operative word, because while conservative attempts at being funny fail miserably(humor is happy and light-hearted, not constantly bitching and complaining), if you were to stack up Limbaugh against a liberal equivalent the former would be more entertaining in general. This is why liberal talk radio did not do so well.

    What does the left use? Facts, analysis, etc. They interview professors on certain topics, they say we need to understand the historical context, they say that things are more complicated than they would seem, and we should get off our asses and learn about those things. To many people that is simply too much work, and above all, boring. So what do you get from this? Some guy saying we ought to take it easy on the idea of war with Iran, because we had better understand the history of US-Iranian relationships, and think about the possible repercussions of war with Iran when we want to stabilize a Shia-majority Iraq, or something along those lines.


    Which requires less work, and less thinking? Which is more appealing when, due to economic events beyond your control much less your understanding, your life seems to be totally stagnant if not falling apart?

  • Bringing it back around to Warren Buffet.. His math sucks:

    “Even taking every last penny from every individual making more than $10 million per year would only reduce the nation's deficit by 12 percent and the debt by 2 percent,” the non-partisan Tax Foundation’s David Logan writes.

    I don't know about the non-partisan claim…

    David is talking wealth confiscation here. And, of course, you only get to do that once because whoever was on the receiving end would "Go Galt" fer sure.

    And all the sub 10 million people would start hiding stuff like sixty…


  • Perhaps Asay could underscore what he's trying to say in this cartoon by showing only the rich people with life-vests. When everyone goes in the water, only the rich ones will survive.

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