MORE ROPE, PLEASE!

In Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain tells a terrific anecdote about being elected union steward for the enormous restaurant at the Rockefeller Center as a young man in the 1970s. If "New York" and "1970s" was not a big enough hint, it turns out that the organization appeared to be mob-run. Bourdain is young, idealistic, and eager to raise some hell in the union, but meeting the union rep leads to his disillusionment as he realizes that his new job is of the do-nothing variety:

(The Union President) was oddly unenthusiastic. He looked up sleepily at me from behind the desk, as if I were a delivery boy bringing him a sandwich. When I asked him if I could, as shop steward, familiarize myself with The Contract, so that I might better serve our members, the president fiddled with his cufflinks and said, "I seem to have…temporarily…misplaced it." It was clear from his inflection and posture that he didn't give a fuck whether I believed him or not.

I've always loved that final line and I think of this anecdote, apocryphal or not, every time I find myself in this frustrating situation. This tone is frequently encountered when dealing with bureaucracies or one's superiors in the workplace. They don't care if you believe them because they don't have to.

This came to mind when I read Saturday's unusually frank New York Times editorial ("Mitt Romney's Confession") on the fact that the Romney/Ryan economic plan (or "plan") simply doesn't add up.

There are a couple of pitfalls here. The first is that while closing loopholes sounds good — Make those oil companies pay! — the costliest ones are cherished by most Americans. These are tax provisions that promote home ownership, charitable giving, and employer-provided health care and that allow taxpayers to deduct their state and local income taxes. Limiting or eliminating these popular "loopholes" would be extremely difficult.

The second obstacle, as shown by the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, is that Mr. Romney's plan is mathematically impossible, even if it were politically feasible. Take away every deduction from every wealthy household, the center calculated, and you still couldn’t make up the revenue the government would lose by reducing rates without raising taxes on middle-class households.

Not so, Mr. Romney protested recently, and cited an analysis by Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, a Romney campaign adviser. Mr. Feldstein said the math could work — if you took away every deduction from every household earning $100,000 or more.

In other words, the math might work out (although this isn't even touching the effects of the proposed Estate Tax repeal) under a set of hypothetical circumstances that is totally unrealistic and not even what the campaign is proposing. No one, least of all Mitt Romney, has proposed eliminating every single tax deduction, including the home mortgage interest deduction. But maybe if that happened his tax cuts would begin to pay for themselves. Probably not, though. It's like they're giving us the rope and begging us to hang him.

This is not, as the Times suggests with its title, a "confession" by the Romney campaign. It is evidence that the GOP has moved far beyond giving two shits whether you believe their silly supply side economics or not. They simply do not care and they're not going to waste their time trying to provide some kind of evidence that supports their theory. Neither they nor the voters they attract are interested in even pretending like tax cuts pay for themselves – excepting a few rubes here and there who make $8/hr and think the Job Creators' wealth is going to trickle down. They just want the tax cuts, period.

It may seem like more of the same policy proposals from the GOP – more tax cuts, more magical faith that the economy will suddenly start growing faster than expected to make their lazy projections balance out – but Romney/Ryan marks an important change. This is 2012, the Year They Stopped Trying. The effort to make the math work is so feeble and so pitifully unconvincing that the jig is up. The candidates aren't even pretending that this works, and the supporters aren't even pretending that they believe it does. Just give us more money. Who cares what it costs the rest of you.

In my mind the whole "This pays for itself!" argument was never more than a weak conscience balm for wealthy beneficiaries of Republican fiscal policy. This is typical, and I think symptomatic, of the problems with the Romney campaign that their effort to sell their economic policy (during an election, during a recession) is so superficial, so half-assed, and so clearly a case of going through the motions. It's nice to see an admission, albeit a tacit, indirect one, that Reaganomics can finally be recognized for what it is: an ideology. A belief. An article of faith. And above all, it is a placeholder. They need some way to pass off massive upper class tax cuts as "fiscally responsible" and this fairy tale does about as well as any other.

This is a guy who spends every weekend at his vacation home in an election he's losing with 7 weeks to go. No one should be surprised that he barely put any effort into maintaining his party's Grand Illusion.

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25 Responses to “MORE ROPE, PLEASE!”

  1. Dbp Says:

    I'm beginning to side with the lunatics over at Free Republic. Maybe Romney IS a plant in the GOP to sink it. His behavior and words don't make a lot of since unless you look at them from that worldview.

  2. daphne Says:

    If it's a NYT article, why does the link go to the Washington Post? Seriously. Am I missing something?

  3. c u n d gulag Says:

    I don't think the Republicans expected the Democrats to fight back at their bullsh*t as hard as they've done this year.

    And I think Mitt expected to win by acclamation. I don't think expected to have to fight to win.
    And hell, if the people don't hand him the crown for him to put it on his head himself, then THEY'RE the ones who aren't worthy, not Mitt.

    Now, will the Republicans learn a lesson if they do, indeed, lose the Presidency in November?
    Will they try to appeal more to women, brown people, and gays?
    Or will the double-down.

    I think their base won't let them do anything except double-down on the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and/or homophobia.

    But, as Senator Graham put it, 'they're not making enough angry white men,' for that party to stay viable for long.

    On Election Day, the forces of evil will try to intimidate voters in "urban" area:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_the_Vote

    And as the results start pouring in, the evening of November 6th, and the next day, may be crazy-time in the USA, as the rich, and angry white people, realize they have another 4 years of that KenyanSocialistFascistCommunitsAtheistMuslim Usurper.

    Think Brooks Brothers Riots, meets Klan Rally.

  4. Anonymouse Says:

    2012 is the Year they Stopped Trying about a lot of things. Not only do they not give a flying fig about the economics, but they're wallowing openly in their hatred of blah people and women. The media is so deep in right-wing pockets that they didn't even bother to report the klantards at the RNC convention throwing peanuts at a black camerawoman and insulting her. Ho-hum, business as usual for the Republicans.

  5. anotherbozo Says:

    Brilliant, Ed. I know you're not writing for ratings, given by an individual doofus certainly, but from the Anthony Bourdain anecdote to the Grand Illusion clincher this is one of your best. Nobody I've read has said exactly this, either, has pulled the mask off the plutocrats with such panache. One for the vault.

    However, I keep worrying that the combination of gazillions of last-minute carpet bombing ads and voter supression will pay off for these arrogant, arrogant assholes.

  6. Xynzee Says:

    @CU: you forgot Gay.

    He's a **Gay**KenyanSocialistFascistCommunitsAtheistMuslimUsurper.

    Gees man! Get it right.

    I have that as fact 'cause one of cousins of my dog's fleas shared a room with penguin that guacamole with one of Rand Paul's stilettos, knew a gnat that farted fairy dust. Said its true so it must be.

  7. Xynzee Says:

    That should read:

    …the cousins…
    …ate guacamole…

  8. Major Kong Says:

    Ed,

    Tax cuts (and especially upper class) ones are like a religion with Republicans.

    They just know this stuff has to work.

  9. c u n d gulag Says:

    Xynzee,
    Get it straight – that flea shared a room with an endangered owl who knew Ayn Rand's cigarette holder and told some salsa which whispered to a mayfly that burped out that Obama's really a tranny hooker from Venus.

  10. Jimcat Says:

    In 1996, it looked pretty obvious to me that Bob Dole was running a pro-forma campaign, and not even really trying to win. Romney has been trying a little harder, but as he slips more and more in the polls and conventional wisdom, we can expect to see further shrugs.

    Anonymouse: if the media "didn't bother to report" the assault on the black camerawoman at the RNC, then it was the most well-reported non-reported event of the convention. I'm not sure what media you were following, but it was at the top of many news feeds for a few days.

  11. Middle Seaman Says:

    The white magic of the Republicans works. How can you otherwise explain the banks gambling with our money and getting full support from Obama? Bain constitutes legal highway robbery by a guy who seems to be way too slow for too many jobs. How does this work?

    The Republicans have been selling this crap successfully to 50% of America for more than 40 years now. Ed noticed, and rightly so, that the Republicans are running around naked at the cocktail party without giving a shit.

    Reagan was selling the same crap, but he had a great smile; Romney looks alway constipated.

  12. ladiesbane Says:

    Why in dog's name would the GOP create a plan that works? Then they'd have to stick to it.

    Look, when they undercut schools (including the real, old-fashioned stuff such as biology and geometry) (check out the Texas GOP platform if you think I lie) they are building a nation without the higher order critical thinking skills they detest so much. Stupid people can't check math, and that works in their favor.

    Then they whip up emotions with issues like gay rights and abortion rights and other things we really resolved decades ago, smothered in GOD IS MISSING FROM SCHOOLS and other non-government emo bullshit that embarrasses us in front of the other industrialized nations.

    It's easier to feel than it is to think, and the last thing they want is for people to think. Take away their educations, take away all but the shittiest low-level jobs, but give them bread and circuses.

    Rant-and-ravers who can't check math *love* to get whipped up into a frenzy of zealotry, which also leads them away from the things government is actually designed to do. Phase II, check.

    With critical thought reduced to internet memes involving crosses and government mottoes with the word "god" in them (REPOST IF YOU AGREE!!!!), the Romneys can quietly go about reverse-engineering the country for personal profit. Mission accomplished.

    The hoi polloi of the Right may not see what their rich overlords are doing — they tend to love hierarchy, and don't approve of questioning authority — but the GOP leadership, at the highest levels, is robbing them blind, eight ways from Sunday.

  13. Fitzroy Glibherbert Says:

    To be fair to the rubes, the idea is that short term deficits eventually grow the economy and run surpluses–I have had many, many Republican friends and family trot out that bit of balderdash, and the important thing is this: THEY BELIEVE IT TO BE TRUE.

    Still, the fact remains that they're not even claiming that the math is sucky UNTIL the economy starts to grow–they haven't even factored overall GDP growth (as a results of magical tax cuts, natch) in their estimates for revenue. They're so full of shit that they're not even bothering to bullshit. And that is your point, and you've made it brilliantly.

  14. JazzBumpa Says:

    A cupola things:

    1) The Rethugs have been spoon feeding stupid to their stupid base for so long it is a reflex. I worked in 2000. It worked in 2004. It worked in 2010. OK – something weird happened in '08. But look at all the opportunities that gave them to concoct whole new categories of stupid that incited their stupid base. This is their plan for success.

    B) What I said here.

    I am terrified of this election. I know quite a few progressives who are so pissed at Obama for running the Bush III administration, that they are staying home on voting day.

    The Rethugs stole the presidential elections in 2000 and ’04 – they absolutely know how to do it.

    Despite Romney repeatedly demonstrating that he is an odious son of a bitch with no coherent policy direction, a grasp of foreign policy at the Sarah Palin level, and trickle down domestic policy with gutting SS and Medicare at its core, this election will be close.

    Close enough to steal.

    Despite Lawrence O’Donnell’s gloating, this is no sure thing.

    iii) Also, too — voter suppression.

    WASF!
    JzB

  15. Chicagojon Says:

    The effort to make the math work is so feeble and so pitifully unconvincing that the jig is up.
    I think this happened long before 2012. I love reading the CBO (congressional budget office) January reports to remind myself that 'the problem' goes far beyond individual elected officials or parties. In January 2003 the CBO projected 2004-2013 would have a 1.3 trillion surplus. By January 2004 they projected 2005-2014 would be a 1.9 trillion deficit. That's a 3.2 trillion dollar swing that effectively gets chalked up to 'well, we told you it was just an estimate'.

    In the 2003 report they forecasted 7 years of deficits under Bush policies followed by an amazing turn around in the last 3 years that would not only wipe out the deficits but also provide the 1.3T surplus.

    This independent (hardly), non-partisan (hah! read 2003 vs. 2009) office basically told us that Bushes policies were:
    1. 7 years of deficits
    2. ??????
    3. Profit!

  16. bb in GA Says:

    Broken record skip, skip…

    There are plenty of angry White men (and women) – most of them are Paulistas and they are angry w/the R establishment and maybe especially w/ the Paul family for Papa's ramp down and Son's Romney rollover.. They have no anger left for "blah people and women."

    This 5 – 10% of the R electorate is seething (even Alex Jones is pissed at the Pauls)

    They will sit on it or vote for the Libertarian and if y'all Lefties can convince your pissed off Ideologues to show up for 'lection day – BHO will win it.

    //bb

  17. Jon Says:

    Which vacation home? Haven't seen him lately in La Jolla. All of his neighbors dislike him there. Given that La Jolla is super republican, I'd say this is odd, but then again, the GOP doesn't much like him either, for probably the same reasons.

  18. Rick Massimo Says:

    This is Stage II of the dismantling of the Grand Illusion. Some of us are old enough to remember being told that tax cuts for rich people would bring in so much MORE money to the government that we could afford MORE of the bleeding-heart programs we liberals wanted.

    Been a couple of decades since we heard that one.

  19. mel in oregon Says:

    the corporate world is where many of us start out after finishing college & grad school. so pretty soon as a junior exec you realize the same damn thing the young union steward realized, the union president or senior execs don't give a rat's ass what you think. the same situation with both political parties. we ordinary citizens are here to serve the aristocracy, die in their shitty wars, work ourselves to death so they can be extremely wealthy, & never raise any questions as to what is going on. the only difference between obama & romney is, romney was born very wealthy & worked the shit out of the system to get much wealthier. obama was born comfortable, but is still in the process like his predecessor bill clinton of becoming very wealthy. facts mean nothing to these guys, they don't give a shit about global warming, women's right to an abortion, teachers getting a shitty deal everywhere in america, or anyone's civil liberties. we are like ants, god put us on earth to serve the wonderful aristocracy; get used to it, the new economy & new democracy for the wealthy only is here to stat.

  20. Major Kong Says:

    It makes sense once you realize that:

    1. It's not about the debt
    2. It never was about the debt
    3. It never will be about the debt

    It's about getting rid of programs that Republicans don't like.

    I mean seriously do you really think they believe tax cuts increase government revenue?

    Why would a bunch of Grover Norquist "starve the beast" types want to increase government revenue?

  21. Shott3r Says:

    Well said Major Kong. This has always been about one thing, dismantling the New Deal and the Great Society.

    Step 1: Tax cuts to starve programs of revenue, deficits be damned
    Step 2: Obstruct any legislation that attempts to correct this, argue that the programs are unfixable
    Step 3: After Step 2 becomes the Conventional Wisdom, use the "unfixability" of these programs as the reason to eliminate them

  22. Noskilz Says:

    "2012: The Year They Stopped Trying" sounds like the germ of a killer t-shirt design.

  23. Kati J Says:

    I love that book. My roommate is currently a hostess at The Melting Pot. Yes, the restaurant where fat suburbanites, making their big trip into the city, eat ounces and ounces of melted cheese and chocolate for like 50 bucks a person. She's pretty much dying inside. Anyways, she found that she was picked on quite a bit by her coworkers, so I told her the anecdote where Bourdain, getting more and more fed up with the sexual and verbal harassment in one of his earlier kitchens, takes the fork or knife or whatever, and stabs the fucker whose been pissing him off. She hasn't stabbed anyone yet, but it did help her understand that you've got to have some pretty thick skin in that industry. She's a super bitch to everyone now, and of course, they love her now.

  24. Bernard Says:

    yes, Obama will steal more from us than Rmoney does. much easier for a Blue Dog to screw Americans, to get "In" with the Elites/Republicans. Like all thieves. lol Obama will do what Rmoney can't. Destroy Social Security/Catfood Commission and turn Medicare/Medicaid into Block Grants so the Republicans Governers can refuse to fund Medicare and especially Medicaid. Screwing the Poor is what this game is all about. and the Right wing will lap up all this hate and envy directed at the "other" guy.

    so do we choose to commit slow sell out with Obama or a fast slide to Hell with Rmoney? Choices, Choices, Choices. as if my vote mattered living in a Red State, anyway.

    that's the real issue here. which Devil do we choose.

    after all, the GOP will stop Obama if he's re-elected, anyway. just like they are doing now. 4 more years of the War on America/aka War on the Gay Socialist Kenyan Muslim Usurper, and all that BS. i mean, please. enough is enough. Fascism really sucks!

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