Posted in Rants on February 3rd, 2009 by Ed

Back in September, when talk of a taxpayer bailout of the financial sector began in earnest, the Republican Study Committee announced a "market-based" alternative cure for what ails banks. Without checking the link, what would you guess that alternative was?

Just a few days ago the House GOP stood united (with a handful of Democrats) in opposition to the White House's proposed economic stimulus package. The Boehner Crew proposed an alternative plan with a radically different approach to stimulating the economy. What do you think that was?

In 2003 the nation experienced an economic malaise due to the after-effects of 9/11 and the first stages of the sharp rise in crude oil prices. President Bush leaned on a compliant Congress to legislate his vision of the best, fastest way to revitalize our economy and spur job growth. What was it?

In 1981 Ronald Reagan entered the White House proposing a radical solution for the twin plagues of unemployment and inflation. What was it?

On February 7th the continental United States will be attacked by a loose coalition of soccer hooligans, common household appliances that have become self-aware, incontinent birds of prey, and Rodan. What is the Republicans' proposed solution for this problem?

If you answered "cut taxes," "cut taxes," "cut taxes," "cut taxes," and "cut taxes," respectively, you win! The prize is a tax cut. Workers making under $100,000 annually are ineligible for this prize. Neither nor its parent corporation, Nordyne Defense Dynamics, are liable for any failure of tax cuts to produce jobs and working- or middle-class prosperity as promised. Void where logic is applied to arguments.

I was legitimately disappointed in John Boehner's statements in response to the White House plan. That I disagree with him is irrelevant. I'm irritated at the extent to which he bores me. Call it selfish, but just once I would like to hear something other than "tax cuts" come out of the GOP's collective piehole. Really, John? Tax cuts? Again? You're not even trying anymore. We can teach a parrot to say two words, guys. Of sentient beings we expect more. We are on the verge of simply replacing Republican elected officials with a bobblehead doll that shouts "TAX CUTS!" randomly and without warning. The sole difference between the GOP and a broken clock is that the latter is right once every twelve hours.

For decades the GOP has touted itself as "the party of ideas," a sobriquet bestowed on them by Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as he lamented his party's decline from its New Deal-era dominance. Here's a particularly enjoyable transcript of Karl Rove reassuring his colleagues of this fact a few months before the 2006 General Election. The Democrats are the party of big government and innovation-stifling regulation. The Republicans, in contrast, are the freewheeling purveyors of the marketplace of innovation and ideas. Democrats = stagnation. Republicans = bold solutions and progress. One party was willing to think outside of the box and the other was stubbornly insistent on sticking to their old ways.

Today the Republicans are not the party of ideas, they are the party with an idea. Note the key article in that sentence. They have one idea. Singular. The party is unafraid to boldly and with courage of their convictions take a stand and proclaim, "The answer is tax cuts. Now what was the question?" They beat this dead horse incessantly not because it works or because it has the potential to work; they do it because they have nothing else. There is no other idea. This is it. Tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts, preferably starting with the gilded portions of the tax code – the capital gains tax, the inheritance tax, the Alternative Minimum Tax, and corporate taxes.

Ignore the fact that all of these things have been tried (repeatedly) and have failed to "stimulate" or "trickle down" or create anything other than greater disparity between the wealthy and the unwashed masses. Just cut 'em again. Keep cutting. It'll work this time. We swear. Really. The 32nd time is the charm. Just think of how much better things would be during this recession if people are allowed to keep a slightly larger portion of their rapidly-falling wages. I guess the unemployed can't benefit, but if we cut their former employer's taxes surely Joe Six Pack will be re-hired with alacrity. Trust us, it works just like this. Here is a great book by Hayek that explains the whole thing. Don't mind those pages that are stuck together.

Amazingly the GOP is getting some traction with their comma-dependent argument ("No more tax cuts? No, more tax cuts!"), substantially aided by That Darned Liberal Media. Obama's been in charge for about 10 days, so it's only fair that we let the Republicans run the show again. The Democrats had their chance and it's time to try something else. But what else is there? Surely we can't rely on the backward-looking party, the one with no ideas, to come up with a fresh solution. All is lost.

Wait! I hear John Boehner has an idea. Isn't it high time we hear him out?



Posted in Rants on October 28th, 2008 by Ed

Like every single thing the campaign has tried in the past three months, McCain's "Joe the Plumber" gambit has backfired. By choosing a person – a real one – to embody the working-class authenticity that Republican candidates so desperately apply like cheap cologne, it makes far easier the task of pointing out the deranged reasoning that underlies "hard hat" conservatism. Joe the Plumber is not a fraud, a rich contractor playing at middle class. He earns right around the median income for a man of his age – about $50,000. He doesn't lack authenticity. What he lacks, based on his circumstances and rank-ordering of important political issues, is brainpower.

Joe lives near Toledo, Ohio. The most charitable way I can describe that city is "post-industrial shithole." The city's unemployment rate is 9% as measured with the Bureau of Labor Statistics' woefully understated methodology. There are many thousands of foreclosed homes within the city limits at this moment; Toledo is in the top ten large cities nationwide for foreclosures. Its population has fallen from 384,000 in 1970 to 285,000 today. Its violent crime rate is fully double the national average and rising. Based on nine common economic indicators, Lucas County (home of Toledo) ranks 87th out of 88 counties in Ohio for economic performance between 2001-2008. Annual bankruptcy filings have increased 23% in the same time period, while the percentage of residents in poverty has increased from 12% to a third-world-like 17%. Nearly 8000 manufacturing jobs have been eliminated in just six years (2001-2007). Toledo proper gained national attention for its unprecedented 7.5% drop in median home price in just 12 months. Real incomes are falling. In short, Toledo is in what its hometown newspaper calls a "downward spiral." Every vital sign is flatlining and the city is entering what is likely a terminal economic torpor.

None of this matters to Joe the Plumber, of course. He lies awake at night worrying about taxes. That he lives in a picture-perfect example of the kinds of cities that right-wing economic policies have rendered moribund is irrelevant. What keeps Joe on edge and bubbling with entitled white male rage is Barack Hussein Tax-&-Spend Obama's dastardly, amoral plan to raise taxes. I suppose that make sense, right? Nothing wrong with Joe wanting to hold on to his money during hard times!

That Joe would receive a healthy tax cut under either candidate's proposal is irrelevant. Obama's plan raises taxes on the comically wealthy, ergo Joe must object. The rationale behind Joe's intense concern about taxes is puzzling. There are several possibilities:

1. Brainwashed by a steady diet of sub-moronic talk radio, Joe honestly does not understand what Obama and McCain are proposing in their tax plans and how it affects him. He knows nothing beyond "Democrats in Power = Higher Taxes, Hardcore Marxism, and Chuck Schumer Will Probably Kill Your Dog."

2. Joe feels compelled to take a moral stand against the mere concept of tax increases, perverting for his own purposes the idea that "If a single person is oppressed, none are free."

3. Joe realizes that he does not make $250,000 but, regardless of his age and limited economic potential, thinks that he will soon.

The final point is, in my opinion, at the heart of all blue-collar Tax Bitching – "Average Joes" staring saucer-eyed at The Glenn Beck Show full of blood-curdling rage and fantastical rationalizations of how they will someday be in the top tax bracket. Joe the Plumber, in essence, is unconcerned with Toledo's very tangible economic implosion. He is literally standing among the ruins of a city and a middle class he allegedly represents braying about what tax rate he might have to pay when he "makes it."

All of the Joes out there who wouldn't know Horatio Alger from a hole in the ground are living out the author's most vivid jerk-off fantasies. Everyone makes it to the top as long as they work hard and vote Republican. Making a quarter-mil per year is common; it is practically a birthright. As Mike pointed out recently, note this wonderful comment from an article on the right wing's "Let's Move to Canada" freak-out in the face of a Democratic landslide:

The best medicine is to teach people how to make money, lots of it. The more people who believe that they can earn $250,000 in the next few years, and the more that actually do, the less enthusiasm there will be for confiscating “plumber’s wealth.”

The last time someone told me I could be earning $250,000 in a year or two, I was watching an infomercial at 4:30 AM. But the healthy combination of ignorance and delusion have created an entire generation of Joe the Morons who don't understand what taxes do and do not apply to them, where they stand on the economic spectrum, and what constitutes an appropriate time to take moral stands based on a solipsistic and warped view of reality.