Saturday, November 1, 2008

Accepted Political Wisdom

How did we get to be so stupid? How is it possible that people earning less that $40,000. a year think that tax breaks for the very rich are in their best interest? And what made us so stupid? Reality TV is part of my guess at an answer to that. But seriously, folks, my friends, when did poor people start thinking of themselves as the citizens who would benefit from cuts to Capital Gains taxes. And how is it possible that we buy the notion that millionaires have taxable earned income? When did the Estate Tax become the Death Tax, and how stupid are we that we think Estate Taxes will have any effect on us with our one small house mortgaged up to the chimney? We must be just about the dumbest bunch of idiots on the planet.

"(Rich Republican "experts") will tell us", as McCain has repeatedly warned in his speeches, that "spreading the money around" is a bad idea that has been tried, as he put it, by the "far-left liberals." They will whine and moan about "tax and spend" and offer predictions of doom at every percentage increase in marginal rates on the very rich.

Unless Americans understand how the economy has worked -- and how this country was built in the past century -- it is entirely possible that those false prophets will once again block changes that the nation has needed for decades. That understanding should include a review of some very recent history, too.

Will anyone besides the pundits remember what happened then and why it is still relevant now? Not unless Obama himself educates the public -- as he alone now seems able to do. The country is undergoing a teachable moment that is certain to last for many painful months -- and if the new president doesn't seize that opportunity, then his adversaries surely will.

What Obama needs to explain, over and over again, is that Democratic economic programs have succeeded in promoting growth precisely because they distribute national wealth more widely than the Republican tradition of trickle-down. The numbers have told the story for decades -- and the statistics detailing the Clinton administration's success and the Bush administration's failure have only reinforced the narrative.

Consider the cumulative performance of the stock market. Until this year, the best data available showed that on average, equities increased in value by more than 12 percent during Democratic administrations, and by around 8 percent when Republicans were in power. The largest gains in the past 80 years occurred under FDR, Truman, Johnson and Clinton -- and when the awful declines of the past few months are factored in, the Democratic record will look even better.

For the moment, scaring voters is no longer so easy. The Republican administration is nationalizing financial institutions and Republican economists are demanding big federal spending initiatives. But if Obama wants to avoid the defeats of Clinton's first two years, he must consistently remind Americans what has succeeded and who has failed -- and why.


Sylvia K said...

I've been wondering for some time just how much more stupid we could get and yet --- the beat goes on and stupider and stupider! Good post, thanks!

Dusty said...

Ain't that some shit? I am never amazed at the depth of stupidity found in the majority of voters.

How did we get this way? Well, when talking boxes became commercialized is my thought. TV had more news on it 50 years ago.

Less channels too. ;p

Utah Savage said...

I think it all has to do with the corporations buying cable "news" sources and making them "for profit." When I was much younger, NEWS was not a for-profit venture. That's when news was really news. And nothing had to have two sides to it. Most stories don't have two sides. There is the story and there is the spin about the story. There might be a rebuttal of the story. But the story is the story.

Dusty said...

The networks are bought and paid for too. Their news organizations didn't have to show a profit until this decade..and its wrong.

Randal Graves said...

This is why no matter who wins, the slow decline of The Murkan Empire will continue unabated; it's just a matter of whether it'll be slow under Hussein X or sped up under McInsane. Murkans don't want change. They say they do, but they don't.

Utah Savage said...

Maybe we should annex a portion of the country for "low information voters." The state I live in would be one of those states, but it's largish and could hold a lot more low info voters, and I could relocate. If the low info voters win, I'll be relocating to a country with high info voters permanently.

Pagan Sphinx said...

Misinformation is everywhere.

Regarding Randall's comment: I believe that the majority of Americans DO want change. But they fear it. Their collective patriotic has been hijacked by fear.
Fear of communism, terrorism, "the gays", Muslims and black people.

And then there is this element: the racists. They're out there getting rammed up the rear and they still can't handle having a black man for president, even if that black is promising to give them a break that will actually help them out.

They don't want to know because it would lead them to question the fabric of their identity as Americans. Or their identity as the sons and daughters of generations of racists.

Sometimes I wonder if being a naturalized citizen allows me some measure of freedom from all of that.

Pagan Sphinx said...

that should read "collective psyche". sorry

Utah Savage said...

Pagan, that is one of the smartest comments I've ever read. Maybe it is your status as a naturalized citizen that gives you that reasoned and intelligent perspective.

So lets annex a couple of states for the racists and low information voters.

susan said...

If you don't mind I'll quote a couple of partial answers to that question from an article by George Monbiot from an Alternet article late in the week:

'Religion -- in particular fundamentalist religion -- makes you stupid. The United States is the only rich country in which Christian fundamentalism is vast and growing.

The United States is peculiar in devolving the control of education to local authorities. Teaching in the Southern states was dominated by the views of an ignorant aristocracy of planters, and a great educational gulf opened up.'

The msm is tightly controlled by the few owners who dictate their policy. I too remember the days before news changed to infotainment and Bill Clinton is very much to blame for the Telecommunications Act which made things so much worse.

It may be next to impossible to turn any of this stuff around but at least when you can name the problem you have tools to turn things around.

Utah Savage said...

I know this--my commenters are the smartest bunch in the blogosphere. Maybe not the snarkiest, except for you Randal, but you are the best bunch of well informed, well read, intelligent, thoughtful readers any woman could ask for. All of this to say, "I agree with you completely." Except for the charming snark, I include you in the company of these women, Randal. We won't tell anyone you're one of the old girls. Your secret's safe with us. Muahahaha

anita said...

i'm totally kerfluffled by these working-class republicans who advocate against their own best interests.

obviously, i see them on tv all the time, being interviewed at rallies and stuff.

having lived my entire adult (up until now) in new york city, i never ran up against any of these kinds of people. the republicans in new york city tend to be repubilcan BECAUSE they are rich (or very well off, or in some cases because they are virulent catholics but i won't go there now) and many of them are quite intelligent, they tend to be socially liberal ... etc., etc.

so here i am 75 miles north of the city living a relatively (actually, it's more like extremely) reclusive life and plumber (not joe the plumber, but a plumber nonetheless) comes to my house to fix a leak. he starts telling me the most awful stuff about obama (muslim, not american, all that stuff ... and something i'd never heard before ... he referred to obama as "snoopy" ... not sure what that means but it took it as meant to be derogatory.)

anyway, i needed my leak fixed so i just kept my mouth shut because i know you can't argue with sheer idiots.


the guy said obama was gonna raise his taxes. obviously, i wasn't going to say to him, "so you make more that $200K per year as a plumber (not even the owner of his own plumbing business, just a staff plumber, and non-union at that) because it's none of my business. i gave him a skeptical look though.

so he goes into a tirade about how his property taxes have been going up over the past several years. i went on to tell him that the president, the Federal government, is not responsible for setting his property tax rates, it's the local and state governments that do so.

surprise surprise, he grumbled and walked away. he knows it's true. but the poor guy is so fucking brainwashed and isn't educated enough to think for himself.

the problem, my friends, lies in our educational system. we no longer teach people to THINK.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Yeah, the stock market went up under Johnson. Unfortunately, so, too, did the death toll.

Kulkuri said...

It just boggles my mind that anyone would support the Repugs considering their horrible track record. Business shovels tons of money to them and when they are in power, the economy goes in the tank. Anti-abortionists support the Repugs and in the last 8 years the number of abortions have gone up compared to the 8 years before that.

They keep peddling fear, for most of the 20th century it was those heathen Red Commies and the Hippies and Liberals that were helping them. (Point of Irony, now Red is their color of choice, i.e., red states & blue states). Now it's terrorists. They are always running around scaried shitless and want the rest of us to be scaried too with piss running down our legs.

I wish I could remember who said, "Every 30-40 years we have to let the Repugs be in charge so we can remember why we kicked their ass out before!!

Utah Savage said...

See what I mean about smart? Does this make me a little smug? Maybe.

Anonymous said...

What a great post and terrific thread of comments.

When this topic comes up, you also find those working class folks who believe that it's wrong to expect the rich to pay more taxes, for example, because they think that they, too, might be rich some day. When they're rich, the storyline goes, then they won't have to pay taxes either.