"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”

Pericles



Friday, March 13, 2009

"Socialism!" or Greed is Good



The graph on the right (from Washington Monthly via MoveOn) exposes the Gordon Gecko greed behind the ridiculous Republican chorus of "socialism!" over Obama's plan to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans.

Returning the top marginal rate to 1990s levels (when the Clinton economy boomed and we created budget surpluses) would still tax the rich at levels below those during Reagan's first term and much lower than the 91% levied during the Eisenhower years.

The combination of Bush's irresponsible tax cuts and Cheney's military misadventures has proven a lethal combination to the American economy. Trickle Down economics simply didn't work. As the rich got more, the rest received less. Middle class families have paid a high price for this failed ideology. In the current recession they have lost millions of jobs. Their nest eggs have disappeared as the market crashed and the housing bubble burst.

And the Republican response to this chaos? Cry "Socialism!" when all that's being asked of the rich (many of whom are the titans of finance that brought us to this precipice) is that they pay a marginally higher tax rate to help fix our shattered economy.

Gordon Gecko would be proud.

If There Was One Word...

This one might be a few weeks old, but it's pretty interesting to see how the public's perception of President Obama transformed between his last days as a candidate and his first weeks as president.

Pew Research asked respondents to name the one word that best describes Barack Obama. The first cloud reflects survey results from February 2009 and the second shows responses provided in September 2008 :


What a difference an election (and an economic meltdown) makes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jonah Goldberg: Tell Me Lies, Great Big Lies...

The latest from Jonah Goldberg provides another glimpse into the alternative reality that is modern Republicanism:

The real scandal is that this administration thinks crises are opportunities for governmental power-grabs...

...the White House tactic isn't funny at all. It's scary. Its amorality is outweighed only by the grotesque and astoundingly naked cynicism of it all.

Apparently, it's the last part - "the naked cynicism" that really irks Jonah. He compares Republican opposition to Obama's aggressive agenda to progressive criticism of the neocon's use of 9/11 to terrorize a traumatized nation into launching the invasion of Iraq.

Recall that not long ago, the first item on the bill of indictment against the Bush administration was that it was "exploiting" 9/11 to enact its agenda. Al Gore shrieked that President Bush "played on our fears" to get his way. In response to nearly every Bush policy proposal, from the Patriot Act to the toppling of Saddam Hussein, critics would caterwaul that Bush was taking advantage of the country's fear of terrorism.

The Bush administration always denied this, and rightly so. If the president admitted that he was using a national calamity for narrow partisan or ideological advantage, it would be outrageous.

Get that? It would be outrageous if the president admitted he was manipulating people's fear to advance a partisan agenda. Lying about terror threats, weapons of mass destruction and about Nigerian yellow cake is righteous and noble as long as you tell the people your motives are pure.

In contrast, look at how blatant the Obama administration has been during the first six weeks in office!

Well, now we have the president, along with his chief aides, admitting -- boasting! -- that they want to exploit a national emergency for their preexisting agenda, and there's no scandal. No one even calls it a gaffe. No, they call it leadership.

It's not leadership. It's fear-mongering.

Beyond the jaw-dropping hypocrisy and repugnant revisionist history in this article, let's just say this: Bush's terror-manipulating lies resulted in thousands of American and Iraqi dead, a bankrupt global economy and the collapse of America's moral authority. Obama's honest assessment of the dangerous economic crisis (created by his predecessor's lies) offers the promise of healthcare access for millions, a greener planet, a better educated workforce and the hope of economic growth for generations to come.

I'll take Obama's honesty any day.


Monday, March 9, 2009

In God We Trust...NOT

America, long one of the most religious of western industrialized nations, has undergone a rapid transformation over the past two decades according to a new ARIS study reported in USA Today:

It finds that, despite growth and immigration that has added nearly 50 million adults to the U.S. population, almost all religious denominations have lost ground since the first ARIS survey in 1990.


Twenty-first century Americans are much more likely to embrace spiritual options outside organized religion. Considering the theocratic nature of the modern Republican Party, this is devastating news for the GOP as it struggles to find a path forward.

• So many Americans claim no religion at all (15%, up from 8% in 1990), that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists. In a nation that has long been mostly Christian, "the challenge to Christianity … does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion," the report concludes.


Check out USA Today's cool interactive graphic illustrating the nation's religious shifts. Catholic numbers are dropping in New England and the midwest. The study attributes this to the sexual abuse scandals that rocked many Catholic dioceses over the past fifteen years. As the region aborbs emigrants from across the country, Baptists no longer dominate the South as they once did.

One of the survey's co-authors, Barry Kosmin's comments must cause Republican strategists to quake in fear at their long-term electoral prospects:

"More than ever before, people are just making up their own stories of who they are. They say, 'I'm everything. I'm nothing. I believe in myself,' " says Barry Kosmin, survey co-author.

...

Kosmin concluded from the 1990 data that many saw God as a "personal hobby," and that the USA is "a greenhouse for spiritual sprouts."

Today, he says, "religion has become more like a fashion statement, not a deep personal commitment for many."


Ouch.

This demographic shift gets right to the heart of the division rending the Republican Party.

Will increased intermingling of religious and spiritual experiences lead to more tolerance in our national dialogue? Or, will conservative reactionaries see this tapestry of faith traditions as a threat to the "American Way of Life" and continue to try to divide Americans along religious lines?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Sunday Muse, Daylight Savings Edition

Does this mean 40% of Americans are an hour behind today?

Dispatches from the 25% of reality-challenged Americans:

Has the Dittohead army scored another victory over RNC Chair Steele?

Is David Frum planting the seeds of a conservative rebirth?

From Charlie Cook:

The longer Obama is involved in the gritty details of governing, the less likely he is to regain his popularity among Republicans.

So, Republicans will like Obama again once he stops doing his job?