Friends, you know the answer to the question. The political branding wars are in full bloom this spring, and the result is fertilizing our democracy…and not in a good way. I started thinking of this post when I heard actor Jon Voight’s ridiculous rant on Obama’s Marxist poison; filed under the heading that if you call the man a Marxist enough, people will start to believe the label. Unfortunately, the bull-stuff is not isolated to performers like Voight and Victoria Jackson. Spreading the muck seems like the prized responsibility of political leaders on both sides of the liberal/ conservative divide.
Let us start with the Democratic leadership and their positions on the Republican agenda for financial reform. This week, they opened a full attack on Republican motives and strategy, stating that the GOP was being spoon-fed both by Frank Luntz and the cabal of derivative-trading hedge funds. That accusation is fair, but it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Senator Chris Dodd is a banking company stooge, and the last two Democratic White Houses have been loaded down with executive officers from Goldman-Sachs (the recently indicted Goldman-Sachs). President Clinton let Larry Summers and Alan Greenspan bully him into ignoring the prescient advice of his derivatives regulator, Brooksley Born, who correctly predicted the toxic effect of the instruments in the 90’s. The original Democratic-sponsored bill does nothing with derivatives, which are the real ticking time bomb of the financial world.
Moving back to the right, we see Republicans literally bogged down by the stuff they are shoveling about the President. Actor Voight nearly wept in describing his heavy heart over the insult to America that were caricatures of President Bush; apparently, President Obama with a Hitler mustache and/or Joker paint is good clean fun. The outrage of the conservative media over oblique suggestions in op-eds that Military Commissions, Patriot Act, and policies regarding enemy combatants could have the same effects as laws past in 1930’s Germany was palpable. No such outrage is forthcoming about direct accusations that Obama’s policies are fascist or communist or whateverist. Fox News, in its quest to be fair and balanced, recently decided that the logo for the World Nuclear Summit (an event where, when called by the American President, all of the key players, 47 in all showed up and got things done), is somehow related to the crescent moon of Muslim flags. You can see John Stewart’s brilliant satirical piece here.
Perhaps we could sanitize some of the stuff now:
- The U.S. government, under Obama, is not taking over banking and the auto industry. The banking industry was bailed out by President Bush, and both administrations insisted on receiving preferred stock in the institutions as a guarantee to taxpayers of reimbursement. Banks are, as we speak, buying those instruments back, and government will have no ownership in banks. Obama categorically refused the suggestions of a number of respected economists to nationalize the banks. The auto industry, and in particular GM and Chrysler got the same deal, although they will probably not pay us back. Despite this, the government only exercised management control of major assets during the actual bankruptcy. We are not in the car business.
- On the above issue, contrary to what Democrats are claiming, the taxpayers are not making a profit on this. A thorough description of this process can be read here.
- Contrary to what the Democrats are saying, a consumer protection agency that is buried inside the Fed (and so out of Congressional budget authority) is not helpful, it is dangerous. A laisez-faire Fed chair led Bernanke or Greenspan can hamstring the agency on budget and prevent it from having any teeth; much like Greenspan did with internal Fed regulators during his tenure in pursuit of the Rand/Greenspan idiocy that markets can self-regulate.
- The Affordable Care Act (health care reform) is not a government takeover. Government does not control the means of production; government will not mandate what doctors can provide you (the way private insurers do now). The law attempts to force the insurance industry into a different business model; the goal is to shift insurers from their current high-margin model (where return per customer is important), to a low margin model (where insurers must compete for many customers to earn the same level of overall profit.) It is a market-based approach to resolving single-industry inflation higher than anything this nation has ever witnessed.
- The Democratic contention that health care is fixed with this law is ridiculous. The 10 year patent-monopolies granted to Big Pharma, and the protection of that industry from foreign competition, are factors driving the most expensive drug regime in the world. At a time when there are shortages of doctors and nurses, protectionist policies make it difficult for the recruiting of foreign born professionals that would add to the supply. It is also just as easy today for a student to secure federal and state funding to become a lawyer as it is to become a doctor. That is insanity!
- With respect to the great Neil Armstrong and other, stop it! Manned space exploration is wonderfully romantic, but not especially cost-effective. The President took steps to involve the marketplace more deeply in space exploration at a time when it is clear that all government spending needs to be addressed. Although, it is interesting to see a story about Obama’s socialist inclinations, followed immediately about a story criticizing Obama for moving to privatize the construction and operation of much of our manned spaceflight program. Don’t you think you would get a little tongue-tied by that contradiction?
Unfortunately, I could drone on for hours pointing out contradictions and fallacies, but who has the time for that? The Republican Party has criticized our President for at least two dozen major actions that mirrored steps taken by both George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. The Democrats have responded by “forgetting” their problems with executive authority, military tribunals, and Guantanamo Bay.
The Rational Middle believes that the only shovel big enough for this stuff is the one wielded by citizens calmly pointing out the hypocrisy when it happens. This can only be done by citizens who take just a little time to sort through the spin and political branding, and a little more time looking at primary sources.
The Rational Middle wishes all a pleasant weekend! Please comment on the blog or join a discussion on Facebook, it is the dialogue among people of divergent points of view that separates our nation from so many others.
The Rational Middle is listening….