With the NFL’s version of “labor strife” soon to be settled, our democracy can soon return its full attention to more important matters. For example, without the business of sports hogging the headlines, we the people can focus on the villainous fiends who, apparently, comprise our professional athletic class. Far be it for us to blame the crooks on Wall Street for our tanking economy when we have Big Bird, teacher’s unions, and criminal athletes to take the blame.
I know what you are saying right about now; “I thought this was a sports rant.” and “Mike Vick is rehabilitated, so why is his picture gracing the top of this article?” Well, Vick is here because I like the pick, am in the media (sort of), and can frame the discussion as I see fit. Can you identify the fundamental problem with this construct? While browsing the sports pages (and by pages I mean web-pages), I came across two examples of why all of us should be deeply suspicious of everything we read (to include this humble domain).
Those job-killing tax increases, they are a problem. Just listen to any member of the GOP talk about the economy, budget, or government, and you will hear the refrain; “Tax increases kill jobs!” As an advertising slogan, it is only slightly less ubiquitous than “This Bud’s For You” or “Always Low Prices”. To be clear, I understand that conservatives do not like taxation, that they believe taxes support functions that shouldn’t be handled by the democracy, that any taxes should be flat taxes. These are all respectable, perfectly understandable ideological concepts. I disagree with them, but accept them as viable arguments.
Constantly labeling taxes as “job-killers” is another matter entirely. Constantly labeling taxes as job-killers is at best an unsupported assertion, and at worst an outright lie. There is nothing wrong with arguing the concept of taxes, or about what they support, but you need to show proof to make the affirmative statement that they kill jobs, and the proof just isn’t there. We covered this topic here before, but it bears repeating; no matter how you slice it, no one has ever been able to point to a period where tax cuts, by themselves, generated GDP growth or accelerated job creation. In fact, the opposite is true. We the people have two shining, large scale examples in the recent past to look at; the Clinton tax increases that came with the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993, and the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.
Over the last two years, I have received dozens of chain emails, linked articles, and Facebook notes that all reference the notion of “Congressional Reform”. Variously referred to as the Congressional Reform Act of 20xx and the 28th Amendment, these ideas seem to catch the imagination of folks from all walks of life. Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, and unaffiliated angry citizens alike have sent these thoughts (mostly based on one very particular strain) to me as a non-partisan solution to many of our nation’s challenges.
The suggestions are indeed non-partisan (for the most part), but it isn’t immediately apparent that any of them would solve American problems. Critically, however, there is a bigger issue with the concept than whether it would help or not; most of the “problems” the amendment/bill would fix don’t exist. And so it goes with many populist issues; anger at problems derived from complex issues is directed at villains more easily discerned. Solutions that may require nuance, precision, and patience are replaced with sweeping pronouncements and “simple” fixes. This post will debunk some of the suggestions many of you have undoubtedly read. The Rational Middle can prove that the substance of the suggestions are, substantially, a load of hooey. That stated, the motivations of many who proposed and ascribed to this suggestions are important and pure. A functional Congress that honestly represents its constituents is a prerequisite for democracy.
The internet exploded in anger, prayer, and petitions after the not-guilty verdict reached by the Casey Anthony jury. “The O.J. trial of this century” was a common refrain, mixed with varying degrees of sadness, hysteria, and rage. From the outside, (which is where you are if you weren’t on the jury), the case against this little girl’s mother appears rock-solid. Of course from further outside, (which is where I am), the case against the media prostitution of our criminal justice system appears more than rock-solid.
The death of Caylee Anthony was, and remains, a tragedy; but it is a tragedy far more common than we the people want to accept. It is also a tragedy the side-effects of which could prove catastrophic to our way of life. Our criminal justice system is robbed of efficiency, balance, and fairness when it is invaded by the sensationalizing, ratings-driven media of 21st Century America. Victims are exploited, police and prosecuters are abused, and the rights of the accused are trampled. Regardless of one’s feelings about this particular case, the sum of the situation is threatening to all. What is needed is perspective, not to minimize Caylee, but to bring into the light the full scope of the problem.
Americans avoid the substance of economics like the plague. Despite the subject’s near constant presence in television and print journalism, we the people rarely approach the notion on its merits. Sloganeering trumps reason every time, at least where the sticky realities of math are concerned. That is the problem, really, with economics; it is math and mathematical modeling, and we don’t do math. We do appreciate a good catch-phrase, however, and “the gold standard” is as good as it gets.
An emerging element in the conservative purity standards checklist for 2012, is the candidate’s allegiance to the notion of returning the United States to the gold standard it abandoned in 1971. The notion has increasing credibility for credulous people; who wouldn’t want a dollar based on a “solid” foundation? With all of the political barbs being traded, and all of the badly misunderstood economic concepts being promoted, the idea of a currency based on “the full faith and credit of the United States” seems to fall short of our hopes. But does it?
What will Washington do, what will the media choose to cover? Over the next 31 days, a shocking amount of this democracy’s future framework will come before the board. Aggressive legislation designed to get around Roe v. Wade in several states is now coming into the frame; will it survive early appellate challenge? With the nation’s arbitrary debt limit about to be reached, the bitter pill of compromise will be swallowed; what will be sacrificed…what should be sacrificed? Iran recently test-fired ballistic missiles with (possibly) payload capabilities that would allow them to deliver nuclear warheads. The United Nations, Europe, and the United States will be pushed to definitive action either against or in support of Israel.
What will, I wonder, the headlines of July look like? With all of this on the horizon, will we the people be treated to a laundry list of lurid stories about drunk-driving Republicans and photo-tweeting Democrats? Will we be enthralled by tales of poor deprived NFL draft picks, forced by cruel circumstance to work actual jobs in order to make ends meet? Will we thrill to the excitement only an NBA lockout can provide? Will we the people, after the Stock Market Crash of 1929, after the S&L implosion of the 1980′s, after the deregulatory insanity of the derivatives recession of today, really sit and listen while sage members of the Wall Street elite lecture us and our representatives on the correct way to manage an economy? I wonder.