In June of 2009, The Rational Middle premiered on the national stage. Of course, by national stage, I mean 12 readers per day…well, maybe 12 readers per week. Right at the outset, the notion of government both big and small, interested me. The role of perception in how big government is defined was the subject of an early post, Other People’s Big Government. Human nature being what it is, our own plans are usually superior to those of our fellow citizens, and their plans are typified by the reckless endangerment of our liberties and way of life. I have written the idea often, but the point remains; in a nation of 300 million, everybody’s absolute liberty is impossible to maintain. The Stones had it right; you can’t always get what you want.
But if you try really hard, you really can get what you need. And that idea friends, is what our arguments should revolve around. The major problem now, is that our problems, dreams, ambitions, and issues have been marginalized in favor of ad-friendly soundbites. Our democracy is being talking-pointed to death. The phenomenon of the day is an outgrowth of how detached we the people are from our own ability, our own right, to chart the course of the nation. It may make perfect sense to establish policy that rewards personal responsibility and ambition within the working class, it makes none to structure an economy that favors only the most wealth-defined successful within the construct. This is precisely the path we have taken over the last three decades, and the results of the journey ought to be self-explanatory.
My biggest problem with the modern Republican Party is their seeming abandonment of ideas. They are stuck in a terrible rut lately, and are redeemed (as a political force) only by their incomparable skill at branding. When one takes a serious look at their concepts for solving American problems, a simple pattern emerges. Health care system got you down? Cut taxes. Working class Americans can’t afford insurance? Cut taxes. Manufacturing base eroding? Cut taxes. Energy system a relic from the previous century? Cut taxes.
I have to admit to liking the idea of cutting taxes. Who wouldn’t? Paying the government is one of those steady annoyances that can become too much in light of everything else. You see a chunk of your cash go before you get your paycheck, then you pay sales tax locally. You pay fees to drive your car, own your dog, and start a business. On top of everything else, you pay property taxes. Taxes, taxes, taxes. Then you see the size of the government budget, hear someone screaming about fiscal irresponsibility and wonder, “What the hell am I paying all of this for?”
Deficit hawks are in the news a lot lately, and it seems that the label is one that every politician aspires to earn. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with “fiscal responsibility” and “sound financial management”? In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit to being proud of President Clinton’s accomplishment (achieved through the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993, and not through the efforts of a GOP-majority House not in office until 1995). He managed to start paying down the debt largely incurred on President Reagan’s watch. I was even aggressively critical of President Bush’s expansion of federal debt (for those with short or tea-compromised memories, he doubled the debt during his term).
Here’s the thing; in as much as I was critical of debt and deficit for debt and deficit’s sake, I was wrong. Basic economics tells us that, for the United States, there is no term risk of bankruptcy to worry about. Large and accelerating structural debt is a problem when matched with a national economy humming along near full capacity. The threat, if the above happens, is inflation. I know that techno-jargon is annoying friends, but this is important. When you hear someone frantically warning of “our debt crisis”; ask them why. Our economy is currently nowhere near full capacity, and won’t be anytime soon. The market continues to accept low interest rates on long term federal debt, meaning that it does not consider that debt to be risky. We are not Greece. We can print the money that our debt is denominated in, with the risk again, being inflation. Greece can’t print their own money. and they can’t manage interest rates within their economy either. We can.
Shortly after asking the question, what would Jesus do, conservatives are likely to check their other wrist; the one that has the WWRD wristband on it. I am fine with the notion, as I have a slightly higher regard for the Gipper than my parents do. Lately however, I have begun to wish that conservatives actually knew what Reagan would do. The conservative movement has, for the last thirty years, succeeded in pushing the middle of American politics to the right; at least from a branding perspective. You will never hear a Republican claim that he or she is not a conservative. But Democrats who long ago despaired of finding their backbones run for the hills when they are called liberals.
The same force that has chased Democrats away from the open embrace of their liberal principles, has also chased conservatives away from issues for which they were long the sole proprietors. Richard Nixon started the E.P.A, put the brakes on Viet Nam, and signed the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Teddy Roosevelt started the National Park Service and was the corporate world’s public enemy number one. The Civil Rights movement was defined by the Republican Party, at least from Lincoln through to the middle of the 20th Century. Actions and appearances, alas, seem to indicate that the party has moved away from these positions. It has long been said that the Republican Party would no longer have room for the Rockefellers of the world; but Reagan is a different story. Isn’t he?
Football and politics have a lot in common; and by football I am mean charged-up and violent American football. Careful preparation and brute force are foundational elements for both “sports”. The ability to get the job done, regardless of ethics, feelings, sunshine, or puppy dogs is also prized in each arena. One tactical element existing in both politics and football that I cherish, is the misdirection play. The premise is simple; get the defense moving one way, and go in the other direction. Well-designed misdirection plays often feature another nasty (and fun) ploy, the trap block. The defender chasing the play is influenced into a block that he never sees coming. The hit, properly delivered, can have the tendency of making that player, well, less aggressive for the rest of the game.
Misdirection is run in politics all the time. In fact, it is run by all parties, in every legislative session, at every level of American politics. In football, the play is designed to influence and trap the opposition; in politics, the play is usually designed to influence the voter and trap the opposing lawmaker. Witness the last major funding authorization for the Iraq War under President Bush. Both Democrats and Republicans crafted funding bills, and both contained major items not related to the war. These items were traps for the other party, existing only to force lawmakers into a vote that they would have to defend in the next election. It is certainly something that informed voters should be aware of when considering the next negative ad campaign they see (from either party).
The B1-B is hot. The plane is, in my opinion, the best looking airframe ever built. The bomber also has a stunning list of attributes; very low RCS (its stealthy), the ability to fly at over 600 mph at low altitudes, and an impressive payload of over 70,000 lbs.
It is also a plane without a mission.
When President Obama said this week that politics would not play a roll in defense policy, I was unable to suppress a chuckle; U.S. defense policy has been guided by politics for over 50 years now. Most of the nation assumes that Republicans plus up spending, and that Democrats reduce it; but politicos from both parties jump on board when local bases and factories are involved. The debate on Afghanistan is all politics; for a country with no history of national identity, the notion of building a state that can defend itself is ridiculous. Whether to send in more troops, or remove them all together is a political calculation for the Obama Administration; as with all Democratic administrations, they are vulnerable to “soft on defense” charges.