Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Big Picture: 5 Thoughts

1. Big Picture: New York Times Headline: Wall Street on Track for Record Profits

Strike: UGGGGH. I just…can’t handle that. How about the media realizing THAT as the source of so much anger in this country. Did you see Stewart’s interview with Biden last night? He asked him some excellent questions, including why instead of capitalizing banks did we not just give government loans to people to in their homes/businesses. I think things would have been very different. Time for the Wall Street --> Main Street bill NOW!

Big Picture: It's just so despicable. The inequality is so massive. In the paper yesterday was an article about how the number of people who sometimes go hungry and have to worry about where their next meal is coming from jumped a huge amount last year, and thus surely jumped even further this year. Redistribute the wealth!!!

One positive thing: there's a very inspiring article in the Times business section about how 10 years of activism by anti-sweatship advocates on college campuses, which led to a number of colleges to no longer have their uniforms and sweatshirts and stuff made by Russell Athletic after Russell shut down a factory in Honduras when the workers organized a union (and Russell has been virulently anti-union, refusing to let unions organize at any of their factories), yesterday Russell decided to relent, re-opening the factory as a unionized factory, and pledging to not stand in the way of all the other factories organizing unions! So a huge victory, both substantively for people's lives, and symbolically. You love to see it.

2. Big Picture: I am so furious at the way Republicans are attacking the terror trials in New York. Such McCarthyite demagoguery, so disgusting, just pure fear, nothing to do with anything. So despicable. Reaching a new low with John Shadegg yesterday with his DESPICABLE threats toward Bloomberg's daughter. Good to see even Peter King strongly objecting. Beyond their policy views, the Republican Party's conduct is just so dishonorable. They keep reaching new lows.

The Strike: Yeah it’s such blind demagoguery. They tried Moussaoui, who would have been an actual hijacker, in U.S. courts and all the Republicans didn’t say a word. It’s ridiculous fearmongering and political posturing. Also absurd to see the party that’s always talking about “showing weakness” cowering in the face of trying terrorists.

Big Picture: It's all a result of positive polarization, of the Republican Party being reduced to the rump of extremists, everyone trying to out-extremist everyone else to get the support of the extremists, no more adults left in the party. They will realize though that this is absolutely not the way to get the country back on your side. In fact positive polarization may save us from a Republican resurgence because Democrats are vulnerable given their inability to get much done. If Republicans combined a kind of low-key but nevertheless solid wall of obstruction, with the help of conservaDems, and had their public speaking done in the kind of measured tone of Bob McDonnell, Christie, Charlie Crist, talking about solutions, saying we're defending the middle class that is getting squeezed, and proposing as solutions more tax cuts and spending cuts to the "bureaucracy" and deregulation and anti-union policies - then they could still be sticking to their conservative principles just as much, but would look serious and responsible and like a good alternative. So maybe Fox News and Palin and Boehner and Beck are really doing us a favor.

3. On Harry Reid's bill and the compromises of health care reform: a "better" score is worse policy-wise but at this point we gotta get something, and then hopefully they can fix some stuff in conference. If we get this done there will be assuredly be Monday-morning quarterbacking about how we gave up way too much, thinking we had to, when we didn't, such as Obama putting in that $900 billion target. The unanswerable question is "what if he had made it a higher target, how would that have changed things?" Which is the same question with the stimulus. Tactically I think Obama and Reid are probably right to work for that lower score because if it had been over a trillion it would have given such an obvious reason for conservaDems to oppose it. BUT, strategically, this is ridiculous because actually the American people don't care at all about this overall cost, and this just stems from the massive problems of the conventional wisdom that all spending is the same, whether it's deficit-neutral or not, whether it's investing in people and in cost-savings or just being thrown down the drain, and because it's being sold as the total cost rather than the per-year which it should be. The bigger strategy has GOT to be to change the entire spectrum of debate about spending and the deficit, so we don't get caught making these concessions that not only weaken the bill from a liberal standpoint but also from a "delivering for people" standpoint, this ridiculous position where political calculations force you to do things that make the bill less popular politically.

4. Ezra Klein says, "At $900 billion over 10 years, health-care reform seems pretty expensive. In part, that's because people have a hard time breaking it down. If recent trends hold steady, the federal government will be spending about $4 trillion a
year come 2019. Health-care reform, at $108 billion in 2019, will represent 2.7 percent of that. Compared with what the government spends, it's quite small. But compared with the sums individuals are used to thinking about, it's quite large -- and that dissonance can get confusing. ... the CBO says $650 billion over 10 years is "small" compared with the expected federal budget deficit -- not even the federal budget -- which implies that $900 billion is not the incredible expenditure some make it out to be.

That perspective is SO crucial, and that is such a huge example of what John Ziegler would term "Media Malpractice". The absolute function of the media is to put things in perspective, to temper that knee-jerk first-glance reaction with a measured explanation because the federal budget really demands that kind of explanation to be understood, and it's pretty damn crucial that people have a good understanding of the federal budget, the size of it, how it's paid for, where more and less money is spent. Yet another example of sports being so much more satisfying than politics because the numbers are always in perspective. Imagine if the Royals were like "We won 70 games!!! That's a lot of games!" or the media was discussing player contracts and were like "Tim Lincecum makes $2 million!! That's 1000 times more than the average 25-year-old. We could be paying him $75,000!!! We're just throwing away money!!!" or the Oakland A's were like, "We had over 1.5 million people pay to watch us play!!! That's 4 times the size of Oakland!! How could you possibly say we have an attendance problem!!"

It really is the media's role above all to stop the Ben Nelson Theory and Chris Hayes Corollary from taking root. But they have just been so incredibly bad on that, going back to their absolutely insane approach to the stimulus.

5. Although we do have major issues with a lot of the particulars, in the big picture this is a pretty spectacular development if it passes: it's really a liberal dream to have a bill that gives health care security to those who don't have it, paid for by increased taxes on the rich and cutbacks to big industries and cutting waste, along with investing in preventive care and wellness, starting to bend the cost curve and actually reduce the deficit so that this will be sustainable. That would be by far the biggest liberal achievement in decades. Can't lose sight of that. This is where I definitely see Rahm Emanuel's perspective.

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