One Man’s Gaffe…

Mitt Romney’s campaign, in the, um, collective opinion of the “mainstream media”, suffered a major setback the other day. As you may perhaps have heard by now, Mr. Romney’s opponents unearthed a video clip in which the GOP candidate, speaking to a private audience (or so he thought), commented on the difficulty of winning the support of the large segment of voters who draw more revenue out of the federal government than they put in.

It was, of course, only those folks whose vote he does in fact have little chance of winning who saw Mr. Romney’s remarks as damaging. For the rest of us he was only making, though perhaps carelessly and inelegantly, rather an obvious point — and indeed his doing so, and the dedication of endless news cycles to it by the press, has had the effect of energizing his base.

Pat Buchanan has just written a tart essay about this. An excerpt:

[W]hat was right about what Romney said was discerned two centuries ago by that governmental genius John C. Calhoun.

“The necessary result … of the unequal fiscal action of the government is to divide the community into two great classes; one consisting of those who … pay the taxes … and bear exclusively the burden of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds, through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into taxpayers and tax consumers.”

A nation sundered between taxpayers and tax consumers, said Calhoun, “must give rise to two parties and to violent conflicts and struggles between them, to obtain the control of the government.”

Is that not a fair description of where we are today?

Of course it is, with the acknowledgement that the adherents of the two parties aren’t riven with arithmetical precision along maker/taker lines.

You can read the rest of Mr. Buchanan’s essay here.

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  1. Dom says

    Did you see that Obama had all guests checked for video and recording equipment at Jay-Z’s fund-raiser? Didn’t want anyone to see the $250K champaigne tower decoration in the front room. I’m sure, if given the chance, Jimmy Carter’s grandson would have recorded his speech.

    BTW, my home is worth only $215K.

    Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  2. the one eyed man says

    Romney also described the 47% – nearly all of whom pay sales tax, payroll tax, excise tax, and/or state income tax – as people who “believe that they are victims,” who can never be convinced that “they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” and in the event that he becomes President, his “job is not to worry about those people.”

    So let’s see who these lazy, irresponsible freeloaders are.

    My Dad was a succesful entrepreneur whose company hired hundreds of people. Medicare now pays for his dialysis. Because he is “supported by the government,” how would you characterize him: lazy, irresponsible, self-victimized, or all three?

    A soldier in a war zone – plus lots of military stationed elsewhere – is exempt from federal income tax. Is he someone who is incapbale of taking “personal responsibility for his life?”

    What about a veteran who lost his limbs and is supported by disability payments and the VA. Moocher?

    Someone who worked all his life and is retired, with no current income to pay federal tax on: bum?

    A full-time worker at Wal-Mart with three kids will be below the threshold for federal income tax. Lazy?

    Due to the regressive nature of payroll and sales tax, the Wal-Mart worker probably pays a much larger percentage of his income on taxes than Romney does. Does that make Romney a bum too?

    Perhaps the most appalling thing about Romney’s remarkably smug and self-satisfied rant is this: after growing up with all of the advantages which life could possibly offer – a father who was a governor and auto company CEO, the finest education, and contacts who would propel him through life – he looks at those who faced far greater obstacles in life than he will ever know and complains about THEIR sense of entitlement.

    Roger Simon summarizes Romney’s rant thusly: “America is divided between the deserving rich and bums who want a handout. Vote for me, and I’ll keep you rich. Thank you very much. Enjoy the chicken.”

    This binary view of the world – the deserving, noble, and virtuous rich versus the undeserving, irresponsible, and lazy poor – explains why the speech “had the effect of energizing his base” (although it alienated enough people outside the base to contribute to his steady erosion in the polls).

    The Republican base is comprised of older, angry white males who want to believe that they are taxed too highly, and the reason for that is their money goes to support lazy and indolent moochers. Both statements are false. Romney’s audience – who, despite their wealth, really do “believe that they are victims” – is eager to revel in self-satisfaction while agonizing over contributing some portion of their fortune to help “those people.”

    Instead of the Romney we usually see – an awkward and robotic Ken doll – the video shows Romney at ease with his fellow plutocrats, congratulating themselves on their success and castigating those who are not as successful. As Paul Krugman’s brilliant column today explains, they equate wealth with nobility and disdain those who make an honest living but struggle to get by. It’s not a gaffe. Romney really believes this. That’s the scariest thing of all.

    Posted September 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Gee, what a shock to hear that you feel this way, Pete.

    I hope your fire insurance is paid up; all those straw men are likely to go up like a tinderbox. (That’s bad, because your pants are likely on fire.)

    Oh, and did you see the part where Mr. Romney gave away millions and millions to charity, and paid more taxes than he had to? Jeez, what a creep.

    November 6th, amigo. See you then.

    Posted September 21, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Permalink
  4. What’s that smell? Oh yeah; it’s the putrid odor of blind rage.

    Rage on, rage boy. Remember, when burning American flags, the cool thing to do is to inhale. Deeply.

    Posted September 21, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Lost in all this left-wing rage against foul caricatures of decent men is the real issue of this election, which is about which political philosophy fosters a culture of dependency and entitlement, and which fosters individual initiative and self-reliance.

    I’d respond in detail to all these calumnies and falsehoods, but I figure there are far more productive things I could do with the many hours it would take. Like, say, shouting up a drainpipe, or digging small holes and filling them in.

    “The dog barks, the caravan passes.”

    Posted September 21, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  6. the one eyed man says

    There are no “calumnies and falsehoods” in anything I have written, or you would have refuted them instead of responding with bluster and hot air.

    Straw men? The overwhelming majority of the 47% are people who are retired, disabled, or working people with incomes lower than the threshold to pay federal income tax. This is inarguable fact. No straw men here.

    Romney paid $225K in taxes over what he had to pay so that his statement to ABC News that he never paid less than 13% would not be violated. He is free to amend his tax return after he loses the election to recoup the money.

    Left wing rage? Among those who were enrated were noted leftists Peggy Noonan, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Scott Brown, Linda McMahon, David Brooks …

    The “foul caricatures of decent men” are the ways in which Romney villainized nearly half of the population as lazy, irresponsible, and greedy.

    The Republican Party might as well drop the elephant as their logo and replace it with Rich Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly.

    As for Romney: sounds to me like he was channelling his spiritual ancestor. Are there no prisons? Are there no work-houses?

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 7:39 am | Permalink
  7. the one eyed man says

    After writing this, it struck me I will not have a federal tax liability this year, and hence will be a proud member of the slothful and unrepentant 47%. This is because earlier this year I formed a corporation for my business, and will bulk up its balance sheet instead of paying myself a salary.

    Now that I know that corporations are people – suggesting that life begins at the moment of incorporation – I take pleasure in the realization that I am now twins.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  8. Dom says

    ” … job is not to worry about those people”. He was talking about his job as a campaigner, not as president.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink
  9. the one eyed man says

    When Romney casually dismissed half of Americans as lazy and self-victimized schlubs, he certainly seemed to be writing them off both as campaigner and as President. Considering that the 47% are irredeemable freeloaders who are incapable of personal responsibility or taking care of themselves, it’s hard to imagine why he would expend much time or effort as President worrying about “those people.”

    Of course, with Romney you never know: integrity and consistency are not his strong points. An oft-cited example of his mendacity is his claim to the American people that he stopped actively working at Bain in 1999, while reporting in SEC filings that he was there until 2003. Either he lied or he filed false SEC reports, which is a felony. Given the monastic habits of his personal life, the question has to be asked: is he a felonious monk?

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink
  10. Dom says

    Really, what he meant seems to be very clear. It is similar to Obama saying that he will not campaign to the Tea Party. Nothing wrong with a strategy like that.

    I’m confused about what you said about the corporate tax. This tax is effectively a sales tax, and therefore highly regressive. Left and right knows this. Any politician who talks about raising the corporate tax, usually as a promise to soak the rich, is just being cruel, and playing on base emotions, like envy. I could never vote for someone like that.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  11. Dom says

    A little tangent here. The collusion between this president and the media is very worrying. Compare the amount of attention given to this gaffe and Fast and Furious.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink
  12. Malcolm says

    Thank you, Dom. The job-as-President vs. job-as-campaigner fallacy was one the many calumnies and falsehoods I was referring to. (As is, for example, the idea that Romney/Ryan would seek to take away government support of wounded veterans, or deny Peter’s elderly father his dialysis.)

    As much as Peter would like me to devote hours to rebutting each and every one of his caustic slurs (and that is what it would take, there being so many), and then to spend additional hours and days doing the same for what would certainly be a voluminous response, I simply do not have time right now to do so, and nothing productive would come of it.

    A Romney victory would help “those people” by beginning to reverse the expansion of the stupefying, stultifying, infantilizing, over-regulated, totalizing, entitlement State that the current administration clearly has as its vision for America. And this has been the Romney/Ryan message from the very beginning.

    Calumnies like “The Republican Party might as well drop the elephant as their logo and replace it with Rich Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly” make clear that the Romney campaign’s message of a commitment to revitalizing and reinvigorating America by returning to the core principles that made it strong and prosperous in the first place will never get across to a particular segment of the voting public. And that was Romney’s point at this infamous fundraiser.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink
  13. Dom says

    Yes, even Libertarians don’t refer to services to a veteran as an “entitlement”. That’s payment for services rendered.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  14. Malcolm says

    And so on.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  15. the one eyed man says

    Of course, I never wrote that Romney/Ryan would eliminate benefits for wounded veterans. My point was that the vast majority of the 47% do not pay federal income tax for good reasons, such as being retired or having an income below the minimum for filing. Wounded veterans are one group in the class of people who deservedly do not pay federal income tax.

    Similarly, many seniors who require expensive medical care form another group which deservedly does not pay federal income tax, and nothing I wrote implies that their benefits would cease. (Although since you mention it, this seems to be an ineluctable consequence of the Romney/Ryan program. Medicare reimbursement for dialysis is $15K per month. A $6K voucher covers about two weeks of that, assuming that an insurance company would even consider a patient with renal failure).

    My point was simple and obvious: Romney elides the distinction between those who do not pay federal income tax for what we would all consider to be good reasons (the vast majority) with those who do not have good reasons (a small minority). In doing so, Romney vilifies many millions of Americans who work hard, play by the rules, and are anything but the irresponsible, self-victimizing freeloaders he makes them out to be.

    Reading comprehension: a lost art.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink
  16. Dom says

    My take is that Romney simply said of all of them, the deserving and the less so, “they will vote for Obama”.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
  17. Malcolm says

    It was clearly your implication that Romney intended to vilify wounded veterans and the aged infirm.

    And you in turn fail to distinguish between vouchers for the payment of premiums, and reimbursement for services. And if you’d been paying attention you’d know that nobody is proposing anything that would affect your father in any way at all. So yes, various forms of comprehension appear to be a lost art, as you say.

    But here we go, down the infinite and widening vortex of tendentious political bickering.

    “You didn’t build that.”

    “I’m not worried about the very poor.

    “I’ll have more flexibility after the election.”

    Dogs on the roof, dogs on the dinner table. Etc.

    I have neither the time nor the inclination for this today. Finis. I’m beginning to understand why some bloggers don’t even have comment threads, and why most political writers pay no attention to the comments on their articles, preferring just to let the commenters yell at each other while the authors get on with more interesting things.

    Tell you what: you are part of the group it’s not Mitt Romney’s job to try to persuade, because it would be a waste of effort. You vote for your team, I’ll vote for mine.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink
  18. the one eyed man says

    Romney did, in fact, implicitly vilify wounded veterans and the aged infirm, as he vilified the 47% of the population of which they are a part.

    While my father is immune to Romney/Ryan due to his age, someone who is 54 and would be subject to VoucherCare in the future would presumably have a very difficult time obtaining dialysis, for the simple reason that no insurer would write a policy for a patient requiring $180K a year in benefits for less than $180K, and vouchers won’t come anywhere close.

    Perhaps you need a refresher course in the First Law of Holes, or perhaps you are unable to see the hole that you are in (although even the Holy See would see a hole that big). Face it: you have a losing hand, and you picked the cards yourself. My suggestion is to skedaddle on out of here with whatever vestiges of self-respect you can muster. To mix a few metaphors: your machine is a dud all stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey, and climbing up the greasy pole of right wing dogma will get you no closer to the path of enlightenment.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink
  19. Malcolm says

    Feh. That’s politics: each side lies in wait for the opportunity to pounce on any careless remark.

    Those of us who aren’t in-the-tank Obama voters understand that this was, as many commenters on the right have pointed out, an inartful, and yes, inaccurate remark — but they understand that Romney and the rest of us on the right aren’t actually committed to eating the poor and throwing Granny off a cliff. They believe that the path we are currently on is a disastrous and unsustainable one, and that by trying to give everything to everybody, we’ll end up having nothing to give to anybody. They also believe that the America Mr. Obama imagines is one in which civil society — the naturally occurring layer of locally self-organizing social structures which traditionally have been the primary framework of America’s daily life — is hollowed out and cut away, leaving behind no mediating layer between the radically deracinated individual and an all-encompassing State. (We can see this terrifying vision of America in the soul-crushing, asocial bleakness of Mr. Obama’s Life of Julia.)

    Frankly, therefore, nobody on the right really cares much about what Romney said, or even about anything he’s likely to say; they know that he’s a decent man. What they are focused on is the fact that another Obama term will be an irreversible catastrophe for America, and that the most important thing of all — the essential goal that trumps absolutely everything else in this, the most critically important election of our lifetime — is to get that man out of office. If we fail, we genuinely believe that this once-great nation, and its long history of lifting untold millions of people out of tyranny, poverty and despair into freedom and prosperity, will fall into irreversible decline. It may well be too late already.

    So, this is what you need to keep in mind if you really want to understand the mood of the right in this election cycle (not that I think you do, of course): it isn’t as if most of us are really all that fired up about Romney. (I’m certainly not going to bother defending his every utterance to people who will never vote for him anyway.) But he’ll do. At this point most of us would vote for just about anybody — anybody — if it gets Obama’s hands off the levers of power.

    So you can rail all you like about this or that remark that you and the rest of the Daily Kos/MSNBC/NYT peanut gallery find so shocking. We over here on the right really don’t give a crap — and anyway we’re likely to do the same every time the detestable Mr. Obama, who can barely conceal his loathing for everything that made America great — reveals his inner Alinsky, and the Zinn within.

    That’s politics.

    Posted September 22, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink
  20. the one eyed man says

    You have neatly defined the central irony of American politics. It is the mood of the right, as you have defined it, which has conservatives playing the role of Charlie Brown, as well as Lucy taking the football away from him. The fervency of the Anyone But Obama crowd is so far removed from the rest of the electorate that the Right is floating off, like Major Tom, away from where everybody else is.

    Far from considering Obama to be “detestable,” he has always been viewed by most as a likable and admirable man, with consistently high favorability ratings. Most people recognize the notion that someone whose life history is the embodiment of the American dream “can barely conceal his loathing for everything that made America great” is preposterous. They know that someone who has governed as a centrist is not hiding a secret Marxist waiting to get out. They recognize when he came to office was the worst time for America in our lifetimes, and they are willing to cut him quite a lot of slack to fix the mess he inherited.

    While these memes play out in the Fox News / talk radio / blogosphere, they look increasingly bizarre to mainstream public opinion, just as Barry Goldwater’s enthusiasm for extremism and disdain for moderation led to years in diaspora for conservatives. Now that moderate Republicans have been purged from the party with an efficiency that Stalin would have envied, the party has found itself incapable of achieving enough power to realize its goals. This happened in 2010, when the widespread expectation that Republicans would regain the Senate vaporized, as they ran extremist candidates in states they should have won easily. It is happening this year, when states like Missouri and Indiana have Republican candidates who are in jeopardy of losing elections where a plain vanilla Republican would be a shoo-in.

    It is also happening at the Presidential level, where Romney had to become the severely conservative ideologue which wins primaries and loses elections. By being forced to adopt anti-immigration agenda which are hostile to Latinos, he wrote off the largest growing demographic group for this election and many more to come. By taking a hard line against abortion, he lost the votes of women independents who believe that the state has no business interfering in these decisions. The AARP convention should be a slam dunk for Republicans – who reliably get the seniors’ vote – but Paul Ryan was booed there on Friday because his program is far to the right of where they are.

    So Romney’s leaked remarks were toxic not only because they were bad politics – it’s unwise to insult people who you want to vote for you – but because they were in lockstep with thinking which is anathema to the great majority of Americans. In a more normal environment, a country club Republican like Romney would have a good chance of winning, and becoming a mediocre but not awful President like Ford or the first Bush. Indeed, he is being marketed as the leader of a moderate party, with all references to the persona non grata of the ancient regime air-brushed out of the picture. However, when the tin-eared Romney privately espouses the hard right views which he keeps mum about on the campaign trail – an article in today’s Times has plenty of other examples besides the Boca moment – he confirms the narrative that he is a clueless rich guy, providing Obama a 43 point advantage (!) in the latest Pew poll on the “this candidate understands me” question.

    You are someone with a far more sophisticated understanding of the world than the gullible and excitable followers of Sean and Rush, who has thought through these things and developed strong convictions. One must always be respectful of deeply held beliefs, sadly mistaken though they may be. However, what you are perhaps missing is that the conservative mood which you describe is the factor which, more than anything else, precludes conservatives from achieving any of the goals they seek to effect.

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink
  21. Malcolm says

    You’re living in a coastal-elite bubble, Peter. This nation is deeply divided, right down the middle – which is why this election is neck and neck. I stand by my characterization of the sentiments I described, and know that they are shared by many, many more Americans than you seem to think. (“Detestable” is my own; I may be somewhat of an outlier there. But think of the sentiment on the Left toward George W. Bush — or, as he was known in the blue states, “Chimpy McHitler”. To say that many people found him “detestable” would be an understatement.)

    You remind me of Pauline Kael, who when Nixon won, was flabbergasted, and said, in effect, “I can’t believe he won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him!”

    Again, I have neither the time nor the inclination to address your vast comments point by point; you are clearly having a far more relaxed weekend than I.

    We’ll see how it all plays out in November. You really should not underestimate the depth and breadth of the sentiment I described; there is very widespread dissatisfaction in America with the way things have been going, and with where we are headed.

    One thing I will say: whoever wins, the nation is not about to get any less polarized. We are at a major watershed in American history, and there are difficult — very difficult — times ahead.

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  22. Malcolm says

    You are someone with a far more sophisticated understanding of the world than the gullible and excitable followers of Sean and Rush, who has thought through these things and developed strong convictions. One must always be respectful of deeply held beliefs, sadly mistaken though they may be.

    Thank you. (Though I disagree that deeply held beliefs must always be respected; I think that depends on the content of the belief. Hermann Goering, Osama bin Laden, Che Guevara, Jim Jones, and Pol Pot all had deeply held beliefs. As does Barack Obama, no doubt.)

    However, what you are perhaps missing is that the conservative mood which you describe is the factor which, more than anything else, precludes conservatives from achieving any of the goals they seek to effect.

    That simply depends upon the balance of power, which has already shifted sharply with the midterm elections of 2010. Your claim is that this conservative mood is extreme, and shared by few; mine is that it is far more mainstream than you think. It is, after all, roughly congruent with America’s founding principles of limited government, free markets, and individual enterprise, and has as its central theme the idea that we have strayed too far from them.

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  23. If Obama wins, it will lead to the destruction of the very system that has allowed the Left’s vile notions to flourish. If Obama loses, which admittedly appears less probable at this point, it will be a repudiation of the useful-idiots’ execrable worldview.

    Either way, the outcome will be exactly what the Leftist detritus deserves (whether or not they drag the rest of us down with them).

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Permalink
  24. the one eyed man says

    Well, sure: passionate intensity is no sbustitute for observation and ratiocination. Charlie Manson also had deeply held beliefs, and look where that got him. As someone once said: if passion drives you, let reason hold the reins. And he was a Founding Father, no less.

    I think the stridency and rigidity of the Republican party will hurt it this year, but much more in the future. Instead of having policies which would appeal to younger voters, independent women, and Latinos, it tacks too far to the extreme, much as the Democrats did when McGovern ran. Not that this bothers me: I am happy to win ball games which we shouldn’t be winning.

    Mark Twain wrote that “I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.” That may be unfair to monkeys.

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink
  25. Malcolm says

    Here’s some reasoning for you:

    “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

    We are on an unsustainable course. People are beginning to realize it.

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink
  26. Malcolm says

    And something else: don’t flatter yourself, and insult conservative Americans, by imagining that only your team has reason on its side.

    The divide in America is about axioms, not theorems.

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink
  27. Here’s a quote from Georges Clemenceau (frequently, but incorrectly, attributed to Churchill):

    “If a man is not a socialist in his youth, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 30 he has no head.”

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink
  28. the one eyed man says

    I completely agree that we are on an unsustainable fiscal path. If we could only get conservatives on board, we could fix the problem toot sweet. Before Henry spits out his prune juice – OK, too late for that – let me explain.

    The deficit problem originated with Reagan, who tripled the deficit, and both Bushes, who each doubled it. Carter and Clinton ran very small deficits.

    Today’s Mr. Deficit Hawk is Paul Ryan. He voted for each of the bills which caused the most recent rise in deficit spending – Iraq, Afghanistan, Medicare Part D, and the tax cuts – and now he is shocked – shocked! – that we are running big deficits. His much ballyhooed budget does nothing to reduce the debt, and his Medicare plan keeps spending on the same trajectory for at least ten years (and Romney’s pledge to add back the $716 billion in savings adds that amount to the deficit).

    This is not meant as a conservatives-are-assholes diatribe, or a suggestion that Democrats are all wonderful stewards of the Treasury. It’s a recognition of the simple fact that while you get earfuls from the right about our putative pathway to penury, they don’t actually do much about it. All sizzle, no steak.

    The solutions are obvious: raising taxes, means-testing entitlements, raising the Social Security age, rationing medical care, closing military bases, selling assets, and so forth. Some of these things are politically feasible but most are toxic. I will be fair-minded and posit that both parties are equally to blame for the punchbowl being kept full long after the party ended. What bothers me is conservative politicians who make the pretense of being fiscally conservative without actually making the hard choices necessary to achieve fiscal balance.

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
  29. Here’s TheBigHenry’s addendum to Clemenceau’s quote:

    “If a man clings to socialism in his late 50s, he has no balls.”

    I think Churchill would have approved, if I do say so myself.

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Permalink
  30. Malcolm says

    Stop it, Henry.

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Permalink
  31. OK, amigo. Anyway, I’ve got some small holes to dig in the backyard …

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink
  32. Malcolm says

    Under Obama the national debt has gone from under $10 trillion to over $16 trillion. If anybody around here gives a rat’s ass about the deficit, it sure as hell isn’t him.

    Just the other day, there he was, yukking it up with his fawning catchfart Letterman, telling the nation we didn’t need to be worrying about the deficit in the short or medium term (read: “until I’m out of office, and my Cloward-Piven strategy has done its work).

    What bothers me is conservative politicians who make the pretense of being fiscally conservative without actually making the hard choices necessary to achieve fiscal balance.

    And it vexes me too. (That was one of the things that bothered me the most about Bush 43.) At least liberal politicians don’t even pretend to care much about that; they’re just going to go ahead and set up the free buffet and open bar, and invite the world to help themselves, whether it’s paid for or not.

    What we need now is small-government conservatives, not deficit hawks. Deficit hawks tend just to follow along behind the liberal entitlement expansionists, fussing about how all the new goodies will be paid for. We need to eliminate entire Cabinet-level departments, overseas military bases, foreign aid to countries that hate us etc., not quibble over tiny reductions in the rate at which the Leviathan expands. Above all, we should be reducing the suffocating intrusion of the sovereign into ever-smaller details of American commerce, and American life — and we need to get over the decadent, soul-corrupting idea that the world, for some reason, owes us a living.

    But you are right: unless there is the political will among the voters themselves for the nation to live within its means, there’s no avoiding the abyss. And when voters learn that they can simply shackle the dwindling cohort of productive citizens into the Treasury’s steam-powered lemon-squeezer — and more to the point, no longer feel any shame in doing so — they aren’t very likely to step away from the trough. Once such voters are in the majority, you can kiss the Republic goodbye.

    We are now at that tipping point, it seems. If there is to be any chance at all of rescuing ourselves, this election is absolutely critical.

    Frankly, though, I think it’s already too late. This nation is walking dead; it’s a cut flower. We have sold our birthright for a mess of pottage; we have killed the goldenest goose that ever there was in all of Mankind’s sorry history.

    As I’ve said before, things are going to get much, much worse before they get better, and I will be surprised if the United States even exists, as presently constituted, in another forty years.

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink
  33. “… , as presently constituted, in another forty years.”

    Only if the red states win Civil War II, which, of course, would also require the second coming of Big Abe. Fat chance of that happening.

    So far, we’ve only had the first such impostor. There seems to be an additional line of posers as far as the eye can see.

    Never mind. I have some small holes to fill in the back yard …

    Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Permalink
  34. the one eyed man says

    It is misleading to imply that the deficit was x when Obama took office and it is y today, so therefore Obama is responsible for y-x.

    When Obama took office, the debt was $10.6 trillion (not “under $10 trillion”), and the budget for fiscal year 2009 (which was one third over when he tool office) had a $1.2 trillion deficit. While Obama’s opponents add this to his tab, it is disingenuous to do so.

    Needless to say, the economy was in free fall, reducing tax receipts and increasing spending on unemployment benefits. The economy was contracting at a 9% rate, so a stimulus plan was clearly required. Ocean liners don’t turn on a dime, and neither does the federal government. No matter who was President or what he did, the economy was certain to continue its contraction for some period of time after Obama’s inauguration, increasing the deficit as it did so.

    While Obama is blamed for the increased budget deficit, the bulk of it is due to the trajectory which we were on. Except for the stimulus, there is nothing Obama did which actually exacerbated the deficit – no costly new government programs and no federal hiring (which has increased by only 0.8% since January 2009, along with a decrease of 600,000 state/municipal worker jobs).

    Beyond quibbling about numbers, however, the question for Obama opponents is what he should have done that he didn’t do. Leave Iraq sooner than we did? Cut Social Security benefits? Shut down the FBI? I’ve yet to hear someone make the case that an alternate plan would have reduced the deficit without bringing along concommitant problems which would have led to other consequences which would be unacceptable.

    More importantly, though, had government spending been reduced (or had taxes increased), the economic recovery would have been impeded or prevented. Are you OK with cutting government spending by 10% if a 12% unemployment rate came along with it? Maybe you are – but to imply that something could have been done to ameliorate the deficit which did not cause greater harm to the overall economy is a tough argument to make.

    It’s a Hobson’s choice: you can decrease the deficit by cutting spending and raising taxes, or you can look at an economy contracting at 9% and give its recovery primacy over ballooning deficits. Obama chose economic recovery as the last bad option, which I think was the right call. Others may differ.

    The simplistic response which has typically been advanced is to enact a balanced budget amendment, without specifying what gets cut to achieve that. It’s like saying that the way to play a saxophone is to blow in one end and move your fingers up and down the sides. In order to reverse the slide into insolvency, political leaders must make hard choices which are anathema to voters, and neither party has been bold or thoughtful in taking the political risks to do so.

    Posted September 24, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  35. “, the question for Obama opponents is what he should have done that he didn’t do.”

    Here is the perfect illustration of the insufferable and unending bluster of Obama cheerleaders: rather than just allowing the burial of an already dead horse, they insist on its resurrection by re-framing it to suit their party line.

    The question that Obama cheerleaders need to consider is exactly the opposite of the one being foisted on his opponents, namely: “What should Obama NOT have done that he DID do!”

    This, of course, could instantly be populated with a very long list of DON’Ts, beginning with virtually everyone’s first choice: Obamacare.

    Posted September 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink