Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, March 22, 2010 10:22 pm

Unsolicited political perspective and advice, worth perhaps quite a bit more than it is costing you

Over at Sadly, No!, HTML Mencken (and boy, do I wish I’d thought up that nom du Web) wraps up the long political season just ended:

That even this crappy version of HCR — which is better than nothing and is worth fighting for — passed at all was because of Nancy Pelosi. I’m sure this will make D.A. cry, but Hopey Changey, who has managed his own political capital with the same skill neocons managed the occupation of Iraq [OUCH!! — Lex], deserves negative credit for its passing. When elected, he had a mandate to kick Republicans in the teeth; he wouldn’t have lost a single supporter had he immediately demonized and demagogued the [expletive] out of insurance companies and Wall Street, two of the most hated groups in American history. But he didn’t; he sucked-up, he kissed-up, he [messed] up. And it almost ruined everything. …

Also, spare me the crap about Republicans’ tying Obama’s hands. Their head are exploding, they voted as a disciplined anti- bloc, they are inciting teabagger violence, they are totally freaking the [expletive] out over this tepid, Romney-esque HCR, because they were gonna do that no matter what; that is how they are. Only a total fool — a bipartisan fetishist, perhaps? — would think otherwise …

Word. If Obama had actually fought this battle, he could have won much, much more than this. (UPDATE: If you compare the piece above with this embarrassingly inept David A. Sanger “News Analysis” in The New York Times — “Mr. Obama proved that he was willing to fight for something that moved him to his core.” … “… he showed that when he was finally committed to throwing all his political capital onto the table …” — as if! — you understand just why the Times is barreling toward oblivion at rates that must be scaring its high-interest major creditor and inducing infarctions among the stockholders.)

If I were a Democratic incumbent running this year and I voted for the health-care bill, I would read this and plan my campaign strategy accordingly:

At least this once a workable majority in the government has stood up to the forces of cruelty and injustice, and whatever else happens to us in the course of this long emergency, it will be a good thing if the party of fairness and justice identifies its adversaries for what they are: not “partners in governing,” or any such academical-therapeutic bull—-, but enemies of every generous impulse in the national character.

I hope that Mr. Obama’s party can carry this message clearly into the electoral battles ahead, painting the Republican opposition for what it is: a gang of hypocritical, pietistic sadists, seeking pleasure in the suffering of others while pretending to be Christians, devoid of sympathy, empathy, or any inclination to simple human kindness, constant breakers of the Golden Rule, enemies of the common good. In fact, the current edition of the Republican party has achieved something really memorable in the annals of collective bad intentions: they have managed to create a sense of the public interest whose main goal is the destruction of the public interest.

This is exactly what the Republican majority on the Supreme Court did earlier this year by deciding that corporations — which are sociopathic by definition in being answerable only to their shareholders and nothing else — should enjoy the same full privileges in election campaign contributions as human persons, who are assumed to have obligations, duties, and responsibilities to the common good (and therefore to the public interest). This shameful act by the court majority only underscores the chief defining characteristic of Republicans in their current incarnation: an inability to think. And so, naturally Republicans gravitate toward superstition and the traditional devices of improvident religious authorities — persecution of the weak, torture, denial of due process, and dogmas designed to spread hatred.

I hope the American public begins to understand this, because they have been manipulated in their own pain and hardship by these dark forces, and their thrall to the likes of John Boehner, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush, Hannity, and the rest of these vicious morons could easily increase as their economic hardships deepen. We’re facing a comprehensive contraction of wealth and economy that is going to challenge every shared virtue in our national soul, and we’re not going to meet these difficulties successfully without a sense of mutual obligation and sympathy for each other. The Republican party is just itching to turn a giant thumbscrew on the US public — that is, before they try to start burning their enemies at the stake. We understand that the Health Care Reform Act is a first stand against that.

That’s right. I would take this legislation and I would beat my opponent over the head with it like a rented mule. Let them be the ones to campaign for denying health care to children. Let them be the ones to campaign for medical bankruptcy. Let them be the ones to campaign for insurance companies that fatten their bottom lines by ginning up “pre-existing conditions” and tossing people off their rolls. Let them be the voice for the guys that take 30% off the top. Let them be the candidate of “I’ve got mine; f— you.”

They want to campaign on a platform of repealing some real, positive (if inadequate) changes? Man, I’d be begging to be thrown into that briar patch. The only thing I’d like better than that would be to campaign against the CEO of Goldman Sachs.


  1. “enemies of every generous impulse…”? We need some empirical evidence here. C’mon journalism dude. Where do the generous, charitable contributions come from?

    Comment by Liz Reiman — Tuesday, March 23, 2010 5:55 pm @ 5:55 pm

  2. According to one cross-national estimate from 2000, charitable giving in the United States was approximately $190 billion, or $691 per capita, compared to $141 in the United Kingdom and $57 for Europe as a whole. (See Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser, Fighting Poverty in the U.S. and Europe).

    In 2006, data (.pdf) from the Charities Aid Foundation show that philanthropy in the United States represented 1.7 percent of GDP followed by the U.K. at .73 percent. Germany was .22 percent and France .14 percent.

    This isn’t reason to crow about superior American generosity (though, by any measure, we are highly altruistic): rather, it reveals a fundamentally different approach to social welfare. Generally speaking, European countries provide greater public social welfare than the United States, which relies more heavily on its private delivery.

    In Europe and the U.K., this typically means higher redistributive taxes for more government programs and services (e.g., universal healthcare), and as a result, fewer dollars available for philanthropy; in the U.S. it means lower taxes, smaller government, more privatization of social services (e.g. employer and private insurer based healthcare, nonprofit activity) and higher levels of charitable giving.

    Comment by Liz Reiman — Tuesday, March 23, 2010 6:06 pm @ 6:06 pm

  3. Brooks via Will:

    Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.” The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives.

    If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:

    — Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

    — Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

    — Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

    — Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

    — In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

    — People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

    Brooks demonstrates a correlation between charitable behavior and “the values that lie beneath” liberal and conservative labels. Two influences on charitable behavior are religion and attitudes about the proper role of government.

    The single biggest predictor of someone’s altruism, Willett says, is religion. It increasingly correlates with conservative political affiliations because, as Brooks’ book says, “the percentage of self-described Democrats who say they have ‘no religion’ has more than quadrupled since the early 1970s.” America is largely divided between religious givers and secular nongivers, and the former are disproportionately conservative. One demonstration that religion is a strong determinant of charitable behavior is that the least charitable cohort is a relatively small one — secular conservatives.

    Comment by Liz Reiman — Tuesday, March 23, 2010 6:10 pm @ 6:10 pm

  4. Liz, all these figures strike me as plausible except the notion that liberal families’ incomes average higher than those of conservatives — not that I necessarily think it’s wrong as much as I wonder how you define a *family*’s political perspective. For example, my dad was much more politically conservative than my mom, my mom was much more politically active than my dad, and the overwhelming majority of their charitable giving was a joint tithe to our church, so I’m not sure how you tease any conclusions out of situations like that, which, at least in my experience, are common.

    That said, I’m less interested in the mechanism than I am in the result (although I probably haven’t made that point as clearly as I could have): are people who need help being taken care of? And there are a lot of countries where the answer is more likely to be yes than it is in the U.S. The fact that their governmental policies are different from ours probably, but doesn’t necessarily, explains why.

    My gripe is not necessarily with the people who sincerely think, say, socialized medicine is the wrong way to solve a real problem, although I disagree with them. My gripe is with the people who deny there is a problem, or who say they acknowledge a problem but do not propose any actions likely to address that problem in any meaningful way. That’s what I call the IGMFY crowd. That crowd includes both religious and secular people; I come down on the religious ones (particularly the Christians) because 1) I’m a Christian and 2) the plain meaning of Christ’s teachings in Matthew 25 seem to rule out an IGMFY approach pretty unambiguously.

    You mentioned income inequality. That’s a little bit off the subject of this post, but as an aside, I happen to think the government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality when that inequality grows so great that it threatens the stability of the larger economy and/or general prosperity. We’re there now. The last 30 years of tax and spending policy have, except briefly under Clinton, had the (probably intended) effect of massively redistributing and concentrating wealth upward to a point not seen since the eve of the 1929 Crash and have wrecked the middle class and the economy. We need means to correct that damage, but I would not argue that what we need to do to address current problems is what we should do forever.

    Finally, keep in mind that this piece is political advice, not policy advice. I’m addressing specifically how I think Democrats could go about winning House and Senate races this year in this specific political environment. Under different economic circumstances and with an even slightly less irrational Congressional GOP, I wouldn’t be arguing for this.

    Comment by Lex — Wednesday, March 24, 2010 10:12 am @ 10:12 am

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