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Obama Ain’t So Dumb…

January 25, 2012

What an interesting State of the Union Address.  Obama took the best ideas of Santorum, Gingrich, Romney and Perry and rewrapped them into a pastiche that sounds like they are his own… which would be fine, of course; ideas aren’t proprietary… but the means by which he supposedly would attain them?  He didn’t explain that, of course.  Or the many things antithetical to them that he has done? Didn’t mention those either. 

Playing a fascinating shell game with his “accomplishments” and facts displayed a wonderful talent for life as a con man.  Ending stupid regulations (yay!) and creating regulations that (this is important) sounds good but are blockading business (boo!), and reminding us he passed fewer regulations than Bush—failing to mention that his are damaging, or mention the fact that many regulations are generated by agencies without his signature because, you know, those went up.

He decided to retread his stupid remark that Warren Buffet pays less taxes than his secretary (the first time mentioned, he said their rates were different, the second comment that the amount was different… might that be because Warren Buffet doesn’t pay his taxes even though he says he doesn’t pay enough taxes?  Or is the IRS suing him just for fun?).

Maybe I read it wrong, but was he taking credit for the Arab Spring?

Finally, toward the end of his speech, he got mired down in the problem facing Democrats.  Where is the money coming from for these business incentives (good idea, by the way, Newt)?  Or for the increases in other spending?

Ah, yes, tax the rich.  Let’s do that, let’s disincentives the successful folks.  Let’s encourage them to stop earning money (maybe I’m lazy, but if I’m making less after tax than people making much less before tax, why would I keep working, building businesses?)  Hey, I want them to pay, yes, but 30-50%?  That’s nuts.  And this comes from someone who will never be faced with that tax problem.

So much of what Obama said sounded good.  When he chided Republicans for “not wanting to pay our bills” (without mentioning he was really talking about raising the debt ceiling), he didn’t say we needed to cut our bills, get a budget, govern within our means or anything like that.

The equation is simple:  Too many bills, not enough income, you either boost the income (without choking it) or cut the outflow, not discuss more spending.

I’ll give him this.  He sounded good…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2012 10:34 am

    I think the main problems with American politics today are two, with one in large part caused by the other.

    Firstly, the degree of polarization we’re seeing today is unprecedented. There have always been divisions in politics and in society, of course, but in the end most everyone had the same broad goals in mind even if they differed in opinion on how to get there. And compromise wasn’t a dirty word. Now, we’ve got a majority of the citizenry who hardly pay attention to politics at all, and among the minority who do, most seem to have chosen a side and are locked into that side’s echo chamber. The end result is the belief that whatever the other side suggests is automatically wrong, dangerous, and probably downright evil–even if your side suggested the same thing a few years ago (there’s really no such thing at this point as a new idea in politics, after all). It’s all a significant roadblock to progress, since it leads to shouting matches devoid of civility, let alone meaningful content, and to my-way-or-the-highway standoffs at every level of government.

    I believe the problem of increased and damaging polarization is the result of the second problem–the REAL culprit for why we are where we are right now. And that is, quite simply, the influence of corporate money on our politics and our discourse. Frankly, I suggest that the notion of Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, is ultimately an illusion of choice. The two sides differ largely on social issues, granted, and social issues have always been the most divisive and emotionally inflammable, which is why they receive such sharp focus. But though much time and talk is spent on social issues, little is ever achieved in that arena, while the important issues that affect us all, and which do not so easily admit stark black-or-white interpretations, are glossed over and change very little no matter who’s in charge. Obama was elected on a platform of change and a wave of liberal anger, yet in office he’s actually done very little but continue the policies of G.W. Bush for the most part. The reason very little changes is that our politicians, and therefore our entire political system, have gone up for sale to the highest bidder. I don’t know about you, but the only wherewithal I have to affect policy is my lone vote and voice. Corporations have no vote (yet), but quite deep pockets, and that is what our policymakers have come to listen to over their increasingly misinformed and polarized constituents. That goes for both sides of the aisle, and in my mind makes voting GOP or Democrat merely two paths to the same destination. The Citizens United decision of the SCOTUS was a horrible mistake and has muddied the picture substantially, but if you look at the legally-declared political contributions of corporations (here, for instance), you won’t see them supporting only one side–sure, they may contribute more to the candidates they think should–or will–win, but they also grease the wheels of the opposing candidates, so that whomever wins is thereby beholden to them and more willing to do their bidding. In the meantime, the media conglomerates–are you aware that fully 90% of media and entertainment outlets in the United States are owned or majority-controlled by a mere 5 corporations?–do their part to keep citizens distracted from politics, and to spin things to keep those who are civically engaged as divided–and thus collectively immobilized–as possible.

    I apologize for writing such a dissertation. I don’t know if you even intend for your blog to be a two-way street, but I would love to open an ongoing, civil dialogue with you, because you seem a reasonable and intelligent man with well thought-out positions. Reading your blog, I see we disagree on many points. But I for one wish to return to a society where we can discuss those disagreements rationally, even if there’s no hope of changing each others’ minds, without resorting to the slings and arrows that characterize too much of political discussion these days. It’s sort of a New Year’s Resolution of mine, to break out of the echo chamber I found myself in, and encourage others to do the same–because any other way lies only more of the madness we’ve already been seeing, and from which we all suffer.

  2. January 26, 2012 6:59 pm

    Wow! A comment of substantial thought! Yes, I love civil discourse and this is a two-way blog, it’s just normally empty in here with a few dear friends throwing me a cookie once in awhile. I welcome disagreement, honestly. Most of my friends are conservative, those that aren’t can’t articulate their positions very well beyond “rich are evil and so are Republicans” of which I am neither.

    Let’s jump in now! I actually agree with much of your post, with some shadings.
    1. I akin the polarization to a parent allowing a small child to stray a distance away but when they go too far, the parent reacts strongly, calling the child in closer than before (not intimating that the left of children and the right are parents, just that there is some space in social issues, but today it seems to have zoomed way off course and we’re reacting to that.)

    2. I agree corporate money is a giant problem, but under the 1st amendment, there’s no easy way to stop it, nor should we, I think. What I would be okay with is that all contributions to a politician are blind. No names of the givers are attached. Sure, they’d just tell the politician on the sly, but would the politician have any reason to believe them?

    3. I also agree that our influence is limited to vote and voice, and while the vote is a drop in the bucket, our voice is the most powerful thing on the planet, or should be. Our ability to influence our circle or even reach outside it is not to be discounted.

    4. People don’t know anything about politics. O boy, is that true and it drives me crazy.

    5. I do believe there is a big difference between the Dems and Reps. However, the ship of state is huge and hard to turn. The economy, though, is made up of the people and companies which are agile. If the government gets out of the way, the economy will recover. Those who want to work will; those who don’t, Biblically, shouldn’t expect to eat. Now, I wouldn’t take it that far, but reason has to be applied to entitlements and encouragement to work should be part of it. I’d like to see corporations get involved in skills training (which they have) and people to get involved (which they haven’t). Invariably, the GOP is big government, too, BUT that simply can’t work anymore and expect our country to survive. We must slash our spending to the bone (if I can do it, anyone can). I think the GOP (and Newt) are best poised to do so. It does bite that those most effected will be the poor. We have to give them options to easy that, but only with sweat equity on their part.

    Whooo! Thank you for commenting! You made my day!

    • January 27, 2012 1:05 pm

      Glad to be appreciated! 🙂 I’m sure you can already tell that I’m coming from a far more liberal perspective, and while I don’t expect that you and I would ever change one another’s minds completely, perhaps we can at least bring some different shades of nuance to what we each believe.

      I think you’re not entirely wrong about the polarization, but I think far more that today’s media culture has inflamed it. I mean, not so long ago most everyone was working with the same sources of news and information–the morning paper, then the evening broadcast news. That was the start of news-as-soundbite, of course, but at least it was generally position-neutral journalism. If you held some really fervent views on a given subject, you could maybe find some like-minded person who would mail you the occasional newsletter. But even so, most of the information people received on politics was through journalism, with a little opinion–clearly identified as such–mixed in from letters to the editor and op-ed pieces.

      These days, though, it is quite easy to drown yourself in just one side of any given issue, or of politics as a whole. There are websites and blogs galore, and biased “news” organizations on each side, to the point where if you never want to hear a single positive thing about the opposing viewpoint, you really don’t have to. That’s what I refer to as the echo chamber–you read a blog post or news story heavily slanted to whichever side of the fence you’re on, then you discuss that story with like-minded people via discussion forums or in your own life, and after a little while it’s almost impossible to even entertain the notion that there’s anything valuable on offer from the other side. I think so many people who are politically engaged have fallen into that echo chamber trap–I know I was one of them, and that’s why I’m here. 🙂

      I know case law up to this point is on your side when it comes to corporations and the First Amendment. I believe that’s a sorry state of affairs, though, and I wish it will change. As the pithy saying goes, I’ll believe corporations are people as soon as Texas executes one! 🙂 But seriously, I can’t believe–and this is borne out by many of their own words that I’ve come across–that the founders had any intention of treating corporations as citizens. Especially in this day and age beyond their darkest imaginings, of multinational conglomerates bearing absolutely no loyalty to anything American aside from the dollar. I believe corporations exist first and foremost to make money for their owners and shareholders, and I’m fine with that. I am not fine with giving corporations a greater voice than citizens like you and I to further their profitability at great cost to our environment and our society as a whole, with absolutely none of the responsibilities or obligations of citizenship. To that end I absolutely support the Constitutional amendment (Saving American Democracy) proposed by Rep. Deutch and Sen. Sanders, which would negate the Citizens United decision, specify that corporations are not people under the Constitution, and prohibit corporations from contributing to any candidate for public office.

      On that point, I’d personally prefer to see public campaign financing (perhaps with donations from individuals–but not corporations–allowed). I think that would set things back on a much more even playing field, help return focus to the important issues and the voice of the people, and remove much of the influence of corporate money from who is elected–and therefore who our elected officials feel beholden to. The crux of most of our major problems, in my mind, is that our elected officials no longer much care what their constituents think of their performance, because they know their re-election depends almost entirely on how much campaign cash they are able to raise. And that in turn depends largely on which corporation’s interests they best pander to–and the best interests of corporations are very rarely the best interests of citizens or the environment. It’s no way to run a country.

  3. January 27, 2012 7:34 pm

    I think your point is borne out well in that Romney has so much money he’s buying the nomination while the better candidates don’t have the money to counter his lies.

    Nor will you get any argument about the media. When it became entertainment, it stopped being news.

    And I agree about the crux of the problem being our elected officials.

    Where’s this liberalism????

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