Heterodox Views on Politics and Public Policy from Michael Blaine

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Latest Republican "Debate" & America's Ostrich Complex

Unfortunately, Viagra Works Magic On Only One of the Above

"The Economist Intelligence Unit sees at least a 40% chance of a recession in 2008, with overall GDP growth of not much more than 1%."
-- The Economist Intelligence Unit, 11/30/07

"As much as $362 billion in U.S. subprime home mortgages with adjustable interest rates are due to reset at potentially higher rates in the coming year . . . Losses related to bad mortgages already have reached the tens of billions of dollars and have led to turmoil in the world's financial markets."

-- The Wall Street Journal, 12/1/07

"Any of you want to tell us about your gun collection -- roughly how many you own; what your favorite make, model and caliber is . . . ?"
-- A question posed to Republican presidential
candidates during their November 28 "debate"
The incongruity of the quotations above points up the extremely poor health of American democracy. Our nation seems unable to apprehend much less confront and deal with the social, economic and political complexities of the 21st century. Our citizens are losing their homes; our college students are drowning in debt; our children have insufficient health insurance; the value of the dollar is plummeting; totalitarians like Chávez, Putin and the Chinese politburo are in the ascendancy; and our government remains mired in the massively expensive and deadly Iraq debacle. Yet it is deemed important to ask our presidential aspirants about a quirky, anachronistic hobby. Worse still, these "leaders" -- rather than condemn the very question itself as fatuous -- trip all over themselves to provide an answer. How humiliating, both for them and for us.
In 2000 I had a chance to watch a re-run of the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debate. Not only did I not notice any of the infamous beard stubble on Nixon, but I found him to be every bit JFK's equal as an orator, policy analyst, and intellect. Each man spoke in complete paragraphs, citing concrete data, and putting forth a coherent vision for the nation's future. In retrospect, of course, I knew that both men eventually would get a turn in the presidency and that Nixon would turn out to be a morally defective "crook." But I did not get the sense that either one was condescending to the viewer, or immersed in irrelevancies, or that I would be ashamed to have him represent me -- as an American -- abroad. Today, though, one questions whether either JFK or Nixon would put up with the trivialities and constant insults to his intelligence required to run for the White House.
And so, while 2008 promises to be economically problematic and possibly catastrophic, we learn that a particular Republican presidential candidate believes that allowing gays in the military is inconsistent with Judeo-Christian tradition. (Although neither Britain nor Israel has a problem fielding openly homosexual soldiers!) And, while the US struggles with the most unequal distribution of income since the roaring '20's, we learn that the Republican candidates somehow balance an unwavering devotion to Jesus with a fervent belief in capital punishment.
The fact is, we citizens no longer get real answers to serious questions from our politicians. Instead, truth from Washington probably will continue to trickle in like this: a friend of mine was recently informed via a mundane letter from the Social Security Administration that her promised federal retirement benefits would likely be reduced 25% by the time she was old enough to qualify for them. In other words, hard reality will be impressed upon Americans anonymously and without any room for political accountability.


Elaine said...

Michael, this is nicely summed up, and you are right that our nation's priorities, or at least as they are reflected in the media, seem totally out of wack to the global and domestic situation we face. I also agree that JFK and Nixon actually seemed to take the debates seriously. I wish that were the case today!

Michael Blaine said...

Thanks for the comment, Elaine. Yes, when a "debate" like the one broadcast last week is sponsored by the domestic coal industry and Coors beer, the impact on our democracy will not be good.


Richard Cretan said...

Fine post, Michael.

The voters and the clowndidates think we can ride out any bumps the economy or war might put in our way.

Let's see where we are in six months! I won't be surprised if there's new alacrity in the questions being put to these swine.

G.S.A.H.A. said...

If expressing indignation at the current mess of illegal immigration and our over run borders by drug runners and other criminal elements is hostile to those who are at the root of this problem then big waaaaa.
Michael Blaine you are an A$$. and I am an Independent. Maybe your job is secure from being run into the low wage ground but there are alot of folks who are not as lucky. You’d think that with all of your liberal BS to help the under privilaged that you would see your policy of open borders only hurts them.

Michael Blaine said...


Well, if undocumented workers are a problem, it would be good to see the Republicans addressing the issue in serious policy terms.

But instead they promote fantasies -- a wall at the border?!! -- or whip up hatred among the citizenry.

Moreover, if the real concern is that working-class citizens are under economic pressure, the Republicans -- instead of blaming outsiders for spoiling the party --might do some things in the sphere of labor and tax policy to concretely help these Americans.

And that's the point of this blog entry: the presidential "debates", devoid of real exploration of potential solutions to the nation's problems as they are, amount to nothing but a commercially-driven sham.


Crazy Game of Poker said...

Do you know what top 1% of income earners in America paid towards taxes this past year? 40% of the total tax burden!!! The same amount as the bottom 90% of earners paid. It is that it is a shame that we think we can steal money from people who actually earn it and then piss and moan that it is still "unequal."

Michael Blaine said...

Crazy Game of Poker:

Yes, I agree, it has never been harder to be among the 1% of richest Americans.

If we as a nation could shift more of the tax burden from these poor souls onto the working poor, it would be a boon to us all.