Falling apart

I started work on a couple of posts on systems, politics, markets, etc. but really the news today is just too depressing to indulge in the comforts of abstraction. This is one of those times when trying to avoid writing about electoral politics in itself is impossible because the entire system has careened off a cliff.

This character Obama is something else. Historians will be writing about him for some time, and not for the reasons he likely assumes they will be. I thankfully don’t know any true believers (apparently there are still quite a few of them) here in the States, but I did recently have a bizarre-world conversation with a missionary priest who tried to tell me I was perhaps naïve in my disappointment because “look at what he’s up against” (?!). I have no tolerance for the Church under the best of circumstances, but this guy does really good work in Africa and it was too depressing to explain exactly who was being naïve so I let it drop. But I have found that reactions outside the country still seem to see some mythical projection when they look at Obama.

And for full disclosure, yes, I did vote for him. I also donated a lot of money in the campaign, but only after he won the primaries – I would have done exactly the same for Clinton if she had won (not that I think she’s so wonderful either). But I also officially checked out of his presidency on the day the campaign announced that Rick Warren would be speaking at the inauguration, which was when it became clear to me exactly who we were dealing with. I can’t find my email asking to be taken off of their mailing list, but I remember that it closed with something to the effect that the request for funds for an inauguration featuring Warren was yet another ‘thanks for the money’ moment from a Democratic Party that is always interested in gay people’s money but rarely delivers anything but a slap in the face in return.

More than two years later, we are in a bizarre place in which a Democrat is governing in a way that would qualify as far-right in most other parts of the world, while the incoherent right loudly screams for his impeachment because he is a socialist fascist (never mind the oxymoron). None of that makes any sense, nor is it any consolation to realize that the progressive argument for impeachment on moral grounds (hell, even the libertarian one) can contemplate the same outcome as someone like this person.

I’m reserving comment on the Post’s revelation this morning about Obama being the one driving the insertion of cuts to Social Security – a program which has no effect on the deficit – into the kabuki theater of the deficit ceiling debate until there is confirmation. Given Obama’s insistence on forming the Catfood Commission, and on staffing it with anti-New Deal ideologues like Alan “310 Million Tits” Simpson (a man who publicly exulted in the idea of exactly the kind of political impasse over the debt ceiling we’re now in), this should hardly be surprising.The administration’s follow up that they’re focused on “strengthening” rather than cutting seems a pretty clear signal that they’re laying the groundwork for cuts, but it’s not worth getting too worked up until the details become clear.

Though I have no doubt they will be terrible. That’s just the way things are going right now.

Until then, some interesting things I’ve come across today.  First, Digby makes an excellent point that I haven’t seen made elsewhere:

Keep one thing in mind as you mull all this over. Paul Ryan didn’t put Social security on the table. And even the Catfood Commission didn’t portray their SS recommendations as contributing to closing the deficit. And that’s because SS has nothing to do with the deficit — the trust fund is secure for more than 30 years. Sweetening the pot with Social Security in these alleged “deficit” talks is purely gratuitous.

Mark Thoma, who comes across as increasingly (and rationally) alarmed in his recent posts, called the news of Obama’s position on Social Security “beyond disappointing,” and had this to say of the insulting Republican position that increased taxes would be acceptable only if offset with tax cuts elsewhere:

How absurd is that? What they mean is that they are open to redistributing taxes, but not raising them (and even for those who are willing to give a little on the revenue issue, redistribution still appears to be the larger goal — and note that there is further redistribution through the reduction of government programs that serve those in need). Close loopholes in return for cutting taxes on the wealthy, that kind of thing. I wonder who the winners would be when all is said and done?


Revenue enhancements are supposed to support key social programs. Instead, they are put on the chopping block in trade for more revenue (which means no new revenue according to many Republicans). Yes, we have issues to address with the growth of health care costs, but I hope people realize that the hole in the budget caused by the Bush tax cuts alone is larger than the projected Social Security shortfall.

Defense cuts are not mentioned in either story.

And speaking of Republicans, I will give the final word to former Republican John Cole.

And anyone who still calls themselves a Republican is just an asshole. Really, you’ve had ample time to figure out your party is run by maniacs. If you’re still sticking around because the “Democrats are worse” or you think the party can turn it around or because you fancy yourself a small “c” conservative or you are a glibertarian or because you hate taxes or you think Dennis Kucinich is weird (he is), you’re just an asshole. And incredibly stupid.

Though with due respect to Cole, I think you could change a couple of words and produce an equivalent statement for liberals in relation to the Democratic party. Enough is enough.

Updated 8/16

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