November 28, 2011 --
Grover Norquist axed a tax.
Gave that tax bill forty whacks.
That does not mean his work is done.
Next one he sees gets forty-one.
In fairness to Norquist, unlike Lizzie Borden, he can’t wield the ax himself, but he came up with the oath pledging to refuse to vote for any new tax—no matter that he has gotten most Republican legislators and all Republican candidates for the Oval Office except Jon Huntsman to sign. The signer pledges to oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and businesses, and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rtes. As the Progress Report calls it, it is “An oath of, by and for the one percent.”
That oath is responsible for the failure of the so-called supercommittee to fail in its attempt to come up with a compromise on ways to reduce the deficit. To negotiate is to give a little here, take a little there. Democrats put everything but their underwear on the table. As Speaker of the House John Boehner stated before the committee ever met, there would be no consideration of a tax increase of any kind. Period.
Who are the people Democrats feel should make some extra contribution to long-term deficit reduction? Not the top 1 percent but the top 0.1 percent, about one American in a thousand, a handful of very wealthy people that economist/columnist Paul Krugman calls “the big winners in this new Gilded Age.” But these are people like Steve Jobs who have made big contributions to society, right? Wrong. Only a tiny few are. By far the bulk of them are corporate CEOs the likes of which have seen their compensation jump by 400 percent in the last 30 years. They appoint a board of directors. The board of directors they appoint sets their salary, and their golden parachute. Funny how well that works out. And then there are the “risk takers,” the financial wizards who take risks with other people’s money. What do they add to society that is worth all of that spectacular compensation? Bank of England’s director for financial stability had a word to say about that:
“If risk-making were a value-adding activity, Russian roulette players would contribute disproportionately to global welfare.”
The Republican way is to preserve or reduce taxes on this elite 0.1 percent. According to Krugman “taxes on capital gains are much lower than they were in 1979, and the richest one-thousandth of Americans account for half of all income from capital gains.” He suggests if you call yourself a 99 percenter, you change it to a 99.9 percenter. A body temperature figure for the body of the populous, which is begging to run a little temperature Republicans say they have a plan to eliminate loopholes, eliminating deductions that would result in $300 billion in new revenue. Isn’t everybody for that as well? It’s just not enough to keep from slashing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs vital to most Americans. If this is class warfare it is directed at the 99.9 percent of us.
My favorite cartoon villain of all is still a character on the animated segments of TV’s old Captain Kangaroo programs, “Tom Terrific.” He was “Crabby Appleton, Rotten to the Core.” I can’t make up my mind who is his counterpart in real life these days, rotten to the core, between John Bolton (the War Hawk of all War Hawks) and Grover Norquist.
“Let Israel bomb them! Bomb them ourselves! Let’s assassinate some nuclear scientists!”
Gail Collins writing about the Republican debate held this week, in her column in The New York Times, summing up the candidate’s responses on the Iranian question “where everybody but Ron Paul is competing to see who can promise to do the toughest things to Iran.” The debate this time was on foreign policy and this time in general the debaters expressed disparate views. Most of them did vow to take any steps necessary to protect the country, civil liberties be damned.
In my view when it comes to foreign policy I am leery of making quick judgments and calling for specific action without being in a position that the President is in, with all of the information available from the State Department and the C.I.A., and I am leery about candidates for the office who make such dogmatic statements. Views that are generalities, like Rick Perry’s statement that he would take action without carrying about the views of the United Nations, or Newt Gingrich who believes enemy combatants or sympathizers have no human or civil rights, or Ron Paul’s stance of having no troops anywhere in the world except on United States soil, are appropriate, but to call for specific action without knowing all of the facts seems to me to be irresponsible.
The surprise of the night came from Newt Gingrich who broke from party dogma to call for a humanitarian approach to dealing with illegal immigrants. This from a man not noted for humanitarian views (water boarding, civil rights, etc.). Let’s hope he means it and is not just reacting to the nation’s demographics. Observers say this departure from Republican ideology will haunt him in the rest of the campaign. Of course that same thing has been said about every other candidate at one time or another. There is a lot of hunting going on.
“If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”
Mitt Romney ran his first TV commercial of the campaign which shows President Obama saying those words. What it didn’t show was that it was Obama in 2008 quoting a strategist for John McCain, hence a complete fabrication, to use the nice word for it. So Romney starts with a dirty ad.
“I tasted a beer and tried a cigarette once, as a wayward teenager, and never did it again.”
Another Mitt Romney quote, this one in People Magazine. Oh how those youthful indiscretions can follow you until the end of your days. Do the Mormons have confessions?
“I exhale carbon dioxide. I don’t want those guys following me around with a meter to see if I’m breathing too hard.”
More Romney. And then “I’m all in favor of eliminating pollution.” Asked if carbon dioxide should e regulated by the E.P.A. he said “I disagree with that.” So we can’t exactly call Romney a “climate change denier”, just a “climate change so whater”; meanwhile Arctic and Greenland ice sheets are disintegrating faster than the climate models projected, the tropical zones are expanding faster than the models projected (a key cause of Dust-Bowls), and, greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than the primary worst-case IPCC scenario. But it’s O.K., Mitt to keep on breathing. On emissions you are doing better than my Honda Hybrid.
“But, really, if this is what floats your boat, read away.”
Gail Collins, who has pledged to read the books written by all of the Republican candidates, had that to say about Ron Paul’s book, “End the Fed.” It seems Paul has written a lot. According to Collins he is against government (“the wealth-extracting leviathan state”), gun control, the death penalty, the C.I.A., the Civil Rights Act, prosecuting flag-burners, hate crime legislation, foreign aid, the military draft under any circumstances, campaign finance reform, the war on drugs, the war on terror, and the war on porn. Taxes are theft.” If it isn’t specifically written in the Constitution it is a no-no. The 18th Century beckons.
“Grover Norquist’s tax pledge isn’t really about public policy; it’s a chastity belt Republican politicians wear to show that they haven’t been defiled by the Washington culture.”
Conservation columnist David Brooks made that observation. He says “both parties have become minority parties simultaneously. They slowly encase themselves in an epistemic cocoon.” I believe that pretty well describes it. Republican or Democrat, you are in the minority.
Brooks writes “many Republicans flock to Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich because they are more interested in having a leader who can take on the mainstream news media than in having one who can plausibly govern.” Brooks sounds a little sensitive, there, although his point is well taken.
“Even the French are no longer sure their culture is superior”, writes Roger Cohen.
That is the unthinkable! But the NYT columnist has poll numbers that confirm it. Only 27 percent of the French population now believes that “our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior.” As he writes, “Gloom has settled on the world. Rome circa 475 A.D., Visigoths on the prowl.” He says “When humility overtakes French culture, it’s over, folks.”
It is pretty gloomy that about 100 million Americans live below or close to the poverty line. Still, in Hong Kong, a bottle of Château Lafite-Rothschild goes for $4,000 (wonder what the Parker rating on that one is).
170 Economists Sign Statement in Support of Occupy Wall Street
It reads: “We extend our support to the vision of building an economy that works for the people, for the planet, and for the future, and we declare our solidarity with the Occupiers who are exercising our democratic right to demand economic and social justice.” This must be the first time as many as 170 economists agreed on anything other than the time of day.
People who “attack police, do drugs and trash public parks.”
This is how Republicans view the Occupy Wall Street people as opposed to those 170 economists and others like E. J. Dionne Jr. in the Washington Post who see legitimist protests against “growing economic inequality and abuses by the masters of the financial world.” The quote above is from what Dionne calls an “outrageous advertisement assailing Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren by Crossroads GPS, the group associated with Karl Rove” by linking her to those kinds of people. Well, if there is anyone who knows how to produce dirty, outrageous campaign material it’s Karl Rove. From her grave the late Texas Governor Ann Richards, defeated by George Bush with the help of Rove antics, could attest to that.
“We’re not going to take our foot off the gas pedal.”
So says Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney aide when confronted with the blatant distortion in that first television ad of the election season in which by editing makes it appear Obama's words are his and not a quote from someone else. Fehrnstrom was, by all accounts, rather pleased with himself. Prepare yourself, writes Frank Bruni in The New York Times, for the “toxic partisanship and breathless hyperbole to come. This presidential race is shaping up to be an especially mean and mendacious ride.”
To illustrate how easy it is to cop someone's words out of context to make it appear someone is saying something other than what they really are saying, here is a brief clip doing to Romney what he did to Obama:
The next Republican debate is this Thursday, December 1st, on CNN at 8 pm EST, sponsored by CNN and the Arizona Republican Party. There will be one more in December (the 10th), four in January, and one in March. Eleven months to go before the election (sigh).
The Bird Is On The Wing
This past week, the week that was, was the annual week of our national indulgence, the lavish feast on Thursday, the demonic shopping sprees on the weekend. Food is always the catalyst for convivial good times and as Americans we are always devoting a lot of attention to it in print and on the air ways, at every level, with a celebrity chef like Mario Batali who caters to the 1 percenters, Rachael Ray to the 99ers. Let us hope the 49 million citizens at or below the poverty line got a good traditional Thanksgiving meal from the charity groups who make such an effort to do so each year.
I see a certain irony present this Thanksgiving week. The Congressional supercommittee having spent weeks and months focusing on how to cut, reduce, tighten our national belt, folded its tent after dismal failure and left for home to participate in an excess of gluttony and spending. On the one hand we say citizens have too much personal debt but on the other the economy needs the stimulus of big sales.
This weekend was “make or break” of the season for big retailers in particular. Weeks and months will have gone into it. In the mid sixties my department prepared eighty or more full page advertisements that our big Macy’s store ran on Thanksgiving Day. It was a long-time tradition.
It’s probably shameful to mention it, but our traditional Thanksgiving meals have been concocted out of legend according to historians, who say it would have been difficult for the Pilgrims to have actually bagged turkeys for the big meal. The local Indians who helped them survive the difficult winter by showing them how to obtain food themselves were sustained by the abundance of eels in the rivers during that season of the year. The likelihood is that the main course at the first Thanksgiving celebration was eel. Historians made no mention of the cranberry.
It is recorded that Ben Franklin wanted our national bird to be the turkey rather than the eagle. How would that have worked out? I don’t see us having any desire to dine on eagle. If Ben had prevailed, would we have felt comfortable roasting our national bird?
I confess that my traditional Thanksgiving dish is a Tofurky. I have not been able to buy one that is free range as yet, but it is fine with me. The spirit is the thing. Oh I confess I miss that juicy little morsel down low on the carcass that is the bird’s kidney, but perhaps someday a food engineer will figure out how to make one out of soy. Or come to think of it, maybe we should persuade Mario Batali to show us how to stuff an eel.