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September 21, 2012

the left-behinds

Combine these two things:

First, today's Paul Krugman column, which discusses the active antipathy of the Republican Party to workers.  And I don't mean workers in the Marxist sense, or in the sense of the unionized, but rather people who are not job creators:

In the eyes of those who share this vision, the wealthy deserve special treatment, and not just in the form of low taxes. They must also receive respect, indeed deference, at all times. That’s why even the slightest hint from the president that the rich might not be all that — that, say, some bankers may have behaved badly, or that even “job creators” depend on government-built infrastructure — elicits frantic cries that Mr. Obama is a socialist.

This isn't speculation, nor is it specious.  Try to remember the last time a Republican office holder said/did something that was in support of people who hold jobs, make a living, if a modest one.

Now mix that up with this bit of news about how the life expectancy of one segment of the American population has actually decreased by four years over the last twenty-two years: under-educated whites.

The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.

Meanwhile, everyone else?  Lifespans are increasing.  Rich/highly educated whites, or course, but also the huge rainbow of minorities, they're all living longer.

These under-educated whites?  They are also two other things: first, they are nearly wholly workers and not employers, if not unemployed, if not actual "takers".  Second, they are largely Republican, if not the base of the party, if not the force behind the Tea Party.  And they're being left being in almost every way.

This is an alarming little snapshot of 2012 in too many ways.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:19 AM

September 20, 2012

joey biden

Not everything has to be terrible these days, even though we are in the middle of a presidential election, which tends to put one on edge a bit, as actually, yes, elections have consequences.  Like, I'm sure there are books and magazines out there, and they still make shows for the television, right?  Or are they all just on Hulu?

One thing I do know that for uplifting way to follow the presidential race, if not outright entertaining, is to keep your eye on the Biden.  Yeah, the old guy who says all the crazy things.

First, read this snappy feature on Biden by John Heilleman.  Here's your pullquote:

“President Clinton and I had a talk awhile ago,” Biden tells me. “You know, there used to be in my generation a guy named Rod McLuhan”—here apparently mixing up Rod McKuen and Marshall McLuhan—“who said, ‘The medium is the message.’ And it really is kind of the message. So the discussion I had with Clinton was about how did he think he would have done on the rope lines [today], when everybody has a camera and a dictating machine, being able to instantaneously take three words out of a ten-word sentence and move it. We were both talking about how it generates a different kind of discourse and a campaign style … It’s like, the constituencies that I have strong and closest relationships with are not bloggers, you know what I mean?”

You kind of want to describe that rhetorical style as Crazy Uncle or Kooky Perfessor, but it's neither, actually.  It's actually Joe Biden, or Joey Biden, as I like to think of him (because it really captures Joe Biden better than "Joe Biden").

Biden has a fascinating life story, and may be the only man who's spent forty years in Washington that you would have anything like empathy for.  And there's something in the ebullience of Biden's speech, his burning need to connect with the audience, that seems to be the most sincere thing in the world.  (And he's no dummy, no matter what you may have heard.  Read up some day on how Biden single-handedly squashed the Bork nomination, like maybe in Richard Ben Cramer's massive narrative of the 1988 election, What It Takes.)

But the feature does a better job of explaining the charms of Joey Biden, if you have not already fallen prey to them.  Give it a drive around the block.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:30 AM

September 19, 2012

the secret tape pushback

For what it's worth, the Romney pushback on the secret video imbroglio is to pivot the conversation to wealth redistribution, which the president is apparently guilty of because he said something fourteen years ago, and because he is Kenyan.

You might remember four years ago when John McCain's nominee for vice president chased after the same line — yeah, that one... Vice President Sarah Palin.

Points for chutzpah and all that (and nice job dancing around the fact that he believes that Americans on welfare refuse to take care of themselves), but I welcome a talk about redistribution as much as Romney seems to, because what the fuck does he think private equity is?  The leveraged buy-outs, the exorbitant "consulting" fees that the target company is forced to borrow for, what exactly is that?  Does that money that goes into the PE firm come from nowhere?  No, it's money that could otherwise be used for things like decent wages.  It's a shake-down scheme, inverted.

I get that taxes are a burden — just look at Mitt's father, George Romney.  He was president of General Motors from 1953 to 1962.  During that time, the top marginal tax rate was between 91% and 92%  That's why George Romney lived and died a pauper.  And coincidentally, that was also the era of near-consistent growth that created the Middle Class as we used to know it.  So, duh, taxes are a burden, right?

It's a conversation I'm dying to have.  I just wish that seven minutes with Neil Cavuto constituted a conversation.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:21 PM

the secret tape

Even if you don't follow politics you've heard about the secret recording of Mitt Romney, wherein he alienates 47% of the American population and most of the Arabian Peninsula.  And you really need yet another yob yammering about it like you need another hole in your head.

So let this be an attempt at a quick brief final word: before, we thought that Mitt Romney was an amiable, ambitious, hapless dude who somehow convinced himself that he needed to be president.  Feckless, sure — able to contort himself into whatever policy deemed expedient by his advisers — but just a good soldier, doing what he's told.

That's not the case.

Mitt Romney is a bad person.  While speaking candidly among his fellow millionaires, he reveals himself to be what liberals have been whispering about for decades: a plutocrat, casually explaining tactics among the financiers of his campaign, the parties who will be the sole recipients of the benefits of a Romney Administration.

So don't vote for him, please.  Not just because of him, but also because of those douchebag millionaires that couldn't be bothered to stop shoveling chateaubriand into their gullets while the candidate was speaking.

Hey, we're back to a class war!  Terrif.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:06 AM

September 17, 2012

it doesn't look easy to me

Long story, but exigencies forced me to not listen to the news on headphones while walking the dog, but rather turning on the television and sitting in front of it with a bowl of cereal.  Like an American.

And that somehow-influential ex-pol Joe Scarborough was where I landed (wait... it says MSNBC, right?) and that sly old fox was running down the chorus of like-minded talking-heads bemoaning the fate of Mitt Romney.  That's fun enough, because for every campaign soldier that urges that there's no there there (and even though you yourself know that the polls will tighten and then the Is Obama Desperate? stories will run) the story of the collapse becomes more self-perpetuating.

But the real fun thing was where Joe goes into the standard How Is This So Hard? riff and runs down the campaign platform of how any damn fool could run against and beat Obama.  "Trillions of dollars of federal debt, bailouts, etc."  Tsks.

Here's the thing.  Three years ago, when the GOP field was wide open (except for Mitt Romney), the writing was already on the wall: the Great Recession was refusing to end, unemployment remained high and Tea Party sentiment and GOP sand-bagging were clouding prospects.  Hey, who wants to be president?

Well, not obvious front-runner Jeb Bush, and not much-discussed prospect Mitch Daniels.  Not grassroots fave Mike Huckabee, and not pugnacious Chris Christie.  Not Rob Portman, not Sarah Palin, not eventual veep candidate Paul Ryan.  In fact, not even Joe Scarborough, who I guarantee you has had the thought cross his mind more than once in his life.

So if it's so damn easy to one-term Barack Obama, then why did all the heavy-weights sit on their hands, and why are they now succumbing to the vapors over Mitt Romney and his foot-stuck-in-the-mop-bucket strategy?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:04 AM