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October 12, 2012

joey biden crushes it

Hey now, isn't the press being circumspect about last night's debate?  Remember last week, when Mitt Romney's rictus grin was splashed on every front page as the Unanimous Victor?  Not so much the case today, as the main stream seems reluctant to show any enthusiasm or favoritism because, well, Biden was mean.

Never mind that when Mitt Romney flouts the debate rules or bulldozes the moderator, that's Romney being presidential, showing that he can stand up to the president.

So it you didn't watch, know that it was basically not even fair.  Ryan did not bomb or flail (though he was speechless at a few key points), but Biden was a dominating presence, utilizing the split screen.  He was riveting when he wasn't speaking.  And when he was speaking he made a hell of a lot of sense.  He is a commanding speaker, and he engulfed Paul Ryan last night.  (And Paul Ryan did not help his case by having the demeanor of the newscaster in the 1950s monster movie warning of the impending menace.)

Jon Chait on the performance:

Biden met his audience at a gut level. Over and over he appealed to them to settle the debate by falling back on long-held prejudices about the two parties. Taxes? Biden set out to utter the phrase “middle class” as many times as he possible could, and to tie Romney and Ryan to the class interest of the very rich. On entitlements, he pulled out of the weeds and reminded voters that Democrats were the party of Social Security and Medicare – “Folks, follow your instincts on this one.” On defense, he repeatedly invoked the possibility that Romney would start another war, which is probably the only real way that foreign policy might enter the thinking of a low-information undecided voter. And three times Biden invoked Romney’s disparagement of the 47 percent, using it to frame the entire Romney-Ryan economic philosophy.


And for a little comic relief, here's yet another David Brooks column wherein he talks about what people want when what he really means is what David Brooks really wants:

At the same time, my in-box was filled with a certain number of people who would be happy if they could spend the next few weeks delivering some punches to Biden, and not just Republicans. What do independents want most? They want people who will practice a more respectful brand of politics, who will behave the way most Americans try to behave in their dealings: respectfully, maybe even pausing to listen for a second. To them, Biden will seem like an off-putting caricature of the worst of old-style politics.

I would not be shocked to find out that David Brooks sends himself "a certain number" of emails just so that he can cite them in his columns.

Whatevs!  Joey Biden ate Wonder Boy's lunch last night, and I'm gonna let that cheer me for at least half a day.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:57 AM

October 11, 2012

veep debate tonight

Here is my advice if you like me are going to watch tonight's debate:

Temper your expectations.  Not out loud; you're not trying to convince anyone but yourself.  You and I both know that Paul Ryan's intellectual cred is widely, vastly overstated (though maybe not in the context of Inside the Beltway), and that while Joe Biden is not without his buffoon moments, he's not a guy that it's smart to bet against.  Ask Robert Bork.

But anything can happen.  Ryan could retrofit his platform to consist only of "We Like Puppies," or he could have a magic amulet that tricks anyone looking into his dreamboat eyes that he's explaining the Theory of Relativity and not watered-down Ayn Rand Objectivism with all the atheism filtered out.  Or Biden could insist on making personal contact — the elbow, the upper arm, the nape of the neck — with every man, woman and child in the auditorium.

Plus also: what you think about what happens tonight is irrelevant.  It'll be over, and the consensus will be calcified thirty seconds after each network's talking head opines on the previous ninety minutes.  That's the way it works.  Remember the old gag in high school, where someone makes the "L" sign with their fingers and holds it up to their forehead, after which everyone in the room rushes to do the same thing with the last one to do so being deemed the loser?  That's how consensus is made.

Just do not walk into this with some deep-seated confidence that Joey Biden is gonna show him a thing or two, not because that won't happen, but because it didn't happen last time and then I had to hear about it all week.  Aim high, shoot low.

But I'll be talking about it, on Twitter, as will the smart guys at The Awl.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:46 PM

October 10, 2012

the low tax fallacy

We're a little less than a month out from this damn election, so in the interest of having this not become a month long stream of consciousness fueled by tongue-curdling rage, let's take a second every once in a while and examine one single bit of rhetoric noxiousness or outright lie and talk about it out of context.  Stop chasing headlines for a bit.

Since the Reagan era, the mania for cutting taxes was never couched honestly — i.e., because of naked greed — but rather justified through the (now) conventional wisdom that lower taxes equals more jobs.  And I'm not straw-manning this in the least, here is a summary paragraph from Mitt Romney during last week's debate:

My priority is jobs. And so what I do is I bring down the tax rates, lower deductions and exemptions, the same idea behind Bowles-Simpson, by the way, get the rates down, lower deductions and exemptions, to create more jobs.

Ignore for a moment the utter lack of sense that makes (but he said it with a How To Make Friends And Influence People smile!), clearly what he's trying to say, the assertion that he is treating as axiomatic, is that cutting taxes creates jobs.

This is a total fiction, an outright lie.

Historically, there is no correlation between low tax rates and high employment.  Take for example now, when we have the lowest federal taxes since the institution of the income tax, and we've been slogging through a five-year slowdown.  Or look at the 1950s, when the top marginal tax rate was 91% and the unemployment rate hovered around 5% (spiked up to 7% twice, but dropped to nearly 2% early in the decade).  The data is not there.

Nor is the logic.  Why do companies, small or big, hire?  Because they have labor needs: there's a market out there for a good or a service that is waiting for more product, and in order for more product you need more hirees to provide this product.  Period.  That's the only reason.  No company refrains from hiring because of a tax concern.  They just say this out loud because they don't like paying taxes.  They are dissembling.

But don't just take it from me — take it from decidedly a-political Cecil Adams' column The Straight Dope:

Which brings us to the con. A string of millionaire candidates for public office has duped a good chunk of the electorate into thinking the way to create jobs and otherwise solve the problems of the middle class is to cut the taxes of the wealthy. That's absurd. If the massive tax cuts of the Reagan era didn’t do the average worker much good, trimming another percent or two now sure won’t. What it will do is leave more money in the pockets of the comfortably affluent.

So please, the next time you hear someone assert this ridiculousness, be it Mitt Romney or your neighbor, know that it is a bare fallacy, and feel free to say so out loud.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:12 AM

October 9, 2012

the imminentization of the election

It is a complicated day, and there aren't enough hours in the day to identify and argue against every GBCW post out there concerning the election.  (Et tu, Andrew Sullivan?)  Look, a month ago we were all talking about how the associated punditry of the country were chomping at the bit for a "game-changer" to happen because they were getting tired of writing stories about the circular firing squad of the Romney campaign.  And lo and behold!

Now we will get a week's worth of stories about the game-changer, that emphasize a Romney resurgence and posit panicking at Obama's Chicago HQ.  Because that's the way the narrative is supposed to unfold.  And just as the observer determines the fate of Schoedinger's cat once he opens the box, the chroniclers of this race shape it into what they want it to be.

I get it.  Everybody has to write about something (like I'm doing at this very moment).  But the speed with which our great thinkers rush to arrive first at the predictable conclusion that everyone else intends to arrive at, before the facts are on the table, is making me dizzy.

It's all very meta, and I like meta very much, but I don't like being dizzy.  That's a drag.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:10 AM

October 8, 2012

most important election ever on day 6

So Saturday morning came and went and it's true, I do have a commentary segment on the radio programme Day 6.  The podcast of the entire episode is here, and with this link you should be able to stream it.

And if you want to hear just my bit, go to this page and look for the "Most Important Election Ever" entry.  That's me.

A friend told me I sound like a wiseass twenty year-old know-it-all, so that means that radio shaves years off you!  Everyone should try it.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:12 AM