Saturday, October 20, 2012

Breaking the Silence

"How can you be so political and never mention the election on your blog?," many of you have asked (ok not many, but actually a couple). A lot of my friends -- and especially Mom -- know that I'm so disillusioned and disgusted with American politics that I watch no "news" shows and mostly only read/click on sports. (And anyway, I read histories of politics all day for work.) I certainly wouldn't subject myself to the debates, which border on the surreal (as if exactly what phrase Obama used to describe a disgusting attack that every American obviously abhors is meaningful compared to climate change and women's rights and the macroeconomics of record levels of inequality. Could we at least agree to disagree about real issues?) But to satisfy my loyal readers ... and as I wait for Jeanine and Sheila and Kristin and Rob and Brent and Sarah to all finish half marathons ... I've decided to break the silence -- in the form of a Top Ten list: The Top 10 Things I Wish Obama Would Ask/Say to Romney at the Next Debate but Sadly Probably Won't.

1) Ok, I'm confused governor. I understand and respect (though disagree with) the argument that many honest conservatives made after the financial crisis erupted that we should do nothing -- no stimulus, no mortgage-relief polices, just let the market clear. But now the Right's talking point is that I "didn't do enough for the economy" -- and this after not a single Republican voted for the stimulus and every one of my jobs bills thereafter was severely watered down or killed. So which is it -- should we have done nothing, as the economic theory dominating your party claims? Or, if I should have done more, what in particular, and why did your side fight me every step of the way? The last time I checked, conservatives believed that the markets create jobs, not presidents.

2) Your side accuses liberals of being weak-kneed, dependency-inducing hippies when we even hint that inequality (at its highest level in 80 years) harms our social fabric and puts more people into poverty and, oh yeah, unnecessarily kills people who can't afford health insurance. I agree, of course, that we need some inequality so people have incentives to work and risks and innovation are rewarded. So don't call me a leveler. But what if I told you (to quote ESPN films' 30 for 30 series), that too much inequality stunts economic growth. Based on you tax proposals and comments about the 47% of moochers you don't care about, it's fair to assume that you're not especially concerned with inequality. But please explain specifically why, given that our economy is 75% personal consumption, inequality is not checking top-line growth (and reducing corporate profits)? And I mean specifically, governor. If you don't agree with Keynes's consumption function, do you agree with Modigliani's critique of it or Freidman's and why?

(Look ... a historian can always dream. As I've complained about for years, the Left has been totally clueless on this one. The NY Times's recent article on inequality and the economy was breath-taking, as a friend put it, writing that a "growing body" of research suggests that rising inequality harms economic growth. Yeah, growing body of research since Keynes wrote about it in 1936!]

3) Funding Planned Parenthood is the sideshow. You have stated repeatedly that you will appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. Is this correct? In the words of Al Gore debating Dan Quayle, do you support a woman's right to choose?

4) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believes that the US Constitution -- the original one -- was divinely inspired. But the original Constitution defined enslaved African Americans as each equal to three-fifths of a white person. As historian Gary Wills put it, "Does the fact that the Fourteenth Amendment was an addition to the originally inspired document mean that God first limited black rights in a directly inspired document, and only restored them in a non-inspired amendment"?

5) Your church only allowed African Americans to become priests in 1978 (and only then after the feds threatened the loss of tax-exempt status). You turned 21 in 1968. During the next decade, what were your attitudes on this question? What specific steps did you take to bring the Latter-Day Saints into the twentieth century?

6) You said on Meet the Press, "I'm not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet. I'm in this race to help the American people." Interesting, as I was under the impression that Americans live on the planet. Please provide specific examples of how Americans lives will be helped by climate change.

7) My advisers keep dropping the ball on the recovery debate, somehow forgetting to remind the media that reduced tax revenues from the Great Recession (to say nothing of the Bush tax cuts and two extended wars) caused the vast majority of the increase in the debt during my administration. So let's go over the basics here. Maybe if we dropped the overheated rhetoric for a moment, we could agree that the deficit was already spiraling before I took over (Um, remember that the budget for a president's first year is passed before the new administration takes office). While it is very true that I did increase spending significantly in 2009 on top of what was already appropriated -- to save the auto industry and reduce unemployment -- this spending was temporary -- a lot more temporary than the Bush tax cuts and those two little wars. And while the question of whether I should have cut spending more is a legitimate one (even if most economists across the political spectrum agree that such cuts would have hurt a fragile recovery), spending over the budgets I controlled went up an (annualized) .4% a year. Even the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch webpage (yeah, those radicals) concluded that “federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower." So I guess my question is, do you think politics have anything to do with the savage exaggeration of my spending, or do you think these exaggerations would have been the same if I were a Republican?

8) Considering that your grandfather immigrated to the United States from Mexico (where he had gone after the Church outlawed polygamy), why are you so opposed to immigration? Also, your grandfather took federal funds under a program set up to help political refugees. Why did your grandfather take a handout from the federal government?

9) Do you think Petter Northug can regain his dominant form of a couple of years ago?

10) Look, I almost feel sorry for you -- it's pathetic that you score less than me, a Black Muslim, when Americans are polled on the who's-more-of-a-regular-guy? and who-would-you-rather-have-beers-with? questions. I realize you're not allowed to drink beer, and that's cool -- though I really wish you'd do something about the stupid beer laws in Utah, so I can drink my favorite Epic Hop Syndrome on tap when I'm visiting the Ex-Wife's bar in Salt Lake. But sometimes, deep down, don't you wish you were cool like me and could introduce Wilco onto the stage? Do you even know who Wilco is? I mean, how cool am I here, despite using the term "gold records"? And by the way, notice the song's a prayer. Read some Neibuhr you dumb %$#@.

[Warning: This clip may induce severe nostalgia for vintage Obama. But that's the point. Forward to a centrist in Ohio or Virginia.]

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