Friday, February 24, 2012

CONservatism is a CON Game, And the Republi-CON Candidates Are the Result

UPDATE II: Who said: "I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective, and that’s kind of where we are."

Read Politico, Jeb Bush says 2012ers are 'appealing to people's fears'.

UPDATE: It is said that "a gaffe is when a politician accidently tells the truth. That’s certainly what happened to Mitt Romney on Tuesday, when in a rare moment of candor — and, in his case, such moments are really, really rare — he gave away the game.

Speaking in Michigan, Mr. Romney was asked about deficit reduction, and he absent-mindedly said something completely reasonable: 'If you just cut, if all you’re thinking about doing is cutting spending, as you cut spending you’ll slow down the economy.' A-ha. So he believes that cutting government spending hurts growth, other things equal."

Read The New York Times, Romney’s Economic Closet.

I've said it for years, now the man won the 2008 Nobel Prize for Economics last year agrees, the Republi-CONs are caught up in their own con:

"Romney is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, and whatever his personal beliefs may really be — if, indeed, he believes anything other than that he should be president — he needs to win over primary voters who really are severely conservative in both his intended and unintended senses.

So he can’t run on his record in office. Nor was he trying very hard to run on his business career even before people began asking hard (and appropriate) questions about the nature of that career.

Instead, his stump speeches rely almost entirely on fantasies and fabrications designed to appeal to the delusions of the conservative base. No, President Obama isn’t someone who 'began his presidency by apologizing for America,' as Mr. Romney declared, yet again, a week ago. But this 'Four-Pinocchio Falsehood,' as the Washington Post Fact Checker [link added] puts it, is at the heart of the Romney campaign.

How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? For it was not always thus. After all, that health reform Mr. Romney wants us to forget followed a blueprint originally laid out at the Heritage Foundation!

My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.

Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control.

The point is that today’s dismal G.O.P. field — is there anyone who doesn’t consider it dismal? — is no accident. Economic conservatives played a cynical game, and now they’re facing the blowback, a party that suffers from "severe" conservatism in the worst way. And the malady may take many years to cure."

Read The New York Times, Severe Conservative Syndrome.

The Republi-CON 'America is a Christian Nation' Myth

UPDATE: For those who pine for the good ol' days, when for "those who didn’t follow rules handed down by God through man, these New World authorities could cut out your tongue, slice off your ears or execute you," read The New York Times, Theocracy and Its Discontents.

Did you know that "the conflict over the proper relationship between church and state is the oldest in American history. The 1st Amendment now defines this relationship, but understanding the full meaning of the amendment requires understanding its history, for the amendment was a specific response to specific historical events and was written with the recognition that freedom of religion was inextricably linked to freedom itself. . .

Eight years after the Constitution's adoption, the Senate confirmed this view in unanimously approving a treaty. It stated: '[T]he government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.'"

Read the Los Angeles Times, A Puritan's 'war against religion'.

The Republi-CON 'Less Government, More Personal Freedom' Myth

"A Virginia bill states that any woman seeking an abortion must first lie back in a chair with her feet in stirrups and a 10-inch ultrasound wand in her vagina." Watch The Daily Show, Punanny State - Virginia's Transvaginal Ultrasound Bill:

Also, only Republi-CON approved men may testified before Congress about birth control insurance coverage.

Republi-CONs In Their Delusion-land

UPDATE III: There is a "surprising amount of criticism being directed at Bush by the GOP candidates 'reflects how much more conservative the Republican Party has become.'

Indeed, nowhere is this truer than in the case of the auto-bailout. The perceived imperatives of the GOP primary require that this obvious success story — this clear-cut example of government intervention staving off a massive economic disaster and saving thousands of American jobs — must be explained away by any means necessary.

The last Republican president — one who was in office less than four years ago — says that if government had failed to bail out the auto-makers, it would have led to '21 percent unemployment' and a 'depression.' But today’s GOP candidates just don’t want to hear it."

Read the Washington Post, George Bush, crony capitalist.

UPDATE II: The title says it all. Read the Washington Post, Gingrich pledges moon colony during presidency, which notes he "proclaimed that the 'weirdest thing' he ever did in Congress was to introduce a 'Northwest Ordinance for space' that would allow a moon colony to become a state once 13,000 lived there."

UPDATE: "It’s not at all clear why we should care if our presidents are idea-obsessed. Just as having a lot of pens doesn’t make you a great writer, having a lot of ideas doesn’t make you a great thinker. And getting distracted by every new idea you hear can distract from the focus and discipline the presidency requires. The idea that cancer is triggered, at least in part, by common viruses is very interesting, but I wouldn’t want the leader of the free world to spend too much time worrying about it. Same with the idea that William Shakespeare was a pen name for Sir Francis Bacon. It is the quality, not quantity, of Gingrich’s ideas that should concern us. And the quality of Gingrich’s ideas is often concerning."

Read the Washington Post, Newt Gingrich’s big, bad ideas, which notes that his ideas "led to one of the more amusing Web sites of the campaign — “Supervillain or Newt?” — which asks you to guess whether a given idea came from Gingrich or a fictional supervillain."

[See Supervillain or Newt, "where you have to decide whether an idea comes from an indestructible megalomaniac hell-bent on ruling the world, or from a fictional supervillain."]

If you think about it, The Great Lecherer, aka Newtenstein, is really just a symptom of the delusion gripping the Republi-CON party.

From the 2008 winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics:

"Reading the transcript of Tuesday’s Republican debate on the economy is, for anyone who has actually been following economic events these past few years, like falling down a rabbit hole. Suddenly, you find yourself in a fantasy world where nothing looks or behaves the way it does in real life.

And since economic policy has to deal with the world we live in, not the fantasy world of the G.O.P.’s imagination, the prospect that one of these people may well be our next president is, frankly, terrifying.

In the real world, recent events were a devastating refutation of the free-market orthodoxy that has ruled American politics these past three decades. Above all, the long crusade against financial regulation, the successful effort to unravel the prudential rules established after the Great Depression on the grounds that they were unnecessary, ended up demonstrating — at immense cost to the nation — that those rules were necessary, after all.

But down the rabbit hole, none of that happened. We didn’t find ourselves in a crisis because of runaway private lenders like Countrywide Financial. We didn’t find ourselves in a crisis because Wall Street pretended that slicing, dicing and rearranging bad loans could somehow create AAA assets — and private rating agencies played along. We didn’t find ourselves in a crisis because “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers exploited gaps in financial regulation to create bank-type threats to the financial system without being subject to bank-type limits on risk-taking.

No, in the universe of the Republican Party we found ourselves in a crisis because Representative Barney Frank forced helpless bankers to lend money to the undeserving poor."

Read The New York Times, Rabbit-Hole Economics. He noted that:

"But that’s history. What do the Republicans want to do now? In particular, what do they want to do about unemployment?

Well, they want to fire Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve — not for doing too little, which is a case one can make, but for doing too much. So they’re obviously not proposing any job-creation action via monetary policy.

Incidentally, during Tuesday’s debate, Mitt Romney named Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw as one of his advisers. How many Republicans know that Mr. Mankiw at least used to advocate — correctly, in my view — deliberate inflation by the Fed to solve our economic woes?

So, no monetary relief. What else? Well, the Cheshire Cat-like Rick Perry — he seems to be fading out, bit by bit, until only the hair remains — claimed, implausibly, that he could create 1.2 million jobs in the energy sector. Mr. Romney, meanwhile, called for permanent tax cuts — basically, let’s replay the Bush years! And Herman Cain? Oh, never mind.

By the way, has anyone else noticed the disappearance of budget deficits as a major concern for Republicans once they start talking about tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy?

It’s all pretty funny. But it’s also, as I said, terrifying.

The Great Recession should have been a huge wake-up call. Nothing like this was supposed to be possible in the modern world. Everyone, and I mean everyone, should be engaged in serious soul-searching, asking how much of what he or she thought was true actually isn’t.

But the G.O.P. has responded to the crisis not by rethinking its dogma but by adopting an even cruder version of that dogma, becoming a caricature of itself. During the debate, the hosts played a clip of Ronald Reagan calling for increased revenue; today, no politician hoping to get anywhere in Reagan’s party would dare say such a thing.

It’s a terrible thing when an individual loses his or her grip on reality. But it’s much worse when the same thing happens to a whole political party, one that already has the power to block anything the president proposes — and which may soon control the whole government."