Here’s where your argument falls to the ground

I’m having trouble sorting out the competing arguments on this whole “fiscal cliff” thingy: either we’ve got to prevent going over it, or it’s OK to go over it a little, or it’s not really a cliff at all but more like a slope; and if the far right criticizes Speaker Boehner’s plan and so does the president, does that mean the far right agrees with the president?

You may suffer from the same problem: from time to time and no matter the topic, there are those days when each argument advanced sounds pretty good, but then someone else opens up their piehole and I don’t know what to think anymore except that maybe I am too stupid to live. How, my friends, how are we to sort out the good from the bad, the sound from the unsound, the wheat from the chaff…the flotsam from the jetsam, the Hatfields from the McCoys? How indeed!

With thanks for the tip to the fine folks at Upworthy.com, behold the world’s handiest tool for cutting through the crap: an interactive website which “offers definitions and examples of the most common logical fallacies plaguing our debates today.”

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AND, they’ve got free posters available for download—looks like the perfect stocking stuffer, and such a thoughtful gift at this special time of year.

King scolds super rich for not supporting the society that helped them become super rich

Stephen King rebukes the rich of America for whining like babies about paying their share to keep this country running? Yes, that is an interesting idea…it would be even better if he was all foul-mouthed about it while he called out the rich for not being good citizens. He does? Excellent!

Yep, there it is, today at The Huffington Post The Daily Beast. The author argues that it’s not enough to say “so write a check already” when Warren Buffett or other rich guys say that the rich should pay more in income taxes than they do today, because even the charity of the rich can’t raise enough money to do the things that government is supposed to do.

What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.

(snip)

The Koch brothers are right-wing creepazoids, but they’re giving right-wing creepazoids. Here’s an example: 68 million fine American dollars to Deerfield Academy. Which is great for Deerfield Academy. But it won’t do squat for cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where food fish are now showing up with black lesions. It won’t pay for stronger regulations to keep BP (or some other bunch of dipshit oil drillers) from doing it again. It won’t repair the levees surrounding New Orleans. It won’t improve education in Mississippi or Alabama. But what the hell—them li’l crackers ain’t never going to go to Deerfield Academy anyway. Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

King tackles the argument that higher taxes hurt job creation:

Here’s another crock of fresh bullshit delivered by the right wing of the Republican Party (which has become, so far as I can see, the only wing of the Republican Party): the richer rich people get, the more jobs they create. Really? I have a total payroll of about 60 people, most of them working for the two radio stations I own in Bangor, Maine. If I hit the movie jackpot—as I have, from time to time—and own a piece of a film that grosses $200 million, what am I going to do with it? Buy another radio station? I don’t think so, since I’m losing my shirt on the ones I own already. But suppose I did, and hired on an additional dozen folks. Good for them. Whoopee-ding for the rest of the economy.

At the risk of repeating myself, here’s what rich folks do when they get richer: they invest. A lot of those investments are overseas, thanks to the anti-American business policies of the last four administrations. Don’t think so? Check the tag on that T-shirt or gimme cap you’re wearing. If it says MADE IN AMERICA, I’ll … well, I won’t say I’ll eat your shorts, because some of that stuff is made here, but not much of it. And what does get made here doesn’t get made by America’s small cadre of pluted bloatocrats; it’s made, for the most part, in barely-gittin’-by factories in the Deep South, where the only unions people believe in are those solemnized at the altar of the local church (as long as they’re from different sexes, that is).

And, he squeezes one off right between the eyes of the folks pledging their asses off not to raise taxes:

The U.S. senators and representatives who refuse even to consider raising taxes on the rich—they squall like scalded babies (usually on Fox News) every time the subject comes up—are not, by and large, superrich themselves, although many are millionaires and all have had the equivalent of Obamacare for years. They simply idolize the rich. Don’t ask me why; I don’t get it either, since most rich people are as boring as old, dead dog shit. The Mitch McConnells and John Boehners and Eric Cantors just can’t seem to help themselves. These guys and their right-wing supporters regard deep pockets like Christy Walton and Sheldon Adelson the way little girls regard Justin Bieber … which is to say, with wide eyes, slack jaws, and the drool of adoration dripping from their chins. I’ve gotten the same reaction myself, even though I’m only “baby rich” compared with some of these guys, who float serenely over the lives of the struggling middle class like blimps made of thousand-dollar bills.

In America, the rich are hallowed. Even Warren Buffett, who has largely been drummed out of the club for his radical ideas about putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to patriotism, made the front pages when he announced that he had stage-1 prostate cancer. Stage 1, for God’s sake! A hundred clinics can fix him up, and he can put the bill on his American Express black card! But the press made it sound like the pope’s balls had just dropped off and shattered! Because it was cancer? No! Because it was Warren Buffett, he of Berkshire-Hathaway!

To my mind most importantly, he appeals to patriotism—not the store-bought kind so in favor lately, but the kind that really matters:

Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that—sorry, kiddies—you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor [Chris] Christie’s words, but to pay—in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.

Last week I linked to a good article that made some sense of why the growing inequality in incomes in this country is a bad thing; King makes the point a little more…well, pointedly, as a good horror/thriller writer would:

This has to happen if America is to remain strong and true to its ideals. It’s a practical necessity and a moral imperative. Last year during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent. Their response was either Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake”) or Ebenezer Scrooge (“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”). Short-sighted, gentlemen. Very short-sighted. If this situation isn’t fairly addressed, last year’s protests will just be the beginning. Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head.

Think about it.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…

The “supercommittee” admitted defeat; it won’t have a blueprint for reducing the nation’s deficit (stories here, here and here).  Is this a bad thing?

Some have argued, no: the first direct result of getting no plan from this committee is that the law which authorized it will now automatically cut $1.2 trillion from defense and non-defense spending over ten years starting in 2013, and that may end up giving us more deficit reduction than we’d have gotten otherwise.  No way to know for sure, of course, but it makes sense.

I mean, there’s no reason to believe that the same members of Congress who thought nothing of threatening government default for political gain this past summer were likely to come to any agreement now, not when the party that controls the House (and virtually controls the Senate with the threat of filibuster) is still holding its breath threatening to turn blue rather than be responsible and discuss the best ways to increase revenue as part of the answer (along with spending cuts and overall economic growth) to getting the federal budget on a healthy path.  None at all.

To believe otherwise would mean, first of all, believing that the sheep people lined up behind Speakers Boehner and Limbaugh have any goal more important that the defeat of President Obama.  They don’t, unless it is the personal destruction of Obama, and anyone unlike themselves.  Second, it means they would have to have the backbone to say no to the no-tax extremists and the campaign contributors.

I read an interesting article making the point that we’re foolish to think that our elected representatives will do anything that makes sense for us, because they’re in place to serve their bosses: namely, the minority of the population who actually vote in the primaries, and the even smaller percentage of the people who pay the bills through campaign contributions both above and below board.  (By the way, read Michael Moran’s piece setting the stage for his blog The Reckoning.)

The other thing to watch out for right now, though, is the cowardly Congress finding a way to back out of the deal it made with itself!  No Congress can pass a law that would prevent a future Congress from unpassing that law; just because it set itself this deadline and mandated future budget cuts as a penalty for failing to meet that deadline can’t prevent the next Congress from overriding all or some part of the threatened budget reductions, and that’s entirely possible for a group that already can’t say no to anyone (which is a big part of what got our budget in this mess to begin with).

Give some thought to Moran’s suggestion: in times of crisis, what if we take control away from politicians and give it to people who know what they’re doing?

A real super-committee – a real committee not only empowered to take the steps necessary to right the American economy, but competent to do so – would include 12 serious thinkers. They might include policymakers like former Fed Chairmen Paul Volker or (the suitably contrite) Alan Greenspan, economists of left and right like Stanford’s John B. Taylor, Yale’s Robert Schiller, NYU-Stern’s Nouriel Roubini, plus a few representatives of labor, small business and capital – let’s say Robert Reich, Joseph Schneider of Lacrosse Footwear, and Warren Buffett, just for kicks. No investment bank chairman, please, and no one facing reelection.

Can you imagine this group failing to come up with a solution? Can you imagine any of them worrying more about the next election than the future of the world’s largest economy? Certainly, they would clash – perhaps over the same tax v. spending cut issues. The difference: they would understand better than any member of Congress that no solution is far worse than a less-than-perfect solution.

For more on the politics of saving the economy, we bring in Bob in the Heights

From time to time, HIPRB! feels the need to turn over the front page for a spirited diatribe on issues of the day (or on something else).  Today is one of those days: my friend Bob Eddy takes issue with a thing or three out of the recent contretemps over raising the federal debt ceiling, and links us to quite an interesting examination of Barack Obama’s fear of confrontation.

That little congressional Mexican standoff was the sorriest and most shameful display of our democratic system that I’ve seen in a long time.  And come Monday morning I brought up the Times with a heavy heart, knowing as sure as the sunrise what I would see—yet another capitulating choke by the president and his party that will once again lamely be defended with that upbeat and reassuring phrase that has become this administration’s slogan: “Well, better than nothing…”  

“We tried, but…”

Like the coach telling the team owner “Well, we only lost by 10…”

“Our offense looked really good in the third quarter…”

“Our new kicker has some real potential…”

And of course I knew also that in the ensuing days we would be treated to the smiling but worn congressional faces of our brave representatives who rolled up their sleeves, set their differences aside, and hammered out a solution just before the clock ran out.  Whew, another global crisis avoided!  And once again we’ll all be reminded that democracy sometimes gets ugly, messy, and contentious, but that’s what makes this country great, and in the end rational compromise will win out for the betterment of the people and what’s best for America.  You know what?  Hey Harry, your catheter is leaking into your socks. 

The saddest part?  Watching the president of the United States spend 20 minutes addressing the nation to plead his case for a sharing of the fiscal burden, and John Boner barely taking 5 to sternly tell him that the dishes were piling up in the congressional cafeteria, and this is what his party will do and won’t do – sweet.  I’ve got to admit, I was taken back by the bluntness of his rebuttal, void of any hint at compromise or even respect.

I knew from the moment Obama got called out as a liar that there was going to be trouble with this crowd.  And I’m sorry, as much as Obama and everyone would like to think the hatred has nothing to do with color, come on, let’s be honest: no president in our lifetime has been this openly treated with hostility, disdain, and lack of decorum.  Not that I don’t have my own issues with our president.  You know, I wasn’t one of the foolishly naive who put him on a pedestal and thought upon his entering office we were all going to put on rainbow glasses and America was going to become Shangri-La West, but at the least I did expect some f****** backbone.

It just seems like his administration thus far has been more a cold slap of reality as far as what the president can do and (mostly) can’t do, than anything resembling hope and change.  He regularly treats his voting base like his third choice for the senior prom, and like me they’re all screaming “When are you going to give up this ridiculous fantasy of reaching across the aisle, of working together for the common good!?  Of expecting anything other than contempt and obstruction from this crowd!?”

Some say he’s playing the long game; I say the strategy has so far brought us next to nothing in the win column – it’s the age old “well now you’re pissing everyone off.”  Stop this ridiculous quest for the Holy Grail of the political center where your number crunchers assure you the percentages predict the most votes…to be the off-white shirt that goes with the most jackets in your closet.  When Leonard Pitts suggested in a recent column that it was time to start throwing some elbows on your way to the basket, my thoughts were “what took you so long to write this column?” 

And of course, Obama’s haggling capabilities leave something to be desired…

Obama at a pricey estate auction somewhere in Georgetown, where he spies a 19th century French coffee table that would like great in his study:

“Hmmm…$2,000, seems a little steep…I’ll give you $1,975!”

“$1,990 and not a penny less.”

“Michelle, get my wallet!”

Anyways, it’s never too early to start thinking about campaign slogans.  I thought maybe this one might look good on the presidential limo’s bumper, or certainly emblazoned across the side of the Marine One helicopter:

“2012 – Guarded Optimism & Mostly Disappointment”

This was a really good piece in the Times last weekend, pretty much sums it up for me.

I recommend the column Bob just referred to: it’s a very interesting examination of President Obama’s seeming aversion to confrontation, and not just confrontation with Republicans on the economy and the debt ceiling, and his failure (so far) to use the mandate he received when elected to get the American people behind him on substantive changes to strengthen the economy and regulate big money interests.  Even if you think he shouldn’t have done anything in those areas, it’s worth the read.

Take your seats, please, the curtain’s going up for the Big Finish

Since we last checked in with our heroes: Speaker Boehner, faced with his own proposal going down to defeat in the chamber he (ostensibly) leads, capitulated—he added a balanced budget provision to his plan for lowering government spending, reducing debt and raising the federal debt ceiling, to placate enough members to get the bill passed.  It worked; and as expected, and warned, the Senate rejected the plan; now Majority Leader Reid is trying to persuade Senate Republicans to let his plan come to a vote. [UPDATE 3:03 pm: The House rejected Reid’s plan before the Senate had a chance to vote on it.]

The Wall Street Journal editorial page wants Republicans to accept a plan now, and claim a victory, even if it’s one that doesn’t solve all the nation’s economic problems once and for ever.  (Why didn’t I think of that?)  An economy struggling to recover from recession doesn’t need the government to suddenly stop making some of its payments—and you can take comfort in knowing, there is a plan for who gets paid first in the event the debt ceiling is not raised by the deadline next Tuesday…the bureaucratic imperative prevails.

I still choose to believe that Congress may bring us to the edge of default but reason will prevail and the debt ceiling will be raised to prevent a default…that puts me in the company of an American conservative icon:

Socialists-7-27-11-color-640x469 

Thanks to David Horsey, seattlepi.com and Hearst Newspapers…click the cartoon to read Horsey’s commentary:

If it were not for their powerful recklessness, I would simply get a good laugh out of the alarmists on the right who see socialism in any tilt toward moderation in our politics.

(snip)

To ensure that his country does not follow Greece into a bottomless hole of debt, Tory Prime Minister David Cameron has implemented a budget balancing formula of three-to-one – that is, three parts spending cuts to one part revenue increases. These austerity measures have, not surprisingly, provoked rioting among leftists and students. Nobody in Europe would be silly enough to call this socialism.

Yet, when President Barack Obama proposes the same formula to rein in the debt in the United States, a mental riot goes off in the heads of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, the House Republican Caucus, the Tea Party and all the others who are somehow convinced Obama wants to turn America into Sweden.

Consumed by their fear of phantom socialists, these folks see politics in stark, black-and-white terms. If you are not with ’em, you’re agin’ ’em  and even the most staunch conservative risks charges of treason if he shows a willingness to bargain with the other side.

(snip)

Like ultra-conservatives of past decades, today’s reactionaries have scared themselves silly by demonizing their opponents: every liberal hates America, every Democrat is a socialist, every moderate is a dupe, every compromise is a pact with the devil. What is new is that this mindset now dominates the majority caucus in the United States House of Representatives. And because of that, there very well could be no deal to raise the debt ceiling, unless the president and the Senate choose to grant the militants everything they want.

(snip)

…to confuse the centrist economic policies of Barack Obama with socialism is as absurd as calling a conservative like Tom Coburn a RINO – Republican In Name Only. As clean cut, moral and upstanding as my fellow citizens on the right may be, I have to say they have become unhinged from economic and political reality and, in their delusion, they are about to take us all over a cliff.

In a Newsweek interview, Tom Coburn, a guy I disagree with about most things, summed it up frightening well:

“We’ve never been in this territory before. I mean, if we handle this wrong, we’re near the end of our republic as we know it.”