Snap, Cackle, Populism

"...the problem with populism is not just that it stirs prejudice against the "big cities" where most Americans actually live, or against the academies where many of them would like to send their children. No, the difficulty with populism is that it exploits the very "people" to whose grievances it claims to give vent..."

Christopher Hitchens


According To The Quill of The People

"Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren," said during the 2006 debt-ceiling debate. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."

Senator Barack Obama in 2006

"...Democrats ridiculed Mr. Bush as "the most fiscally irresponsible President in history," but then they saw him and raised. They took an $800 billion deficit and made it $1.4 trillion in 2009 and perhaps that high again in 2010. In 10 months they have approved more than $1 trillion in spending that has saved union public jobs but has done little to assist private job creation. Still to come is the multi trillion-dollar health bill and another $100 billion to $200 billion "jobs" bill..."

"...There is surely bipartisan blame for this government debt boom. George W. Bush approved gigantic spending increases for Medicare and bailouts. He also sponsored the first ineffective "stimulus" in February 2008—consisting of $168 billion in tax rebates and spending that depleted federal revenues in return for no economic lift..."

...from the Audacity of Debt at the Wall Street Journal

An interesting point for politicians to remember is to be careful what you say. It will be used against you. In 2006, new housing starts were 1.9 million; in 2010 they will be approximately 0.5 million. In 2006, the unemployment rate was 4.6 percent; in 2010 it's over 10 percent.

The political choices seem to be to do something, e.g. stimulus packages, bank bailouts, tax credits, or do nothing...which is what the Republicans seem to be advocating. Actually, Republicans are afraid to say anything, because they know doing something will get them hauled up on the TEA Party gallows with a rope around the neck of their political future. Or the politicians can choose to do something and end up hanging themselves.

Of course, time will tell how the ropes twists. If the economy starts to turn around in mid-2010 and the numbers start going positive, the Republicans are going to find the do nothing approach didn't work.


Flyover The Facts

"...Certainly the heartland has no claim to superiority when it comes to family values. If anything, the red states do a bit worse than the blue states when you look at indicators of individual responsibility and commitment to family. Children in red states are more likely to be born to teenagers or unmarried mothers � in 1999, 33.7 percent of babies in red states were born out of wedlock, versus 32.5 percent in blue states. National divorce statistics are spotty, but per capita there were 60 percent more divorces in Montana than in New Jersey.

And the red states have special trouble with the Sixth Commandment: the murder rate was 7.4 per 100,000 inhabitants in the red states, compared with 6.1 in the blue states, and 4.1 in New Jersey.

But what's really outrageous is the claim that the heartland is self-reliant. That grotesque farm bill, by itself, should put an end to all such assertions; but it only adds to the immense subsidies the heartland already receives from the rest of the country. As a group, red states pay considerably less in taxes than the federal government spends within their borders; blue states pay considerably more. Over all, blue America subsidizes red America to the tune of $90 billion or so each year.

And within the red states, it's the metropolitan areas that pay the taxes, while the rural regions get the subsidies. When you do the numbers for red states without major cities, you find that they look like Montana, which in 1999 received $1.75 in federal spending for every dollar it paid in federal taxes. The numbers for my home state of New Jersey were almost the opposite. Add in the hidden subsidies, like below-cost provision of water for irrigation, nearly free use of federal land for grazing and so on, and it becomes clear that in economic terms America's rural heartland is our version of southern Italy: a region whose inhabitants are largely supported by aid from their more productive compatriots..."

Paul Krugman
Read more of True Blue Americans at Common Dreams


Flashing Back

"Ten years ago, I'd have been gaudy. Now everybody looks like me."

Michael Polkovs (1923-2009)
aka Coco The Clown
1969 Washinton Post interview


Bleeding Hearts From The 1930s

''Gentlemen of the House,we are at the crossroads of history...We are developing a new class in America. It is those men and women who at 45 years of age have reached the age limit of employability. They are turned away on the basis of their age. I christen them 'America's untouchables!'...Even under slavery, the slave owner did not fail to feed and clothe and doctor the slaves no matter what might happen to crops or to markets...Fellow members of the American House of Commons . . . the world does not owe a man a living, I grant you, but as sure as God rules the heavens, it does owe him a chance to earn a living...This measure is only a small effort to give the disemployed equality before the law."

David John Lewis
House of Representatives

During the debate over the Social Security Bill in 1935

"...Fifty years ago when David John Lewis was an undersized boy of 16 working in a Pennsylvania coal mine, he could, like many another, neither read nor write.

Last week the House of Representatives gave David John Lewis an ovation worthy of one of its most erudite and social-minded members.

Though illiterate, young "Dave" Lewis learned the gift of eloquence from his father, a Welsh coal miner who was a Baptist preacher by avocation. At 20, Son Lewis went to a labor meeting and spoke so stirringly that a newshawk said to him: " Boy, you ought to be a lawyer." At 23, Lewis was. And ten years later, having settled at Cumberland. Md., he began a political career, long, thorny, courageous..."

Read more of Bleeding Hearts in Time