The Adult Republican Argument?

Nicolle Wallace was a senior adviser to John McCain’s campaign in 2008. She tried hard to sell Sarah Palin to non-gullible Americans and to put Palin’s muddled mind one McCain-heartbeat away from the presidency. That alone ought to keep her off TV for at least a decade. But Wallace is becoming something of a regular on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. She gets credit, these days, for not being one of those crazy Republicans we are used to seeing on TV, like, uh, Sarah Palin.

nicole wallace on msnbcWallace represents what some in the media are fond of calling the “adults” in the Republican Party. This morning she was explaining how politically dumb it is for Republicans like Ted Cruz to insist on going all-in on defunding ObamaCare. Pay close attention to her reasoning here because it constitutes the adult thinking in the GOP:

I have a two-year-old and sometimes when he’s on his scooter he wants to cross the street even when the light is red…it is your job as the parent to hold the child and the scooter from running into traffic ’cause he would get squished. It is the job of the adults in the Republican Party to tell—there is grass roots support in this country, among Republicans, among conservatives, among Tea Party members, to do this…Obama’s health care is incredibly unpopular, so Ted Cruz is responding to what is a genuine sentiment out there. However, when Republicans run into the street, despite the fact that there’s a flashing red light, they’re gonna get hit by the cars and killed. So this is stupid politically, this is stupid at a policy level because as the great Charles Krauthammer said, it has no chance of succeeding. This is Obama’s health care law, this is Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, so they’re going to fail. 

So, we are at a moment…most of the country is pretty disillusioned with President Obama’s leadership on the world stage, a majority of Americans do not like his signature domestic achievement, which is the health care law. We’re actually at a moment, as Republicans, where even Bernie Sanders has described our party as “on the offense,” and now we’re going to let our party to run into moving traffic against a red light. It’s idiotic.

That pretty much represents what you hear from Republicans who don’t like what Cruz and other maniacs are trying to get their party to do regarding the defunding of the Affordable Care Act.

For clarification and enlightenment, let me summarize the adult Republican argument this way:

We Republicans are playing a good offensive game right now. We’ve helped make Obama look bad “on the world stage” by aggressively criticizing every move he makes, no matter what it is; we’ve exploited people’s ignorance about ObamaCare to the point where lots of Americans now don’t like the law, even though they admit they don’t know what’s in the law. That’s how brilliant we have been on this thing. A majority of Americans don’t understand the Affordable Care Act, but know they don’t like it, some even hate it, because we have aggressively attacked it night and day. So, why muck up all that good work we’ve done? We Republicans have Obama on the ropes, he’s going down on the canvas anyway, why risk pissing off the crowd now?

If you think that is a misleading characterization of the argument that Wallace and other Republicans are making, you haven’t been paying attention the last five years. Republicans have done all they can to destroy Obama’s presidency domestically, and now they take great delight in thinking that they have weakened him around the world. This is all, and I mean all, about politics, particularly crass and cynically opportunistic politics.

Nicolle Wallace didn’t breathe a word about what the shutdown of the federal government would mean to Americans, including those who work for the government and those—all of us—who depend on it for services. She never bothered to mention how damaging it would be for us to once again flirt with not paying our bills, including our creditors. She never discussed how a default would, in the words of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, be an “extremely dangerous and likely recovery-ending event.” She never noted how domestic interest rates would go up, making it hard for businesses seeking credit to expand, as well as making it difficult for consumers seeking credit to purchase cars and homes. She failed to explain how our national credit worthiness would take yet another hit at the hands of Republicans, resulting in higher financing costs for our nearly $17 trillion debt, which will then eat up more of the budget and cause Tea Party Republicans to demand even more draconian cuts in government spending—the ultimate goal of these ideological freaks.

No, all she essentially explained was that her party is doing okay right now with all the demonization of the President, all the dysfunction in Congress, and all the distrust in government these tactics have created among the American people. At such a shining moment for the GOP, she argues, Republicans shouldn’t push their luck.

That’s some adult argument.

Ben Bernanke Channels Paul Krugman

I have been watching Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, testify this morning before the Senate Banking Committee.

He has sounded a lot like Paul Krugman.*

Krugman, an economist of distinction who also happens to be a liberal, has been telling anyone who will listen that all the scary talk about the national debt is misplaced, considering that we have a genuine jobs crisis going on right now.

Bernanke said this morning:

High unemployment has substantial costs, including not only the hardship faced by the unemployed and their families, but also the harm done to the vitality and productive potential of our economy as a whole.

Ya think? He also said—again sounding like Paul Krugman:

In terms of the near-term recovery, there is a sense in which monetary and fiscal policy are working at cross purposes. To some extent, the fiscal policy decisions being made are mismatched with the timing of the problem. The problem is a longer-term problem, and should be addressed over a longer time frame in a way that, to the extent possible, it does no harm to the ongoing recovery.

In other words, the actions of Congress (fiscal policy—focusing only on long-term debt) are working against the Fed’s actions (monetary policy—buying government bonds now in order to help stimulate the economic recovery) and the result of those “cross purposes” is sluggish growth and needlessly high unemployment.

Now, we have to ask ourselves: Why would congressional Republicans, who are leading the charge when it comes to ginning up fear over our long-term debt problems, want to work against the economic recovery?

You can supply your own answer to that question. Suffice it to say here that we not only have most economists in the country saying it, including Paul Krugman, we now have clearly on the record the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board saying it too: Stop worrying so much about the future and concentrate on the now. There are still a lot of folks suffering from the Great Recession.

As for the dreaded sequestration, Bernanke supported the Congressional Budget Office’s “reasonable estimate” that the automatic $1.2 trillion spending cuts due to begin on Friday will dampen economic growth in 2013 by 0.6% and cost 750,000 jobs.  He also said that, in terms of the effects on economic growth, it didn’t matter much how the cuts were made, whether judiciously or injudiciously. That’s simply too much money to extract from the economy in the short term, even though “the sequestration takes place over time” and its impact “would probably build over a period of months.”

Bernanke also made a point about the constant battles over fiscal policy, what with cliffs, sequestration, and continuing budget resolutions, which cause enormous amounts of uncertainty for everyone and which Republicans use as devilish leverage to drastically cut spending. He said:

Uncertainty itself is costly.

Yes, the uncertainty created by hostage-taking Republicans, again and again, is costly, even though no one can exactly quantify it. But I doubt even the Fed chairman, trying to talk sense to the kidnappers, will help.

Ultimately, the American people will have to send the kidnappers a message because, in our democracy, the people are, paradoxically, both the hostages and the hostage rescuers.

_______________________________

* Even though the two players have had their disagreements in the past.

The World Economy: A Sickness Unto Death?

The fundamentals of the world economy aren’t, in themselves, all that scary; it’s the almost universal abdication of responsibility that fills me, and many other economists, with a growing sense of dread.”

—Paul Krugman

here has long been a great divide among those who seek to explain both the cause and the duration of the Great Depression. What side you are on almost always says something about your politics: liberals have one view, conservatives tend to have another.

Brad DeLong and Barry Eichengreen have written an interesting new preface to the 40-year anniversary edition of Charles Kindleberger’s The World in Depression 1929-1939. The  book, as Wikipedia deftly summarizes it,

advances an idiosyncratic, internationalist view of the causes and nature of the Great Depression. Blaming the peculiar length and depth of the Depression on the hesitancy of the US in taking over leadership of the world economy when Britain was no longer up to the role after WWI, he concludes that ‘for the world economy to be stabilized, there has to be a stabilizer—one stabilizer’, by which, in the context of the interwar years at least, he means the United States.

In a column yesterday, Paul Krugman—whose latest book is titled, End This Depression Now!—worries that policy makers both in Europe and here in the U.S. are repeating past mistakes and failing to act decisively to rescue the world’s economy from the mess that financial recklessness created.

He took a swipe at the European leaders, who have failed to take meaningful action to bail out Spanish banks (“Forget about Greece, which is pretty much a lost cause; Spain is where the fate of Europe will be decided“), and he jabbed domestic Republicans, “who often seem as if they are deliberately trying to sabotage the economy.”

But since Krugman, like all of us should be, is most concerned about the crippling effects of long-term unemployment, he directed his latest attack squarely at the Federal Reserve:

The Fed has a so-called dual mandate: it’s supposed to seek both price stability and full employment. And last week the Fed released its latest set of economic projections, showing that it expects to fail on both parts of its mandate, with inflation below target and unemployment far above target for years to come.

This is a terrible prospect, and the Fed knows it. Ben Bernanke, the Fed’s chairman, has warned in particular about the damage being done to America by the unprecedented level of long-term unemployment.

So what does the Fed propose doing about the situation? Almost nothing. True, last week the Fed announced some actions that would supposedly boost the economy. But I think it’s fair to say that everyone at all familiar with the situation regards these actions as pathetically inadequate — the bare minimum the Fed could do to deflect accusations that it is doing nothing at all.

Why won’t the Fed act? My guess is that it’s intimidated by those Congressional Republicans, that it’s afraid to do anything that might be seen as providing political aid to President Obama, that is, anything that might help the economy.

That’s a fairly serious charge, but recall that GOP candidate for president Rick Perry said this about Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve:

If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.

That stupidity and attempt at intimidation was endorsed by the likes of Tea Party spokesman Sarah Palin and represents the sentiments of many right-wingers. But no one on that side seems to be concerned at all about the Fed’s lack of aggressiveness in addressing unemployment (not to mention the failure of conservatives in Congress to do anything at all), particularly long-term unemployment.

Look at this graph Krugman has previously presented:

We ignore this at our peril, both here and in Europe. The world economy is sick and trying to heal it with budget austerity is making it sicker. That is the equivalent of prescribing lots of calisthenics for a bedridden patient, and it may, as Krugman and others continue to argue, prove economically lethal.

“With How Little Wisdom The World Is Governed”

Fourteen months ago I wrote the following, in a piece titled, “While We Were Away, Republicans Were Trying to Kill The Economy:

Since the fall of 2008, there has emerged two diametrically opposed approaches to solving our (and the world’s) economic predicament:

(1) Stimulate the economy through government (deficit) spending until consumer demand picks up sufficiently to sustain a strong recovery

(2) Drastically cut government spending because deficits are a drag on the economy

Democrats, of course, have tried to pursue (against strong Republican opposition) the former and Republicans, including now the party’s candidate for president, have aggressively pursued the latter.

Thankfully, early in 2009, the Democrats prevailed with a mild (relatively mild, it turned out) stimulus program that has led to Ben Bernanke talking up today (cautiously, modestly) the Fed’s latest growth forecast for 2012 (now up to a range of 2.4 to 2.9%) and projected unemployment down to 7.8-8% at the end of the year. Not fabulous, but better than the 700,000+ jobs we were losing when Obama took office. And the current 25 straight months of private-sector job growth ain’t nuttin’.

The Democrats success with the stimulus (oh, how that galls conservatives when they hear those words, but they must watch as the American recovery continues) can be compared to what has happened in Europe, which pursued a Republicanesque austerity philosophy.

From Henry Blodget of the Business Insider:

The “austerity” idea, you’ll remember, was that the continents’ huge debt and deficit problem had ushered in a “crisis of confidence” and that, once business-people saw that governments were serious about debt reduction, they’d get confident and start spending again.

That hasn’t worked.

Instead, spending cuts have led to cuts in GDP which has led to greater deficits and the need for more spending cuts. And so on.

Paul Krugman chimes in about the “big fat failure” of the European austerity policy:

It’s important to understand that what we’re seeing isn’t a failure of orthodox economics. Standard economics in this case — that is, economics based on what the profession has learned these past three generations, and for that matter on most textbooks — was the Keynesian position. The austerity thing was just invented out of thin air and a few dubious historical examples to serve the prejudices of the elite.

And now the results are in: Keynesians have been completely right, Austerians utterly wrong — at vast human cost.

But no one I know of thinks that these “results” will convince Republicans here in America to suddenly rush to the confessional and admit there are flaws in their cut-spending-balance-the-budget-deregulate prescription for short-term salvation. Not gonna happen, as Krugman points out:

Nobody ever admits that they were wrong, and Austerian ideas clearly have an emotional and political appeal that is resilient to any and all evidence.

Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?

[See here for the origin of that wonderful admonition.]

Is Ben Bernanke A Closet Democrat?

If you watched the television reporting on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s appearance before Congress’ Joint Economic Committee yesterday, you likely don’t know much of what he said, except for this:

…the economy is, the recovery is close to faltering.

That clip was played over and over, without proper context.  What Bernanke was doing, in context, was simply defending the Fed’s decision a couple of weeks ago (“Operation Twist”) to replace $400 billion worth of short-term securities in the Fed’s portfolio with longer-term securities.  While not a game-changing move, said Bernanke, it was,

…particularly important now that the economy is, the recovery is close to faltering.

His expectation, though, for the economic recovery is that it will continue, albeit slowly, and that GDP growth should pick up the second half of this year.

That’s not very exciting for broadcast on cable or nightly news, however.

And what you may have missed in the sensationalist TV coverage is that Bernanke essentially informed Congress in rather loud terms—for  a Fed chief—that it had better get its act together and (1) address “long-run fiscal sustainability” while (2) avoiding “fiscal actions that could impede the ongoing economic recovery.”  If that sounds familiar, that is exactly what President Obama and the Democrats have been saying since the fuss over the national debt became a going-over-the-cliff-tomorrow issue.

Here is what Bernanke said in his statement:

These first two objectives are certainly not incompatible, as putting in place a credible plan for reducing future deficits over the longer term does not preclude attending to the implications of fiscal choices for the recovery in the near term.

Here’s what Mr. Obama said in August:

When Congress gets back in September, my basic argument to them is this:  We should not have to choose between getting our fiscal house in order and jobs and growth.  We can’t afford to do just one or the other.  We got to do both. 

Hmm. No wonder the right-wing wants to indict Bernanke for treason. He agrees with Obama on the salient economic issue of our times.

In any case, an interesting question was asked of Bernanke by an interesting man, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders:

SANDERS: …Mr. Chairman, as you know there are people demonstrating against Wall Street in New York City and other cities around the country, and I think the perception on the part of these demonstrators—and millions of Americans—is that as a result of the greed, the recklessness and the illegal behavior on Wall Street, we were plunged into this horrendous recession we are currently in. Do you agree with that assessment? Did Wall Street’s greed and recklessness cause this recession that led to so many people losing their jobs?

BERNANKE: Excessive risk-taking on Wall Street had a lot to do with it and so did some failures on the parts of regulators.

Note that Bernanke didn’t say that efforts to help poor minorities buy houses was the cause of the problem—a typical charge from conservatives.  “Excessive risk-taking” translates into “greed and recklessness.” And the “failures on the parts of regulators” tranlates into a repudiation of Republcan anti-regulatory philosophy.  Period.

Also interesting was Bernanke’s acknowledgement of the incredible wealth gap in America.  Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) read off the following statistics:

♦ The top 1% of Americans hold 33% of the total wealth.

♦ The top 5% hold nearly 60% of the total wealth.

♦ The top 10% hold 72% of the total wealth.

♦ The bottom 50% of Americans hold only 3% of the total wealth.

Mr. Hinchey asked Bernanke what caused this gap and what can we do about it.  Bernanke said:

It’s not a new phenomenon, it’s been going on for 30 or 40 years.

Let me see… What happened a little over 30 years ago?  Oh, yeah. Reaganomics was born.

But Bernanke said of the wealth inequality that “a lot of it has to do with divergent educational skill levels,” which, of course, is true.  But he ignored the point of Rep. Hinchey’s question, which was our tax policies—tax cuts—have had a lot to do with it, too.

Finally, Bernanke was asked about the role the housing crisis is playing relative to the sputtering economy, and he said, “Housing is very central to the situation we have now.”  Loss of equity means less willingness to spend, he noted.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asked him:

CUMMINGS: Would you agree that it’s going to be impossible to resolve our economic situation, when you’ve got people losing their houses at the rate they are losing them?  Would you agree with that?

BERNANKE: I would agree with that, yeah.

Think about that. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve—essentially our national economist—agrees that it is “impossible to resolve our economic situation” while folks are losing their homes at breathtaking rates. 

And while neither political party has made the foreclosure issue a national priority—as they should—some Democrats have urged President Obama to take some additional action beyond his mortgage modification program, which hasn’t worked so well.  

Just six weeks ago, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) wrote the President a letter strongly advising him to do something about the foreclosure crisis:

…we can and should adopt an aggressive strategy to substantially reduce foreclosures nationally.  There are as many as five million foreclosures anticipated to come – this is a huge tragedy for individual families but it is also a drag on our communities and our economy as a whole.  Our economy cannot get out of the ditch with so much uncertainty hovering over so many homeowners.

Again, if you followed Bernanke’s testimony on this and other issues, he and the Democrats seem to be on the same page. Which means that should Rick Perry get elected president, Bernanke can expect to be charged with treason soon after.

Deliberate Subversion

No one who has watched our politics since January of 2009 can deny that Republicans have done everything possible to see to it that Barack Hussein Obama is a failure as a president.  That’s not even arguable at this point.

What may be arguable is the language one uses to describe this reality.  I have called it sabotage. You may call it something different.  But what do you call what Rick Perry did yesterday in New York? 

I mentioned it in my piece on the Palestinian state dilemma.  Perry, in front of foreign nationals, fanatical right-wing members of the Israeli Knesset, accused President Obama of siding with terrorists against Israelis and betraying our long-term ally. 

It’s not just that Rick Perry is, as Democrats argued back, dangerously naive and misinformed on the Israeli-Palestinian issue—he is that, for sure—it’s that he is so willing to sabotage the President at a time when the stakes are so high, when there is so much to lose, and in the company of foreigners.

As NBC’s Chuck Todd remarked this morning, what would have happened in 2004 if John Kerry or Howard Dean, while campaigning in a primary and running to unseat  George W. Bush, had done what Perry did yesterday?  Well, we know what would have happened. As it was, without any such thing, John Kerry, war hero, was made out to be a traitor to his country.

But we have another example of the continuing sabotage.  On Monday, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and Jon Kyl all signed a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke—who, you remember, was the subject of Rick Perry’s treason invective—urging the Fed to “resist further extraordinary interventions in the U.S. economy.”

Now, just why might Republicans be interested in telling another Republican—Ben Bernanke—not to do anything that might help the economy?  Remember what Rick Perry said in August:

If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous – or treasonous in my opinion.

So, I don’t know what some folks call this kind of behavior on the part of Republicans, but I call it sabotage: deliberate subversion.

The Republican Health Care Plan In Three Words

Monday night’s Republican debate on CNN featured another one of those moments—last week it was the audience cheering the execution of 234 people in Texas—that tends to surprise people who haven’t been paying attention to the devolution of the Republican Party. 

Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul about the welfare of a guy who gets sick, goes into a coma, but lacks health insurance: “Are you saying society should just let him die?” Blitzer asked.

Paul’s answer, which essentially was that such an unfortunate fellow should rely on volunteers and churches for his care, was drowned out by shouts of “Let him die!” from the Republican debate-watching crowd.

Let—Him—Die.

I’m reminded of former congressman Alan Grayson’s presentation on the House floor in 2009:

If you get sick in America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly.

Here’s a short discussion between Republican Joe Scarborough and Pulitzer-winning columnist and Democrat-leaning Eugene Washington from Morning Joe this morning:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: …the crowd last night at one point cheering the possibility of the death of a young man in a coma—I guess in 2008 we had “drill, baby, drill”; last night it seemed to be “die, baby, die.”

I think CNN may have magnified a political segment of this society beyond the representation of the general population.

EUGENE WASHINGTON:  That’s probably true.  There was an air of unreality to the debate last night. It was as if we were in some sort of parallel universe…

The truth is that what was on display last night at that Republican debate reflects the reality of Republican politics these days.  Those shouts of “Let him die!” were not made by some extremists who snuck into the debate against the wishes of the candidates or the planners or CNN.  Those folks are mainstream Republicans these days.  And their disturbing shouts—which no candidate on the platform bothered to contradict—represent how far right the GOP has moved philosophically, and they came as no shock to those of us who have been following that movement.

Whether it is shouting out heartless things about uninsured, comatose people, cheering executions, raucously applauding the labeling of Ben Bernanke as treasonous, loudly supporting Michelle Bachmann for her stand against raising the debt ceiling—all things that have happened in just the last two GOP presidential primary debates—we cannot take any comfort from pretending that the people who did these things are somehow on the fringe of the Republican Party.

They are, sadly and regrettably, its heart and soul.

The Best They’ve Got

Once upon a time, Jon Huntsman, GOP presidential hopeful, worked for Barack Obama, Democratic presidential hopeful redux.

Mr. Huntsman, obviously seeking what’s left of the reality-based vote in the Republican Party, said this on ABC’s This Week, hosted by Jake Tapper on Sunday:

HUNTSMAN: I think there’s a serious problem. The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party — the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people that would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012.

When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science and, therefore, in a losing position.

Huntsman was also asked about Rick Perry slapping some Texas-ugly on a treasonous Ben Bernanke:

HUNTSMAN: Well, I don’t know if that’s pre-secession Texas or post-secession Texas, but in any event, I’m not sure that the average voter out there is going to hear that treasonous remark and say that sounds like a presidential candidate, that sounds like someone who is serious on the issues.

But it gets to a broader of, you know, the fact that, you know, we’ve had so much hope and hype in politics the last little while. We’ve found ourselves at the extreme ends of the political spectrum. And people are crying out for us to get back to some level of sensibility…

TAPPER: So do you think that Governor Perry is unelectable? Were he to get the Republican nomination, he would lose to President Obama?

HUNTSMAN: I think when you find yourself at an extreme end of the Republican Party, you make yourself unelectable.

And Mr. Huntsman was asked about Michele Bachmann’s “crash-and-burn approach” to the debt ceiling issue:

HUNTSMAN: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily trust any of my opponents right now who were on a recent debate stage with me, when every single one of them would have allowed this country to default…

Wow.  Here’s one Republican who gets it, no?

Well, not exactly.

He was asked about that unfortunate but revealing moment during the Fox “News” debate in which every single Republican–including Jon Huntsman–used his or her raised hand to signal surrender and future obedience to Grover Norquist and his drown-the-government-in-the-bathtup pledge. 

TAPPER: When S&P devalued the U.S. from AAA to AA-plus, one of the reasons, they said, was the dysfunction in Washington. They didn’t have confidence in either side to come together to make a compromise to get the country on the right fiscal path.

But you, along with all of your Republican competitors, raised your hand and said that you would be unwilling to accept a deal of 10-to-1 spending cuts for tax increases. That would be if you just eliminated the Bush tax cuts for those who make more than $1 million a year, by one computation — that would be $6 trillion in spending cuts. Aren’t you buying into the same brinksmanship that you’re criticizing?

HUNTSMAN: Jake, it was a nonsense question. And the fact that you can even ask a question that is that important with such profound implications for the United States, to answer by show of a raised hand, I mean, come on. What have — you know, what have debates gotten to, in terms of how we discuss the truly important issues of the day? I don’t think tax increases are good for this country right now. In fact, I think it’d be the worst thing that we can do.

TAPPER: So are you sorry you raised your hand for the, quote, “nonsense question”?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I’m just sorry that the debate resorted to a raising of hand as opposed to some discussion about where this country needs to go in terms of overall tax policy.

Clearly Huntsman regrets getting caught up in that tribute-to-Grover-Norquist moment, especially since Huntsman has refused to sign Norquist’s tongue-tying pledge.  But the fact remains that he did get caught up in it, and it wasn’t because the question was a “nonsense question.” 

No, the question, like the one on evolution and global warming, revealed something important about the candidates who answered. And Jon Huntsman, however much he wants to be the Republican From Reality, had his moment of truth, a moment when he could have simply kept his hand at his side and thereby demonstrated that he is not a promoter of the collective delusion—shared by all of his GOP colleagues—that our country’s long-term fiscal problems can be solved by spending cuts alone.

He had his chance that night to really prove that he has more than one foot planted in this world, but he failed.  That failure, however, wasn’t exactly the first time.

As we see Libya today on the brink of permanent separation from its long-time dictator, we should remember that not long ago Jon Huntsman, a loud critic of Mr. Obama’s Libya policy (“we just can’t afford it“), had this exchange with a New Hampshire voter:

VOTER: “You mentioned Libya, and you mentioned the Constitution a couple of times. The president has decided to make Congress irrelevant, go around Congress, not — not go to Congress and ask for whether permission to go to war for — with, with Libya. He takes, what he thought, a UN resolution as his mandate to be able to go to war in Libya, do you think that’s unconstitutional in what he’s doing in Libya right now?”

HUNTSMAN: “Well, last I looked the UN was not our Constitution. We ought to recognize who’s responsible for declaring war and giving the approval for these kinds of things, and get back to the basics of who should be driving these decisions.”

VOTER: “What should Congress be doing in the fact that he went around Congress and he’s, he’s not abiding to the War Powers Act?”

HUNTSMAN: “I think, I think Congress is, is in a mild uproar about it.”

VOTER:
“It’s very mild.”

HUNTSMAN: “I have a fundamental problem, generally, I mean beyond this decision, just with the decision that has been made to get involved, in Libya, in a tribal country, when we have no definable interest at stake, we have no exit strategy. Look in Afghanistan, you want to get involved in tribal government? How hard it is to extricate yourself once you’ve gotten involved? Let history be your guide. Thank you.”

VOTER: “Do you think it’s impeachable?”

HUNTSMAN: “I’ll let Congress make that decision.”

Another moment in which a man who worked for and wants to be the President of the United States could have firmly grounded himself in the reality of this world, but instead chose to fly with the unbalanced butterflies in his party as they flit from one fanatical flower to another.

What is profoundly sad about all of this is that Jon Huntsman is the best candidate the Republican Party has to offer the country. But that judgment is obviously based on a relative comparison.  As he tries hard now to separate himself from the silliness of the other candidates, we know that somewhere inside of Jon Huntsman is a vexing vein flowing with the same kind of silliness, the same kind of Tea Party tackiness.

Heads Perry Wins, Tails Obama Loses

Responding to critics of his dumb remarks about a potentially treasonous Ben Bernanke, Republican Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Rick Perry said this today:

Yesterday, the president said I needed to watch what I say. I just want to respond back to say, ‘Mr. President, actions speak louder than words.’  My actions helped create jobs in Texas. The president’s actions are killing jobs in America.

Okay, let me see here.  Rick Perry, whose campaign mantra appears to be,  I’m-the-most-pro-business-politician-in-the-history-of-the-universe, says his actions “helped create jobs in Texas,” while Mr. Obama’s “are killing jobs in America.”

How can this be?  Either the President is responsible for the economy or he isn’t.  Republicans need to make up their minds.  They can’t credit one state’s job creation, however ambiguous the claim, to their economic and political philosophy—as Rick Perry does every day—and then credit unemployment elsewhere to Mr. Obama. 

In other words, if Mr. Obama is “killing jobs in America,” then he is killing jobs in Texas, too.  And if he is not killing jobs in Texas, then he is not killing jobs in America.

The truth, of course, is that under President Obama’s watch, almost two and a half million new private sector jobs have been created—17 straight months of private-sector job growth—a stunning reversal of the hemorrhaging of jobs caused by the other Texas governor’s Great Recession.  And this is not to mention the millions of jobs saved by the stimulus bill and the auto rescue.

So, the fact that Rick Perry has helped Texas, along with Republican Haley Barbour’s Mississippi,  become the minimum-wage job capital of the United States is not all that much to brag about, especially since not too many minimum wage jobs come with benefits.

But it is fair to say that some well-paying jobs have been added in Texas, even some that are not associated with the drain-Americans-of-every-last-cent energy bidness.  But many of those jobs have been added by subtracting them from other states. Is it fair to say you “created” a job when you stole it from another state because of the short-sighted economic ideology of weak government regulation and low or no taxes?  Is it fair to brag about that kind of job creation?

Nope. But if Perry wants to brag, perhaps he can brag about the fact that Texas is NUMBER ONE in the number of folks without health insurance (1 in 4).  It is also NUMBER ONE in the number of children without health insurance (1.5 million kids*).  And if one compares the June unemployment rate in health care-challenged Texas with Massachusetts, where ObamneyCare lives on, one finds this:

MASSACHUSETTS: 7.6%           TEXAS: 8.2%

Hmm.

And by the way, there does seem to be plenty of jobs for executioners in Texas. The state kills more criminals than any other state, and some of them are even guilty of their crimes.

Congratulations, guv’nor.

______________________________

* According to a faith-based Texas group, “Texas Impact,”

About 750,000 Texas children, half of our uninsured youth, are eligible for—but not enrolled in—the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Children’s Medicaid. Our strained enrollment system cannot support the task of connecting these children with the insurance they need and that the state has promised them.

In other words, stingy Texas government won’t hire enough staff and purchase up-to-date computer systems to process the high number of claims for the uninsured kids.  That is what small government means to some vulnerable folks.

I’m Rooting For Radical Rick

Republicans are giddy over Rick Perry.

Me, too.

While most liberals and Democrats are upset with the intemperate Texan, I am excited. Remember during the 2008 campaign when that crazy lady in Minnesota stood up at a McCain rally and said, “Obama is an Arab“?

And remember when McCain grabbed the microphone from her and sort of tried to de-Arab Obama?  McCain said,

No ma’am.  He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.

Well, if that same thing happened during the 2012 election with Rick Perry as the nominee, we might have this happen:

WOMAN AT PERRY RALLY: Obama is an Arab.

PERRY: No ma’am. He’s not in love with America, that’s for sure. But an Arab? No ma’am.  Now, he is a socialist the troops don’t respect, and you can count on it when I’m president that the military will respect me, a white guy from the great state of Texas.  There won’t be a black cloud hanging over the country.

You see?  That could happen.  Wait.  It already has happened, sort of.

Perry has already—just a couple days into the primary campaign—questioned Obama’s love for America and his bona fides as Commander-in-chief.  And the underlying, as of yet unspoken, foundation for such things is this:

WE JUST CAN’T TRUST THIS STRANGE NEGRO TO RUN THE COUNTRY

And to top it all off, Perry said this about Ben Bernanke, Fed chairman:

If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.

Treasonous?  What could he mean by that?

He told reporters, who ask him if he thought the Fed was playing politics on behalf of Obama:

If they print more money between now and this election I would suggest that’s exactly what’s going on.

Now, think about it.  If Bernanke’s actions help Obama, Bernanke is “almost” committing treason.  That must mean that Obama is an enemy to the country, right?  Helping The Scary Negro remain president is tantamount, or “almost” tantamount, to betraying the country.

Perry is merely saying out loud what a lot of Republicans say among themselves.

Thus, as the truth trickles out about Rick Perry’s dubious job record in Texas (by the way, why is Obama responsible for all the unemployment in the rest of the country, but not responsible for the employment in Texas?);

As the truth trickles out about Rick Perry’s constitutional hostility toward Social Security and Medicare;

As the truth trickles out about Rick Perry’s fondness for trickle-down economics, which has miserably failed Texas and the country;

I am rooting for Radical Rick to become the GOP nominee because he represents an embarrassingly large swath of the Republican Party these days, and the American people will have no clearer choice of visions for our country. 

If Americans want George Bush on Rovian steroids, if they want Sarah Palin with a Texas twang, if they want a pale-faced zealot who is dangerously certain of God’s calling and purpose, Rick Perry is their man.

And if fifty-percent-plus-one of the country want that kind of America, the rest of us will just have to suffer.  But it’s time we find out what kind of country we will have.

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