Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The more things change ...

We're back from up-country (central Maine): sent packing by cold, damp weather and black flies. Got the early spring garden in: peas, onions and other root crops, broccoli and its cousins. Also, took a chance on half the early corn and some beans: I'm not optimistic, but we'll see.

The more they remain the same. Huckabee and Trump are out. But who cares, really?

Huckabee is a strange guy. He seems sincerely religious and, at least verbally, conscious of the economic difficulties of a lot of Americans. Yet, he seems not to understand anything about economics. It's as if people are hurting without any real reason: maybe an act of god. He's against a graduated income tax and for a sales tax; in other words, he's against taxation that might iron out some inequalities, and for taxation that is the worst possible for the non-rich (see my Consumption Tax blog). What is it with these born-again types? Is it that they are stupid, or just so sure of themselves that they don't want to learn anything?

And then there's Ross Douthat, the NY Times libertarian columnist. In last week's essay "A Requiem for Huckabee", Douthat tells us how much he liked the candidate; however, he can't find much positive to say about Huckabee's understanding of the country's problems. He ends with the following curious words:

Still, his candidacy illuminated a path that more politicians should take. We live in an age of economic stagnation and social crisis, and the two are intimately connected. The collapse of the two-parent family and unfettered low-skilled immigration have made America more stratified. The Wall Street-Washington axis really did drive the country into a ditch.

For all his faults, Mike Huckabee knew how to talk about these problems. Now we need leaders with ideas for what do about them.

I love that: Huckabee could talk about these problems: "Those poor poor people; how I feel sorry for them. Wish I could help. Maybe a sales or VAT tax? Something. Tsk, tsk."

But then the realist Douthat knows what's wrong: The Collapse of the Two-Parent Family and Unfettered Low-Skilled Immigration. Wow, talk about cloud cuckoo land. It's almost as if Douthat had never heard of the subprime mortgage debacle, or AIG, or unregulated derivatives or banking crisis, or Wall Street greed. Ten years ago the economy was doing just fine with lots of people employed; yet, there were just as many single-parent families and just as many low-skilled immigrants. Was he sleeping through the Great Recession and bank bailout?

Single-parent families didn't cause the mess we're in; if anything, the economic strain of the great American Inequality, stagnation of middle class wages, and the inadequacy of the single-parent income helped do in the two-parent family. I don't think immigrants are more unskilled now than before, but American corporations have exported jobs and job incentives in their quest for lower labor costs and higher profits. The wage gap in our society has never been greater -- at least since the Robber Barons. A succession of unbudgeted and undeclared wars has transferred the money needed for education to the Pentagon, leaving countless school districts in desperate need. (The Republican response has been: Teachers, like other public employees, are enemies of the economy -- hell, they're job killers.)

Douthat seems constantly on the verge of breaking through. He has admitted that there is unacceptable inequality of wealth in this country, and he realizes that the Republican "budget" slopped together by Congressman Ryan is bad. Yet, he snatches defeat from victory over and over by falling back on the same discredited conservative rhetoric ("immigrants" "incentives" "job-killer" blah blah). Just admit you were wrong, Ross, and throw off the joke of silly conservative "philosophy", with its voodoo economics, faith in Big Business, and reverse Robin Hood ethics.

Oh yes, the other news: Trump is not running. I came back from Maine to hear the crushing news. It seems The Donald really does need the money from his TV show to prop up his mighty empire. Too bad: he was doing so well among the discerning Republican voters. Well, at least he saved the country by getting Obama to show his birth certificate. Republicans love this stuff.

Tomorrow: Newt and the Networks.

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