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MOE: So uh I guess you were kinda seriously onto something putting TSA rage on the agenda yesterday.
MIKE: Yeah? You get traffic or something?
MOE: Ha, as if, no, I’m just saying I turned on the cable news and it was running endlessly, and then I went somewhere in a car in which NPR was playing and it was on that too, and then I realized it was probably just another Zuckerman-Koch JV to brainwash Americans into redirecting their considerable rage at incredibly preposterous targets and also probably, Iran, and performed a few breathing exercises while poking my arm a few times with a fork. MIKE: Oh! Yes. It’s so hot right now. I am working on a story about it this morning. MOE: Is there an astroturf aggregator where I can find this shit and prepare to ignore it in advance? MIKE: hmm, Jeff Golberg at the Atlantic blogs about it a lot and you could always set up a #tsa hashtag on tweetdeck or hootsuite or whatever client you use for twitter MOE: Wait speaking of the Atlantic did you read that Josh Greene story about the “The Tea Party’s Brain” Ron Paul, with all the strange sentences about how totally epically psyched he was about the Tea Party movement?
For his devotion to Austrian economics, Paul was always seen as slightly aberrant, in the same way that he might have been if he were, say, a practicing Druid.
MIKE: Funny, and yet, I have a problem with that line. The problem is this: Austrian economics are not only not new, they are not obscure, either. Austrian economists and their descendants have won Nobel prizes, for chrissakes. Microeconomics is rooted in Hayek and the rest. MOE: It’s a horrible line. MOE: Judging from the comments, I think it’s intended to establish the magazine as the apotheosis of “middle of the road” on this stuff, as if it needed to do that, by pointlessly riling up a lot of stupid people who don’t realize that the Atlantic has tirelessly been promoting the plutocratic policies America just voted for. And indeed, the economics Nobel pretty much designates an economist as being, if nothing else, powerful enough to fuck with the economy. I read about this essay via Marty Peretz who made fun of David Bromwich for writing for the LRB before saying he basically agreed with him, which is true, marks the first time in recent memory I’ve agreed with Marty Peretz about something? MIKE: YOU AGREED WITH MARTY PERETZ? I am revoking your lefty card RIGHT NOW. And of course you agree with these gents! I’m assuming on the Geithner/Summers claim! And also, if Bromwich says the Afghan war is going to outlast Obama, does that mean Obama is going to be a one-termer, or that the war is going to go on for more than another six years? MOE: Well I don’t know, he didn’t write much about it except “I agree with a lot of what Bromwich says, but isn’t he just such a predictably self-defeating snotty elitist for writing it in the LRB.” And it’s like, uh, okay, maybe you have not trying getting leftist critiques of the Obama Administration in the mainstream policy journals lately but um there are like 2.5 slots for that at this point and they are all very much taken. MIKE: Peretz won’t even run those critiques in his own magazine! At least, not frequently. Speaking of criticizing the president, did you notice that several outlets ran “I still love Obama” stories last week? Who the fuck would put their name on such statist-cum-cult of personality dreck? MOE: Right that was what I was saying. Basically Simon Johnson and Roger Hodge (oh wait but he was fired?) are like, it. So sorry, let me restate that number, it’s 1.5. Since Tom Frank is writing for Harper’s again now. And no I somehow missed those stories. I mean, Indonesia seems still to love Obama? MIKE: Everybody but his own people (Mericans) love Obama. Oh, and the Central Asians. I don’t think the Central Asians are crazy about him. I don’t think we should love him, because I don’t think we should love our leaders. I’m not sure that hating them is an effective means of getting them to do what we want, but it’s easier to react quickly to bad policy if you already hate politicians. MOE: Haha I love this headline although I refuse to link to it: “Palin is not only a phenomenon in politics, but TV and the English language as well.” MIKE: Where did you read that? Please tell me you read it in Politico. Please, please, please tell me you read it in Politico. MOE: Something on Memeorandum. I liked this observation of Bromwich’s btw, not to skip around:
I recently listened to some of John Kennedy’s press conferences, and was struck, not by his charm and easy control of the press, the usual traits that people bring up, but rather by his quickness and conversational rhythm. Kennedy’s answers are detailed and matter of fact, and though he occasionally speaks of his own views, he treats Congress as an equal partner. He sometimes shows irritation and is none the less cogent for that. He can speak a whole paragraph when a thought comes all at once without a pause. Any observer of Obama realises that, by contrast, he is always slow, always circumspect, and he has two distinct registers of diction: one for talking to very clever but abstracted people, the other for talking to well-meaning people who are very young or very old and certainly need remedial help. In the higher idiom he talks of a ‘critique’ of policy and ‘trend lines’ and the ways to ‘incentivise’ better care and ‘prioritise’ the next steps of government assistance to show that we are ‘doing everything we can to accelerate job creation’. It is the language of a technocrat, the man at the head of the conference table. In the lower idiom, there are lots of ‘folks’, ‘folks who oppose me’, ‘a whole bunch of folks’, interspersed with vaguely regional comfort words like ‘oftentimes’.
It’s probably the lowest on my list of problems with Obama, but maybe it sheds light on his seeming imperviousness to leftist criticism of his stupid policies? Oh also, who made up “Lean Forward” as a slogan, and do you think there was seriously no one in the meeting to point out that, say, “actually maybe there is a reason 100% of chairs actually go in the opposite of that direction” or possibly just “wait, if you actually did that in real life wouldn’t you risk breaking your nose?” Because that is about the world’s dumbest tagline for anything ever. Well I’m sure I am about the millionth and a half person to point this out. MIKE: So, if I understand you correctly, what you’re saying about Obama is that because he talks like a lefty elitist, lefty elitists feel uncomfortable attacking him? If that’s what you’re saying (or what’s actually going on), then I understand the left even more than I previously thought. Because I am even less likely to spare someone who appears as smart as I am but does things as dumb as the things Obama does. MOE: I’m still trying to figure out how to efficiently consume media. I spent like an hour yesterday trying and failing to figure out how to stream Sarah Palin’s Alaska.
MIKE: Consensus-building: Where did that come from? For how long has that been important? I mean, if a bill has bipartisan support, for instance, or a policy has bipartisan support, it gets a pass from the media. Like the $300 billion farm bill in 2008 that paid farmers with large operations hundreds of thousands of dollars to not grow stuff! Nobody objected to that. MOE: Also, while I self-destructively pillory my own “team’s” media outlet marketing messages like a typical liberal, allow me to commend what you’re doing over at the Daily Caller these days. MIKE: We have the best fashion-related slideshows of all the right-of-center news and opinion websites! MOE: I wonder when was the last time we had agriculture policies that made sense? MIKE: I am no expert on agriculture policy, but my understanding is that farm subsidies stopped making sense after the rise of corporate farming. We pretty much hand out subsidies to independent farmers because policy makers want to stay in power, and also because it feels unfair to ask all these overall-wearing hicks to learn how to do other stuff. (Even though my family adapted out of agriculture in just two generations, and with no farm-despair-related suicides!) MOE: The one thing I would like to point out is that $300 billion is the 5-year number, and it’s actually $288 billion, and is anyone in the Erskine Bowles movement talking about slashing farm subsidies? And I’d also point out that the MSM has, actually, fixated on this recently, if “last week” still counts as recent these days? And w/r/t your above critique, you know that IRL, “the rise of big corporate anything” tends to increase the likelihood of federal subsidies… MIKE: You know, funny you should ask. I don’t remember reading much about farm subsidies in any of the takedowns (or objective reports) on the Bowles/Simpson report. You’d think they’d have to. We spend a lot of money keeping farmers on the farm, and their wives pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen. MOE: It’s not actually that much money though in the grand scheme. What you really have to wonder is how no discussion AT ALL of tax hikes on the wealthy NONE AT ALL???!!! has entered the discourse, and yet this gentleman’s curious proposal to “broaden the tax base” i.e. make the tax code more regressive than it already is, is in the middle of my New York Times op-ed page this morning. MIKE: Um, this guy is hilarious:
When I left my job as the deputy assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy in 1993, I left a message on my office blackboard for my successor. I wrote, “Broaden the base, lower the rates” repeatedly until I filled the entire space. I then had it covered with wax so it could not be erased. (Yes, the government charged me for my bit of vandalism. But it was worth it.
MOE: Sometimes I have to wonder to myself, “Wow, how do you live with yourself? How do you sleep at night?” Like pretty much every time I open a new tab. Anyway, it’s even more hilarious when you factor in the fact that back then, the top .01% controlled less than 2% of the annual GDP and maybe 5% of the wealth and today they control 6% of the annual GDP and oh probably somewhere around 40-50% of the wealth. Or that back then, the top 1% comprised less than 14% of the GDP and today that’s more like a quarter…Or that back then, we had like only half as many people on food stamps etc. etc. etc. MIKE: I find the foodstamps point relevant. I really do. But I’ve never understood arguments about who has the money. Like, of course I would like some of that money, because I just had to request another forbearance on my student loans. But why should I care who has what? Or is who has what a set-up for an argument about tax rates? MOE: Things must be actually just as they were then, because the same fucking band of degenerates are still running our central banks and editorial pages! MIKE: HAHAHAHA. Central banks and editorial pages are like the bookends of America! MOE: Well, this goes back to maybe the best thing that Bromwich had to say.
Here the charge of elitism against Obama finds some basis in fact. He shares with his economic advisers the view that wealth is created by the banks and money firms from the top down: a healthy economy comes from money making money, not from people making things.
The opposite is true, actually. There are a few reasons you might want to worry about too much money being in the hands of too few people. You don’t have to care about democracy to worry about this either, since China has done a fairly decent job keeping people employed in companies that make things even as inequality rises spectacularly over there. So basically, forgetting about society, forgetting about mushy liberal concepts, it’s simply the difference between being Russia and China. MIKE: So, we’re supposed to return to making things? Do blogs count? Wait, which one is which? China is good, Russia is bad? WAIT! I GOT IT! Russia has employment problems! MOE: Blogs only count if they sustain themselves, I think. Anything funded by Koch or George Soros or predatory online diploma scams should probably not be part of America’s long term economic policy. MIKE: Then I guess Dan Abrams wins by default. Or Denton! MOE: I could talk about blogs and the impressive .0002% of our GDP they comprise but I basically think that, you know, there are much bigger things that matter. If people never learn to read, for instance, which seems to be the trend, we are fucked, which hey, guess what most of us are. MIKE: DOOMSAYER! Your terrifying prophesies combined with this dreary weather are making it really difficult for me to pleasure myself to the internet this morning. MOE: The bigger point I was trying to make is that, and don’t take it from me take it from this guy, when you have too much wealth in the hands of oligarchs and vast inequality, it’s almost impossible to achieve long-term robust economic growth because it’s only “productive” sectors of the economy like manufacturing and infrastructure that can actually achieve productivity gains and it’s only via a relatively vibrant middle class that dollars keep circulating. Shit I guess I had better locate a better photo gallery… MIKE: Well, I think I can get behind the idea of defunding the oligarchs, which we’d do through clamping down on rent-seeking and corporate welfare. MOE: Anyway, I am being boring, it is sad for me too. I just think that people who are not concerned about the rapid changes this country has witnessed in the distribution of wealth and income over a period of relatively unimpressive growth have not thought about it enough. MIKE: sigh this is a horrible note to leave our readers with MOE: Um…did you see that Ke$ha yearbook photo I tweeted last night? MIKE: Bull. Fucking. Shit. That’s not Ke$ha! MOE: Oh wait, this lady just said the TSA “just made you want to come to the airport with no clothes at all”…that is kind of salacious? MIKE: Yes! But also rebellious. Jeff Goldberg at the Atlantic is selling kilts on his blog and encouraging men to submit to the pat-down wearing a kilt and no undies. MOE: Okay so maybe Marc Jacobs is funding the astroturf campaign too. But um, here is where I ask, what is wrong with the full body scanners? MIKE: They are invasive to privacy. Also, they won’t stop anything. It makes more sense to ban laptops and all electronics than it does to take naked pictures of every. single. fucking. passenger. (I have a piece on this coming out later. Will send you link!) MOE: Ha, yeah, I’m listening to Goldberg MSNBC right now, and he basically just admitted that this whole bullshit astroturf outrage orgy is part of a much larger campaign to increase terror war funding closer to the “source.” How very Austrian! MIKE: I’m not so sure this is astroturfed. My outrage is genuine. So is the outrage of a lot of other people, like Tim Carney at the Examiner, who first reported that the x-ray machines are a result of lobbying by former Bush officials. MOE: OH BRAVE. I am going to get to the bottom of this, somehow. Or wait, no I’m not. But I’ll probably be institutionalized at some point in the process of trying, so there’s that to look forward to. That and seven more episodes of Sarah Palin’s Alaska. MIKE: YOU CAN DO IT. I doubt I’ll get to the bottom of this, but I’ll have fun trying! And now I have to drop a deuce!