Monday, February 01, 2010

“Turkeys voting for Christmas”

That's what the intellectual elite think of working class conservative voters. They think that voting Left is OBVIOUSLY in the best interests of the workers and cannot understand that the base of support for the GOP is mainly among the less affluent. They think that working class people are cutting their own throats by voting conservative. It's an old claim but an extended version of it has just appeared -- where else? -- on the BBC.

So what is the reason for this incredible folly among conservatives? Mental illness, emotional disturbance etc., of course. I can't be bothered to excerpt any of the nonsense this time. Suffice it to say that Drew Westen and Thomas Frank -- the usual suspects -- are trotted out to give their versions of the "explanation". How the BBC missed out on getting a comment from George Lakoff is the only mystery.

To give the author -- David Runciman -- his due he does point to the elitism and arrogance of the Democrats as a reason why ordinary people might not vote for them and he does reject the old but very extreme Hofstadter claim that it is all "paranoia". But, even, so, the explanation he gives is that conservatives are voting with their emotions and not their reason.

I am confident that in ten minutes I could give Runciman enough reasons for the rationality of conservatism to jar even him but why stray into politics when we are discussing political psychology -- which is my academic specialty? As some measure of how long Runciman's nonsense has been around my paper on the subject dates back to 1972! and it appeared in The British Journal of Political Science. So if Runciman -- who claims to be a political scientist -- were a competent scholar he would already be aware of it and would mention the evidence in it. But what Leftist is bothered about evidence?

What I found was that it was the working class conservatives who were "normal". It was the working class Leftists who were particularly rebellious and haters of the society in which they lived. That characterization of Leftist voters is of course not at all surprising but it does put the boot on the other foot for Runciman. It is the Leftist voters who are emotion-driven, not the conservatives. And my conclusions were based on carefully validated survey research using a representative general population sample, not the vague inferences of Thomas Frank, Drew Westen etc.

What a laugh they are!


Obama's contempt for ordinary Americans

DENOUNCING the Supreme Court's Jan. 21 ruling in the Citizens United campaign-finance case, President Obama called it "a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics" and "a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and the other powerful interests." He denounced it again in his State of the Union address last week, saying it would "open the floodgates for special interests" and adding: "I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests."

The Senate's top recipient of special-interest contributions is outraged by the Supreme Court's ruling. The president's rebuke was not without chutzpah. In his 2008 White House run, he became the first candidate in the modern era to reject public financing, thereby freeing himself to amass a staggering $745 million in campaign contributions. Much of this was "special interest money" -- according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama's record-breaking campaign haul included $43 million from lawyers and lobbyists, $19 million from donors connected to the health-care industry, $18 million from investment and commercial banking, $10 million from real estate interests, and $9 million from Hollywood and the television industry.

Obama isn't the only critic of the high court's decision whose outrage at the thought of corporate influence in political campaigns seems a trifle ... contrived. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, condemned the court for having "predetermined the winners of next November's elections. It won't be Republicans. It won't be Democrats. It will be corporate America." Coming from Schumer, that's a curious complaint: He is the Senate's leading recipient of campaign contributions from political action committees and other donors in nearly two dozen industries, including real estate, construction, securities, liquor, insurance, and hedge funds.

Worse than hypocrisy, though, is the condescension for voters that underlies so much of the fury aimed at the Supreme Court's ruling.

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wailed in alarm that "if Goldman Sachs wants to pay the entire cost of every congressional campaign in the US, the law of the land now allows it." (Actually, it doesn't: The decision left intact the ban on direct corporate donations to politicians.) Alan Colmes, the house liberal at Fox News, predicted a "corporate takeover over of America." Monica Youn of the Brennan Center for Justice, writing before the ruling was handed down, warned that if the justices deregulated corporate political speech "voters will be forced into a couch-potato role, mere viewers of the electoral spectacle bought and paid for by wealthy companies."

But voters are not mindless dolts. Campaign advertising doesn't turn them into automatons, blindly voting for whichever candidates "approve this message" the most. American politics is replete with candidates and campaigns that lost handily, notwithstanding the fortune spent on newspaper ads, radio spots, and TV commercials promoting them. The court's decision simply allows corporations, like countless other associations and groups, to have their say during election campaigns. It has no effect at all on the ability of voters to ignore what those corporations may choose to tell them.

You wouldn't know it from all the hyperventilating about dastardly corporate advertising, but Americans are perfectly capable of thinking for themselves. Why do so many smart people find that hard to accept? It's an old story. In 1958, John Kenneth Galbraith published The Affluent Society, a bestseller that argued among other things that big business had grown more powerful than the laws of supply and demand, since corporate advertising could always generate the demand needed to keep production high. As it happens, 1958 was also the year that the Ford Motor Company decided to pull the plug on the Edsel, the new car model it had introduced the previous fall with great fanfare and a vast ad budget -- but that American drivers steadfastly refused to buy.

Whether corporations will walk through the door the Supreme Court has now opened for them is not clear. Many corporations will doubtless avoid taking sides in heated election campaigns for fear of antagonizing their customers; others may decide that government-relations budgets are better spent on quiet lobbying than on open electioneering.

But even those that do choose to advertise during an election cycle will not make the mistake so many of the court's detractors are making. They know that Americans are not sheep, easily herded by means of clever commercials. If corporate advertising was irresistible, after all, we'd all be drinking New Coke.



Autocrats Of The World, Rejoice!

Why Obama's State of the Union has America's enemies smiling

In Beijing General Secretary Hu Jintao is sporting a big grin. Kim Jong Il is breaking out another case of his favorite Hennessy in North Korea. And in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is celebrating in, well, the way that dour theocrats kick up their heels, however they manage to do that.

The cause for all this cheer? On Wednesday Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union message, and although he surely did not intend to do so, he essentially let these villains--and others--know they can do whatever they want. The president unfortunately will not be doing much to stop them from destabilizing the international system--or even from threatening the United States.

America, whether it should be or not, is a nation at war. There are two obvious ones, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a general struggle against Islamic fanaticism taking place across the globe. Then there are especially consequential confrontations. Two nuclear rogues--North Korea and Iran--threaten to upend everything, while others--Syria comes to mind--wait in the wings.

Finally, to take another example from current headlines, there is a silent conflict waged every day against the United States, an unprecedented program of state-sponsored cyberattacks against defense, civilian and corporate networks. This hostile and never-ending campaign gives rise--or at least should give rise--to a state of emergency. Yes, I'm referring to the People's Republic of China.

Yet in a long oration the president devoted just nine minutes--out of 69--to discussing foreign policy and external threats. In that short time, he didn't provide much assurance when it came to Afghanistan and Iraq. He wasn't even particularly candid about how long American soldiers would be in the latter country. "As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as president," Obama said. "We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August." Yet as Larry Johnson of the No Quarter blog pointed out on WABC's John Batchelor Show just after the address ended, American soldiers are slated to remain in the country for at least another year.

With regard to nuclear rogues, President Obama is trying to both keep fissile materials out of the hands of terrorists and rid the world of its most destructive arms. "These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons," he declared. "That's why North Korea now faces increased isolation and stronger sanctions--sanctions that are being vigorously enforced." Unfortunately that's not true: Beijing has, especially since last October, become a sanctions buster by ramping up material assistance to Pyongyang and facilitating its arms sales, now prohibited by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874.

What about the Islamic Republic of Iran? On the most urgent and critical question facing the world today, the American people--and people around the world--got 41 words in three sentences. "They, too, will face growing consequences," Obama said. "That is a promise." That's actually more an applause line; it's certainly not a policy, something we need.

And about the emerging hegemon that is mounting attacks against us each and every hour of each and every day? There was not one word on the most extensive and continuous attempt to intrude into our computers, disrupt electronic infrastructure and steal technology and information. The president had exactly two things to say about China: "There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products," followed by "Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy."

Actually the Chinese are not reforming, restructuring or revamping their economy, though the U.S. should make better trains. Nonetheless we needed to hear more about the country that is supposed to replace the U.S. as the global superpower in 10 years' time, the nation his administration says is essential to the solution of every major global problem.

Maybe he thought we would not notice or would not care that he neglected China in the State of the Union. But Obama's failure to address the challenges posed by that nation and by others sends a chilling message to America's allies and friends. While the global community faces daunting tasks, Obama devoted almost all of his address to swaying a domestic audience and to scoring points against Republicans.

By doing so he told everyone beyond our borders that the U.S. was turning inward, becoming uninterested in their concerns. If the president intends to exercise global leadership or even participate in multilateral solutions, he did an excellent job in hiding his intentions. As Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal said Wednesday night on the Batchelor program, "The administration is treating these critical foreign policy issues as an annoyance."

So the world's worst leaders will see a big green light for their plans. That is the most important thing you need to know about President Obama's first State of the Union address.



Obama's fake freeze folly

President Obama made a big deal last week about his purported federal spending freeze, but not enough has been said about how meager the supposed savings actually are. Historical context shows that any savings from this public-relations gimmick will be tiny. Frugality, apparently, is a concept Democrats have a hard time understanding.

The Obama freeze is projected to "save" $15 billion from expected spending next year. This is not a cut of $15 billion in existing spending, but only a decision not to raise spending (to match inflation) on certain accounts. Those accounts supposedly are to be frozen for the following two years as well, but they are being frozen only after a decade-long spending orgy that included an 8.2 percent increase in domestic discretionary spending this year. And they don't apply to any new purported jobs bill or to any other new item on the president's priority list.

Now, let's consider the $15 billion itself. By most people's reckoning, that's a big number. By government reckoning, it's child's play. In 1995, for instance, Congress rescinded - took back - $18.9 billion that had been signed into law but not yet doled out. Whereas the Obama plan is a mere pledge not to let government grow by $15 billion in certain programs, the 1995 rescissions actually cut about $19 billion from existing programs. And that was back when the dollar was worth far more. That $18.9 billion then would be worth $26.6 billion today.

That amount was trimmed from a budget of about $1.5 trillion, making it a real, honest cut of 1.27 percent. The Obama freeze is from a much larger budget of about $3.6 trillion, meaning a paper "savings" of barely more than four-tenths of a single percent.

Look back again to 1995 and 1996. The 1995 rescissions, combined with further cuts in domestic discretionary spending in those two years, amounted to just shy of $50 billion of honest-to-goodness debt reduction - not from projected spending levels, but from prior spending levels. Using the president's version of accounting, that Republican Congress saved almost another $50 billion - or $100 billion total - from the projected growth in spending.

Yet the cuts didn't leave little old ladies freezing in the streets, didn't leave orphans without food or water and indeed had no noticeable ill effects. In fact, as Congress moved toward a balanced budget, the nation's economy boomed and, happily, the poverty rate fell. That era of progress came without government "stimulus" or "jobs" programs or bailouts or any other central-planning flapdoodle.

What the president is proposing now has the aspect of a toddler putting a single foot beyond the water's edge at the beach for the very first time and then proudly reporting to everybody that he "swam in the ocean." If he really wants to swim with the economic tide, Mr. Obama should learn from the 1990s that government is not the engine of prosperity and that when it comes to saving taxpayer money, boldness works far better than puny half-measures.



BrookesNews Update

How an American recession vindicated the Austrian School of economics : One thing is absolutely clear. America's political class and the economic commentariat have learnt precisely nothing from previous recessions. After each recession we get the same old thing: an incessant call for Keynesian nostrums, a cry for greater regulation, and the usual claim that greed-driven markets cause the boom and bust
The Australian Business Council gets it wrong on recessions : Wage rate flexibility can never stop unemployment rising once recession takes hold. From this we can see why implementing the Australian Business Council's scheme of linking wages to profitability in order to avert unemployment would have the unintended consequences of discrediting the argument for free labour markets"
Why mainstream economics is a dead end : There is no such thing as the economy which can be moved by the government and the central bank. It follows then that mainstream economists are engaging in a fiction which they are dressing up by means of various statistical artifacts like Gross Domestic Product. This results in government and its central bank policies that undermine the well-being of human beings
The Party of Abraham Lincoln v. the Democrats' hate machine : The final irony is that the vast majority of blacks have turned against the Party of emancipation and individual responsibility and now support the Party of slavery that imposes dependency and racist quotas. The same Democratic Party that tells them they cannot succeed on their own. A Party whose policies express its own deep-rooted belief that blacks are not good enough to intellectually compete with whites
What has Brown done for us? : A year ago today, Barack Obama was all too anxious to accept his victory and read deep meaning into it. Today, it appears like that is not even willing to acknowledge his incredible defeat of last night, let alone learn from this teachable moment. This is especially true as it relates to his legislative agenda
Democrats' interests are special too : The Supreme Court's decision in favour of free speech has enraged the Democrats. The are now railing against the intrusion of 'special interests'. What they really fear is that their advantage in funding from special interests will be eliminated by the Court's ruling
Scott Brown's win: Color me happy : Nancy, Harry and other political 'elites' have a terminal case of inside the beltway syndrome- also known as cognitive dissonance. They have bought into their own version of reality. A reality that doesn't allow for the possibility that their own narrow world view isn't the universally accepted view they believe it is
Obama's chump "change": "Brown's election was not as much an endorsement of him or his positions on the issues, as it was a furious and unequivocal repudiation of President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and their positions. Just look at the grassroots, conservative groundswell driving this 'throw the bums out' rejection of the Democratic juggernaut


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

GM Roper said...

John, I NEVER come away from your posts without having learned something valuable. Thanks for great reads.