Jun 252012

Bizarro Obama

Electoral politics is a game of contrasting values and ideas. It requires that a candidate present a compelling argument explaining why they’re the best person for the job. But what’s a person to do if they’re up against a superior opponent, one who bests them in nearly every category? The answer is simple and obvious, provided you can get away with it — just run against somebody else.

That is exactly the tack that Mitt Romney has taken against President Obama. Mr. Romney, who has the personality of a pet rock and has been “severely” on both sides of every issue, finds himself facing a smart, articulate, and charismatic leader with a pretty damn good record, especially when given due credit for circumstance. Couple the obvious nature of a values versus return-on-value / man versus robot matchup, with the impact of Romney’s well-deserved mantle as Champion of the One-percent, and you’ve got a situation that screams for creative remedy.

So, instead of running against President Obama, the Romney campaign is running from him. According to Romney, the person he’s up against is an anti-business, anti-growth, anti-investment, anti-jobs socialist who’s bent on penalizing success, apologizing for the US, and raising taxes on working Americans. Romney’s opponent doesn’t care about the deficit or debt, is weak on using military force and responsible for higher gas prices. He’s made the economy worse, “stood watch over the greatest job loss in modern American history,” and believes thatAmerica’s greatness is a thing of the past.

Who is this person Mitt Romney’s campaigning against? It’s obviously not President Obama. No, the opponent who Romney has chosen to mount an attack against is a fictitious character; he’s a Bizarro World version of  President Obama — he’s BizarrObama.

As it was in Dell comic’s Bizarro World of Htrae (Earth spelled backward), Romney’s fictitious opponent is categorically the opposite of the actual President Obama in every way. Where the President has promoted investment, and actually signed 18 tax cuts for small business, BizarrObama is anti-investment and anti-business. Where President Obama has approved fewer new regulations than President Bush and proposed a sweeping jobs plan, the American Jobs Act, his Bizarro World counterpart “hasn’t put forth a plan to get us working again” and is anti-growth and anti-jobs.

Willard M. Romney has repeatedly stated that President Obama has “made [the economy] worse.” But again, he must be referring to BizarrObama, because things have improved considerably under the real President. The economy was in freefall when President Obama took office; we were hemorrhaging over 700,000 jobs per month in January 2009, but his efforts quickly slowed the bleeding and led to the past 27 months of private sector job growth. On the investment side, somehow the Dow that fell to just 6,626 before the President finished moving into the White House has climbed to 12,649 today. And in the wake of the largest economic disaster since the Great Depression, by late 2010, corporations were recording record profits and sitting on $2 trillion in cash. But Romney says this is “worse?” Could it be that the Mittster is referring to the Bizarro-economy — where worse actually means better and better is worse?

Possibly the most glaring evidence of Romney’s fixation with the fictitious world of Htrae are his statements about the President and the federal debt. According to Willard, the debt “will keep growing under this president” and will be “passed on to young people.” He’s likened Obama’s economic policy to a prairie fire, a “debt and spending inferno.” Yet since the 2009 budget, which was developed and signed by George W. Bush, federal spending has increased very little. It actually went down by 1.7% in 2010, up about 4% in 2011, and is expected to rise less than 1% this year. And that spending includes the much maligned Stimulus, which is credited by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for adding as much as 4.5% to the GDP and increasing employment by 3.3 million jobs.

All told, while the numbers are historically large, the debt has actually grown at a much slower rate under President Obama than under either George W. Bush or Republican hero, Ronald Reagan. The true “debt and spending inferno” actually occurred under Reagan, who was responsible for nearly tripling the debt, and the prairie fire that more than doubled it again blazed under GW’s tight fiscal control. If this GOP leadership is to define the standard, then the less than 50% increase under Obama is more a “simmer” than the type of out-of-control burn characterized by the Romnibot. Of course, in the world of Willard, where Bizarro bonds are “guaranteed to loose money for you,” I suppose this might all make sense.

But here on planet Earth, where the real President Obama has never “apologized for America,” has been exceedingly strong on national defense (often to the dismay of much of his base), and no president has control over gas prices, even when domestic drilling increases under their watch, as it has with Obama — slowing the increase in debt is a good thing. And it certainly does not square with Romney’s claim that “Since President Obama assumed office three years ago, federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history.”

The truth be told, here, where the planet is blue, not the sun, we don’t hate beauty, better is better, and when a presidential administration cuts income taxes for 95% of working families and cuts payroll taxes for all working Americans — in contrast with Romney claims, they did “lower taxes for the middle class.” And when that same administration proposes a rule to end the free ride where the richest few pay tax rates far below that of the middle class, the vast majority are in support, and only Willard and those like him who save Mittloads of cash under the rigged system are against it.

Indeed, every time Mitt Romney opens his mouth, it’s virtually certain that some distorted contrary version of reality will escape his lips. It’s almost as if he believes the 99% to actually be the 1% and vice-versa. Fortunately, there may be a simple explanation for Romney’s confusion. Be it in his defense of Citizens United, his calm assertion that “corporations are people, my friend,” or his mockery of the President’s call to protect firemen, police and teachers, Mitt Romney always appears to think that the American people are with him. The question is — which American people . . . those here on Earth, or those on a cube-shaped planet orbiting a blue sun?

In case anyone might think this is all conjecture, perhaps a little something straight from the horse’s mouth will help: while at a campaign event in Virginiain May, Romney was asked what he would do about the economy. His response is quite revealing: “What I would do? People ask me, ‘What would you do to get the economy going?’ and I say, ‘Well look at what the president’s done and do the opposite.” Now, the core tenet of the Bizarro Code being “Us do opposite of all Earthly things,” is alarming enough, but when you consider that the opposite of what President Obama has done is another GOP directed financial crisis, and you understand that on Htrae it’s a “big crime to make anything perfect” . . . well, draw your own conclusions.

Perhaps this is all just a wild attempt to explain the strange behavior of Willard M. Romney. But most people would agree it’s a bit odd to “like being able to fire people,” more than a little rude to criticize cookies offered by a gracious host, downright bizarre to strap a dog to the roof of a car, and a multimillionaire quipping that he too is “unemployed” is funny as a rubber crutch. With Romney, the issues are much deeper than those of the average selfish Mitthead.

If not some weird connection with a fictitious world, what is it that explains the Willard? Why does his laugh seem so canned, his smile seem so plastic? How can anybody be so stiff, so robotic? What is it that makes you want to smack the Mitt out of Romney? So little of what the man says having any basis in reality, an impartial observer who’s unwilling to accept the Bizarro is forced into a more mundane conclusion — that Romney is just another out-of-touch, psychopathic rich guy who happens to also be a pathological liar.

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Feb 092011
Sgt. 1st Class Vivienne Pacquette, supply serg...

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On Sunday, President Obama honored the tradition of presidential interviews being given to the network broadcasting the Super Bowl. Rights for the 2011 edition were held by Fox, and Bill O’Reilly was selected as the interviewer. As might have been expected, the interview that aired before the game was an irritating showcase of rudeness, where Pompous Bill spent 15 minutes interrupting the President (43 times in all) and trying to trip him up.

O’Reilly’s questions started on the topic of Mubarak and Egypt, and the President fielded each of them adeptly, in spite of O’Reilly’s repeated interruptions and attempts to box him into a corner. Having failed to get a reaction on Egypt, O’Reilly moved seamlessly to health care, but only after quickly planting his own opinion on the Muslim Brotherhood: “Those are tough boys, the Muslim Brotherhood. I wouldn’t want them anywhere near that government. Federal judge in Florida said, your health care law is unconstitutional.”

After a brief back and forth on the fate of the healthcare law under the review of the Supreme Court, Mr. Bill took the conversation where he really wanted to drive a stake. Loosely quoting the Wall Street Journal that depicted President Obama as a “determined man of the left whose goal is to redistribute much larger levels of income across society,” O’Reilly asked for a reaction. The president tried to dodge the question, but O’Reilly pressed, “Do you deny that you are a man who wants to redistribute wealth?”

Amazingly, President Obama stepped into BillO’s snare. “Absolutely,” he answered, denying that he wanted to redistribute wealth, and he supported his denial with the fact that he had lowered taxes. O’Reilly pressed again, “But the entitlements that you championed do redistribute wealth in the sense that they provide insurance coverage for 40 million people that don’t have it,” and rather than reframing the issue, the President accepted the pat conservative spin and went directly to defending “Obamacare.”

Make no mistake about it, even though the President held his ground from that point forward arguing certain points regarding healthcare, he missed the opportunity to reassert his previously stated position on taxation of the rich and actually helped to fortify the notion of taxation as redistribution of wealth. As relaxed and articulate as he seemed, President Obama allowed himself to fall into the favorite trap of conservatives — to be cast as a “big government liberal.”

Why Democrats never reject this framing with a legitimate picture of reality, one that’s based on facts and consistent with history, is beyond me. One would think that their only problem would be which conservative myths to refute, and in what order.

Taking on the charge “Big Government” first, it would be a simple task for Democrats to start by offering any one of a number of factual arguments. Each would prove that, to the extent there is a party of fiscal irresponsibility and huge deficits, it’s the Republican Party.

They might base their argument on the debt to GDP ratio resulting from each presidential administration. Going back to the 1970s, that effort would show that Nixon/Ford increased the ratio by .2%; Carter decreased it by 3.3%; Reagan ramped it up by 20.6% and Bush Sr. by another 15%; Clinton brought the ratio back in the right direction, improving it by 9.7%, and GW Bush gave it all back, skyrocketing debt upward and increasing the ratio by 27.1%. The truth of the matter is that all presidents from Truman on have reduced the gross federal debt, except Reagan and both Bushes.

Perhaps pure budget discipline would be a better meter, thereby eliminating the general economy as a variable. Using that metric, one would only have to point out that over the course of the past 100 years, of the 6 presidents presiding over the largest increases in federal spending, 5 were Republicans. Reagan grew the federal budget by 21.9%, and Bush Jr. by 32.2%, both while reducing federal revenues through huge tax cuts — which tends to amplify deficits.

The inescapable truth is that hanging the label of “Big Government” on Democrats is possibly the most unbelievable public relations coup of modern times. It has absolutely no basis in fact. The records show clearly that the Democrats have consistently been more fiscally responsible, and that any connection between the Republicans and small or efficient government is pure myth.

But as flawed as President Obama’s defense of the record was in allowing O’Reilly to paint him as a “big government liberal,” it pales when compared to accepting the paradigm of “redistribution of wealth.” This is classical conservative framing of an issue in order to paint their distorted view of reality.

According to conservative dogma, wealth is earned through the market and later redistributed through taxation and government spending. It has sort of a common sense ring to it, as does the extension of the paradigm — that when the government taxes, it takes what belongs to citizens. Of course, as with all simplistic arguments designed to promote a given agenda, the model presented is fundamentally flawed.

The fact of the matter is that ALL monetary exchanges represent redistribution of wealth, and the government plays a part in each and every one. The issue isn’t whether or not the government should make rules that impact the redistribution of wealth; it does so by default. The question is “should the rules favor upward or downward redistribution,” and on that topic there is a distinct, if shrinking, difference between the two major parties.

Government policies that allow tax advantages for multinational corporations that offshore jobs are every bit as much about redistribution of wealth as programs designed to subsidize the cost of education for low income Americans. The only difference is that the former benefits the wealthy while destabilizing the economy, and the latter benefits the less fortunate while enhancing our national capacity. Republicans are quick to label education spending as “redistribution” but hold tax loopholes as something entirely different — which it’s not.

Instances of this distorted spin on reality are virtually limitless. Healthcare reform, energy policy, mining and drilling regulations, campaign finance, monetary policy, military spending, banking regulation, the list goes on, and in each and every case, government policy will impact the redistribution of wealth. For Republicans, so long as the flow of wealth upward is not impeded, distribution has occurred, not redistribution. This holds true even if it means reductions in compensation for workers, elimination of social safety nets, high unemployment, an under-educated populace — whatever the case may be.

President Obama would have been well served by responding to Bill O’Reilly’s question about redistribution of wealth with a heart felt “Hell yes! But no more than my Republican colleagues — just in the opposite direction” The truth is that government policy over the past 30-plus years has significantly redistributed the wealth of America — straight to the top.

Americans suffered the first decline in median household income since 1967 under George Bush, and meanwhile the average annual income of the top 1% grew by 73%. This is not the result of a free market but rather the result of a rigged market, one that is designed to redistribute wealth in ever increasing concentration amongst the most elite.

Since President Obama didn’t turn the inquiry back on Bill O’Reilly, I’ll ask the question here: how sustainable is an economy that continues to establish policies that have already concentrated more financial wealth in the top 1% than is held by the bottom 95%? I’ll even give Mr. Bill a clue — think Hosni Mubarak.

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Dec 242010

A reshaping of the economic team, beginning by naming a new director of the National Economic Council, is among the most urgent priorities of the new year. Gene Sperling, a counselor to the Treasury secretary who held the position in the Clinton administration, is among the final contenders to succeed Lawrence H. Summers in the job, along with Roger C. Altman, a Wall Street investment banker who also served in the Clinton administration.

Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

White House portrait of Lawrence Summers.
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I find it interestin­g that just 10 days ago the story had Obama selecting the replacemen­t for Summers from three finalists, with only one not having strong Wall Street ties. Now it appears that only Sperling and Altman are still in the running, with Richard Levin, the one candidate who might have put Main St. in front of Wall St., having been eliminated­.

If only Obama would just once embrace his rhetoric with his actions, but that’s not going to happen. Alternativ­ely, he could just start being honest in what he says and admit that he is politicall­y wed to Wall Steet. Obama telegraphs everything well in advance of taking action, and this reorganiza­tion follows that practice — it portends a continuati­on of Wall St. feast and Main St. famine.

And with the Republican­s gaining control of the house and far too many Democrats falling in step to support Obama’s spirit of “compromis­e,” the writing is on the wall, etched in stone — things are likely to get worse, much worse for the average American.

Read the entire Article at the New York Times

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