Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Lizard-Brained Satisfaction of Name-Calling

Yves Smith responds to Melissa Harris-Perry's lazy-ass slur of racism on disillusioned white liberals:
So the Democratic party (and remember, our two party system makes the Democrats the home by default for the left) pretends to be a safe haven for all sorts of out groups: women, gays, Hispanics (on their way to being the dominant group but not there yet), blacks, the poor. But this is stands in stark contradiction to its policies of selling out the middle class to banks and big corporate interests, just on a slower and stealthier basis than the right. So its desperate need to maintain its increasingly phony “be nice to the rainbow coalition” branding places a huge premium on appearances. It thus uses identity politics as a cover for policy betrayals. It can motive various groups on narrow, specific issues, opening the way for the moneyed faction to get what it wants.

It took most people far too long to get that Obama was a phony because the presumption that a black man would be sympathetic to the fate of the downtrodden is a deeply embedded but never voiced prejudice (and this bias is exploited successfully by the right in depicting Obama as a socialist). Other elements of traditional Democratic associations played into the Obama positioning: his Administration is chock full of technocratic Harvard wonks, and the last time an Administration was so dominated by technocrats was under Kennedy, the last Democratic Administration to have a strongly positive (indeed romanticized) image. (Yes, the Clintons also liked fancy resume types, but they also placed a very high premium on loyalty, and with the result that long-standing supporters often wound up in surprisingly senior roles).

These traditional iconic symbols of liberalism – secular urban elitism, blackness, technocratic skill, micro-issue identity based political organizing groups – have been fully subverted in the service of banking interests. Obama is the ultimate, but not the only, piece of evidence that these symbols are now used simply to con the Democratic base out of their support and money. The task of moving forward will require rebuilding the symbolic vocabulary of the defenders of the middle class. It will probably also require a similar intellectual civil war within the left, against people like Melissa Harris-Perry. Those engaged in that effort need to become skilled in dealing with these liberal McCarthyite identity smears.
Good God, our entire political infrastructure is crumbling into a sea of self-hate. The Republican party has been taken over by the Pod People, and the Dems are eating each other alive. I don't see how we can continue on through the new century as a cohesive nation and still maintain this utterly dysfunctional Balkanization. At this rate I don't see how the Democratic party can avoid imploding into a score of navel-gazing boutique cults with a complete lack of vision beyond their own narrow interests.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

And A Merry Old Soul Was He

He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl, and he called for his Thorazine tea. Now this is what I call a horserace:
(Reuters) - Former pizza executive Herman Cain surprised rival Rick Perry with an upset victory on Saturday in a Republican presidential straw poll in Florida, dealing a disappointing loss to the Texas governor two days after a shaky debate performance.
All right, then! Let the race to the Seclusion Room begin! Pull up a seat and pass the popcorn, folks. It's on!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

King of Pain

I haven't yet read Obama's Big Idea, but if what I read here is true, we may as well kiss the 2012 election good-bye:
...require new beneficiaries to pay higher deductibles (for) Medicare coverage of doctors’ services and other outpatient care...The deductible, now $162 a year, is...increase(d)...further by $25 in 2017, 2019 and 2021...

...increase Medicare premiums by about 30 percent for new beneficiaries who buy generous private insurance to help fill gaps in Medicare...the White House said this protection “gives individuals less incentive to consider the costs of health care and thus raises Medicare costs”...

...raise $20 billion over 10 years by charging higher premiums to higher-income beneficiaries and by freezing the income thresholds so more people would have to pay the surcharge (up to 25% of all beneficiaries)...

...certain new beneficiaries to pay co-payments for home health care, which is now exempt from such charges. The co-payment would be $100 per episode, defined as a series of five or more home health visits not preceded by a stay in a hospital or a skilled nursing home...

...Revise the formula for calculating Medicaid payments to states, saving $15 billion over 10 years. Restrict states’ ability to finance their share of costs by imposing taxes on care providers...

...Cut $3.5 billion over 10 years from a prevention and public health fund created by the new health care law.
I particularly like the "rob Peter to pay Paul" aspect of that last one. Why worry about the opposition dismantling the ACA when you can simply do it yourself?

And I just love the concept of slamming old people with higher premiums just because they were able to cobble together enough cash to buy some Medigap to fend off potential bankruptcy---because otherwise they have "less incentive" to keep their spending costs low. Just buying the damned supplemental insurance isn't evidence enough that they want to keep their costs down. They need to lose a fucking leg! Goddammit, in this New World of Pain, the last thing you want to do is reward the sickest members of your society (who are already on fixed incomes that you want to ratchet down even more with your fucked-up chained CPI) with affordable coverage for their sicknesses. Slackers!

And I realize that the prospect of paying a $237 deductible may not seem like much to someone currently earning $60, $70, or $80k a year--but once you're on a fixed income and earning $12-$14k, that's going to look a lot more like a choice between buying groceries or an examination of that sore spot inside your mouth, and a lot less like a drop in the bucket. The size of buckets, after all, being relative.

Obama’s budget director says the new plan will impose “a lot of pain,” (in this new S&M culture we call America that's the mot du jour d√©licieux.) That's certain to be true for the people who have already been writhing in agony. And it's going to be true for a lot more who are teetering on the precipice. But the wealthy who have been doing all the squealing? Not so much. They have plenty of insurance, so whatever happens to Medicare (and certainly to Medicaid!) isn't going to matter one whit to them. And really, since that's where the campaign money is coming from, isn't that all for the best anyway?

In a world where "justice" has disappeared from the daily language, maybe it does sound fair to "share the sacrifice equally" between suburbanites with multiple SUVs parked at million dollar McMansions, and widows living hand to mouth in little apartments in working-class ghettos. Maybe the entire definition of "justice" is now passe.

I can't wait to see how he plans to "help" Social Security.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Meaty Discourse

Once, even against all evidence, I could have accepted the idea that David Brooks was a human being who lived a relatively ordinary life in the gated enclaves of AwSchucksJustARegularMiddleClassJoeMakingSixFiguresville, Virginia. After all, he showed up regularly on The News Hour for good-natured jowl-punching with Droopy Dog doppleganger Mark Shields,, and surely he must have had to leave his habitat to do that. He must have had the opportunity to at least observe other members of his culture from the depths of his brougham-landaulet during the trip. And even though he could predictably come up with this sort of thing at the drop of an Alka-Seltzer:
"On my journeys to Franklin County, I set a goal: I was going to spend $20 on a restaurant meal. But although I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu—steak au jus, ‘slippery beef pot pie,’ or whatever—I always failed. I began asking people to direct me to the most expensive places in town. They would send me to Red Lobster or Applebee’s. I’d scan the menu and realize that I’d been beaten once again. I went through great vats of chipped beef and ‘seafood delight’ trying to drop $20. I waded through enough surf-and-turfs and enough creamed corn to last a lifetime. I could not do it."
I could still picture him at a computer terminal, torn between finishing his latest Times lament and watching cats play the piano.

Well, I've stood by this belief against all odds, but there comes a time when one simply has to face facts. Brooks' inability to find a restaurant in which to spend more than $20 is not the result of spending too much time watching piano cat. Even a sheltered Cheetos-eating basement-dweller could find a way to do that. No, I'm sorry to say, the only real explanation is that Brooks is a tissue experiment grown on a meat scaffold who dictates his "columns" based on nothing more than the freshman philosophy problems fed to him daily by William Bennett and the perfluorocarbonated head of Leo Strauss. And here is your proof:
"The key to wisdom in these circumstances is to make the distinction between discrete good and systemic good. When you are in the grip of a big, complex mess, you have the power to do discrete good but probably not systemic good.

When you are the president in a financial crisis, you have the power to pave roads and hire teachers. That will reduce the suffering of real people who would otherwise be jobless. You have the power to streamline regulations and reduce tax burdens. That will induce a bit more hiring and activity. These are real contributions.

But you don’t have the power to transform the whole situation. Your discrete goods might contribute to an overall turnaround, but that turnaround will be beyond your comprehension and control.

Over the past decades, Americans have developed an absurd view of the power of government. Many voters seem to think that government has the power to protect them from the consequences of their sins. Then they get angry and cynical when it turns out that it can’t."
Yes, you have sinned by letting the big banks and billionaires destroy your 401(k)--you know, the only kind of pension the Wall Street boys would let you have after they got done with you back in the '80s--and by losing your home in the floods, and your livestock in the wildfires, and your loved ones in the tornadoes, and your job in the layoffs, you fiddle-playing grasshopper! Now you can just shut up about needing a hand from the gubmint, because you're not a patient; you're a zillion zillion decisions! Now go suck it up under a bridge somewhere, and just be glad we're not Greece.

That's just meat talking.
Play it off, Keyboard Cat.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Same Old Shinola

Ah, shit. Give it a rest, already. Every goddamn day is Find A Leftist To Punch Day at Balloon Juice lately. Even when Firedog Lake has failed to provide some suitable outrage, they can find a way to manufacture one, and the commenters pride themselves on who can behave like the biggest asshole. I'm sure all of this will be vindicated when Obama destroys the opposition with the power of his understatement.