Saturday, August 15, 2015

Today's Daily Double: Eags & KrugerrandMan

Within a week, the NY Fishwrap ran columns by KrugerrandMan (Paul Krugman) and Eags (Timothy Egan) that grabbed this blogger. Both provided some excellent snark and well as well-chosen neologisms: Krugman's Reaganolatry (the worship of St. Dutch) and Egan's Junk Politics (akin to Junk Science, Junk Mail, Junk Food, and Computer Junkware). Worship of a B-movie actor pretending to be POTUS 40 is Junk Politics at its lowest level.If this is (fair & balanced) shibboleth-smashing, so be it.
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[1] Eags Equates Junk Politics & Junk Food (Timothy Egan)
[2] KrugerrandMan Plumbs The Depths Of Reaganolatry (Paul Krugman)

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The Junk Politics Of 2015
By Eags (Timothy Egan)

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When you eat a bowl of Simply Granola in the morning, you may think you’re making a healthy start to the day, courtesy of Quaker Oats. But you’re taking in the amount of sugar in almost four Oreo cookies.

When you listen to the politicians who want to lead the United States through the treacherous early 21st century, you may think you’re doing your job as a citizen of this clamorous and vulgar democracy of ours. You’re not. You’re getting a sugar high. It feels good. It won’t last. And ultimately, it’ll make you sick.

I’ve been trying to eat healthy, metaphorically, for the month of August. But it’s been a bust. There’s just too much bad stuff to binge on. We have a pending deal with Iran that could imperil Israel, or make the Mideast safer for a decade. We have an approaching visit of a transitional pope. We have a fledgling health care plan that’s given coverage to 15 million Americans who never had any — and one party wants to take it away. And we’re muddling through the hottest year on record, so far, surpassing the last warmest one, 2014.

And yet, what are the leaders-in-waiting talking about? Roll the highlight reel of our junk politics, starting with the also-rans:

At least one Republican wants to sic the Internal Revenue Service on his political enemies. So promised Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, in a remarkable statement overlooked at the kids’ table debate last week. “I guarantee you under President Jindal, January 2017, the Department of Justice and the I.R.S. and everybody else we can send from the federal government will be going into Planned Parenthood.”

Other Republicans think we should be living in a theocracy. “It’s time we recognize the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being,” said Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, testing the latest version of his church-lady demagogy. He wants to ignore the high court on both gay marriage and abortion — breaking the law while waving his Bible.

Huckabee would also use the force of government to intervene with any woman seeking an abortion, claiming a constitutional right, the 14th and 5th Amendments, to protect a zygote. When he mentioned this Brave New World idea in the debate, no one challenged him. Instead, other candidates were equally extreme, refusing to make abortion exceptions even when the life of a woman is at stake. This is junk women’s health care, driven by religious fanaticism.

More empty calories: Scott Walker, the governor whose foreign policy experience is limited to breakfast at the old International House of Pancakes, threatens to start at least two wars upon taking office. He promises to use military action if necessary to coax Iran into doing what he wants it to do. He also wants to pick a fight with Russia, sending weapons to Ukraine and erecting a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Walker’s home state of Wisconsin ranks 35th in private sector job creation. But New Jersey is worse, suffering nine credit downgrades and ranking near the bottom in job growth. Even the governor of the state, Chris Christie, would not rise to Jersey’s defense after fellow candidates described Atlantic City as something akin to Baghdad on a hangover.

Those governors want to apply their ruinous models to the rest of the country. In the same vein, a failed former chief executive officer, Carly Fiorina, having fired 30,000 employees and driven her company’s stock price into the ground, feels more qualified than ever to be president. She’s never held elective office and rarely voted while living in California. A junk comeback.

Which gets us to Donald Trump, who boasts of four company bankruptcies, and paying people to come to his wedding. He is “a very smart person” and will be “phenomenal to the women” just like “the blacks.” It’s hard for women to attack him, he says, “because I’m so good-looking.”

Normal politics can’t explain Trump. For that you need Freud. Trump fits the classic definition of narcissistic personality disorder, as Marc C. Johnson, an astute observer of American politics, noted in a recent blog post. Everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth is junk, but at least it fits a pattern.

Finally, to the Democrats. A 73-year-old socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is getting lots of attention because Hillary Clinton’s email story is boring, by Clinton scandal standards. When a noisy intruder, an African-American, jumped to the podium and refused to let Sanders speak, it was widely interpreted as a big problem for the candidate and race relations.

Wrong. The censor with the mouth was, it turns out, a self-described “extremist Christian,” from a family that once backed Sarah Palin. Some members of Black Lives Matter distanced themselves from her.

How did this stunt become a thing among the national press corps? Junk media. Sadly, the sugar high goes two ways. Ω

[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]

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Roots Of Reaganolatry
By KrugerrandMan (Paul Krugman)

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Noah Smith suggests that Reagan worship reflects a misunderstanding of how the economy works — that those who idolize Reagan believe in the Green Lantern theory of presidential power, that presidents can make stuff happen, in the economy and elsewhere, though sheer force of will.

But the truth is that the cult of Reagan is much stranger and more disreputable than that. For the fact is that Reagan’s objective achievements weren’t all that great.

In terms of the economy, his record is trumped by Bill Clinton’s on every front: GDP growth, job creation, family incomes. For that matter, as Bill McBride points out, the average monthly rate of private-sector job creation under Jimmy Carter was faster than the average rate under Reagan. Carter just had the bad luck to preside over a recession at the end of his term, while Reagan’s was at the beginning.

We might also note that Reagan’s attempt to change the nature of the US welfare state was, in the light of history, a failure. Remember, he once crusaded against Medicare as a program that would destroy freedom; he came into office with the intention of dismantling Social Security. But he left with both programs intact (thanks, in part, to a big increase in payroll taxes during his time in office) — and now we have a more or less universal health insurance system.

So right-wing Reagan-worship requires a heavy dose of historical ignorance. But that’s not the only weird thing about the way today’s Republicans pledge their devotion to his legacy: Remember, Reagan was elected 35 years ago. That’s a long time: the election of 1980 is as distant from us now as the election of 1944 was when he was running. The America of Reagan’s triumph was in many ways another country — a country of still-powerful unions and bad coffee, with no internet or cell phones, in which a plurality of voters disapproved of interracial marriage. It’s quite remarkable that the right can’t find any more contemporary role models.

But Reagan has become an icon that never fades. Republicans will probably still be invoking his legacy in 2036, when Democrats will have nominated their first android — and Republicans will have nominated another white male. Ω

[Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed Page and will retire from Princeton University in June 2015, and become a professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a distinguished scholar at the Graduate Center's Luxembourg Income Study Center. Krugman received his B.A. from Yale University in 1974 and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1977. He has taught at Yale, MIT and Stanford. At MIT he became the Ford International Professor of Economics. Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes. In 1991, the American Economic Association awarded him its John Bates Clark medal, a prize given every two years to "that economist under forty who is adjudged to have made a significant contribution to economic knowledge." On October 12, 2008, Krugman won the Nobel Prize in Economics. Krugman's most recent book is End This Depression Now! (2012).]

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