Tuesday, July 07, 2015

As Radical As Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson

It was entirely predictable that Politico has joined the chorus of voices, some of them emanating from the Hillary Clinton camp, denigrating Bernie Sanders.  Ben Shreckinger and Jonathan Topaz set the tone as they write

Democratic primaries have always featured liberal insurgent candidates, but perhaps none quite so liberal or insurgent as the socialist senator from Vermont. Sanders’ comments are a reminder of just how far the second-place Democratic presidential candidate stands from the American mainstream on some issues, and the looming reckoning Democrats face.

They're concerned that

many of his most important positions today fall well outside the traditional parameters that have bounded American political discourse in recent decades. He wants to raise the marginal tax rate for top earners to more than 50 percent — which would be the highest rate in 30 years and is more than 10 points higher than Barack Obama proposed as a candidate in 2007. He says he would replace the Affordable Care Act — perhaps Obama’s signature accomplishment in office and a prized victory for Democrats — with a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system, a position that was too liberal for Dean when he was governor of Vermont. (Sanders’ standard Obamacare line is to quickly laud its “modest gains” but quickly say it isn’t enough.)

Inform Politico: the last few decades have not been all sweetness and light for the American middle class. In 2013, The New York Times' Steven Greenhouse wrote

Wages have fallen to a record low as a share of America’s gross domestic product. Until 1975, wages nearly always accounted for more than 50 percent of the nation’s G.D.P., but last year wages fell to a record low of 43.5 percent. Since 2001, when the wage share was 49 percent, there has been a steep slide.

“We went almost a century where the labor share was pretty stable and we shared prosperity,” says Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard. “What we’re seeing now is very disquieting.” For the great bulk of workers, labor’s shrinking share is even worse than the statistics show, when one considers that a sizable — and growing — chunk of overall wages goes to the top 1 percent: senior corporate executives, Wall Street professionals, Hollywood stars, pop singers and professional athletes. The share of wages going to the top 1 percent climbed to 12.9 percent in 2010, from 7.3 percent in 1979.

Greenhouse attempted to be fair and balanced, noting "Some economists say it is wrong to look at just wages because other aspects of employee compensation, notably health care costs, have risen."


overall employee compensation — including health and retirement benefits — has also slipped badly, falling to its lowest share of national income in more than 50 years while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share over that time....

From 1973 to 2011, worker productivity grew 80 percent, while median hourly compensation, after inflation, grew by just one-eighth that amount, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. And since 2000, productivity has risen 23 percent while real hourly pay has essentially stagnated.

It is true that Sanders wants to raise the rate on highest earners (chart below from National Taxpayers Union) to its lowest level in 30 years. Although  in 1981 it was 70%  before President Reagan embarked on his program to degrade, humiliate, and impoverish American workers, by 1987 it was down to 38.5%.  But it had been even higher in the early 1960s which, as Business Insider's Henry Blodget has noted, "was one of the most successful eras in US economic history. The middle class boomed, the economy boomed, and the stock market boomed. And all with the top marginal income tax rate over 90%."

Once that era ended

In 2003, the top bracket dropped to 35%. The deficit reappeared--and then soared. And, interestingly, we saw a repeat of the 1920s: An unsustainable economic boom that ultimately collapsed, followed by a massive recession and huge deficits. And soaring inequality, which still plagues us today.

Bernie Sanders is "well outside the traditional parameters," Politico argues of the man who has observed "If the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity, it would be more than $16 per hour today. "  Fun fact, according to Mother Jones (its chart, below): "if the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000."

Bernie Sanders doesn't "fall well outside the traditional mainstream on many issues."  Viewed from an historical perspective, it is the American political system which falls outside the traditional mainstream on economic issues, the issues dear to the Vermont senator. If Sanders falls well outside the traditional mainstream on many issues, there is something wrong with the mainstream... and its media.

next up: and as for that healthcare legacy....

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Monday, July 06, 2015

Neglecting To Tell God Whom To Bless

Uh, oh. President Obama has gone and done it again- or as Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft put it, "more and more of who the man is, and what he truly stands for, is beginning to seep out."   (This is supposed to be bad.)

President Obama's weekly, Saturday morning, radio address (video below) was coincidentally delivered on Independence Day and included only 18 sentences in eight paragraphs, two of which were

We remember as well that this is the day when, 239 years ago, our founding patriots declared our independence, proclaiming that all of us are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

A couple of centuries later, we have made ourselves into a big, bold, dynamic, and diverse country. We are of all races, we come from all places, we practice all faiths, and believe in all sorts of different ideas. But our allegiance to this declaration – this idea – is the creed that binds us together. It’s what, out of many, makes us one.

The address was released, Hoft noted, "with one key ingredient missing: God."   The Washington Examiner observed "Twitter users also criticized Obama for the omission. One person, for example, called the president a 'Godless little man' and wondered if anyone was truly surprised by the omission." In an apparent effort to be even-handed, The Blaze found the speech was

One that left God out.

Obama ended it like so: “Thanks, everybody. From my family to yours, have a safe and happy Fourth of July.”

In fact, Obama didn’t mention “God” once in his address — though some might give him points for “Creator.”

Thus implied is the similarity to the Declaration of Independence's ringing assertion "we find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator...."

A funny thing, however: it appears those men created equal did not include men (or women) of the black variety, inasmuch as the best evidence has it that 41 of the 57, or 72%, of the signers of the Declaration owned slaves.

The Founding Fathers were not partial to a commingling of church and state.  Further, the evidence that the Founding Fathers were stout believers in the Divinity is mixed, although not so with one of the signers, for John Adams stated

And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.

He didn't quite buy the Jesus story, the one detailed in the same book that argues for God. Adams claimed also

It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet the one is not three, and the three are not one: to divide mankind by a single letter into [“consubstantialists and like-substantialists”]. But this constitutes the craft, the power and the profit of the priests. Sweep away their gossamer fabrics of factitious religion, and they would catch no more flies. We should all then, like the quakers, live without an order of priests, moralise for ourselves, follow the oracle of conscience, and say nothing about what no man can understand, nor therefore believe; for I suppose belief to be the assent of the mind to an intelligible proposition.

That was a little wordy, admittedly, and directed at the Son; but of the Father, Adams contended “God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there will never be any liberal science in the world.”

And that was Christianity in general. Of Roman Catholicism in particular, Adams was less charitable. Washington's emphasis was "liberty of conscience," tolerance and good citizenship. Madison's concern was a strict separation of church and state, as was that of Samuel Adams, who believed "persecution is not an original factor in any religon, but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law."    Thomas Jefferson chimed in with “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”   He was particularly contemptuous of the concept of the Trinity and proclaimed "Christianity neither is, nor was, a part of the common law."

President Obama referred to the "4th of July," the occasion for beer, baseball, and barbecues, rather than Independence Day, that which has been traditionally celebrated. Conservatives, however, didn't notice that. Barack Obama did not give God a directive, in that he failed to say "And God bless the United States of America." How un-American!

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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Maureen Dowd, Still Creeping Around

If not for the reference to "cyberbullying," you would think this was a column from fourteen-plus years ago.  Maureen Dowd, who against all logic and journalistic sense still is employed by The New York Times, writes

The turquoise tranquillity of the Côtes d’Azur was rocked a couple of times during the Cannes Lions Festival, the advertising world’s rosé-soaked answer to the Cannes Film Festival.

Al Gore snubbed Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky, who was giving a speech for Ogilvy & Mather about how she became “patient zero” in the cyberbullying epidemic, was slated to sit in a V.I.P. box with the former vice president, who got an award for being a good brand.

But her invite got yanked.

The contretemps was a reminder that Gore’s prissy attitude toward l’affaire Monica helped cost him the election, because he was so angry at Bill Clinton that he leashed the Big Dog, curtailing the president’s campaigning, even in the South. If Al had been less eager to put baby in a corner, there would have been no phony action on Iraq and plenty of action on melting glaciers.

Steve M. quotes this and more from the piece, in which Dowd targeted primarily the Clintons.  In the course of taking Dowd apart for her treatment of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, SM observes

All this leads me to ask: Why is Maureen Dowd still at The New York Times? Why hasn't she joined the likes of Dick Morris and Judy Miller and become the regular Fox contributor she's obviously qualified to be?

Her fixation on the Lewinsky scandal would make her perfectly at home in Wingnuttia, where old scandals are endlessly rehashed and grievances are nurtured for decades. What's more, Dowd's specific focus on the moment when Team Clinton tried to tarnish Lewinsky's reputation is strikingly similar to the right's obsession with the relatively brief timespan when Hillary Clinton's State Department downplayed the true nature of the Benghazi attack. In both cases, it just doesn't matter. The truth about Benghazi became obvious very quickly in the fall of 2012, and was soon acknowledged by the administration. In early 1998, the public wasn't fooled by Bill Clinton's denial of an affair, and didn't care -- a CBS poll taken within weeks of the Lewinsky revelations, in February 1998, showed that nearly three in four respondents thought Clinton was hiding something, and yet he had a 66% job approval rating. Seventeen years after the fact, Dowd is still fixated on a coverup, that didn't work.

But at least Bill Clinton got to the White House, and Hillary Clinton to Secretary of State. Although he outpolled George W. Bush nationally and in Florida,  Al Gore wasn't as lucky.  In October, 2007, Vanity Fair's Eugenia Peretz reviewed the 2000 presidential campaign and noted early in the campaign

Maureen Dowd boiled the choice between Gore and Bush down to that between the "pious smarty-pants" and the "amiable idler," and made it perfectly clear which of the presidential candidates had a better chance of getting a date. "Al Gore is desperate to get chicks," she said in her column. "Married chicks. Single chicks. Old chicks. Young chicks. If he doesn't stop turning off women, he'll never be president."

"I bet he is in a room somewhere right now playing Barry White CDs and struggling to get mellow," she wrote in another.

Meanwhile, though Dowd certainly questioned Bush's intellect in some columns, she seemed to be charmed by him—one of the "bad boys," "rascals," and a "rapscallion." She shared with the world a charged moment between them. "'You're so much more mature now,' I remarked to the Texas Governor. 'So are you,' he replied saucily." And in another column: "You don't often get to see a Presidential candidate bloom right before your eyes."

Gore's habit of talking issues didn't go down well with the media establishment, such as

for the environment, while Gore was persuaded by his consultants not to talk about it as much as he would have liked, whenever he did, many in the media ignored it or treated it as comedy. Dowd wrote in one column that "Al Gore is so feminized and diversified and ecologically correct, he's practically lactating." In another, referring to his consideration of putting a Webcam in the Oval Office, she wrote, "I have zero desire to see President Gore round the clock, putting comely interns to sleep with charts and lectures on gaseous reduction."

Gore remained relatively unflappable and

The notion that he was prickly or unpleasant to reporters doesn't jibe with what Tipper witnessed. From her viewpoint, he remained gracious with the reporters—even at an event during the campaign, when Maureen Dowd sidled up in the middle of a conversation he was having with two other reporters. "He stood up and got her a chair and said, 'Please, join us.'" After Dowd had written about him "lactating," he agreed to an interview with her, answering questions about his favorite this, his favorite that. According to his staffers, she was a fact of life that would have to be endured.

Joining in were other members of the media, such as the New York Times' Katharine Seelye, Time's Margaret Carlson, Newsday's Elaine Povitch, MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Brian Williams, Newsweek's Howard Fineman, and especially, The Washington Post's Ceci Connolly.  But most of those have moved on, and The New York Times- from which Dowd still opines in her uniquely snarky manner- still is remarkably influential.  As Steve M. puts it, "Give it up, MoDo. Go over to the dark side. We're sick of you here;" or to paraphrase Gore from 1992 (from Steve Liss for Time, below), it's time for her to go.

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