Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why Don't They Like Obama?

Well it's been three years now and approximately half of all voters just can't stand Obama.  Maybe that's a little high, I'm including lots of rational people who just don't like any Democrat or who have specific policy disagreements in mind.  But there is still a huge number of people who 'hate' our 44th president.  And for three years I've been trying to figure out why.

We saw (and still see) racist posters of Obama as a 'witch doctor' at 'Tea Party' rallies during the health care reform debate.  But racism isn't really the issue, I don't believe.  These same tea partiers went gaga over Herman Cain.  There, I guess, we would be looking at Cain as 'the right kind' of black man (accepting of the status quo and pliable in the hands of 'big money') and Obama as the 'wrong kind' (uppity).  So there is an element of racism but it isn't the primary driver of this backlash.

That's actually what it comes down to, I think: backlash.  (With a touch of 'uppity.')  Candidate Obama  ran against the status quo, against the Republican ideology that Reagan first made popular; the idea that if we just take care of the rich , with special exceptions and favorable tax policy, they will take care of us.  How dare he?!  'Hope' and 'Change' were his buzz words; 'Yes We Can' his rallying cry.  I believe John Boehner put into words what many of them thought throughout the campaign and into the Obama presidency: "Hell no you can't!" 

What the hell did he mean, change?  Change what?  Who the hell does he think he is?  How the hell does he figure he has the right to change anything?  (Forgetting, I guess, that he pulled more votes than any U.S. presidential candidate ever.)  So they set out to oppose him at every turn.  Obvious, common sense proposals were ridiculed and denounced, even proposals that had been initially floated by Republicans in the recent past.  An ambitious economic stimulus program aimed at combating the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression was compromised, whittled away at and weakened to the point of near ineffectualness, not so much on ideological grounds but to make sure that it wouldn't work, lest Obama 'succeed.' 

But the biggest thing that they 'hate' is that he inspired so many people.  Young, old, and in between; first time voters and long time abstainers; people who had become quite cynical by our broken political system; all came alive and turned out for the guy who appealed to the 'better angels of our nature.'  Let's work together, he said.  Let's change the way Washington works, and the way elections are done (remember how much money he raised from small-time donors).  Let's stop the 'selfishness is a virtue' dogma, right here and now and put America back on the path to realizing its full potential. 

Why was all of this so bad?  Because, I suggest, that all those 'haters' have lost faith in the American dream.  They have become cynical as a result of thirty years of pursuing Republican policies and thirty years of right wing talk radio and TV, telling them that the reason they're hurting economically is all the free-riders in American society.  Don't look at the correlation between the Reagan tax cuts and the suddenly ballooning federal deficit.  Forget about how the Bush tax cuts took a balanced budget (the first one in decades) and again started running huge deficits.  Don't even think about how a series of 'free trade agreements' and tax code changes caused a massive exodus of manufacturing jobs to foreign countries where the workers are literally paid pennies an hour.  Blame the people at the bottom!  Not the people at the top, the policy makers and tax-cutters.  And, above all, think only of yourself!  Make sure you 'get yours'!  Social Security is a scam!  It'll be gone by the time you want to retire!  Unless you let us 'privatize' it!  And whatever you do, DO NOT TRUST THE GOVERNMENT!  Not even us!  Government is the enemy! 

So Obama's message of 'change,' of collective action to get America moving forward again, is the last thing they want to hear.  They just can't believe that WE fell for it.  So they call him all sorts of nasty names like 'socialist' and 'secret Muslim' and tell us he isn't even a legitimate president, born in Kenya or wherever.  He sure isn't one of us!  Anything to break the spell which he must have us under. 

The really sad thing is if, somehow, Reagan could make one last speech, from beyond the grave, and tell us/them that what we need to do now is to come together and move America forward again they would cheer wildly.  40 million uninsured Americans is an atrocity, Reagan might say (with the benefit of his new viewpoint); we must use our collective power as a free and compassionate people to create a national policy that works for everyone!  Government isn't your enemy, it is YOU, the collective will of the people brought to life.  Let us come together and WIN THE FUTURE!

If only.  ;  )

Sunday, January 22, 2012

One More Try

I really can't decide but I'm going to force myself to predict the winners of the conference championship games.  Here goes.

NFC.  I want to take the Giants, I guess because if the Packers lose to the eventual Super Bowl champions it seems less lame.  But I'm taking the 49ers based on their better balance, home field and the fact that they're probably better suited for rain.  Still, if it turns out the Giants can run the ball and/or stop the Niners running game I think the Giants would win.  Eli should give them the edge at QB.  Both team's defenses look good right now.  49ers, 19-17. 

AFC.  The Ravens tend to be over-rated on Defense.  They're certainly better than the Patriots D, but the Patriots Offense is approximately one light year ahead of the Ravens O.  We'll see.  I'll say Patriots, 27-16.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Well, it's January 14th and the NFL season is nearly over.  What are there, seven games left?  Time for me to make some picks.

Saints at 49ers.

I'm very impressed with the job Jim Harbaugh did with the 49ers, including getting some production out of Alex Smith.  But I think they're over-matched today.  If both teams play their games; the Saints moving the ball smartly down the field and scoring touchdowns, the 49ers holding the ball for a while and either punting it inside the twenty or kicking field goals; then the Saints win.  IF the 49ers can force the Saints to punt many more times than they usually have to, or force several turnovers, they can win.  But my pick is the Saints, something like 31 - 16.

Tonight we have the Broncos at the Patriots.  Tebow vs. Brady.  Need I say much more?  The Broncos could win but they would have to play a nearly perfect game AND hope for some mistakes from the Patriots.  Close for a while but the Patriots gradually pull away.  Maybe a Tebow pick or two in the second half as he is compelled to throw more than once every 6 plays while playing from behind.  Patriots win, 38 - 16.

Tomorrow I'm picking the Texans to upset the Ravens, partly because I've never liked the Ravens.  But I also think the Texans are a better team than the Ravens.  Baltimore has the home field and the experienced quarterback but I've never been impressed with Flacco, especially in January.  If Yates comes through at all the Texans win.  I'll say 20 - 16.

Then, finally, we have the Giants at the Packers.  The Giants' pass rush scares me even more than their new-found running game.  Plus the Packers offensive coordinator buried his 21 year old son on Friday and the Packers have had a distracted week.  Still, sometimes teams rally around adversity.  And Rodgers and Company are the real deal.  If the defense steps up, like I think they will, the Packers should win.  I'll say 34 - 27.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

About Time

I have to confess that I don't know all the nuances of 'Venture Capitalism' or whether or not 'Private Equity Companies' do more harm than good.  But I will say that it appears we are beginning a national discussion which is long overdue, that being the value of selfishness to a free society.   And that, I will say, IS good.

I realize that the line 'Greed Is Good' is from a movie but the question I ask is was that art imitating life or did life subsequently imitate art?  Because that little speech by Gordon Gecko/Michael Douglas perfectly sums up 'free market capitalism.'  Do what is in your own, selfish best interest and America will be better for it. 

But really?  The argument is that without the incentive of personal gain, nobody will give his best effort.  But, here's the problem: nobody disputes that.  The actual other side of the argument is that it is possible to harness the 'profit motive' for the overall good of society.  Not, however, through unrestrained selfishness but with restrained selfishness.  People should pursue their own self interest; they not only have that right but they need to.  It's what keeps us alive.  But if there is to be any benefit to society somebody has to look at the overall effect.
A government of the people, by the people, for the people seeks to govern in a manner that promotes the overall good.  Self-interest is fine but we don't allow people to steal or kill to promote their own interests.  We the people created a government to protect us from people's selfishness and greed.  To establish justice.  To promote the general welfare.  Nobody disagrees with this, right?  Yet when it comes to 'the economy' we believe that 'the government' should get out of the way and let people be as selfish as they desire?

The role of the government then, in the economic realm, is to incentivize profit-seeking behavior that benefits society and disincentivize profit-seeking behavior that debilitates.  They do this through regulation and through tax policy (the two things that Republicans, and some Democrats, have demonized and chopped away at for thirty years now).   Regulations that say, go ahead, pursue self-interest, within this framework.  And a tax structure that says, go ahead, seek profit.  Make profit.  But expect to pay taxes on your income and above a certain point expect to pay more tax on your income.  Or, maybe, defer some of that profit, don't take it as personal income; instead reinvest it in your business, share some with the work force (bonuses: not just for the Chief), avoid that highest tax rate.

If selfishness is really 'good,' then what's with all this allegiance to the flag pledging and national anthem singing?  Shouldn't I pledge allegiance only to myself?

I pledge allegiance,
to myself,
to my own, selfish interest.

And to whatever it takes,
to advance my interests,
there is no 'nation,'
there is no 'God'
and justice, for ME! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Year in Literature

2011 Book List

War In A Time Of Peace: Bush, Clinton and the Generals,
David Halberstam

1968 In America: Music, Politics, Chaos,
Counterculture, and the Shaping of a Generation,
Charles Kaiser

Pro Passer, Clyde Grosscup

Newton and the Culture of Newtonianism
Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs and Margaret C. Jacob

How To Win Friends and Influence People
Dale Carnegie

Throw the Bomb, Clyde Grosscup

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era,
James M. McPherson

The Summer Game, Roger Angell

The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien

The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood,
Jane Leavy

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America,
Rick Perlstein

Before The Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus
Rick Perlstein

I recommend the Perlstein books, especially Nixonland, the Halberstam and the Tim O'Brien.  And the Mickey Mantle bio. 

Oh yeah, the Civil War book, McPherson, is superb.