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Monday, August 13, 2012

William Saletan, hypnotist

Paul Krugman today responds to a particularly inane column by William Saletan, one that I had planned to talk about yesterday but didn't. In this piece, Saletan tries to install Paul Ryan as an official member of the Serious Persons Club:
Ryan is a real fiscal conservative. He isn’t just another Tea-Party ideologue spouting dogma about less government and the magic of free enterprise. He has actually crunched the numbers and laid out long-term budget proposals.
Nope. He really is just another Tea-Party ideologue. As for the alleged number-crunching -- well, here's Jacob Weisberg, as quoted by Krugman:
His plan projects an absurd future, according to the Congressional Budget Office, in which all discretionary spending, now around 12 percent of GDP, shrinks to 3 percent of GDP by 2050. Defense spending alone was 4.7 percent of GDP in 2009. With numbers like that, Ryan is more an anarchist-libertarian than honest conservative.
This is just a fantasy, not a serious policy proposal.

So why does Saletan believe otherwise? Has he crunched the numbers himself? Of course not. What he’s doing – and what the whole Beltway media crowd has done – is to slot Ryan into a role someone is supposed to be playing in their political play, that of the thoughtful, serious conservative wonk. In reality, Ryan is nothing like that; he’s a hard-core conservative, with a voting record as far right as Michelle Bachman’s, who has shown no competence at all on the numbers thing.
I'd say that the situation is even worse. Saletan wants to induce political hypnosis.

I don't know if you've ever seen actual hypnotic induction, but the process takes a lot longer in real life than in the movies. After repeating certain verbal images for an hour or so, the hypnotist can create a false reality. The subject may even be implanted with false memories, which will linger long after the trance has ended.

That's what Saletan is up to. He writes:
Maybe, like me, you were raised in a liberal household. You don’t agree with conservative ideas on social or foreign policy. But this is why God made Republicans: to force a reality check when Democrats overpromise and overspend.
Democrats overspend? Democrats overspend? Did this fool just say that DEMOCRATS overspend?

Snap. Wake up. Break the trance. Cast off your false memories. The next four paragraphs will tell you what actually happened...

1. Ronald Reagan came into office promising fiscal responsibility. He then ran up a national debt exceeding that of all previous presidents combined.

2. George H.W. Bush made the deficit substantially worse.

3. When Bill Clinton left office, the government was in the black and the national dialogue focused on the question of what to do with the surplus. Remember those days?

4. Under George W. Bush, the nation promptly went back into the red. Dick Cheney said: "Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

As the more honest Libertarians will confess, pork spending skyrocketed during the Dubya years -- especially in the red states. Generally speaking, the productive blue states sent in more tax money than they received in goods and services, while the red states (especially in our useless south) were leeches. The Republicans stole from California and New York to feed the ungrateful pigs of Dixie.

The Iraq war -- the great elephant-in-the-living-room of recent history -- cost more than THREE TRILLION DOLLARS, according to the Washington Post.

The true cost of the Wall Street bailouts remains unknown. We do know that the Bush administration committed to propping up banks that could have been purchased outright for much less money. As all readers of Matt Taibbi's Griftopia (just one volume in a small library of works on the great debacle) can tell you, the crisis occurred only because conservatives refused to regulate the scammers who bundled together crap-backed loans and sold them as AAA-rated financial instruments. While Bush's SEC looked the other way, the fat cats and the scamsters paid off the lawmakers to rewrite the rules -- and conservatives snubbed all liberals who proposed ways to fix this culture of legalized graft.

As for the situation today: If ideologues like Ryan would allow tax rates and government employment rates to return to Reagan-era levels, jobs would be plentiful, the deficit would go down (given modest reductions in defense spending), and Medicare and Social Security would keep bubbling along as before.

Yet William Saletan, in defiance of all history and all logic, joins with the voices who chant the mantra "Democrats overspend." Nothing backs this all-too-common misperception except the constant repetition of lies.

If we allow hypnotists like Saletan to recite this induction script, eventually they'll have you thinking you're a chicken.
This isn't about economics, despite the flashy window-dressing by the Villagers. The GOP strategists see Ryan as the next Reagan, the simon-pure hard-core Randriod they've always wanted.

It's all about marketing with these guys. Numbers don't matter; influence with the Village media does. The GOP has been a marketing-driven organization since the Twenties, something the Democrats consistently miss.

The goal since then has been a demographic-frinedly front man for the aristocracy, with Eisenhower and Reagan the most successful examples. The difference between Eisenhower and Reagan is the aristocracy has gotten much more greedy and better at demographic targeting over the years, thus more wide-scale looting of the overall economy. The problem with GWB was the marketing program was derailed by Katrina and the drumbeat of bad news from Iraq, with the Crash of 2008 as the capstone.

A smiling, blue-eyes control-fraud looter disguised as A Very Serious Economist is actually a pretty good play for the Villager crowd. But hardly the first time. GWB, a mean drunk with family issues, was marketed as a devout Christian to the rubes.

It's all about image with these guys. A Very Serious Person trumps a Nobel-prize winning economist any day of the week in the Beltway media.
There was all the egregious bankster stuff you mentioned. Plus the 50 state governors who in 2003 tried to shut down predatory banking practices only to be stopped by Bush. Or the FBI who went to the federal government in 2004 seeking funds to address bank mortgage fraud, warning of serious economic consequences otherwise, who then had their funding cut to meet the needs of 'terrorism'. And the one I liked the best. In Oct 2008 Mr Lynn Turner, former chief accountant of the SEC, gave evidence to the US House Oversight Committee investigating the collapse of insurance giant AIG. He testified that the SEC Office of Risk Management, which had oversight responsibility of all US securities (including swaps, which in AIG's case ran into the tens of trillions!), had been progressively cut by the Bush administration from 146 personnel. By Feb 2008 only one person was left for assessing corporate financial risk management for the entire US securities market! (LINK)
Americans will buy any bull provided its presented by someone who looks nice in a suit.

I strongly advise against underestimating the american publics stupidity. When Ryan is president, will will all be unemployed or working in a fast food joint, and our poverty will be cos we are lazy.

Oh, and Speaker James Wright said in response to Reagan's budget proposals, "Are we all supposed to get rich delivering pizzas to each other?"
It is astonishing that Ryan is described as an intellectual. Apparently having read a book is all that is necessary to be though of as nearing genius. Ryan read Rand, either didn't understand it or did and is so intellectually lazy didn't understand the anti-Christian theme. The notion that selfishness is the ultimate good is so juvenile that most fourteen year olds have figured it out.

Lt. Col. Robert Bowman, PhD, USAF (retired) has said that if the DoD was repurposed to defense of the borders of the USA we could cut its budget by 80%.
It's no stretch to say that the print and broadcast media has the blood of the 911 victims on their hands. A President Gore would have paid attention to the warnings that a terror attack unlike any other was in the works. Now it would seem they are going to do the same by making Paul Ryan out to be a Very Serious Person.
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