Thursday, July 28, 2011

Centrism, Shmentrism!

Let me say it squarely: the Republicans are behaving shamelessly. They haven't given a damn about deficits for many years (Dick Cheney, 2004: "You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter"), plus many wouldn't mind wrecking the economy if it might harm Obama's reelection chances (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." And remember Republicans openly gloating at Chicago's failure to secure the Olympics?).

So, there. I'm off the fence on this issue. But I am still, generally, an independent, a centrist, a....well, according to Paul Krugman, a cult member. And he has a point. What the hell; I'll paste in his entire piece
"Watching our system deal with the debt ceiling crisis — a wholly self-inflicted crisis, which may nonetheless have disastrous consequences — it’s increasingly obvious that what we’re looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.

And no, I don’t mean the fanaticism of the right. Well, OK, that too. But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.

No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship."

It reminds me of the press we used to get. Chowhound was the most extreme case of a sincere labor-of-love public service do-gooder big wet maraschino cherry kumbaya kiss. If Pollyanna had a web site, Chowhound would have been it: nice people encouraging nice people to share tips about yummy yum-yums, with no ads or commercialism. It was a sugar sandwich on sugar bread frosted with sugar and eaten off a sugar plate.

Reporters loved the site - what's not to love? - and effusively praised it to me, privately. But then they'd write these reserved, tight-assed if they didn't want to appear uncool. And their signature move was to strain for gratuitous dirt to serve as counterbalance.

They'd approach our competitors for "the other side of the story", which they'd gleefully supply. And a handful of jealous food writers - former friends of mine - enjoyed an ongoing trickle of national publicity by supplying catty remarks on cue. None of their tropes were legitimate, it was all bullshit. At one point, I actually considered creating a document to send to reporters listing bona fide negatives about me and the site, so they could have their blessed balance without circulating untruths.

That said, I still always recognized that reporters are not supposed to take a stand - or even appear to. If Jesus came back to hand out lollipops, they'd need to find disgruntled diabetic atheists to cluck their tongues. And that's as it should be...usually. We don't want journalists supplying just one side of the story. Talk radio is no worthy model. And, as a result, there's a brisk trade in concocted dissent re: all matters under the sun. A trumped-up yang for every worthy yin.

But as with Chowhound, there aren't two legitimate sides to this particular story. When one party holds the fiscal well-being of the nation ransom to advance their reactionary agenda, that's not conflicting philosophies. That's not partisanship out of control. That's not two breeds of ineffectual bums. No, that's unpatriotic self-serving assholes amply deserving rebuke.

And I'm well aware - as I'm sure you are - that this is mere opportunism, and that of course the freaking debt ceiling will be raised (for six months, anyway; the goal clearly being to entrench this opportunism as a periodic lever). But not before the business climate, hair-trigger sensitive about future interest rates, is chilled, markets tumble, and our rock-like world-leading fiscal steadfastness - America's premier asset - is irreparably eroded by the widespread horror at this cynical game of "chicken"

Talk about being on the wrong side of history! A century from now, historians will recall this action as the baldest villainy.

So, there, Paul Krugman, I've said it!


alyce said...

It's "The March of Folly." Barbara Tuchman wrote a book about it --- the historical recurrence of governments pursuing policies evidently contrary to their own interests, bringing on their own self-demise. Focuses on Troy, the Renaissance Popes provoking Protestantism, the British losing their American colonies, etc etc.

I wish I hadn't read the book (twice) because I know how this ends.


Jim Leff said...

Thanks for the tip. Hadn't heard of it. Awesome Amazon reviews, too. I'll read it.....

Anonymous said...

Interesting column by EJ Dione in today's WaPo:

arguing that there is a big difference between Moderation and Centrism, moderates having principles, centrists having none. Read it and you may see that by his definition, you may be a moderate, but not a centrist.

Jojo the Hun said...

How do you imagine people who are concerned about runaway debt and fed up with being lied to by those in power are acting these days?

Raise the debt limit with the understanding that we will continue spending uncontrollably and accumulating debt--that sounds like the crazy side of the story to myself and large numbers of other people.

Jim Leff said...

Raising the debt ceiling doesnt facilitate new spending. It just pays for the spending already authorized by congress.

If congress is truly concerned with spending, it needs to approve less of it (much of it is military, which Republicans love to cut), not welch on previously agreed upon obligations.

But it's not about spending less. It's political showboating. Republicans love spending on military, corporate welfare, and the rich. Democrats love spending on social programs and entitlements. But the only presidential admins in last 30 years that were the least bit interested in deficits were Dems. They are the most fiscally restrained of our two very unrestrained parties.

Obama applied stimulus urged by economists of all stripes that was actually begun under Bush (bailout, too). No sign he's actually a spendthrift. Don't believe everything Rush tells you!

Jojo the Hun said...

Without necessarily agreeing with the truth or relevance of anything you're saying (e.g. who cares what congress is concerned about?--it's the people they are supposed to represent who matter), how does anything you've just said, down to the condescending sendoff, distinguish you from a firmly partisan Democrat?

You seem to be trying to cash in a stack of credibility chips on this particular issue, and I'm wondering why.

Jim Leff said...

I wasn't aware I had "credibility chips"! I express my thoughts here on a wide range of topics. I can't imagine most readers even caring about most topics, so there's still less expectation of being agreed with. Agreement isn't an aim. Attracting readers isn't even an aim. I just hope that those who do choose to read along find what I have to say interesting.

As for the concerns of the American people, sheesh, that's easy. They want this debt ceiling cloud resolved ASAP, and they're enraged at its use as a cudgel - regardless of what's being cudgelled for. We're in a recession and this chills business. And it's already irreparably harmed our nation's primary asset: our rock-like world-leading fiscal steadfastness. Believing in smaller government is a fine thing. Harming the economy to shrink government is not. And while there's room for argument, I don't believe my sentiment is the outlying one on this. This was a catastophic political move for Republicans - even more so than Gingrich's 1995 government shutdown threat.

And if any of this sounds like what leftists are saying, fine by me. They happen to be right! I march to a different drummer most of the time, but I'm not so contrarian or obtuse that I never agree with one side or another!

And I was just being winkingly flip with the Limbaugh remark, didn't mean it as caustic or dismissive. Sorry if it sounded that way!

Jojo the Hun said...

Of course you have chips. I've read many of your posts, and I saw you with stacks of chips, more chips than the Keebler elves. Then you chose this particular issue to cash them in and claim that, while on all the other issues in the history of humankind there are at least two "sides", on THIS one there is only ONE side. The shameless Republicans, servants of the rich, are intentionally, gleefully even, plunging us into economic ruin, and anything they say is not to be listened to as it is just part of their political showboating; the only crisis is their intransigence on raising the debt limit, not the actual situation that begs it to be raised.

I could go point by point on your comments, if you think it would be interesting to hear more about what the other side, nonexistent as it may be, thinks about all this.

Jim Leff said...

I'm still not really grokking the "chips" concept. And much less so a "credibility" angle. We have differing views on this. Nothing wrong with that. I don't feel betrayed by your differing opinion, so no need to feel so re: mine!

As for going point by point, please, be my guest! I'll read with an open mind. However, your chief complaint seems to be that you find my opinion boilerplate-ish. So fwiw I probably won't debate back, because anything I'd say would likely be just more of what you've heard before and prefer not to hear from me.

Peter Hoh said...

How do you imagine people who are concerned about runaway debt and fed up with being lied to by those in power are acting these days?

Just wondering where they were when Medicare, Part D was being rammed through Congress on the basis of false numbers, and where they were when we were being sold this idea that the invasion of Iraq would pay for itself and be over in a matter of months.

Jojo the Hun said...

Peter, wondering where they were? Same place that the vast majority of anti-war protestors are today: holding their noses and standing by their man.

Their concerns are still legitimate, and shared by many.

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