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Archive for September 17th, 2010

Dinesh and Newt, Cup and Can

There’s an old slang phrase, “cup and can,” which means “best of friends.” As in, “My friend Snooki and I are cup and can.” “Frick and Frack.” It’s a tidy metaphor. A friend is one who offers fuel for another, like the can fuels the cup.

I thought of it not only because I just bought an awesome new slang book but also, I can think of no better image to describe Newt Gingrich and really bad “academic” right wing writer Dinesh D’Souza, two thinkers thick as thieves–accent on the “thick.” One wrote a grouchy, inarticulate and easily ignorable right-wing diatribe (like many of his other stupid diatribes, which in the past have suggested African American slaves had it pretty good). Newt, who ought to have known better, got a belly full of it. Between this article and his recent recantation of his belief in the First Amendment because of the Park 51 Muslim center, he is fueled and full and off to the races, and has now proudly cast his lot with the racists in his party. That’s almost a textbook definition of the right wing these days: a place that makes a safe bosom for racist behavior.

I almost hate to bring attention to this awful piece of writing, but how can you ignore it when it made the cover of Forbes? When people with good names start offer apotheosis to such horrible idiots, it provokes the rest of the media to comment. Yahoo and Slate had to follow with blistering put downs, so why shouldn’t I? Basically Newt reiterated the obscenely stupid message that Barack Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial intellectual framework,” has been taken directly from his estranged father, and that the link has been revealed by the genius D’Souza. If this sounds like an empty piece of pseudo-intellectual bullshit to you, then I ask you to reconsider. It actually reveals scads, not in its content per se, but in what Gingrich thinks of Republicans. They seem to be so stupid, they will enjoy the bouquet of ugly racial overtone, the taste of academic-sounding jargon, and the finish of Freudian cliche. Barack Obama, who gave money to banks to stop a meltdown, and who shepherds the world’s biggest economy, is still in his heart an African like his father trying to uproot the Belgians from Congo.

The Slate article mainly attacks D’Souza’s past attempts at passing off agitprop as academic research, and is a great read. I will stick to the crazy money stuff here.

From D’Souza’s article:

“The President continues to push for stimulus even though hundreds of billions of dollars in such funds seem to have done little. The unemployment rate when Obama took office in January 2009 was 7.7%; now it is 9.5%.”

Let’s get this straight. Obama is taken to task for spending money on hundreds of dollars in stimulus that have done nothing because unemployment is still high. In fact, the stimulus has raised unemployment.

So my first question: How did this person get an article in a business magazine? A little bit of fact checking will tell you why high unemployment has nothing to do with the success or failure of the stimulus–no, you can lay the blame squarely on the feet of American companies, flush with cash, that are still not hiring you or your Uncle Ernie. Instead, they are hoarding their money and delaying new hires to keep their costs down. This means overworking the remaining laborers (your tired Uncle Ned) and otherwise keeping their earnings per share high and their stock prices burnished so that overseas investors will wade back over.

Obama may in fact be in part to blame, but it’s not because of the stimulus, which most analysts agree saved us from a new Great Depression. No, he’s to blame because the stimulus bills didn’t force banks at gunpoint to lend and didn’t force companies at gunpoint to hire. He trusted capitalism to work, it seems. Doesn’t sound like the kind of guy mostly consumed with trying to get France out of Algeria.

For those of you still not in the know: The unemployment rate is indeed higher, but that has nothing to do with the stimulus and everything to do with the fact that the rebound in employment always lags the rebounding market, sometimes by a year, sometimes longer. It’s part of the healing process of an economy, and yes, Uncle Ernie, it sucks. Jobs come back last. Everybody who’s ever spent one semester in B-school knows this, but for some reason it’s too difficult to relate this to the American people. Everybody thinks they won’t understand. Newt and Dinesh know they won’t. Dear conservatives: You’re being mocked.

If you haven’t been paying attention for the last two years, then we should refresh your memory. The unemployment came after a market crash. The market crash was caused by our largest banks going insolvent after buying bad real estate debt. This is not something a president fixes in two days. And to the extent he fixes it at all, he would be doing it with this same stimulus money that gives Dinesh such a soft-off.

The unemployment rate was lower when Obama took office because the recession was still young. Companies were just starting to lay off. Again, not proof of Obama’s leadership problems. They were going to go up no matter what he did. Why unemployment has remained high for so long after the crash is something that confuses economists, but it’s been getting greater with every recession since George H.W. Bush was in office and it has everything to do with globalization, not failed stimulus. When the jobs come back online, they go to cheaper labor overseas.

So onto the next piece of shit somewhat disingenuous argument. From Dinesh:

“Yet [Obama] wants to spend even more and is determined to foist the entire bill on Americans making $250,000 a year or more. The rich, Obama insists, aren’t paying their “fair share.” This by itself seems odd given that the top 1% of Americans pay 40% of all federal income taxes; the next 9% of income earners pay another 30%. So the top 10% pays 70% of the taxes; the bottom 40% pays close to nothing. This does indeed seem unfair–to the rich.”

I’ve said it elsewhere and don’t want to sound like a bore, but Obama is not foisting a spending spree on anybody.¬†Taxes are going up to pay for two Republican wars and a prescription drug benefit. The Congressional Budget Office has said repeatedly that if the Bush tax cuts, which never should have been passed in the first place, were allowed to continue, then our deficit would climb up to 90% of GDP over the next 10 years. This is a plea by people in the know who run our budget, not the evil plan of an anti-Colonial crypto-Kenyan black guy who wants the Italians out of Ethiopia.

D’Souza also says that the top 1% of Americans pay 40% of federal income taxes and 10% of Americans pay 70% of federal taxes, which is unfair to the rich. Let’s do some math: In 2005, if you were lucky enough to be among the top 300,000 Americans, you made 440 times what the average person in the bottom half of the income universe did (see my story “Bye Bye Beaver,” down below for more on this) and you all collectively took in as much as the bottom 150 million Americans combined. The average income of the top 1% in 2005 was $1.1 million, while the median household in the U.S. has stayed around just over $50,000. If you were in the top 1%, in 2007 you took more than 20 cents of every dollar earned in America, while the rest of us divided up the dregs. Also, if you are in the top 10%, you were among the only people to see your earnings increase.

So if you are paying only 40% of federal income taxes, part of this is by default: You have earned the right to pay it by making so much god damned money. In fact, seems like you’re doing pretty well.

I’m on a tear about the math. But let’s be clear–Newt, a major contender for president, has just forwarded racist samizdat worthy of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and passed it off as a critical historical review. To say that a president who is deliberative, maybe to a fault, is actually still a Luo tribesman in his heart, full of black rage, is just as bad as calling him an uppity Negro. The fact that this story hit the pages just as two completely bat shit crazy Tea Party candidates made waves with their primary victories in the East Coast should give us all pause. The Tea Party is a platform with lots of anger and without many ideas. Actually, if your platform is just “liberty!” then that’s a pretty explicit way of saying you have no platform at all. They talk about taking back America. Too much of that rhetoric uses subtle forms of racism like this horrible article. Pseudo-academic histories like D’Souza’s actually further prove how intellectually bankrupt conservatives have become. We’re a long way from Reagan.

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