Posts Tagged ‘Election’

Nov. 9, 2016

There’s a game that people like to play or scenario they like to imagine–you see it in movies–that somehow they could go back to 1932 in a time machine and stop Hitler.

Americans were just given a time machine. They went back. And they joined Hitler.

The things we do around the world–the business we do, the stocks we buy and sell, the loans we make and take, as well as the alliances we have built and sign up for–have worked according to a vast social pact, and a compromise and an understanding among peoples since the end of World War II. Those pacts were fragile. You shift one of them, you shift a lot of them. You screw up the valuation of one country’s bonds, and other countries’ bonds follow suit. You destroy faith in the Federal Reserve, it makes people lose faith in the currency.

The pacts we have made to make a society are fragile. The agreements we make with people around the world are fragile. The ways we deal with one another are fragile.

In a fit of pique, with everything to lose and very little to gain–and without even horrific conditions under which Germans lived in the 1920s–Americans in their narcissism and in the arrogance decided to tear those pacts and agreements up as if they were tissue paper.

The people who thought they were being heard finally are going to be those hurt most by this. In the immediate future, however, the most vulnerable among us–immigrants, people of color, transgender people–are going to feel personally threatened and insecure. Those immigrants are among the most productive members of our society, by the way. They are among the biggest launchers of start-up businesses. They pay taxes. They contribute to the consumer base. That’s another thing about the social pact we’ve just thrown away. We used superficial prejudices to feel better about not understanding the most profound things about our country, its economy and its culture.

You, the non-elite (for this is how you implicitly brand yourselves), have decided to get even with elites by giving them a tax break. You, the non-elite, have gotten even with the elite by giving them an overwhelming amount of power to ignore you.

And at last, you’ve been rewarded for not being curious: for ignoring history, economics, science. You had an outside force validate your know-nothingism for his own reasons. I understand. It gives you a short shot of self-esteem horribly lacking in your lives.

It will be short-lived. What’s wrong with you is going to continue to be wrong with you tomorrow. And other people will be harmed for no reason other than your wounded pride.

Good luck.

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This guy quoted in the Atlantic supports Bernie Sanders but says he will consider voting for Donald Trump if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination for president.

Let me condense his long, rambling speech for you: “If I do not get my way, I will burn everything down.” Why? Because his career in the arts didn’t take off. This is not the first time I have heard this argument: “Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders is going to make my creative career manifest.”

I myself am an artist, too, dear readers, but I also know one or two things about the economics of art, and the idea of a middle-class or even rich artist is a byproduct of mid-20th century capital formation, not socialism. It was enabled by excess industrial capacity created by a large military industrial complex and cheap gas following WW II and the extra leisure time and spending money enjoyed by a rising bourgeois class. Let’s not forget advances in technology such as recording and film that displaced music publishing houses and theaters that had come before (and do we cry for them?) In much of human history, artists were funded by wealthy patrons or by the church or by selling their art as cheap catch-penny entertainment. Unfortunately, our recent experience has made for a greedy demand among artists that they have a God-given right to money and fans that will validate their choices and identity, even though that whole idea is staked on something the market demand won’t bear.

Sorry it didn’t work out, but it’s your own fault for not having curiosity about a few issues.

I say this as an artist and not a terrible one in my own estimation: If your art doesn’t pay for itself, get a real fucking job until it does. It will enhance your esteem and give you some perspective. When you lack that perspective, the rest of America bears the burden, crossing our fingers that you won’t elect a psychopath out of spite.

Can good countries fund the arts? Of course they can. Up to a certain point. Can they make anybody who wants to be an artist a wealthy artist? No. There is a supply and demand problem. Everybody wants to make art but there are not enough consumers to match all that supply. They only have time for so much entertainment and only so many artists can reasonably make it (for whatever value they bring whether it’s artistic genius or cultural resonance). After the revolution in Nicaragua, everybody wanted to be a poet. You know what the socialist Sandinista government told them? “Pick cotton, please.” Socialism injects a much needed safety net into a mean capitalist system (and the United States is already socialist and has been for a good long time). But the entire idea of our system of capital is that it allocates resources better than centralized planning. Capital gave us freedom to do things that collectivism did not. Like make music in our spare time or even professionally. That’s because we pay people to do things for us that it would be too crushing to have to do ourselves, things that would put us back on farms, selling stuff by a river. You have to be able to eat and wear clothes and find shelter (paid for with capital) before concerning yourself with your Stravinsky-inspired piano piece. Other people need food and clothes before they can hear it.

Bernie Sanders supporters say they have been mocked and scorned. When, exactly, did this mockery and scorn take place? Was Hillary constantly calling Bernie Sanders a “commie” this year? No, she was talking with him substantively up until a few months ago. When it looked like he wouldn’t pull ahead it votes or delegates, the conversation got increasingly stupid. The meaningless phrase “establishment” was used against Clinton next to the other meaningless phrase “corporatist.” Calls went out that the election was rigged. It wasn’t. Bernie Sanders has never had a lead in votes or pledged delegates. Never. To call Hillary Clinton’s election a coronation is to suppress an expression of democracy. It is to be on the fascist side. Geddit?

“Hillary hatred” has been a thing much longer than “Bernie hatred” which means that mockery Sanders supporters feel is largely a product of their imaginations and out-of-control persecution complexes.

LBJ, FDR, JFK, John Maynard Keynes … these were all establishment figures. They all did things that helped our economy and society and they did it in a liberal style and mode. Nobody cares if they were “establishment.” When you call Hillary Clinton the “e” word, you are not impressing anybody that you are engaged in issues as much as that you have low self-esteem and that it’s likely richly deserved. Fact is, Hillary Clinton has done a lot of questionable things (like voting for the Iraq War) but she also has a tremendous amount of accomplishments and a fairly liberal voting record (if you look). If you say she is the same as a Republican–not because you did the due diligence and looked up her record but because you have staked your identity on repeating things you hear from other liberals at picnics and rallies–then unfortunately you are no better than Republicans at barbecues, nodding at their dads as they drunkenly yell “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” You have, in fact, revoked your right to call yourself smarter than rednecks or think of your choices as more reasonable and thought out. You might be just another joiner.

So let me tell you what’s really going on with the kid in the Atlantic piece (and he is a child):

When you are totally impotent; when a changing world baffles you and leaves you feeling helpless; when you haven’t the imagination to think your way out of the mess that false assumptions have led you into, sometimes the only way you can feel a sense of power and facility is by your power to negate and destroy. This is something people on the left and the right can now shake hands on. That and the following idea: “I will not let reason violate my identity.” Kumbaya.


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6 a.m.: Polls open after the five minutes of early voting time in Ohio.

Noon: Lines form around the block in areas hit by Hurricane Sandy and wherever skin happens to be black.

8 p.m. Rep. Todd Akin loses to Claire McCaskill in Missouri, which goes to show, if you bring up the sensitive topic of rape, make sure you know which kind of rape you’re talking about, the good kind or the bad kind.

11 p.m. Fox News pundits say that Obama must take a conciliatory tone with his enemies. The first thing to do would be to compromise with birthers, however that might work out.

11:01 Donald Trump reacts to the news of Obama’s victory with what appears to be Twitter’s first recorded mid-Tweet aneurism or else a garden variety shit hemorrhage.

11 p.m. Miami Dade is tired and wants to go to bed, and doesn’t want to count anymore. Florida already knows what you think about it and its election problems and so has nothing to prove to you and you can wait for months to find out who won in Florida for all Florida cares.

12:30 a.m. Fox News pundits say that America has shown, by electing Barack Obama, that they want politicians to reach across the aisle. Like when Chris Christie hugged Obama after Hurricane Sandy. But actually, Christie is toast for doing that.

1:00 a.m. Romney concedes the race. Fox News says it’s too close to call.

1:04 a.m. We learn that Ann Romney encouraged Mitt to run in this brutalizing, expensive race. Naturally she’s trying to get even with him for making her whelp all those Mormon babies.

1:06 a.m. Ed Rollins says that Bill Clinton left office in disgrace. He’s not sure what for. Was that the Iran Contra thing? Twelve years was a long time ago.

1:41 a.m. Barack Obama, in his victory speech, vows to help the nation’s unemployed, starting with millions of dollars of bailouts to the interests of people like Mitt Romney.

1:50 a.m. Barack Obama has to seize the moment in his victory speech and lay out an agenda and vision for the next four years. But he will likely be spending that time explaining that he is not an immigrant, antichrist, communist, Muslim, zombie, sith lord or clone.

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First of all, I want to apologize for not posting more about Hurricane Sandy. My family was spared the blackouts, flooding and buffeting winds suffered by my fellow New Yorkers in Lower Manhattan, and I didn’t know what I could add by talking about how my bourgeois life was only marginally disrupted. (We had no daycare for a few days, and since we were sufficiently gridded, my wife and I had to take up the slack of our work colleagues without electricity.) I have pictures of downed trees on the Upper East Side, but the havoc wreaked on other places such as the New Jersey Shore and the Rockaways make my tiny slice of hell seem far too miniscule.

It occurred to me lately that I could still be of help by linking people to the various volunteer organizations. I probably esteemed my blog too little to think I could help, but I realize every link inspires somebody.

I gave socks, blankets and water to this organization: https://www.wepay.com/donations/in-good-company-hospitality-relief-fund. You can also give through Occupy Sandy. (https://www.wepay.com/donations/occupy-sandy-cleanup-volunteers). Here is another Occupy Sandy page where you can donate or volunteer to help those whose lives have been upended by the storm, whose houses were mauled and who are still going without heat and water as the temperature drops.

The other thing I’m thinking about today, of course, is the election. I was hoping that we were not going to have a close race. That was not simply because I am arrogant about my candidate’s superiority, but because America has remained polarized. When the political center dissolves, it removes an important counterbalance to rigid ideology and partisanship for its own sake, to partisans acting according to the rules of game theory (when they believe everything their side tells them and reject the other side, even when the other side says things that are manifestly true).

There are a lot of last-minute articles hitting the Web that can make you sick if you’re a Barack Obama supporter: in the key state of Ohio, a Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, has made a last-minute change in the voting rules for provisional ballots that could disenfranchise likely Obama voters and maybe even swing this swing state, this after already shortening early voting hours to make sure that the poll sites were crowded, uncomfortable and foreboding. He’s also installed mysterious new software patches for voting tabulation machines very late in the race.

Meanwhile, a story about the once-distressed auto parts maker Delphi Automotive by Greg Palast in The Nation suggests that Mitt Romney was likely reaping millions off the auto bailout (through a key distressed debt investment) at the same time he criticized the rescue, making cold-hearted comments to the Republican faithful that HE would have let Detroit die without help–rot for its sins of bad management and union hegemony.

All of which Republicans might respond to with a blithe: “So what?” Who cares if Ohio wants to make it tougher for footloose voters and penalize them for their own ballot goofs (even if that particular strategy runs contrary to Ohio law). Isn’t voter fraud a real concern? Aren’t we talking about a bunch of “homeless illiterate winos”? (My friend’s phrase.) But given that some reports say some 40,000 provisional ballots were tossed out in Ohio in 2008, I’d say that’s a lot of winos, even for Ohio, and if it’s true, the state is long overdue for its own Burning Man festival.

They might even say, “So what” to the news about Romney’s investment. After all, doesn’t it prove he’s still a nimble businessman? Mitt made all the money. But it was Barack Obama who gave it away. If Obama is so great why did he not make sure Delphi wouldn’t send jobs to China, gut pensions and basically enrich the vultures who took it over. …

And while we’re at it, they ask, why am I touting Barack Obama in the first place, a man who has kept intact the most loathsome aspects of George Bush’s foreign policy, including a beefed up droning program that can now target American citizens, and foreign civilians, including women and children? How could I support this man? Don’t I have a child?

And they would be right to ask. In many ways, Barack Obama has let me down. But I’m also old enough to know that that’s part of a politician’s job. I have to shrug and insist that Barack Obama’s droning program is not actually targeted at civilians, but at people actually planning bombings and issuing hits on Americans from safe within the bosom of factious countries like Pakistan. I find the outcome loathsome, but not the intent. And Mitt Romney would not change this. In fact, I am sure that Romney, as a foreign policy neophyte, would come under the sway of the same neocons who gave us the Iraq War and make Iran his main issue.

The political process has never been about making infantile demands that a candidate go out and get you what you want. It’s about asking that your views are represented and, when the candidate is narrowed to a choice of two from 300 million, it’s then up to you, the voter to do some work: reconcile your own beliefs, some of which are likely unrealistic and extreme, to those of the body politic. The world can’t be the way you idealize it. If it could be, and you could dictate its terms constantly, you would turn into Adolph Hitler more quickly than you realize, even if you started out as a hippie Rousseauian. Remember what Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips said: “You cannot know yourself and what you’d really do with all your power.” It’s important to politics, ethics and the world that you, voter, not get everything you want.

Some of my liberal friends take solace in what Barack Obama has done. He got a famously difficult health care law passed that removed health insurers’ ability to turn away those with pre-existing conditions. He helped save the auto industry. He finally took care of Osama bin Laden, picking up a massive political obligation abandoned by his feckless predecessor. He also went against the tide of loony right and left to save the financial services industry. Sure, it gave ammunition to all naysayers that he made the rich richer with your tax money and rewarded risky Wall Street behavior with your cash. This is true. It’s also true, as far as it goes, to say John Lennon was a criminal, because if you are given to insanely insular, black and white thinking, that’s a true statement. What Michael Moore, Glenn Beck, Mitt Romney and nobody else will say out loud, because it’s uncool, is that a failed banking system would have plunged our country into a nightmare of depression, privation, mass unemployment and crime. This is not an opinion. It is fact. The economic meltdown was a systemic failure where risk was passed around and shared promiscuously by everybody, and the malaise, had it not been stopped, would have ravaged all parts of the body the way septic shock works in a human body, shutting down organs one by one. This chaos would have disproportionately ravaged the poor, not the rich. The Occupy Wall Street Cassandras want to know why Wall Street didn’t suffer in the recession. As I’ve said before, they ignore the fact that there used to be bank called Lehman Brothers that was allowed to die by George Bush and company because of that very same idealism the downtown lefties claim as their own: The bankers must fail. Yet  Lehman’s collapse alone caused much of the panic in the markets, the collapse of stock prices, the wiping out of value, and the eventual decimation of jobs.

By March of 2009, the stock market had bounced back and the recession eventually ended. That left unemployment to tackle. Again, there is something that nobody in the press will say, and the candidates won’t try to articulate, maybe because it sounds too clinical or patronizing. But employment is a lagging indicator. I’ll say that again, because nobody understands it. In the process that is recovery, freight orders pick up first. Small companies take the lead before larger ones do. Companies clean house to boost their stock prices, laying everyone off. When they boost share price, they spend capital first on technology, and when orders come back, they start looking for staff again. For the past 30 years, they have sent much of this staffing need overseas at first. They have a global labor force to choose from now that is much cheaper than the U.S. worker because for years this labor force was locked behind logistical barriers and iron curtains. When things pick up, jobs in America come back online.

This process has become slower in the last 30 years as more work goes overseas. And guess what: There is nothing a Barack Obama or a Mitt Romney can do about it–except hire more government employees, which there is no political will for. When Barack Obama’s enemies gripe that he can’t blame George Bush for his problems anymore, you need give only one answer: “Yes he can, because our high unemployment is still the result of somebody else’s recession and its lagging indicator unemployment. Again, that is not opinion. It is fact. For Barack Obama to make a dent directly would have been to do the thing nobody would let him do: expand government. A lot.

Then there is the other complaint. He should have cut taxes. I’ll stop with that argument here, because he did. What he didn’t cut he kept insanely low. None of you noticed and didn’t read. You don’t deserve any more time on this subject.

I guess when I pull the lever for Obama, it will not be as much for the man this time as I’m voting for the closest thing we have to rationality. I do not believe Mitt Romney is as uninformed, unsophisticated, or irrational as a lot of Republicans. I do not think, if he becomes president-elect tonight, that we’ll have on our hands somebody quite as embarrassing or incompetent as George Bush and Sarah Palin. I believe, though, that he has, whether he likes it or not, become the standard bearer for the worst of American thinking. Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama is going to stop droning. Neither one is going to send anybody in the Wall Street scandal to jail. But the bad ideas and intentions still accrue to Romney’s side of the fence. The idea that Clinton era tax rates are now the devious plot of a socialist “anti-Colonialist,” the idea that global warming reports are a liberal plot, the idea that the only acceptable big government is an overbuilt military, the idea that schizophrenics must have guns to protect everybody’s Second Amendment rights, the idea that rapists must be allowed to see their sperm fructify a victim’s egg, the idea that cheap gasoline is somehow a natural right of Americans, the idea that higher taxes harm the rich at all–this is all garbage thinking that has to be cleaned out almost daily by the process of confrontation, dialectic and due diligence. People who think are constantly bombarded by those who have faith. I’m talking about faith of all sorts, whether it’s that there is a sky god watching over you personally or that a democracy is a self-cleaning oven and that a free market solves every problem by itself. These faiths are always carrion to proof and reason, but the faithful smile knowing that their faith, a priori faith, will never ever have to prove itself. It is both subject and predicate of a meaningless sentence.

If I concede that presidents actually do very little–that they rarely push buttons and that policies then pop out like Pop-Tarts, if I notice instead that they try to ride waves of idealism or discontent through the force of their charisma and personalities, then I feel pretty safe with this statement: Mitt Romney is a horrible presidential candidate. He’s thoughtless in his statements, tone deaf. He doesn’t know when to pick his battles. He doesn’t know the difference between sang froid and heartlessness, at least not when it comes to speaking to a large audience. He doesn’t know when to appear statesmanlike and when to pick a fight. All politicians lie. When Mitt Romney does it, somehow it seems even more opportunistic, crass, dirty and ham-fisted. He may or may not be a man of religious conviction, but one tends to notice not the trail of missionaries he’s left in his wake but all the people he’s fired. He brags about it, after all.

So I will, with a bit of a grudge, be voting for Barack Obama again. In tough times, when the arguments are stupid and miss the point, again, it’s nice to have a competent politician around.

Update: I did vote today, but it took a long time. The lines were full of voters from the areas ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. I also noticed that my election district had changed, which meant I wasted 20 minutes or so in the wrong line. If you are in doubt about where you are voting in New York, you can check out this site.

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We’ve heard all the complaints about the current state of Washington: a new president has broken his promises and pursued a far left agenda, reneged on promises to get us out of Guantanamo, continued to employ Bush-era policies on surveillance and signing statements. Conservatives say he has quadrupled the deficit spending and forced an unpopular health care bill down the throats of American taxpayers, one that will force Americans to buy health insurance, a mandate that might possibly infringe their Constitutional rights. He has had the government take control of vast parts of our auto and banking industries. At the same time he and the progressive caucus in Washington are steering us toward tax increases at the worst possible time–when we are still suffering the withering effects of a recession and crippling unemployment that continues to hover around 10%.

Americans, angry about the state of the economy, their unemployed neighbors and perceived loss of freedoms, are very susceptible to these arguments and have taken the only course they know–they’ve lashed out and tilted right, vowing not only to vote in Republicans, but those approved by the libertarian-minded Tea Party.

Americans, in other words, are about to shoot themselves in the face.

I’m sorry, that doesn’t seem strong enough. What other aphoristic or pithy phrases could I use to get people’s attention? What if I said Americans are going to shoot their children in the faces? Or kill their own dogs? Or disembowel their family members?

It seems hard to choose the right violent imagery to describe how Americans are about to get it so entirely wrong on November 2–when they send to Congress people who loudly cried for a new Great Depression. Who rail against unemployment insurance when 10% of America is unemployed. Who scream against federal tax increases that haven’t actually happened.  America is about to elect people whose biggest argument is that unemployment is still 10%, therefore we should have elected a government that did nothing to help save the economy in the first place. President Bush shouldn’t have kept banks solvent with a bailout (you do remember it was Bush who did that, right?) and President Obama shouldn’t have injected stimulus into the economy. The Tea Party argument? We should have let the economy crash and burn and unemployment go to 26% or 30%.

Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

We are about to punish Barack Obama for saving the economy from a new Great Depression. It’s as  simple as that. We are about to thump the Democrats for keeping the car industry and several venerable financial institutions from imploding. We are about to body check a Democratic Congress for their part in making sure 95% of Americans have health insurance by the end of the decade. We are going to head butt Nancy Pelosi for making sure health insurance companies can’t turn away children for pre-existing conditions. We’re going to sucker punch Barack Obama for dragging the last combat battalions out of Iraq. We’re going to rabbit punch Congress for giving the middle class a tax cut (and even offering to extend it). We’re going to bitch  slap Barney Frank for trying to police Wall Street, to stop the promiscuous mixing of bank deposits and speculative investments and stop excessive risk taking by banks  that helped lead to the financial crisis. It was this free-market biases, deregulated, Wild West Wall Street that in 2008 led to people to lose their savings, their hedge funds and their faith in the meaningless pieces of paper that are the foundation of capitalism. We have short memories in America. We have decided Barack Obama is now responsible for all of that.

Shooting. Ourselves. In the face.

And what are we going to trade all this all in for? A group of people with no real agenda other than to hate government spending — at least if it is not spent on them. People who say the market takes care of itself. People whose only stated virtue is their anger. People who at worst make schizophrenic connections between Joseph Stalin and Nancy Pelosi and who at best are actively calling for the conditions that led us to financial ruin in the first place. Mainstream Republican leaders complain about the skyrocketing U.S. deficit on the one hand but refuse because of rigid ideology to do the one thing all economists agree would need to be done to balance the budget: control spending, yes, but also increase taxes, especially on the top 2% of the wealthiest Americans. The Tea Party is worse. They show little agenda but vanity and petulant conviction in categorically untrue things. They think cap and trade is a redistribution scheme. They think illegal Mexican immigrants are destroying the middle class. They think Medicare is a private company. They show no policy imagination but instead flaunt their ignorance as if that, like their anger, were somehow a virtue. These are not people who have not ever learned or cared about how policy affects real people like your grandparents and your poor neighbors but instead have learned only to smugly curl their lip and deride people who spent their lives in public service (whether it be Democrats or Republicans). It’s the kind of knowing smile you often see on people who know nothing at all–a popular gambit with teenagers who haven’t done their homework. We laughed at “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” when Jeff Spiccoli “cruised” history. Now Sarah Palin is the one cruising history. She’s gotten a free pass for knowing nothing. She makes dummies feel secretly wise.

These are the people you are about to entrust your economy to. Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

The problem with electing people who have no respect for government and no real policy agenda is that when they get elected, they are incredibly weak and susceptible to the new accouterments of their power. They will find themselves agreeing with more aggressive people who do have strong policy agendas. Lobbyists. Think tanks. The insurance industry. The military industrial complex. News Corp. And make no mistake–the real agenda of many alpha Republicans is a gutted government at home (one that pays, it seems, for nothing but Medicare) and an expanded empire abroad. Were Republicans to take power today in both Congress and the White House, they would not only ignore the ailing economy (since they believe it’s government’s job to do nothing), but they would try to get you to ignore it too by refocusing your attention on Iran, which would once again take center stage in our national discourse. A Congress of weak-minded Tea Party hacks would suddenly shed their “leave me alone” philosophy, which is not their real philosophy at all, and go along with the nationalistic, sloganeering patriotism that characterized the Bush era. Need proof? They already did. The Tea Party already failed the libertarian test by showing up late for the real executive power grab–and dressed for the wrong party.

This is perhaps the biggest danger of what we’re about to do. One of the biggest reasons that America is about to shoot … itself … in the face.

Often when you hear people on the far right complain about the government, they will tell you in a nice, clear, concise and short epigrammatic prose all you need to know about the economy: you have to cut taxes, deregulate and get out of the way. This is an article of faith for people who don’t realize how complicated economies really are. Macroeconomics is not the type of thing that easily gives itself over to the platitudes of the left wing or the right. The fact is that the economy, like your father, is more complicated than that. Ask almost anybody, even Republicans, what ended the Great Depression and they’ll say the Second World War, but they won’t work through the logic–government spending saved the economy. Ask them why Ronald Reagan was a great president and they’ll say he helped save the economy by cutting taxes and deregulating. They won’t talk about his huge military buildup–in other words, how government spending helped save the economy.

Meanwhile, overseas, another government has shown that throwing a trillion bucks in stimulus into your economy can make a great difference: the Chinese government has thrown about as much money into its sagging economy in the last two years as America has. Unlike we Americans, however, the Chinese forced their banks to lend. Of course, they suffered some overheating speculation in property, but their GDP has run circles around ours. In part this is because China is going online with its own major consumer demand–a huge engine of growth as the country urbanizes. But without a doubt, government stimulus saved it from plunging into the morass. Unlike Americans, the Chinese have no strange and self-defeating bias against a government helping its people against the depredations of capitalism gone out of control.

Tea Partiers do. They are so wedded to their beliefs, in fact, that they would let the economy fall apart and our society plunge into Malthusian chaos before they gave up on these beliefs. You don’t need proof for this belief. They have said it out loud. The Republicans poised to take over in the House of Representatives, not Tea Partiers, by the way, have said that if they takes over in the next session, they won’t be able to work with the president unless the president concedes that government spending doesn’t help the economy. In other words, Barack Obama will have to believe in the Easter Bunny if he wants Republicans to work with him.

Our banks should have been allowed to fail, say Tea Partiers, and the consequences be damned, even if it’s the average American who would have suffered the most. Theirs is a millenarian philosophy, a law of the jungle. “Creative destruction” means that if capitalism eats itself and mass unemployment results, so be it. Has any member of the Tea Party talked about what it would take to bring jobs back other than cutting taxes? Do you honestly think the real problem is that taxes weren’t cut enough? They were already at historic lows, as were interest rates, and that’s when rampant, crippling, stupid risk taking took place at almost every level of the economy, from subprime home borrowers to hedge fund managers. Look at the balance sheets of American companies and look at the record amount of cash they are sitting on, in an environment where taxes continue to be low, and then ask yourself if you can still be wedded to your obnoxious faith in economic libertarianism. It’s a bit like starving your baby by not giving up your belief in veganism. The reason unemployment is still high is that American companies find spoiled Americans with their luxury goods and their iPhones too expensive to hire. It has nothing to do with anything Barack Obama has done.

And yet it’s people who are crying about high taxes that you are about to hand your economy to. People who don’t even know their taxes haven’t increased. Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

Of course, it’s important to ask when government should be involved in the economy and when it should back off. Instead, the discussion has been hijacked by free market fundamentalists who make up in vitriol they lack in real economic insight. Centrists, Blue Dog democrats and even reasonable conservatives are afraid of these people. For some reason, when nobody seems to know what to do, we are always impressed by the people who have the most conviction of spleen.

You can definitely criticize Obama’s deference to these people. Deference to enemies somehow only gets the blood of your enemies up even more. I can’t think of any president in recent years so hot to cooperate with the party across the aisle and who for that quickly got Hitler mustaches painted on his effigy.

For that we’re going to hand at least one house of  Congress back to the Republicans next week. Some are even talking about impeaching the president. For what? Starting an illegal war? Codifying water boarding? No, just for being, in their minds, a communist.

You can dislike the state of the nation. You can be unhappy, from either side of the aisle, with what Barack Obama has done or hasn’t done. But if can’t vote for him, then it’s important to know this Election Day that there is definitely somebody you should be voting against: extremists. The Tea Party is a dangerous movement of crackpots, at worst racist and at best willing to destroy the middle class and wreck the economy because of a reductionist, idea fixe. If there is a group of reasonable Republicans who want to discuss how misplaced liberal good intentions hurt the middle class, I’ll be happy to listen to them. But that is not who we are about to elect. We’re about to elect the people of Jonestown. Cultists. Crazies.

Shooting. Yourself. In the face.

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