Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

My response to Run’s and Barkley Rosser’s analogies to the 1980 election

Run’s post here discusses and elaborates on a comment by Barkley Rosser in the Comments thread to this post of mine.  I posted the following reply to Barkley’s comment, and reposted that comment as a comment to Run’s post:

Barkley, I certainly share your fear that Trump actually could pull this off, but I don’t think your analogy to Carter-Reagan works.  Key here is the generational change.  Reagan had been a two-term governor of California, and although even back in 1980 I had only a pretty general idea of what he’d done as governor, I read a detailed article recently discussing his actions during the Free Speech Movement (that’s what it was called, right?) at Berkeley.  It was pretty aggressive, rough stuff.

I don’t think I realized back in 1980—or at least I don’t remember doing so—that apparently a part of Reagan’s appeal to blue-collar whites and I guess to some WWII and Korean War generation, and Silent Generation voters was an anti-counterculture persona, which still mattered, a lot, in 1980.

After all, the Vietnam War had ended only six years earlier.  And the Cold War was still very much raging.

What I remember about the 1980 election was a dog-whistle racist appeal to blue-collar whites, coupled with inflation that seemingly could not be brought under control and for what unions (along with the oil cartel) was given substantial blame.  The unions would incorporate anticipated high inflation into their three-year wage contracts, providing part of the inflation spiral—so Reagan’s anti-union schtik didn’t have the normal effect on union members.

But more than anything else, there was the Iran hostage situation—which, it later was reported, continued past the election because Reagan somehow quietly was able to communicate with Iran’s powers-that-be that they should hold out until after the election and that Reagan, as president, would negotiate better terms with them.  (Like Nixon’s secret plan to end the war!!)

The reason that the “There you go again” line was so effective was that a key thing that Carter had going for him was something similar to a key thing that Johnson had going for him against Goldwater: a real fear that he could start a nuclear confrontation or actual war.   So “There you go again” was a promise that he was not Goldwater on the issue of confrontation with the Soviet Union, and would instead use other means against it.  It was, in other words, a promise that Reagan would avoid nuclear war, not precipitate it.  And although Reagan, like Trump, was a pathological liar, he was not so obvious a one.

Nor did Reagan gyrate wildly between opposite policy positions, nor come off as clueless about policy and the workings of government, nor seem care about policy.  To the contrary, Reagan was all about ideology and therefore policy proposals.

So while it’s not inconceivable that Trump could beat Hillary Clinton, I guess the bottom line on that is:  I knew Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was no friend of mine.  And, Donald Trump, you’re no Ronald Reagan.  Nor is today’s electorate the 1980 electorate.

As for the possibility of a Clinton indictment, I think it’s virtually nil.  But if something major happens before the Convention, then as long as Sanders manages to keep Clinton from clinching with pledged delegates, I think that there would be a consensus draft of Warren or (possibly but less likely, in my opinion) Biden, now that the story was published that he would ask Warren to be his running mate.

One thing that I think matters in whether Trump can get a sizable vote among blue-collar workers in Rust Belt states—I don’t know how his vote total compares with Clinton’s in those states, but remember: Kasich beat Trump in Ohio—is that Build the Wall doesn’t have even nearly the same appeal to Rust Belt blue-collar workers as it does to Southern and Southwestern older and middle-aged white voters.

Another is the critical allegiance of blue-collar Rust Belt voters to the idea of unionization.  Suffice it to say that few blue collar workers in the Rust Belt these days fear an inflationary spiral caused by generous union-negotiated contracts, as, I noted above, was the case in 1980.

Nor do most blue-collar Rust Belters worry that a raise in the federal minimum wage would cause them to lose their Walmart or fast-food jobs because of competition from Chinese or Indian or Vietnamese workers.  Most Walmart and fast-food customers in the Rust Belt don’t commute to Asia to shop or dine.  Not often, anyway.

And as for Michiganders, I can attest that fear of Muslims living in their midst is no widespread.  Southeast Michigan has the largest population of Middle Eastern immigrants and descendants in this country, and make up a large percentage of small-business owners in the area.  Only once did I hear a derogatory comment about—as this man put it to me—“AY-rabs”, from a Michigander.  Only once.

Clinton makes a mistake if she opts to focus mainly on Trump’s misogyny, racism, xenophobia, meanness, vulgarity, physically aggressive language.  Everyone already knows these things.  She needs to focus, in addition to her own policy proposals, on two things about Trump: that he is openly demonstrating that he will be a tool of the Club for Growth and Ayn Ryan, and that this is especially so because he has no ability to understand actual policy; that because he is a pathological liar, and prides himself on it, they cannot ever actually rely on any promise he makes, any more than they could rely on a promise by a typical four-year-old.

I don’t think there can be any real doubt that Trump suffers from severe, untreated mental illness—severe bipolar disease or non-hallucinatory schizophrenia, is my guess, but I’m certainly no expert in the field.  But I think Clinton should expect that that is something that most voters will see for themselves by November; they will not need her to tell them this.

Not that Clinton normally refrains from telling people the obvious or the already-widely known, a point I made in a recent post here, but ….

She needs to educate the public about what the Ayn Ryan policy agenda is.  I mean, the actual specifics of it.  Not in her usual singsong soundbite cliché manner, which is likely to be as effective in informing the public as her rotating string of vapid campaign slogans (“Breaking down barriers!” is the current one, I think, although that might be out-of-date) has been in generating excitement.

No, actual specifics, enunciated in normal conversational sentences.  Nothing cutesy, no sleights of hand, no non sequiturs, no seminar-speak like “the energy sector,” a phrase she used when campaigning in West Virginia because she confused her audience (many of them former energy-sector workers) with members of the finance sector.  Just the facts, Ma’am.  And just in normal-speak.

She needs, in other words, to give herself–and us–some breathing room.

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John Boehner Lists Our Presidential Thieves–And Ronald Reagan Is Among Them!

“The revenue issue is now closed,” Mr. Boehner said Thursday, before the House left town for the weekend without acting on the cuts and a Senate attempt to avert them died. Mr. Boehner said the dispute with Democrats amounted to a question of “how much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government.”

“I’m for no more,” he said.

Boehner Halts Talks on Cuts, and House G.O.P. Cheers, Ashley Parker, New York Times, today

So Ronald Reagan was a thief.  Who knew?  

And so, it’s now clear, was every president beginning with Abraham Lincoln. Until George W. Bush, that is.  Teddy Roosevelt? Yup. Calvin Coolidge? Uh-huh. Harry Truman? I guess that’s what they meant by “hell” that he was giving ’em. They each stole from the American people via income taxes to fund the federal government. 

But since FDR was the one who initiated the stealing to pay for such specifics as Social Security, the Tennessee Valley Authority and other New Deal programs, we’ll start with him.  He also stole–a lot–from American people to pay for WWII.  

Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter perpetuated this theft. Big time.  Of course, Nixon, who assured the country that he was not a crook, did turn out to be one after all, so in retrospect, his theft from the American people was just in character.  And we knew all along that Dwight Eisenhower was the perpetrator of the theft from Americans that established a Soviet-style interstate highway system–or so Florida Rep. John Mica, the last Congress’s chairman of the House Transportation Committee, would describe the socialist ownership of the interstate highways. (That is the way he described Amtrak. And he wasn’t talking about its slowness and disrepair.)*

That controversial statue of Eisenhower that’s planned for D.C. should be scratched, not because of its design, which his ancestors dislike, but because of his criminality.

LBJ, of course, stole a lot of money from American people in order to fund the Vietnam War, a theft that this country did pay a very high price for, although not in a lengthy prison sentence after indictment and conviction for grand larceny.  But if that weren’t bad enough–from a criminal-law standpoint, that is–he also stole lots of money to fund the student-loan program that helped so many baby boomers go to college and graduate school.  Some of them–the ones who became hedge fund managers, anyway–would now be in imminent danger of becoming crime victims themselves, rather than the beneficiaries of thefts past, but John  Boehner has infiltrated the den of thieves and had has called the FBI, which, luckily, still has some agents working full-time schedules, despite the sequester.

And we won’t even get into George H.W. Bush, who, as we all know, lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton partly because he had firmly and repeatedly promised during his first campaign to not steal more from the American people than was already being stolen, only to turn around and rob the American people blind. Luckily, he son was available eight years later to provide restitution, although his Department of Justice never did indict his father.  

And, speaking of Bill Clinton–well, they didn’t call him Slick Willie for nothing, did they?

But Reagan? Reagan?  Et tu?  Yup. I keep forgetting that tax rates were much higher during Reagan’s time as president then they are now, and that after lowering tax rates, he raised some.  He’s dead now, so he can’t be indicted.  And anyway, I think the statute of limitations has run. Which is too bad.

But Bill Clinton is very much alive, and active.  And since Obama seems unwilling to rebut Boehner’s and other Republicans’ intended inferential misrepresentation that Obama’s and the congressional Democrats’ tax-increase proposals, now and the ones enacted as part of the “fiscal cliff” resolution in early January, would tax Americans other than Americans who are quite wealthy, or who have income from capital gains or dividends and who still pay taxes for that income at lower rates than during the Reagan or the Clinton era, or who are corporate Americans.  

The Republicans expect that they will get a majority of Americans to believe falsely that the Dems are proposing to raise their taxes.  If Obama remains mute instead of correcting this misrepresentation, Clinton should step in and do that.  He should hang the taxes-as-stealing statement around John Boehner’s neck, and then tighten the noose by answering the question Boehner posed: How much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government?  He then should answer the questions, from which American people, and for what? And he should be specific.

But he also should ask this: Since when is it theft of Americans to institute tax increases that a majority of Americans who voted in the recent election actually specifically voted for? And he should point out that what Boehner really thinks the crime is is that public prefers that the federal government continue to fund Medicare and other social safety-net programs, as well as myriad other services, agencies and perks of being an American; the National Institutes of Health, the National Parks Service, FEMA, and the EPA come quickly to mind, but of course there are many others.

As criminality goes, the aggressive attempts to undermine the very nature of democratic government, through an unremitting series of stunts and use of bizarre language and concerted campaigns of disinformation, strike me as more serious ones than the theft of wealthy Americans through tax increases that would remain substantially lower than they were during most of the 20th Century.  

But, by all means, Speaker Boehner, bring on the theft language, again and again.  Keep it up, all the way through the 2014 midterm elections. Please. But if you don’t feel like it, hopefully the Dem congressional candidates will pick up the slack and help you out with that, in their TV and Internet commercials.  

It should help them steal some elections.

*Parenthetical added after initial posting.

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Romney Says Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton Did Not Believe In Free People and Free Enterprise

Romney didn’t apologize for [his] comments, instead he doubled down, saying that his opponent, President Barack Obama, believes in “redistributing wealth,” while “we believe in free people and free enterprise.”

Democrats “believe you have to take from some and give to others. I don’t believe in that,” he said, repeating the same theme.

“I believe America was built on the principle of government caring for those in need but getting out of the way and allowing free people to pursue their dreams,” Romney said. “Free people pursing free enterprises is the only way we’ll create a strong and growing middle class and the only way we’ll help people out of poverty.”

— Mitt Romney, speaking to Neil Cavuto on Fox News today

Yup. That’s right. Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton didn’t believe in free people and free enterprise. All presided over redistribution-of-wealth schemes of the sort that Romney warns against. 

Which is why George Romney made so little money in the ‘50s and ‘60s and why America’s economy and American society were so awful all those decades after we abandoned freedom of people and free enterprise after 1929, until George W. Bush restored some of our freedom and our free-enterprise system—but not enough of it.  No wonder George Romney left the auto industry for government.  He wanted to make some money!

We need to end this redistribution-of-wealth thing completely!  Forever! I don’t see why we have to tax people like Mitt Romney at all. Why does Romney want to reduce their taxes just 20% further?  I demand an answer! Free people pursing free enterprises is the only way we’ll create a strong and growing middle class.  Which is why we weren’t able to do that between the 1920s and the 2000s!
Poor Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and others so hampered by our non-free-enterprise system during the decades preceding 2001, toiling under Communist rule and longing for freedom and a non-redistributive economic system.


Seriously, folks.  If Obama doesn’t remove this straw man from this economic-history savant’s arsenal of parading apparitions by the end of the day tomorrow, I’ll be really frustrated.

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