The easy narrative vs. the complex reality of America's financial issues, in short

(via Wil Wheaton) In his NY Times blog, Paul Krugman writes:

OK, joking aside, this is important. Republicans have invented a history in which it has been fiscal irresponsibility all along — and far too many centrists have bought into the premise. The reality is that we had low debt and no fiscal problem before Reagan; then an unprecedented surge in peacetime, non-depression deficits under Reagan/Bush; then a major improvement under Clinton; then a squandering of the Clinton surplus via tax cuts and unfunded wars of choice under Bush. And yes, a surge in debt once the Great Recession hit, but that’s exactly when you should be running deficits.

The point about the fake history that expunges the Clinton years is that it turns the budget into a story in which nobody is at fault because everyone is at fault, and the problem is a generic issue of runaway spending. No, it isn’t; we would have come into this crisis with very little debt if the GOP hadn’t always insisted on tax cuts.

The Fiscal Cliff

The Washington Post has written about the serious political and economic risk that's coming on January 1st of next year if the American government doesn't do something about it -- their article is called Recession imminent if 'fiscal cliff' on tax hikes, budget cuts not averted, CBO says.  I love the Washington Post's headlines.  They're so rarely insane and hyperbolic. Meanwhile, the rest of the media is calling it Taxmageddon.

In its report Wednesday, the CBO warned that the nation would be plunged into a significant recession during the first half of next year if Congress fails to avert nearly $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts set to hit in January.

The massive round of New Year’s belt-tightening — known as the “fiscal cliff” or “Taxmageddon” — would disrupt recent economic progress, push the unemployment rateback up to 9.1 percent by the end of 2013 and produce economic conditions “that will probably be considered a recession,” the nonpartisan CBO said.

This issue was brought up in the comments of this blog, a couple weeks ago.  Commenter 12Centuries responded to my post, Barack Obama's Tax Calculator:

Well this is actually not true. It’s propaganda from a campaign site, and people assume there will be zero bias? The analysis is ignoring many factors. On January 1, (called Taxmageddon in the media, google it) taxes are scheduled to go up for 114 million middle class families by an average of $1,600 when a number of tax cuts expire.

A typical middle class family of four would see its taxes rise by $2,200 on those factors alone.

In addition, EVERY one of the existing income tax brackets will be ratcheted up, starting with the lowest 10% bracket, which will be hiked to 15%. The 25% bracket will jump to 28%; the 28% bracket will go to 31%; the 33% bracket will be replaced by a 36% bracket and the 35% bracket will soar to 39.6%.

On top of all that, the tax calculator on Obama’s website doesn’t take into account a single drop of the new healthcare taxes, as the administration doesn’t consider them to be taxes, although the Supreme Court does, and you’ll still have to pay for them on your tax return.

THAT is accurate. Don’t believe the hype.

Now, that commenter was wrong.  It's not hype or propaganda for a tax calculator which compares two tax plans to present the results based on the assumption that those tax plans are instituted.  She or he did, however, correctly point out that the media is calling it Taxmageddon, and that it will be very bad if it happens.

Personally, I think the responsible thing for the Obama administration to do is to let it happen -- unless Congress is willing to let them pass a sane tax policy.  The economic policies that the Republican party treat as dogma have been proven, for decades, to not work.  It's better for the American people to suffer the short-term problem of their refusal to create a sane spending plan than to cave to their demands, and institute policies that would help sustain the long-term decline of America as a country of significance.

Mainstream Republican views [TW: rape]

Tyler Oakley reblogged a post from Tumblr user AGV notes, titled Top 5 Quotes About Rape from Republican Men:

These are the best (worst) GOP rape quotes I could find - but message me if you have more. Let’s hold these people accountable.

1. Todd Akin: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down” - mid 2012 Senate Campaign

2. Claytie Williams: “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it” - mid 1990 Gubernatorial race in Texas 

3.  Chuck Winder: “I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.” - March 2012

4.  Ken Buck: “A jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer’s remorse … It appears to me … you invited him over… the appearance is of consent.” -October 2010

5. Rick Santorum: “I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you… rape victims should make the best of a bad situation.” - January, 2012


These aren't fringe nutjobs, they're people with a lot of popular support.  Three of those quotes are from this year.  There are a lot of people in this country who seriously support this party over the other leading party.

Even if these are considered fringe views by a lot of Republicans -- even if these quotes lead a lot of voters to think, "That's a little over the line, but it's not a dealbreaker."  It's still terrifying.  These quotes are so far away from okay that if you think they're just over the line, you're too far gone.

These quotes represent such a massive detachment from reality, compassion and empathy that it's absolutely clear that these people are not fit to govern.  It's not okay for politicians to be this far off on this.  Like it's not okay if a science teacher denounces germ theory, or like it's not okay for the police to deal cocaine.

It's not just stupid.  These aren't just bad people.  They're people who explicitly lack the qualifications to perform the jobs they're asking for.

To however many people this reaches, if you understand how nuts this is, please, please remember to vote.

The new Batman movie is not an attack on Romney

(via Phil DeFrano) Rush Limbaugh has accused the creators of the new Batman movie of naming the main villain after Bain Capital, the firm that Mitt Romney ambiguously worked for around the time of his being governor of Massachusetts.  By his timeline, the secret-member-of-the-liberal-conspiracy director Christopher Nolan knew about the results of the Republican primary which ended on July 14, 2012, before he started production on the film fourteen months earlier, in May 2011.  He also knew that the major talking point around Romney criticism at the time of the film's release would be his fuzzy relationship with Bain Capital.

Let's assume he didn't know anything prior to that point -- that Chris Nolan can only see 14 months into the future.

He then decided either (a.) to radically re-write and re-cast the central villain of the new movie, so that he can use the member of the Batman rogues' gallery with the most politically resonant name, or (b.) to change the already chosen villain's name back to Bane, but not all the way to Bain, because he'd changed it at some point prior to that, or else this wouldn't be a conspiracy.

He decided not to change the basic nature of the villain, keeping with the obvious Occupy Wall Street overtones in the trailers, which are confirmed by the character's creator, probably just to keep it subtle.  Of course, that clever man Rush Limbaugh saw through the scheme.

In his coverage of Limbaugh's rant, Phil DeFranco points out that people listen to Rush Limbaugh, and after the show, they feel like they've been informed.  I'm not saying that you can't get news from a conservative commentator.  But this kind of trash is just insane, and Rush Limbaugh isn't some fringe element, he's a household name.

The Dark Knight Rises may well have political under- or overtones.  I hope it does, and I'm looking forward to writing about it.  If it does, they'll probably lean conservative -- the Batman mythos, as much as I love it, is intrinsically paternalistic and authoritarian.  I probably won't be seeing it until next Tuesday, and I'll cover it then.

But this simple word-association style commentary is the kind of thing that chokes our national dialogue.