The Talking Dog

February 9, 2009, Who you gonna believe... me, or your lying eyes?

And so it seems, Nobel Laureate and Grey Lady columnist Paul Krugman isn't happy with how the stimulus bill has gone down. He believes that President Obama's post-partisan claptrap (which has resulted in flipping exactly zero Republican House members and a princely three Republican Senators) to openly support the stimulus plan has been counterproductive, and results in a weaker bill that foolishly benefits the affluent and fails to benefit those who most need the additional government support... all while falling well short of "the stimulus" actually needed.

To which I say, Professor Krugman has the viewpoint exactly backwards in order to get his point across. Social Security remains an extraordinarily popular program precisely because the richest Americans receive it, and generally, receive more than the poorest Americans. Were it made fairer in any way-- the tax to pay for it less regressive, the benefits means-tested to better pay for it (or my own suggestion, indexing the minimum wage to increases in the Social Security Cost of Living Allowance)... the program would be far less popular. Which is why Professor Krugman's opener...

What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

A proud centrist.

utterly, utterly, misses the mark.

Now why is this? Are most Americans just stupid? Well, yes. Yes, they are. Shockingly and appallingly so, by the way. Don't even get me started. But to be fair, this isn't the reason why Professor Krugman is wrong on this one.

No. Americans are entirely self-absorbed. And not with their families, their nation, their community... but with themselves. While some of us show the occasional tinge of guilt for our good fortune while millions of others are unemployed, homeless or perhaps even starving in our most-affluent-country-that-has-ever-existed... most couldn't give a crap, and are only concerned with their own problems, which includes of course, the fact that we might be taxed at all. I'm sure that Professor Krugman would probably agree with me on both propositions. And so the question is... how do you pitch it in such a way as to get it through a political system that really does reflect the (1) stupidity and (2) venal self-absorption of the electorate?

You have to appeal to people's perceived SELF-interests, and I most especially mean all-caps there. Even our former President George W. Bush alluded to "this sucker might go down"... meaning that if the water is removed from the lake, the yacht hits the bottom just as hard as the canoe or dinghy, if not faster. In other words, the pitch has got to be that this truly isn't politics as usual... in other words, your (stupid) tax break or $15,000 flip your house or buy an SUV tax credit this year, by failing to ensure that, say, 5 other people keep their jobs, may result in you losing your own job (and house... and SUV) next year... not in a 5 or 10 year time frame, but next year... because the system itself is on the brink of collapse, AND THIS MEANS YOU. In short, the usual spitting-upon-the-less-affluent that passes for our national cultural ethos "must be set aside in the interest of national unity."

In short-- we must make it clear that the Republicans, by their actions, seem to want this kind of collapse... and as such, simply cannot be tolerated, their opinions given the weight we give to the opinions of inmates of correctional and mental health facilities. Rush said, outright, that he wants Obama to fail. But if Obama fails, America fails. That means breadlines, Hoovervilles, perhaps Weimar Republic currency collapses... in short, last year, you worried about your 401(k), this year you're worried about your job... by next year you may be worried about your next meal and where you're going to sleep. In such an environment, bipartisanship is a four-letter word.

Yes, it's that bad... the fact that the "stimulus" may be helping someone you don't like (probably with a funny accent and/or darker skin) isn't the issue: if you don't help that other person, the cumulative economic activity that leeps YOU employed may fail, and you will join the former "other" on the bread-line.

The President will be taking the bully pulpit on the road this week; he'll be pitching in really hard-hit areas that know all this... the people in those areas had better let their Senators-- especially their Republican Senators-- know that payback might well be a real bitch, especially at election time. Otherwise... we can business-as-usual ourselves into financial abyss and possible overall collapse. Just saying.