May 07, 2011

Red State, Blue State

Just for the record, I do sometimes read conservative writers to gain a perspective on their points of view and to avoid the bubble-ization of my own political ideas. For example, I frequently read Karl Denninger's "Market Ticker" blog (I suppose Mr. Denninger is technically a libertarian); Peter Schiff; and, most fun of all, Redstate, which actually publishes some very good writing, much of it pretty funny. Redstate provides a lot of grist for the mill of the "Sorry, No!" blog, in fact, the photo-shop based lampoon site.

The difference between liberal and conservative often seems a species of theology in this country, and it concerns, logically enough, the relevant role of central government in everyday life. The extreme views of either side lead to equally implausible outcomes. The conservative belief in the "market" and capitalism as the solution to everything is just wildly impractical in modern times because of environmental issues. Conservatives, however, just can't see that; they honestly believe that the capitalist world, left to its own devices, will work life-and-death ecological matters out just fine without any Big Government oversight. This is the very height of naivete, and is in a sense the mirror image of the Enlightenment silliness about the "perfectibility" of man.

Liberals, on the other hand, often think that socialist/communist economic programs of mutual cooperation, centrally planned, are sustainable. They aren't. Certain features of a modern democracy can be socialistic, such as socialized health care, the post office, public education and transportation; in fact, the social democracies of Western Europe demonstrated that these systems worked best with such a socialistic framework. Those same social democracies are now in trouble because they decided to move away from such approaches toward the go-go, unfettered, Reaganesque capitalism of the United States, and now the American conservatives gleefully point out how wrecked Europe is becoming. Europe has imported not only all of our problems of wealth disparity and too-powerful central banks holding smaller countries (Ireland, Greece) in peonage, but also the practice of excessive import-based economies.

The world's power, obviously, has swung toward the East, and American political maneuvering now in an era of decline is about grabbing what you can and taking advantage of connections with the East for the future. We still have our big military, our trophy "kills" and dubious victories (bin Laden; invading Libya, where the oil is, but not Syria, where it isn't), but this isn't much compared to the general economic decline. It was kind of amazing that Barack Obama's "turnaround" in national polls centered on three events in the space of one week: revealing his "long form" birth certificate, trumping Trump at the Correspondents' Dinner, and pulling off the bin Laden hit. These pushed his sagging poll numbers up about 10%. What all three of these events had in common was that not one of them had anything to do with economic prosperity. Had they not happened, the United States would have been in the same position, no better, no worse.

The more realistic way of looking at politics in this country, at this point, is through the lens of Sheldon Wolin's "inverted totalitarianism," as described in Democracy, Inc., that is, as seeing the United States government as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Fortune 500. In such an environment, the actual "left-right" dichotomies don't matter. The utter neutering of the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives is an example of this process. A lot of noise is made about "debt ceilings" and "fiscal prudence" and the rest of it, but when the votes are actually taken, we can see that Wall Street, Big Business and the military-industrial complex are assured of power, as always, as ever. I read Paul Krugman's blog, as an example from the Left, and he continues the good fight against evil Republicans and rallies round the righteous Democrats, but this is all just show biz. He advocates "more government spending," and is confident that a Treasury market where the Federal Reserve is the effective buyer of 80% of the Treasury's issuance can go on forever. Or he pretends to believe such things in order to remain a Keynesian partisan and to denounce the "cruelty" of the Paul Ryan plan.

Simply street theater for the masses. All designed to earn a paycheck for the punditocracy (including, very notably, Mr. Krugman), and leaving undisturbed the actual predicament of the nation. A pathetic percentage of the working-age population with actual, decent jobs (not more than 58%), huge wealth disparities, and a globalized economy which keeps bringing the United States closer to a Third World mean.

So I read the Huffpost, and I read Redstate, with really only one thing on my mind: who's funnier today?

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