A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

“The Math Is Inescapable,” Romney Tax Edition

by evanmcmurry

Remember when Mitt Romney released his tax plan, back in ye olde days of the GOP primary? No? Strange, because Romney had, even at that point, tens of millions of dollars behind him, so one would think that if he wanted you to know about his tax plan, with its regressive, across the board 20% tax cut, you’d know about it. Why would he hide a major policy initiative?

Via Jonathan Chait:

But he still attempted to hide the ball. Romney promised that his rate cut would be matched by closing tax deductions and some unspecified allowance for economic growth, and thus would not decrease the level (or the share) of taxes paid by the rich. Romney’s boast that his plan could not be scored revealed the essential calculation. But the campaign miscalculated. Yesterday’s study by the Brookings Institution and the Tax Policy Center showed that, even allowing for the faster growth predicted by Romney’s own economist, there aren’t enough tax deductions to account for the cost of the lower rates for the rich — raising taxes for the middle class would be the only way to make Romney’s promises add up. Romney didn’t hide the ball well enough.

[…] Romney isn’t offering a policy blueprint for what deductions he would take away, let alone a plausible scenario to pass such a plan even if it did exist. He’s just using the mystical economic pixie dust of the nonexistent corporate tax reform plan in order to hold out the hope of some missing ingredient, some unmeasurable X factor, to keep his proposal in the safe dreamworld where the cruel tyranny of math cannot apply. But the math is inescapable.

I’ll only add that it’s generous to say Romney’s team miscalculated. It’s entirely possible—likely?—that they knew full well the numbers didn’t add up. But Romney and Co. are ideologically committed to lowering taxes on the wealthy, whether such a move is economically or politically advisable or not, so they have to run with the tax plan no matter what the numbers say. (I’ll leave it to the Obama campaign to insinuate that this is not how private industry is run, and thus Mitt Romney’s business experience—his primary selling point—is essentially worthless when it runs up against the brick wall of intractable ideology.)

Romney now has hundreds of millions of dollars behind him, which means he has an exponentially greater ability to inform you about his tax policy, if he wants to do so. He could be running ads in every market touting his proposal to lower taxes by 20%; if Romney so desired, the very sound of his name could be associated with “20% tax cut,” such that his mere ephemeral presence initiates a Pavlovian response in the electorate. So if you don’t see ad after ad after ad for Romney’s tax cut, it means Romney doesn’t want you to know about one of his major economic policies, even as he runs for president on an economic platform. Which means, essentially, that Romney and Co. know their plan doesn’t do any of the things they say it will do besides cutting taxes on the rich—indeed, was probably never intended to do anything but that.

At least he’ll always have foreign policy.

Gore Vidal Was The Twentieth Century’s Greatest Monster Or Something

by evanmcmurry

I’m all for realism in obituaries, but a) there’s not a person alive who didn’t know what Gore Vidal was made of, and b) he was not worse than Nixon, as this article either intentionally or unintentionally implies. Realism runs both ways, y’all.

Jared Diamond hits back: “Did you even read my book, Mitt?”

by pdxblake

Mitt Romney has written, re-written and re-re-written the meaning of his comments on the differences between the Israeli and Palestinian economies (still no correction on his mistake in the relative per capita GDP, which he said were around 3 to 1, but are really 10 to 1).

This was just the latest in his series of gaffes while he was overseas since he neglected to mention the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as a factor for the economic performance (relying instead on differences in ‘culture’, as well as a sprinkling of ‘divine providence’ for Israel).  The Palestinian spokesman derided Romney’s comment as ‘racist’, but of course Romney was focused more on the reaction back in the US in his conservative base that he is furiously pandering to.

One of the “inspirations” for his “theories” was Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, who gives Romney an ‘F’ for his understanding of the book and comes out swinging about Romney’s ability to be president:

Mitt Romney may become our next president. Will he continue to espouse one-factor explanations for multicausal problems, and fail to understand history and the modern world? If so, he will preside over a declining nation squandering its advantages of location and history.

That can be described only as “ouch”!

David Cronenberg Presents: “Robert Pattinson Reads Awkward Pronouncements About The Future”

by evanmcmurry

About halfway into a super-stylish, highly-aestheticized movie preview last night, I thought to myself, “This dialogue is sententious and terrible. It’s oddly on the nose, as if the characters had had thirty minutes to collect and condense every one of their lines, yet it’s entirely comprised of that vague intellectual babblespeak that sounds portentous but expresses nothing. [Sample line: “They’re protesting the future!”] Who in God’s name actually talks like this, let alone writes like it?” Then I realized what I was watching.

I once wrote an entire paper on the quick cold clang of Don Delillo’s dialogue, which often sounds like an urgent discussion about Derrida between two pieces of IKEA furniture. Needless to say, it doesn’t sound any better coming out of Robert Pattinson’s mouth.

If Liberals Get Their Way, We’ll All Be Fucking Walruses Soon

by evanmcmurry

Class, which of the following two things do you think is true about our present world:

1) A cabal of liberal machinators is sitting in their headquarters in a skyscraper in Los Angeles, pulling literal levers that control the content of pop culture, for the express purpose of making bestiality legal, acceptable, and mainstream, as embodied in this Skittles ad starring a woman making out with a walrus.

or 2) Skittles markets to stoners, and walrus=WHOA.

If you picked 2, no staff writer position at Breitbart.com for you. John Nolte, probably still tired from writing the review of whatever movie he watched instead of The Dark Knight Rises, warns:

If you don’t think there’s an agenda behind this, you haven’t been paying attention the last 40 years. And if you don’t think that there are those who hold the levers of power in our popular culture that would like to remove the stigma from bestiality, you don’t understand the depths of sexual depravity the human animal is capable of.

I used to laugh at loud at the term “slippery slope.”

Then I grew up.

But I am at least old enough to remember when our culture wanted to protect a woman’s dignity, not degrade women under the guise of “liberation” and “equality.”

You know he’s serious, because his intern he copied and pasted the definition of “bestiality” from Merriam-Webster.com. That’s called research. Now, class, do you think the inclusion of the word “animal” in the above paragraph was intentional, and if so, how does it complicate Nolte’s argument?

By explaining an economist’s joke, I ruin it

by pdxblake

The world of economic theorizing is pretty opaque to those who don’t follow it. I count myself as being on the outside since I last studied economics academically in college nearly 10 years ago (wow, didn’t feel that long). There is a lot of ideology that is behind a lot of economic thinking so when someone steps outside of what you’d expect, it is interesting.

The last place I expected to see this was on Twitter, but behold:

Richard H Thaler ‏@R_Thaler

Well [sic] know left winger…“@tylercowen: The proposed Romney fiscal policy just doesn’t make any sense.”

Richard Thaler is an economist at the University of Chicago (home of people like the late Milton Friedman), which tends to be a conservative environment for economics—although Richard Thaler is a bit of an exception, having been involved into bringing behavioral economics into the mainstream. The unusual bit for Thaler is that behavioral economics generally does not agree that “the market is always right”, something of a unifying principal for the Chicago school (as well as being an over-simplification).

Tyler Cowen, to whom he is replying, is at George Mason University, an even more conservative school that leans (quite strongly) politically conservative. And thus the joke from Thaler (who was interviewed in The New Yorker) of “We know, left-winger” makes sense as a tongue-in-cheek remark on how little sense Romney’s plans (or what he has actually revealed) makes.

It also proves that by explaining the context of a joke, I have ruined it.

National Review Writer Totally Onto Obama’s Plot To Destroy Suburbs, Which Would Totally Suck

by evanmcmurry

This is what The Vetting and Agenda 21-ism and all the rest read like when they get a haircut and put on a tie:

President Obama is not a fan of America’s suburbs. Indeed, he intends to abolish them.  With suburban voters set to be the swing constituency of the 2012 election, the administration’s plans for this segment of the electorate deserve scrutiny. Obama is a longtime supporter of “regionalism,” the idea that the suburbs should be folded into the cities, merging schools, housing, transportation, and above all taxation. To this end, the president has already put programs in place designed to push the country toward a sweeping social transformation in a possible second term. The goal: income equalization via a massive redistribution of suburban tax money to the cities.

The community organizers who trained him in the mid-1980s blamed the plight of cities on taxpayer “flight” to suburbia. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Obama’s mentors at the Gamaliel Foundation (a community-organizing network Obama helped found) formally dedicated their efforts to the budding fight against suburban “sprawl.” From his positions on the boards of a couple of left-leaning Chicago foundations, Obama channeled substantial financial support to these efforts. On entering politics, he served as a dedicated ally of his mentors’ anti-suburban activism.

Obama’s plans to undercut the political and economic independence of America’s suburbs reach back decades…Kruglik and his close allies, David Rusk and Myron Orfield, intellectual leaders of the “anti-sprawl” movement, have been quietly working with the Obama administration for years on an ambitious program of social reform…The Obama administration, stocked with “regionalist” appointees, has been advancing this ambitious plan quietly for the past four years. [all emphasis mine]

Notice scare quotes around “sprawl,” as if it’s some term liberals invented, like “artisanal” or “African American.” But more to the point, it’s not enough for Kurtz to disagree with Obama’s policies; every single thing’s gotta be plot with these guys. Obama’s “regionalism” goes back decades! (Breitbart is no doubt hard at work searching YouTube for a clip of Obama hugging an urban planner in 1989.) Everybody is “quietly” working—the word is used twice—as if these wonks were toiling at night with the lights off in a room in Washington, D.C., behind a storefront reading “Nothing To See Here, Inc.”

Thank God Kurtz is tracking their every step, or they might get away with…mixed use development? I’m not entirely sure what Kurtz’s problem is, except that he thinks environmentalism is a cover for socialism, which I guess works sort of like hiding a thin endorsement of upper-class self-segregation behind a loose bag of insinuation. But the National Review and cohorts can only get away with using Obama-fear as a bright light for so long; at this point I’m having trouble understanding how Obama found time to conceive and nurture every conspiracy that he’s now supposedly realizing as president.

Apropos of nothing, that’s Kurtz up above. That’s not a photo I dug up to make him look ridiculous, that’s the one he voluntarily supplied the National Review. That’s the EXACT FACE customers at my old restaurant used to make when they asked for ketchup for their steak.