erik lundegaard

Politics posts

Saturday November 01, 2008

All Hail Hendrik Hertzberg!

No doubt this election has turned me into an up-to-the-minute news/blog junkie. (Thank you, Andrew Sullivan.) It’s gotten to the point where my guys, Frank Rich in the Sunday Times and Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker, whom I used to read with great anticipation, now often feel like old news by the time I see them in print. That? They’re still talking about that? It’s like they’re writing about a foul-out that began the inning when currently two runs have scored and there’s men on second and third. One fears for the print form (and thus the thoughtful form) in political coverage.

Still, these guys are so good they often come through. Loved Rich’s piece last week and particularly loved Hertzberg’s latest “Talk of the Town.” Everything you wanted to know about socialism but were afraid to ask. “You” being you. Or possibly Joe the Plumber.

It’s more than John McCain’s comment to the daughter of a doctor who, during the 2000 campaign, complained we were getting too close to socialism in this country (“...when you reach a certain level of comfort,” he told her, “there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more”), or the fact that Sarah Palin’s Alaska, which has no sales or income tax, funds itself with huge levies to oil companies and then gives what’s left back to (or just “to”) its citizens. Talk about spreading the wealth. And these two are basing their entire presidential campaign (this week) on attacking Barack Obama for similar economic plans? Their hypocrisy is overwhelming. One wonders, for the thousandth time, how they sleep.

Hertzberg fires this:
The Republican argument of the moment seems to be that the difference between capitalism and socialism corresponds to the difference between a top marginal income-tax rate of 35 per cent and a top marginal income-tax rate of 39.6 per cent. The latter is what it would be under Obama’s proposal, what it was under President Clinton, and, for that matter, what it will be after 2010 if President Bush’s tax cuts expire on schedule.
More comprehensively, he gives us this, which has always been my argument:
Of course, all taxes are redistributive, in that they redistribute private resources for public purposes. But the federal income tax is (downwardly) redistributive as a matter of principle: however slightly, it softens the inequalities that are inevitable in a market economy, and it reflects the belief that the wealthy have a proportionately greater stake in the material aspects of the social order and, therefore, should give that order proportionately more material support.

On HuffPost, Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, of all people, who supported Hilary Clinton earlier this year and is now supporting John McCain, has an anti-Obama post in which she raises the same stupid fears. I’m not sure what her game is — is she really that greedy or does she merely want McCain to win in ’08 so Hilary can win in ’12? — but she trots out that familiar Republican talking point against higher taxes for the wealthy:
Today, the top 1% of earners contributes 40% of the nation's $2.6 trillion tax intake and the bottom 50% pay 2.9% of our nation's total needs.
I can’t think of a better argument for a more steeply progressive tax system than this. If the top 1 percent, paying at a rate similar to mine, already pay 40 percent of our taxes, think how much money they’re making. If these people are lucky enough to have the skills that allows them to prosper in the kind of system we currently have, then they should be paying even more to keep that system running smoothly. And they haven’t. It’s time the bastards paid up.
No tagsPosted at 08:59 AM on Nov 01, 2008 in category Politics
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Friday October 31, 2008

Inanity, Insanity

“Idiot Wind” is a startlingly good song for the way the McCain camp has attacked Obama this fall. Line after line hits home:

Someone's got it in for me, they're planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they'd cut it out but when they will I can only guess...
I haven't known peace and quiet for so long I can't remember what it's like...
I noticed at the ceremony, your corrupt ways had finally made you blind
I can't remember your face anymore, your mouth has changed, your eyes
don't look into mine...

The awful thing about the attacks is that you don't need to know anything about Obama, or about McCain, to know they're bullshit. You just have to know something about the world. A communist...and a Muslim? How is that possible? A secret socialist, who wants to make government all-powerful...and a secret terrorist, who wants to destroy government from within? How is that possible? The inanity (Sean or otherwise) is overwhelming.

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Posted at 08:50 AM on Oct 31, 2008 in category Politics
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Unafraid to Listen

An editorial in The Washington Post today condemns the latest guilt-by-association attack by John McCain and his campaign. The latest version involves an Arab-American scholar and Columbia professor, Raschid Kalidi, who holds, the Post says, complex views of the Middle East situation, and who was the subject of a toast at a dinner party by Barack Obama in 2003. Barack apparently said that Mr. Kalidi “offers constant reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases.” 

By the end of the editorial, the Post quotes Mr. Kalidi saying he's waiting for this latest McCain-inspired “idiot wind” to blow over, and the Post agrees. But first they write this:

It's fair to question why Mr. Obama felt as comfortable as he apparently did during his Chicago days in the company of men whose views diverge sharply from what the presidential candidate espouses. Our sense is that Mr. Obama is a man of considerable intellectual curiosity who can hear out a smart, if militant, advocate for the Palestinians without compromising his own position.

I'm not a fan of “Duh” but... Duh! Seriously are we that pathetic? Are our own points of view so fragile that they can't bear the scrutiny that listening to someone else's views requires? I'm reminding of something James Baldwin said about living in France and Turkey: “Whenever you live in another civilization you are foced to examine your own.” This examination is good and necessary if you are ever to improve your own society. The people who do not engage in it — fellow non-travelers like George Bush and Sarah Palin — have limited, absolutist world views that are not only dispiriting, but, in world leaders, positively dangerous. Both Palin and Bush don't have the intellect, or intellectual curiosity, or humility about one's intellect that true intellectual curiosity fosters, to be world leaders. We've already seen what happens when they get into positions of power. John McCain isn't much better. Plus he's got a dangerous temperament. Plus he's obviously sold his soul to the devil with this campaign. He's leaving behind a stink that we may never get out. And that's if he loses. If he wins, every campaign, at every level, will be flinging the same shit. We'll be covered in it.

Here's my point. This latest McCain-inspired controversy is actually one of the best reasons to vote for Barack Obama.

John McCain, like Sarah Palin and George Bush, is rarely the smartest person in any room he walks into — and he doesn't need to hear what you have to say. 

Barack Obama is almost always the smartest person in any room he walks into — and he still wants to hear what you have to say. My god. How refreshing.

Posted at 07:56 AM on Oct 31, 2008 in category Politics
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Tuesday October 28, 2008

Country Last

Good Talking Points Memo feature here on the number of conservatives who have dismissed McCain and/or endorsed Obama, and the number of newspapers who have done the same, specifically because of McCain's VP pick. You have a favorite? Mine's still Colin Powell, although I give Chris Hitchens props.

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Posted at 03:50 PM on Oct 28, 2008 in category Politics
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Monday October 27, 2008

The Six Narratives of John McCain

Interesting piece by Robert Draper in yesterday's NY Times Magazine on the various narratives of the McCain campaign. The subhed says it all: “When a campaign can't settle on a central narrative, does it imperil its protagonist?”

In this way it's easy to blame McCain's chief campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt, who encouraged John McCain to get away from “straight talk” in favor of “talking points,” and who encouraged him to use (or exploit) his P.O.W. status, and who favored picking Sarah Palin for VEEP and who pushed for suspending the campaign on Wednesday, Sept. 24 in the wake of the financial crisis, and who was, after all, the author of all of these various narratives, in which they tried to remake Obama as a “celebrity” or a “non-partisan pretender” or “a Washington insider” and then suffered the misfortune of not having Obama play along. So, yes, it's easy to blame Schmidt. But of course the bigger fault lies with John McCain. In the parlance of this low, dishonest decade, he's the decider, and he decided to take this path, or these paths, and so he is where he is. I believe conservatives used to call this kind of thing “accountability.”

Reading, in fact, my main thought was this: Who wants a president of the United States who can be pushed around by the  likes of Steve Schmidt?

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Posted at 08:51 AM on Oct 27, 2008 in category Politics
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