1st and Five - The Weekly Tendown, Halfdown Edition. July 11-17 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dear Internet:

It's Tendown 35.  It's a Double Rainbow!

First - Don't Read George Allen's Book

George Allen wrote a book using sports as a metaphor for how right wing principles (which the right enjoys labeling as "American" or "founding" principles, in an attempt to elevate their ideology above politics) should drive government:

What Washington Can Learn From the World of Sports

I didn't read it, but what I did was watch Allen's Book TV lecture this week; so now you won't have to read it either. 

Allen prefaces the 4 part outline of his discussion by saying that sports are a meritocracy; the best win, the worst lose, competition drives all to be better - which is unlike the way "Washington" works (Allen used "Washington" or "government" as opposed to saying the Obama Administration or the Democratically controlled Congress, which has, again, the benefit of facially being beyond politics, but relies on his audience forgetting the right wing domination of the federal government for most of the past 30 years; sort of like Mitt Romney saying at the RNC convention in '08 that we needed to elect McCain/Palin to finally get those liberals out of power) which is to attempt to assure everyone equal outcomes, like a sprint where we all hit the finish line holding hands at the same time.

In 2007, the wealthiest one percent of Americans had almost a full 25% of all American income, the highest percentage (not coincidentally) since 1928, just before the Great Depression, our only economic collapse in over a hundred years worse than the one we're currently in - as Robert Reich points out:

But starting in the late 1970s, and with increasing fervor over the next three decades, government did just the opposite. It deregulated and privatized. It increased the cost of public higher education and cut public transportation. It shredded safety nets. It halved the top income tax rate from the range of 70–90 percent that prevailed during the 1950s and '60s to 28–40 percent; it allowed many of the nation's rich to treat their income as capital gains subject to no more than 15 percent tax and escape inheritance taxes altogether. At the same time, America boosted sales and payroll taxes, both of which have taken a bigger chunk out of the pay of the middle class and the poor than of the well-off.

Companies were allowed to slash jobs and wages, cut benefits and shift risks to employees (from you-can-count-on-it pensions to do-it-yourself 401(k)s, from good health coverage to soaring premiums and deductibles). They busted unions and threatened employees who tried to organize. The biggest companies went global with no more loyalty or connection to the United States than a GPS device. Washington deregulated Wall Street while insuring it against major losses, turning finance—which until recently had been the servant of American industry—into its master, demanding short-term profits over long-term growth and raking in an ever larger portion of the nation's profits. And nothing was done to impede CEO salaries from skyrocketing to more than 300 times that of the typical worker (from thirty times during the Great Prosperity of the 1950s and '60s), while the pay of financial executives and traders rose into the stratosphere.

But the right wing - in the midst of this - predicates it's tea-party anger on some mythical US federal government engineering the economy to ensure we all "hold hands at the same time."  George Allen's book could be called "Let Them Eat Cake" and not be further removed from reality. 
His four part lecture online, which I assume is captured to some extent, in his book:

A. Don't Punt on First Down
B. Fans Don't Pay to Watch the Referees
C. Defense Wins Championships
D. Home Field Advantage

A - Don't Punt on First Down was Allen's Drill Baby Drill section - we have natural resources that we are intentionally not exploiting, and instead mistakenly investing in alternative energy. As a percentage of GDP, you won't be surprised that the US spends less than Spain, China, and Britain in alternative energy r&d; and just a month ago, the Bill Gates fronted American Energy Innovation Council issued a report calling for the federal government to triple the amount of money we spend on energy innovation.  But Allen considers that punting on first down, so perhaps now they will reconsider.

Meanwhile, here's a piece about BP.

B. - Fans Don't Pay to Watch the Referees - this is Allen's call for a flat tax; the argument of course being that our punitive taxation restrains productivity. This was a bad, dumb week to be a right winger on taxation. In arguing that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be made permanent, Jon Kyl and Mitch McConnell argued that it's only spending increases, such as extending unemployment insurance benefits, which need to be paid for via an offsetting spending cut - whereas tax cuts "pay for themselves" and therefore don't have a similar requirement.  Here's McConnell:

"That's been the majority Republican view for some time," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told TPMDC this afternoon after the weekly GOP press conference. "That there's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."

As Krugman pointed out this week, this is in direct contradiction of the facts.  But as we know, the "view(s) of virtually every Republican" on that as well as most subjects, don't so much rely on facts. 

C. Defense Wins Championships - this is Allen's warning that we need to make sure to keep the military budget high.  As Sarah Palin wrote recently, Allen expressed concern that our current desire to cut the federal deficit (remember - only costs, like unemployment benefits matter - but not revenues, like taxes on people making over a quarter million dollars a year - that's right wing math on the deficit) might lead to a mistaken reduction in military spending when, to the contrary, we should increase our committment to missle defense.

Here's the discretionary budget for 2011; the Pentagon budget, projected at over 700 billion dollars, is more than all of our discretionary spending programs combined.  In real dollars, our military budget has doubled since 1998; even if you factored out our two endless Middle Eastern wars, the military still accounts for 42% of spending, and we've spent 700 billion in Iraq alone to date.   But that's right wing math too - it's not all spending that adds to the deficit, just domestic spending that actually aids the lives of regular Americans. 

D - Home Field Advantage - that's Allen's call for states rights; the federal government's usurped too much state power, don't you know - and we need to reverse that.

I mean, presumably not when it comes to guns - as the Supreme Court's ruled that federal 2nd Amendment protection of individual gun owners trumps local gun regulations - and then there was Bush v. Gore when the Supreme Court used the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause to stop the Florida Supreme Court's application of Florida law in permitting a hand vote recount - or when California passes laws legalizing medical marijuana or Oregon legalizes euthanasia, or, as happened just this month, the federal court in Massachussets says the Defense of Marriage Act intrudes into an area of state sovereignty in regulating against gay marriage.  But the rest of those times (at least when a Democrat is in the White House) those are the times we want "home field advantage". 

Thanks for playing, Governor.

After the jump, the rest of the Tendown.  Another halfdown edition.  Nature of my schedule.

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