Saturday, September 20, 2008

Was the Surge a Success?

No copyright claimed. Quite the contrary, everyone is required to repeat this information.

How should sane people answer this loaded question, particularly when asked in talk show interviews and presidential or vice-presidential debates? Thanks for asking:

"The outrageous fallacy of calling this a success any more than calling our first few weeks a 'mission accomplished' is that we will never know how many lives would have been saved or more successful results obtained with a plan based on making the Iraqis responsible much earlier.

Do you think the word success is used by the families of the 1000 (get the exact number since Feb 07?) American soldiers killed since the surge began?

Do you think it's success to the countless thousands of American businessmen and women, policemen, firefighters, and just plain moms and dads who are in their fifth tour of Iraq duty in the US Reserves?

Is it success to the Iraqi people whose cities are in shreds?

Are we supposed to be so gullible that we believe in this success in the same way as "mission accomplished?"

Will it be a success the minute we withdraw, or only after the Iraqis themselves sort it out no matter how long we're there?

When you finally do something you should have done 6 years ago, is that what you call success?

Is it successful enough that you'd want to visit Iraq?

If you call all those things success, then this administration has succeeded in lowering the bar like never before."

Do not allow yourself to be talked over when you answer this question.

If you reword the last line, make sure you think about possible retorts. Do not include the word "failure." The tiresome retort---suggesting that failure would mean nuclear annihilation at the hands of terrorists---should focus on the fact that that threat was escalated, not diminished, by the war.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The End Is Near (and It's Still the Economy)

Short Version: As the economy becomes the focus of the election, the key question is whether the undecided, "hard-working" voters will come to realize that Democratic values fuel the economy and Republican values do not. The Clinton years might have been helped by the Internet boom but we've gone from surpluses and a great economy to the worst deficits ever and looming financial calamities because of decisions that don't work. To fuel the economy again, we just need to find a good cause to invest in, one that spreads the wealth around and ideally builds wealth in the process. The answer is plain as day, energy.

... the end of the election, that is, and once again it will boil down to the economy. Except for only the most moralistic issue of all, abortion, almost every other issue can be traced back to economics. Oil, energy independence, global warming, Islamic maniacs, healthcare, housing, mortgage banking, college cost? Make the American economy relatively sustainable, stable, and robust and all of those problems become less so. Some disappear entirely others change from calamities to management problems.

As voting time nears, the great masses of the newly-labeled "hard-working" Americans will choose the candiate to fix the economy. If you watch TV, you'd think the choice will be based not on potential for economic success but on skin color, ugly US-Vietnamese history, lapel pins, speaking style, pandering, and sex.

But it really comes down to only one thing: do conservative, blue-collar Americans really think that Republican values drive the engine of our economy? Did you notice that during the Clinton years we had the best job market ever, and a national treasury surplus(!), and a booming housing market? And now we have the biggest deficit ever and collapses in virtually every financial sector? How long will you pretend to think it was all explained by the Internet boom (for Clinton) and 9/11 (for Bush)???

This is not that hard, folks. Our economy is fueled by pushing money/prosperity/wealth/work DOWN to the huge masses. No less a capitalist than Henry Ford understood this when he distributed his wealth back to his workers to create a market for his cars. Yet all of the Republican values favor not distribution of wealth to the little guys but concentration of wealth among the wealthy. Tax cuts for the rich and the constant harangue of "leaving small business alone" won't do anything. They are somewhere between flagrant lies and pandering lip service that has been known to win elections when the electorate is gullible.

Despite all the damage done to our economy in the last eight years, fixing it is still straightforward even if it's not simple. Yes, in the Clinton years, the Internet was a huge economic engine, but we could re-create a new one at the push of an Oval Office button: declare an Iraq-scale war on private commuting in America's 20 biggest cities, and invest every bit of available capital in solar and wind energy. (Sustainable energy, even though it cannot solve our energy problem because it is mathematically insufficient, is financially magical because it recovers wealth every minute instead of consuming it.)

Of course this is a matter of the dreaded "government programs," which Republicans would have you believe are outright socialism. As long as you buy this non-stop, simpleton rhetoric, the problem will only get worse. The sad and continuing irony in this dilemma is that it will will be the blue-collar folks (the so-called "values voters") who will suffer first and worst if they choose the Republicans who pander to them. The progressive liberals, like me, who argue for more leadership, in the form of distribution of wealth, are in jobs that are one more step removed from the most direct damage to our economy. But only one more step, November is looming for all of us.

Why Didn't Experts See It Coming?

In my local paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, three of the September 9, 2008 stories wrote about our surreptitiously collapsing economy. General Motors was asking for billions of dollars, the largest mortgage holder in the country was being bailed out, and a short blurb in the business section mentioned a financial expert who wrote a book about impending financial doom.

I'd like to help the newspapers out when we're all out of work (journalists are first) and there won't be anyone to write the following story, so Mr. Tierney (the new and very promising Inquirer publisher) will have the copy ready when he's running the presses all by himself:

"Dateline, Washington, D.C., February 2009: Why Didn't Experts See It Coming?

Now that collapse of the US auto industry, the mortgage banks, the job market, and the retail banking system have finally pulled the legs out from under Wall Street as well, everyone is finally (!) asking how did we miss the warning signs? Well, "we" didn't, just the experts and the press who we count on to call them out. For the last eight years, every decision and indecision has directly caused it. Regulation has been relegated to impotence; short-term values have trumped long-term at every Oval Office choice; borrowing has become infantile obsession; and intelligence—military, scientific, and common sense—has been ridiculed off the front page and dinner tables. Anyone with their eyes open realized that from Keating Five to Enron to trillion-dollar-Iraq to subprime to GM to Fannie/Freddie, we've been solving every problem by printing money in one way or another. The warning signs were loud and clear, and we got what we bargained for... superficial, lip-serving leadership that constantly told the people what they wanted to hear until there was nothing of substance left."

We're not dumb and the press has been cowed into covering it as margin copy.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Why Republicans Can't Help "Hard-Working People" with Jobs, College, or Healthcare

Have you noticed how often in this election campaign you've heard the phrase "hard-working" people or "working class?" Can you remember when everyone was presumed to be the working class and the mere notion that we needed to especially distinguish them from the rich folks was unnecessary? The answer is simple... after 8 years of this complete vacuum of leadership, Americans have to work harder than ever... and do so for less financial security than we've ever had.