Friday, November 08, 2002

Dubya said he'd "change the tone in Washington". And he has.

During Clinton's term, Washington was dominated by a discussion of Clinton's supposedly shady business deals. Not that anyone was able to exhibit a shred of evidence that Clinton had done anything improper, even after Ken Starr spent years turning over every stone in Little Rock --- but you knew there had to be something in there someplace, because he was a hick from Arkansas who'd gotten himself elected president, and Sally Quinn turned up her nose at him. Now, with Dubya in the White House, we have a President with plenty of shady business in his own past, starting with the long-suppressed evidence of his insider trading which was buried in SEC files when his father was President --- but nobody's talking about it, because he's socially compatible with the Georgetown set, and because Democrats just don't do that sort of thing. Success!

For a study in this ethic at work, consider the case of William Webster. He has been nominated to head an oversight board with a mandate to clean up the accounting profession --- even though, as the head of the audit committee for U.S. Technologies, he fired an auditor which was trying to tell him about accounting irregularities at the firm. (He says they were fired for taking too long to complete the audit. They say the audit was going long because of the irregularities, and they told him so. And they've got the phone records to prove it).

The guy who nominated him, Harvey Pitt, is already out of a job, in large part because he knew about this little problem --- Webster had been at pains to tell him about it --- and neglected to inform his colleagues at the SEC. But, even though Pitt just got bounced for his mishandling of this nomination, the nomination itself is apparently still alive. Dubya himself said at his press conference yesterday that he was waiting for further reports before deciding to take any action --- which, when translated from Standard Bureaucrat to English, comes out as "Let's wait a month and see if this fuss doesn't go away". Why?

... one fact is irrefutable, he's a decent man. He served the country well. And I know he can do that job.

"Decent man" meaning member of the club, socially compatible with the Georgetown set.

Consider that in contrast to Clinton's treatment of his own controversial nominees --- Lani Guinier, say, who got slandered by the opposition (she didn't, and never has, advocated quotas), and didn't even get a chance to defend herself before she got bounced --- and you'll realize just how much Dubya has in fact changed the tone in Washington.

By the way, the first draft of the Times article, up last night, the quote from the press conference had Dubya saying, as quoted above, "I know he can do that job". Those words are absent from the story as presently shown on the Times' online front page, though they're still present in the Times' excerpted transcript of the press conference, and Dubya is not only audible but emphatic about saying them at about 38:30 in the NPR audio of the conference. Odd, that.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Surveying the wreckage, Hesiod Theogeny exults:


No more ass kissing the Bush Administration. No more rubberstamping.

We can fight the good fight, and for Democratic Party principles, without worrying whether we'll piss off a bunch of Bubba's South of the Mason-Dixon line.

We can be Democrats again.

Of course, the Democrats in Congress had the same freedom when they were voting on Dubya's tax cut, confronted by the Dubya's rollbacks of health and safety standards, and asked to endorse his maniacal drive towards war on Iraq. They chose not to use it. And the result was predicted by Harry Truman in 1952:

When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the Fair Deal, and says he really doesn't believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time.

In the meantime, there's one last irony in this: the response of the Greens to anyone who worried that a vote for a Green candidate was wasted in a two-party system, was, in effect, that withholding votes from the current crop of Democrats was the only way to get any real progressivism back into national politics, and putting a few Republicans in power in the meantime would be an acceptable price to pay. It's starting to look like they were right about the first part. We'll just have to see about the second.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

I voted.

Monday, November 04, 2002

I've already posted (in the item below) my thoughts on why liberals who are disgusted with tit-for-tat politics and personal attacks should still hold their noses and vote for the Democrat. A few brief thoughts, now, for libertarians who are thinking about holding their noses and voting Republican.

The first thing I think they ought to remember is that rhetoric and political promises aside, the Republican record over the past decade or two has not shown them to be the party of small government. When they get into power, government does not shrink; instead, government money is redirected toward programs which favor their own districts, and they brag to their constituents about their ability to bring home the bacon. And the honest ones are happy to acknowledge that; like Dick Armey says, "to the victor go the spoils".

The second thing I think they ought to remember is that tax cuts do not force a reduction in the size of government, certainly not at the federal level. Faced with the choice of actually cutting popular, but expensive entitlement programs, or issuing bonds to pay for them, the Republican response is to crank up the printing press. It was that way under Reagan; it's that way now. And while some Republicans try to pass the blame for Reagan deficits to Democrats in Congress, they're lying; Congress just fiddled at the margins, actually reducing Reagan's budget request two years out of eight. Had Congress passed Reagan's budgets unaltered, the aggregate debt would not have been significantly different. Reagan Republicans talked about using taxes to reduce the size of government, but when the money was really on the line, they didn't have the guts to even propose a budget that would implement the necessary cuts.

The effect of Republican tax cuts, instead, is to shift the burden of paying for government programs (which favor Republican constituents) from current taxpayers, who vote now, to their children, who don't. And there is a price to be paid for that shift --- specifically to the bondholders, who collect a pretty penny in interest, and who tend to be already well off. And that's without even considering the effect of Republican tax policy, which clearly favors the well-off.

The net difference between Republicans and Democrats in fiscal policy, then, is this: Democrats favor policies which, on balance, shift money from the rich toward the poor. Republicans favor policies which shift money from the poor to the rich. Of course, that leaves people who are simply opposed to any income redistribution at all with no obvious preference. So there's one last thing I'd like them to remember:

On matters concerning personal liberty, and the right of people to conduct their private lives as they see fit, the difference between the parties is quite real. The Republicans have clearly allied themselves with fundamentalist Christians who are determined to impose their views, and their lifestyle, on the rest of us. Well after September 11th, John Ashcroft is continuing to devote substantial federal resources to the fight against medical marijuana distribution, even in states where it has been put to a referendum and endorsed by the voters. In the aftermath of the attack, he had every available agent shaking down American Arabs, but the ten agents who were detailed to a year-long investigation of a New Orleans brothel were evidently not available to be reassigned.

The Democratic record on these issues isn't spotless either, witness the internet censorship initiatives that had broad bipartisan support before they got killed off by the courts. But ask yourself this: is there one party which is consistently endorsed by the Christian Coalition and its allies? Do you think there's a reason for that? If so, consider voting for the other guys.

One qualification: when I said that tax cuts don't reduce government spending at the federal level, I did so advisedly; many state constitutions require balanced budgets. So in those states at least, a reduction in revenue is supposed to immediately cause a reduction in spending --- though what actually happens in Republican state governments when money gets tight, at least as often as not, is budget chicanery. And in Texas, too, under George W. Bush. Who'd a thunk it?