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Rubio: 300.01 on the DSM

If this is true, I have a question:

Millions of people watched Marco Rubio’s televised tailspin in the opening minutes of last weekend’s Republican presidential debate — but what, exactly, they saw depended on the viewer.

To rivals, Rubio’s reflexive retreat to the same snippet of well-rehearsed rhetoric — over and over, and over, and over again — was proof of the freshman senator’s status as a lightweight. To supporters, the wobbly display was a forgivable fluke, one bad moment blown wildly out of proportion by a bloodthirsty press corps.

But to those who have known him longest, Rubio’s flustered performance Saturday night fit perfectly with an all-too-familiar strain of his personality, one that his handlers and image-makers have labored for years to keep out of public view. Though generally seen as cool-headed and quick on his feet, Rubio is known to friends, allies, and advisers for a kind of incurable anxiousness — and an occasional propensity to panic in moments of crisis, both real and imagined.

via Buzzfeed

Now, I represent a lot of disabled people, many of them with anxiety disorders of one form or another. I wish them only the best. But I would respectfully decline to support them should they seek my support in a run for the presidency. Isn’t it a bit unpatriotic to stay silent while someone you know to have “an occasional propensity to panic in moments of crisis, both real and imagined” edges ever closer to getting his finger near that button? We can all dispel the notion that Obama would panic in a crisis. He would know exactly what he was doing. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s a cool customer and pretty unflappable. And remember, unless I miss my bet, Rubio is still the guy to whom the media will turn as the sane alternative to the Donald.

Something happening here, what it is…

Well, you know the rest of the song, provided you’re over 60.

Anyway, while the media is focused on which little Hitler will get the Republican nomination, the banks (remember them) appear to be headed for another crash. Here’s Krugman:

While we obsess over domestic politics — not that there’s anything wrong with that, since a lot depends on whether the next leader of the world’s most powerful nation is a racist xenophobe, a sinister theocrat, an empty suit, or all of the above — something scary is going on in financial markets, where bond prices in particular are indicating near-panic.

via Paul Krugman’s blog

And here, in more depth, from Pam and Russ Martens (although they’re wrong in implying that the Fed should have been raising rates; it should have been breaking up the banks, as they note elsewhere in the article):

… Now, Wall Street bank stocks are plunging and the potential for a mega Wall Street bank to implode has risen dramatically from the shrinkage in the buffer of equity capital. Trillions of dollars more in derivatives exist today on bank balance sheets than were there in 2008 and the public has no clarity on whom the counterparties to this risk are. Investors are voting with their feet and stampeding out of all mega banks.

The Fed has hamstrung itself in terms of options to meet a financial threat by stalling to get off its zero-bound interest rate range until December 16 with its first minor rate hike. Slashing rates periodically in a crisis is no longer a weapon in its monetary arsenal. More quantitative easing hardly seems like an option either since the Fed’s balance sheet has already ballooned from $800 billion prior to the crisis to $4.5 trillion today and has produced only anemic GDP growth.

via Wall Street on Parade

So there is something happening here, and it’s not exactly clear to me what to do about it on a personal level, though the optimal political solution actually seems clearer, if unlikely. As Krugman points out, if a Republican gets elected, he’s bound to do exactly the opposite of what he ought, with, in my opinion, the odd exception of Trump, who, as Jimmy Carter pointed out, is not truly wedded to any principle, and so might actually do the right thing. What Krugman doesn’t point out is that if the crash happens on Obama’s watch, the likelihood of an electoral disaster and final slide into plutocracy goes from somewhat unlikely to probable, especially if Obama responds, as he would, with yet another bailout.

Meanwhile, I’m still sort of afraid to download last month’s 401k statement. Where’s my bailout?

Rubio to world: Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?

There are a lot of asymmetries in American politics. There are many things Republicans can do that Democrats can’t. Here’s a fairly graphic example:

That’s Donald Trump, along with Rubio, Carson and Cruz, standing while they play the Star Spangled banner, or pledge to the flag, or some such thing. Notice where Donald’s hand isn’t? Imagine if Obama did the same thing. We’d never hear the end of it, and Trump would be among the loudest complainers. (Full disclosure: I’m with Trump on this one, but I’m not running for president.)

Another things Republicans get to do is whine about the way they are treated by the press. For instance, here’s Marco Rubio blaming the press for covering the fact that he’s an empty suit:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a fundraising email Monday that passed off New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s ® attacks on the freshman senator’s canned talking points as a controversy ginned up by the media.

The email said the media pounced on the Rubio campaign’s “building momentum” by making hay out of the fact that the senator “pointed out a few times” during Saturday’s Republican presidential debate “that President Obama has been very deliberate about achieving his bad policies.”

“This isn’t the first time the media has tried to distract people,” the email read. “We can’t afford to let the media get away with this.”

via Talking Points Memo

If Hillary whined every time the media treated her unfairly, she’d never have time for anything else, and her complaints would be well founded. See, e.g., the idiotic email “scandal”. The irony here is that Rubio forced them into it by his disastrous performance in the debate. They didn’t want to do it. He was their golden boy, the guy who was going to wrest the nomination from Cruz and Trump and keep it safe in the hands of the “moderates”, the word that is now used to describe any Republican who is not quite as crazy as the craziest Republican on offer. After all, they did their best to paint his third place showing in Iowa as a victory.

Rubio should relax. The press will come around. If Rubio doesn’t flame out in New Hampshire, he’ll still be their last best hope, so they’ll start pumping him up again. After all, who’s the alternative? Jeb!?

Yet another post on social security

Dean Baker once again takes on the folks who are calling for means testing Social Security:

Eduardo Porter had a piece this morning about how a group of academics on the left and right came together around a common agenda. It is worth briefly commenting on two of the items on which the “left” made concessions.

The first is agreeing that Social Security benefits for “affluent Americans” should be reduced. There are three major problems with this policy. The first is that “affluent Americans” don’t get very much Social Security. While it is possible to raise lots of money by increasing taxes on the richest 1–2 percent of the population, the rich don’t get much more in Social Security than anyone else. This means that if we want to get any significant amount of money from reducing the benefits for the affluent we would have to reduce benefits for people that almost no one would consider affluent. Even if we went as low as $40,000 as the income cutoff for lowering benefits, we would still only save a very limited amount of money.

The second problem is that reducing benefits based on income is equivalent to a large tax increase. To get any substantial amount of money through this route we would need to reduce benefits at a rate of something like 20 cents per dollar of additional income. This is equivalent to increasing the marginal tax rate by 20 percentage points. As conservatives like to point out, this gives people a strong incentive to evade the tax by hiding income and discourages them from working.

Finally, people have worked for these benefits. We could also reduce the interest payments that the wealthy receive on government bonds they hold. After all, they don’t need as much interest as middle-income people. However no one would suggest going this route since the government contracted to pay a given interest rate.

via Beat the Press

Dean has made this case before, and I’m sure he’s absolutely correct so far as his figures go. But I think he gives away too much by failing to note that, at bottom, the push for means testing Social Security (whether it involves cutting off the “affluent” altogether, or merely cutting their benefits to the bone) has nothing to do with saving money. Anyone from the “left” who believes that is what the right wing advocates are trying to do is, to put it simply, a dupe. The right plays the long game, and this is yet another instance. The point is to destroy the program, and this is part of the plan.

Social Security is a universal program. Everyone benefits from it, and except for the Pete Petersons (“It is not enough that they succeed, everyone else must fail”) of the world, everyone likes it, and is perfectly willing to let other people get benefits as long as they get theirs. Roosevelt understood this at the very beginning. Means testing is about driving a wedge between the politically more (relatively) powerful and those with no power at all. Once you means test it, it becomes a welfare system, and will be subjected to attack on that ground by the very people who advocated means testing in the first place. Imagine the field day they’d have pointing out to those they cut off the rolls that there’s money taken out of their paychecks every week that they will never see again, because it all goes to “those people”.

It’s good that Baker makes the case in pure dollar and cents terms, but it’s vitally important to call the right out on the actual motivation. That should really be front and center. This is not about saving social security, it is about destroying it, and it’s incumbent upon those of us on the left to make that argument forcibly and continuously. Now, you may argue that the actual motivation is so obvious it hardly needs mentioning. But remember, this is America, where someone named Cruz, Trump or Rubio may be the next president. We have a surplus of stupid in this country. The only way many people in this country “learn” anything is by hearing it repeated so often that they accept it as true.

McKesson running for Baltimore mayor

Bowdoin alum DeRay McKesson (of whom we left thinking Bowdoinites are very proud) is running for mayor of Baltimore. It’s a job I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but he apparently wants it. You can donate here.

Grifter’s goodbye

Back in August I drafted a post that I guess I never put up, since I can’t find it on the net. The thrust of it was that the Republican candidates, other than Trump, came in three basic flavors. Here’s how I described one of those flavors:

The second group are the grifters. These are the folks who also know that they can’t win the nomination and, if truth be told, are not at all interested in doing so. They are looking to improve their brands, and cash in over the course of the next four years. Huckabee and Carson are prime examples of this sort of candidate. I’ve written before (in fact I made this point during the last election cycle) that Sarah Palin made a big mistake in 2012 by not running for President. She hurt her brand and lost all ability to play the victim. Things are so bad for Sarah that she had to make her premium channel free for the ever dwindling number of people who care what she thinks ….wait, I’m at a loss here. What’s the word for what Sarah does inside her head before words are ejected from her mouth? Carly is a bit of an outlier in this group. She doesn’t expect to be president, and she’s not necessarily in it for the money, though after her stint at Hewlett Packard she’s not likely to get a job anywhere other than Fox. She’s running for Vice President, and will probably be nominated. If the Democrats were competent, her record at Hewlett Packard would then become common knowledge throughout the land. But campaign competence is not a Democratic strong suit.

We have now arrived at the stage of the campaign where this group drops by the wayside. Their work is done, having secured another four years of grift cred that they can take out on the road. Santorum has dropped out, in the process, boarding, and perhaps sinking the good ship Rubio. Ben Carson, the greatest grifter of them all, is apparently on the way out as well, but his work was monumental. It will be years before any grifter can beat his records. Consider this:

Carson’s big cutbacks are coming even though he raised more money than any other Republican. His problem is, as David Nir wrote:

Ben Carson’s campaign has been completely exposed as a grifty fraud: It spent millions more than it raised last quarter, mostly on scammy (and expensive) direct mail fundraising. Carson’s entire operation is irrelevant at this point, except to the people he’s ripped off.

via Daily Kos

But those people like being ripped off. They must, because they will surely come back for more. Carson is set for the next four years, and in the process of renewing his lease, he made tons of money during his campaign. Life is good for some people.

I forget, is Carly still in it? I used to think she was almost a sure thing for VP, but I think she’s sunk her chances even for that. I think she jumped the shark when she tweeted that she was rooting for Iowa against her alma mater, which should, by the way, be ashamed of itself on her account.

UPDATE: I guess I missed this. Huckabee is out too, so that’s one more grifter down.

Can’t miss, get rich quick scheme

Sent to me by a friend from California:

It’s not every day you can make money and perform a public service.

Trump field organizer totally blindsided

My heart is bleeding for this woman:

A former paid organizer for Donald J. Trump who was fired this month has accused his presidential campaign of sex discrimination.

Elizabeth Mae Davidson, 26, who was the Trump campaign’s field organizer here in Davenport, Iowa’s third-largest city, said in a discrimination complaint that men doing the same jobs were paid more and were allowed to plan and speak at rallies, while her requests to do so were ignored. She also said that when she and a young female volunteer met Mr. Trump at a rally last summer, he told them, “You guys could do a lot of damage,” referring to their looks.

The complaint was filed on Thursday with the Davenport Civil Rights Commission.

via The New York Times

Here she was, just trying to make the country great again by getting Donald Trump elected president. Who could have predicted that he would run a sexist campaign organization? Surely, she couldn’t have, because no self respecting woman would work for a self centered out and out misogynist, would she? Otherwise, you might almost say she got what she was wishing on all other women.

Seven Stages

Glenn Greenwald traces the Seven Stages of Establishment Backlash, demonstrated completely in the case of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, and in process here in the U.S. in the case of Bernie Sanders. Other than the numerical quantities, there isn’t much parallel with the Seven Stages of Grief, particularly at stage 7. In the case of grief, that stage is acceptance, in the case of backlash, as Greenwald explains it:

STAGE 7: Full-scale and unrestrained meltdown, panic, lashing-out, threats, recriminations, self-important foot-stomping, overt union with the Right, complete fury (I can no longer in good conscience support this party of misfits, terrorist-lovers, communists, and heathens).

That’s probably about right, and we have to hope that Sanders and his troops are ready to respond. When push comes to shove, the powers that be will be far more comfortable with Trump than Sanders, because they’ll ultimately conclude that Trump poses no real threat to what really matters (for them). It is disappointing to see that Krugman is among the Sanders bashers. He has every right to support Hillary, but it’s absolutely true that he is almost parodying himself when he says stuff like “as far as I can tell, every serious progressive policy expert on either health care or financial reform who has weighed in on the primary seems to lean Hillary.” This from the guy whose always going on about the “very serious people”. (See here, also)I doubt he’d choose Trump if it came to that, but it’s disappointing that he’s repeating his (more justified then, it turns out) performance of 2008. It’s hard to see, by the way, how anyone could believe that Hillary is better on financial reform, given that she’s fully embraced Obama’s non-action, and has suggested the typical incremental changes going forward. The economic blogs I’m reading are telling me that there’s a hard rain about to fall (just one example here), a storm that wouldn’t be threatening if we’d taken effective action in 2008. And I’m not talking communism or anything, assuming we can all agree that FDR wasn’t a communist.

Is that an echo?

I have to admit that I’m always gratified when I read something by someone who is basically saying the same things I’m saying, and sometimes I feel the need to pass these things along, for after all, if they are saying what I’m saying, they must be spouting profound thoughts indeed.

Today, I point the reader to this piece in Consortium News, the entirety of which is worth reading. Just a few of the points I’ve made that are echoed there:

  1. The media will, once they suspect Bernie may win, start comparing him to Donald Trump, despite the fact that his proposals are not at all radical. He will be accused as being as far left as the Republicans are to the right, i.e., equidistant from the mythical center, which the media keeps redefining.
  2. If you want to achieve something worthwhile, you have to push for it. You don’t get the full loaf if you make it clear you’ll settle for the crust.

A few out takes:

Elite media often blur distinctions between right-wing populism and progressive populism — as though there’s not all that much difference between appealing to xenophobia and racism on the one hand and appealing for social justice and humanistic solidarity on the other. Many journalists can’t resist lumping Trump and Sanders together as rabble-rousing outliers.

[David] Brooks warned that his current nightmare for the nation is in triplicate — President Trump, President Cruz or President Sanders. For Brooks, all three contenders appear to be about equally awful; Trump is “one of the most loathed men in American public life,” while “America has never elected a candidate maximally extreme from the political center, the way Sanders and Cruz are.”

That “political center” of power sustains huge income inequality, perpetual war, scant action on climate change and reflexive support for the latest unhinged escalation of the nuclear arms race. In other words, what C. Wright Mills called “crackpot realism.”

Meanwhile, liberal Times columnist Paul Krugman (whose idea of a good political time is Hillary Clinton) keeps propounding a stand-on-head formula for social change — a kind of trickle-down theory of political power, in which “happy dreams” must yield to “hard thinking,” a euphemism for crackpot realism.

An excellent rejoinder has come from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. “Krugman doesn’t get it,” Reich wrote. “I’ve been in and around Washington for almost fifty years, including a stint in the cabinet, and I’ve learned that real change happens only when a substantial share of the American public is mobilized, organized, energized, and determined to make it happen.”

And Reich added: “Political ‘pragmatism’ may require accepting ‘half loaves’ — but the full loaf has to be large and bold enough in the first place to make the half loaf meaningful. That’s why the movement must aim high — toward a single-payer universal health, free public higher education, and busting up the biggest banks, for example.”

The momentum of the Sanders campaign will soon provoke a lot more corporate media attacks along the lines of a Chicago Tribune editorial that appeared in print on Monday. The newspaper editorialized that nomination of Trump, Cruz or Sanders “could be politically disastrous,” and it declared: “Wise heads in both parties are verging on panic.”

Well, of course anyone who takes David Brooks seriously is an ass, but there are a lot of asses out there. Krugman’s a different story, but recall that in 2008 too, he was in the “No, we can’t” school of thought as well.

Anyway, the fact that Norman Solomon, the author of the piece quoted, agrees with me doesn’t mean I’m right. But I am, and so is he.