Monday, March 8, 2010

Why Am I Reading The National Review?

Like the Hatfields and McCoys, it's best to look out across the holler and see what the other side is up to occasionally. I can report two things.

First, not much has changed regarding political philosophy. (The same tired critiques that hampered the left in the 30s, 50s, 60s and thence forward are still in NR's print and online versions.)

Second, the writing would have its well-spoken founder, William F. Buckley, not just turning over in his grave but doing an hysterical prairie chicken mating dance. (In fact I had a hard time following Kathryn Jean Lopez's thank you note to Senator Jim Bunning for truculently blocking relief for millions of unemployed workers. Click the link if you can bear it.)

The right doesn't yet get it when it comes to budget deficits in times of national need. Or they only define "need" as wartime spending. But, even as WWII was practically on our doorstep, the radical right wing fought FDR's deficit-financed expansion of military spending, lend lease to the Brits, aid to the Soviets, and ramping up defense production in 1940-41.

Somehow the radical right hews to the idea that not extending benefits affecting 7 million unemployed workers and their families - upwards of 20 million people all together - would force them to go get jobs instead of lolling about on the dole. Naturally, and cruelly, these jobs do not exist.

Bunning wanted to take the battle ax to the regular federal budget in order to pay for the extended benefits, hoping to find $15 billion in offsets that would force the new spending under the heroic category of PAYGO. (PAYGO [pay-as-you-go] is the practice of financing expenditures with funds that are currently available rather than borrowed.)

What Bunning and other knee-jerk conservatives cannot seem to grasp is that taking $15 billion from one section of the economy and putting it into another would have a net zero effect, practically speaking. Just at a time when we need as much stimulus as possible, he and his fellow mandarins would simply move one pile of cash to the spot where another pile once stood. Logic?

In Bunning's own words: “If we cannot pay for a bill that all 100 senators support, how can we tell the American people with a straight face that we will ever pay for anything? That is what senators say they want, and that is what the American people want.” In other words, we the people will want it whether we like it or not.

100 Senators? What Twilight Zone episode is Bunning living in? It's doubtful the Senate could vote 100 to 0 on a resolution agreeing that the sun rises in the east. 

What the American people want are jobs, economic certainty and a loosening of credit for at least big-ticket items such as home and car buying. Removing $15 billion in purchasing power would only slow the already clotted financial flow further. 

Time out to give Lopez's elegant writing a moment to grip us:

That’s what Bunning wanted Congress to be held accountable for. That’s what he wanted Congress to make actual cuts in other spending in order to fund. (Yes, that's an actual quotation.)

And, of course, what ideological right wing rant, regardless of the loftiness of the forum, would be complete without a cheap shot at a president who was elected in a landslide? 

The writing-challenged Lopez feels compelled to call the President "the condescender-in-chief." (Spoiler alert: Obama triumphed by almost 10 million in the popular vote and by 190 electoral votes.) Perhaps she should change that to "Uppity-Negro-in-Chief"? That's what her epithet tells us she's thinking, anyway.

Finally, Lopez drags in centerfold-in-chief Scott Brown to make a point that can't be made because his proposals are so disconnected from reality. "The new senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, has introduced legislation that would return upwards of $80 billion in unused stimulus funds to taxpayers over six months, in the form of a payroll-tax cut," Lopez says.

There are a couple of problems with this idea.

The first is that the stimulus money isn't exactly sitting around somewhere waiting to be ladled out down at the corner bank. It's purely conceptual money until it actually is spent.

The second is that a tax cut will most likely go to either paying down personal debt or will be used randomly to purchase goods as likely as not produced in foreign countries, creating plenty of stimulus in those places. Targeted stimulus money creates jobs here, putting people back to work immediately and not waiting for the trickle down effect a tax cut promises. (Keep in mind that minutes after Brown was sworn in that he said the stimulus "hasn't created one new job." Not one? For spending $550 billion in direct aid plus a $275 billion tax cut - golly, Senator Brown, you really don't want to reconsider that statement?)

Third, let's mull over Lopez's touting of Brown's "Republican" proposal to cut taxes. It's as unfunded as the entire stimulus program is. So, the defense of Bunning's sclerotic stance via Scott Brown's muddled thinking is what? Just an exercise in liberal bashing, or a heartfelt "core value" of the party of No? You can't have it both ways, Lopez. Either you're for unfunded spending and tax cuts, or you're against them.

The NR describes itself as "America's most widely read and influential magazine and web site for Republican/conservative news, commentary, and opinion."

Let the prairie chicken dance begin.

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