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Welcome to the Real ‘Real America’

10 Kasım 2012 Cumartesi

So, for a while there during the campaign it seemed very iffy. But in the end, discipline and being on the right side of the issues prevailed. Yes, Elizabeth Warren won! Oh, and that guy, Barack Obama, too.

Now comes the cleanup; when thousands, perhaps millions, of right-wing heads explode, it makes quite a mess. Also, notice that the polls were right. I wonder if I can get invited when Nate Silver is sworn in as president?

O.K., somewhat more seriously: one big thing that happened in the election was that the real America trumped the “real America.” And it’s also the election that lets us ask, finally, “Who cares what’s the matter with Kansas?”

For a long time, right-wingers — and some pundits — have peddled the notion that the “real America” (all that really counted), was the land of nonurban white people, and the demographic to which both parties must abase themselves. Meanwhile, the actual electorate was getting racially and ethnically diverse, and increasingly tolerant, too. The 2008 Obama coalition wasn’t a fluke; it was the country we are becoming.

And sure enough that more diverse and, if you ask me, better nation just won big.

Notice too that to the extent that social issues played in this election, they played in favor of Democrats. Gods, guns and gays didn’t swing voters into supporting corporate interests; instead, human dignity for women swung votes the other way.

A huge night for truth, justice and the real American way.

Wall Street’s Bad Investment Decision

There are many lists now circulating of the biggest winners and losers the election; oddly, however, none of the lists I’ve seen mentions just how bad this result is for Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe.

The story, as you may recall, is that the financial industry — having brought both itself and the rest of the world to the edge of disaster — was bailed out by taxpayers.

Yet far being grateful, top financial types were furious at President Obama for occasionally hinting that some of them might have misbehaved a bit. And investment bankers — who normally lean Democratic — went overwhelmingly to the other side, pouring cash into Mitt Romney’s coffers in the no doubt correct expectation that a Romney administration would dismantle financial reform and treat their wealth with the adulation they believe to be their birthright.

But Mr. Romney lost and Mr. Obama won. The limits of their power have been cruelly exposed, and the re-elected president now owes them nothing.

Did I mention that Elizabeth Warren, who helped to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is going to the Senate — a Senate that will be substantially more progressive and less Wall Street friendly than before?

Bad move, guys.

The G.O.P.’s Privatization Pathology

Let me take a moment to flag an issue others have been writing about in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: The weird Republican obsession with killing the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Kevin Drum, a political blogger at Mother Jones magazine, has the goods: they just keep doing it.

“At a deep ideological level, Republicans believe that federal bureaucracies are inherently inept,” Mr. Drum wrote on Oct. 30, “so when Republicans occupy the White House they have no interest in making the federal bureaucracy work. And it doesn’t. Democrats, by contrast, take government services seriously and appoint people whose job is to make sure the federal bureaucracy does work. And it does.”

George Bush the elder turned the agency into a dumping ground for hacks, with bad results; Bill Clinton revived the agency; President Bush the younger ruined it again; President Obama revived it again; and Mitt Romney — with everyone still remembering Brownie and Katrina! — said that he wanted to block-grant and privatize it. (Even TV news didn’t let him Etch-A-Sketch that comment away).

There’s something pathological here. It’s really hard to think of a public service less likely to be suitable for privatization, and given the massive inequality of impacts by state, it really, really isn’t block-grantable. Does the right somehow imagine that only Those People need disaster relief? Is the whole idea of helping people as opposed to hurting them just anathema? It’s a bit of a mystery, calling more for psychological inquiry than policy analysis.

But something is going on here.

Soup Kitchens Caused The Great Depression

Some readers have been asking me to reply to Casey Mulligan’s latest attack on my recent book — he was writing for The New York Times’s Economix blog.

Um, no. Life is short, and if I spent my time responding to every attack on yours truly — or, indeed, everything Mr. Mulligan, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, writes that I consider foolish  — I would have no time to do anything else. So let me just outsource this to the economist John Quiggin.

Now, a recent blog post by Mr. Quiggin takes on both Mr. Mulligan’s specifics and the broader claim that increased use of the social safety net is a cause rather than a result of a depressed economy.

As one of his commenters points out, this amounts to the claim that soup kitchens caused the Great Depression. Mr. Quiggin does an admirable job of refuting this claim.

I would, however, add one more point. If you really believe that the problem is that excessive generosity to the downtrodden is reducing the incentive to work, so that what we really have is a supply problem rather than a demand problem,

you should expect to see upward pressure on wages.  But that’s not the case.


On Oct. 29, after wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and along the East Coast, Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey and brought a storm surge to the New York metropolitan area. In the United States more than 100 people were killed, millions were left without power and tens of thousands lost their homes. Initial estimates of lost revenue and damage to housing and infrastructure totaled $50 billion.

In the aftermath of the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was widely praised for its disaster relief efforts by public officials, both Democrat and Republican. The agency is responsible for coordinating the government’s response to major national emergencies and helping to fund long-term recovery measures.

Throughout its history FEMA has often been targeted in debates about the proper size of the federalgovernment. Typically, the agency has been strengthened under Democratic administrations and marginalized under Republican ones.

In 2000, for instance, George W. Bush appointed his campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh, to head FEMA with the express purpose of downsizing the agency and privatizing many of its responsibilities. And last year, after a string of natural disasters depleted FEMA’s budget, the agency ran out of money to address the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene, but Republicans in Congress insisted that additional aid be offset by spending cuts to other federal programs.

Some Republicans, including the former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have suggested that FEMA should be dismantled and its responsibilities transferred to individual states in the form of supplemental funds, or block grants.