Paul Krugman and “Equivalences”

In light of the Supreme Court ruling that people with lots of money can spend as much as they want to get the people they want elected, Paul Krugman takes a look at “Equivalencies”:

There are definitely times when it seems that our winner-take-all society is also a whiner-take-all society; it’s really amazing how quick billionaires are to portray themselves as victims because some people say nasty things about them.

One remarkable aspect of this whining is that the nasty things aren’t really all that nasty. Saying that the Koch brothers are using their wealth to promote a political agenda that will make them even wealthier is a substantive claim, not character assassination; it’s not at all the same as, say, suggesting that Hillary Clinton is a murderer. Yet the Kochs and Perkinses act as if this kind of thing were utterly vile, an attack on their liberty.

The other remarkable thing is the instant escalation of hurt feelings into a Godwin’s Law violation. You see, liberals criticize the Kochs; that makes them just like Hitler and Stalin, who murdered their opponents.

But wait, there’s more. What I’ve been hearing from Koch defenders is that people like me have no standing to ridicule billionaires. You see, I sometimes say sarcastic things about the arguments of people who disagree with me, and even question their motives when they say things I consider obviously wrong. And that’s just like comparing such people to Hitler.

The thing is, I don’t think the crybaby thing is an act, put on for strategic purposes. I think it’s real. Billionaires really are feeling vulnerable despite their wealth and power, or perhaps because of it. And the apparatchiks serving the .01 percent are deeply insecure, culturally and intellectually, so that ridicule cuts deep.

It’s kind of sad, really – but also more than a bit scary: When great power goes along with fragile egos, seriously bad things can happen.

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The absence of scandal

Paul Krugman, who is always right, issues an apology:

When Barack Obama was elected, I was sure that it would be the Clinton years all over — that he would be subjected to an endless series of claims of “scandal”, creating the sense of a tainted administration even though all the alleged scandals would turn out to be either trivial or nonexistent. Remember, after all those years of front-page headlines and $70 million in public funds, the Whitewater investigation came up dry.

In fact, however, none of that happened during Obama’s first term. But would the second term be different? For a little while it looked as if the old scandal machinery was finally springing back to life, with Benghazi, the IRS, and more. You could almost hear the sigh of contentment from a certain part of the press corps.

But now it has all evaporated. Benghazi never made sense; it turns out that the IRS was targeting conservative as well as liberal groups. And as Chait says in the linked article, the NSA stuff is a policy dispute, not the kind of scandal the right wing wants.

Of course, the absence of any fire behind the smoke didn’t stop the Clinton witch hunts. But this time seems to be different. Maybe the news media have actually learned something; maybe they’re effectively disciplined, this time around, by the blogosphere. Anyway, the narrative of a scandal-ridden presidency seems to be evaporating as we speak.

So I was wrong. And I’m glad I was.

It isn’t that the Republicans are trying to make up scandals that aren’t there. It’s that no one believes what they say anymore. Take a look at the links at the bottom of this post.  The GOP is making itself irrelevant.

The scandals that aren’t

Some perspective on the recent Obama scandals, from Paul Krugman:

I picked a good week to be away — and I am still away, mostly, although playing a bit of hooky on the notebook right now. For it has been the week of OBAMA SCANDALS, nonstop.

Except it seems that there weren’t actually any scandals, just the usual confusion and low-level mistakes that happen all the time, in any administration.

Does the evaporation of the scandals matter? I don’t know. Unfortunately, I remember the early Clinton years, when ridiculous stuff — restructuring at the White House travel office, for God’s sake, and a money-losing land deal — led to years of front-page headlines, endless investigations,and nothing at all in the form of proven Clinton wrongdoing. If the press decide that scandals are going to be the topic, the absence of actual scandals may not matter.

Oh, and the ongoing disaster of economic policy? Boooring.

Which political party is touting non-existent scandals, and which one is doing nothing to address economic issues. Appears to be the same party.

 

Lies: part 5. See how they run

Paul Ryan in an Aug. 22 interview with Hugh Hewitt:

PR: … I don’t run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or yes.

HH: But you did run marathons at some point?

PR: Yeah, but I can’t do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.

HH: I’ve just gotta ask, what’s your personal best?

PR: Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.

HH: Holy smokes. All right, now you go down to Miami University…

PR: I was fast when I was younger, yeah.

Runner’s World says this on Aug. 31:

It turns out Paul Ryan has not run a marathon in less than three hours—or even less than four hours.

A spokesman confirmed late Friday that the Republican vice presidential candidate has run one marathon. That was the 1990 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, where Ryan, then 20, is listed as having finished in 4 hours, 1 minute, and 25 seconds.

Ryan had said in a radio interview last week that his personal best was “Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.”

In a statement issued to Runner’s World by a spokesman Friday night, Ryan said of his marathon experience:

“The race was more than 20 years ago, but my brother Tobin—who ran Boston last year—reminds me that he is the owner of the fastest marathon in the family and has never himself ran a sub-three. If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four hours, not three. He gave me a good ribbing over this at dinner tonight.”

Paul Krugman says:

I know, [this] sounds trivial. But I remember the 2000 campaign, when Al Gore was constantly hounded by claims of fibbing on trivial issues — claims that, by the way, were all, as far as I could tell, fabricated. These alleged fibs supposedly showed some deep defect in his character. So if Ryan is making false claims about his physical prowess, this is absolutely fair game.

And John Cole at Balloon Juice sums it up:

It’s an easy mistake to make. Just like saying that when you want to gut Medicare and turn it into a radically underfunded coupon system for the elderly you actually are preserving Medicare for future generations.

Arcade Fire: No Cars Go

Here’s my musical complaint for the day. It’s really frustrating to hear a song for the first time, think it’s one of the best things you’ve ever heard, then find out it’s been around for almost 10 years.

This is “No Cars Go” from Arcade Fire, and it first came out in 2003.

Why doesn’t anyone ever tell me anything?

Paul Krugman has made numerous references to this band, but really, do I have to rely on a Nobel Prize winning economist to tell me what to put on my iPods? That’s what we have kids for.

I especially like the way the song seems to drift into complete anarchic dissonance, then they bring it back before they go over the edge.

Lies: part 1

As Paul Krugman says:

The GOP campaign is based on five main themes, three negative and two positive.

Negative:

The claim that Obama denigrated businessmen, saying that they didn’t build their own firms — which isn’t true.

The claim that Obama has gutted Medicare to pay for the expansion of health insurance — which isn’t true.

The claim that Obama has eliminated the work requirement for welfare — which isn’t true.

Positive:

The claim that Ryan has a plan to balance the budget — which isn’t true.

The claim that Romney has a plan for economic recovery — which isn’t true. (The Economist: “The Romney Programme for Economic Recovery, Growth and Jobs” is like “Fifty Shades of Grey” without the sex).

It seems to me that there’s a pattern here, but I can’t quite figure it out.

Paul Krugman is not amused

If you haven’t been reading Paul Krugman’s blog the past few days, you should. He’s been on a roll when it comes to Mitt Romney.

There’s this:

Romney is running for president entirely on the basis of his business success. In a better world he could be running on the basis of his successful health reform, but now he’s condemning that very achievement. In a better world he could actually be running on the basis of some kind of coherent policy ideas, but instead he’s offering nothing but a mix of tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the middle class so extreme that focus groups refuse to believe that this is his actual proposal.

Once the Bain record becomes a liability instead of a strength, there’s nothing there.

And this:

Republicans have long thrived on the “not like you” strategy — portraying Democrats as somehow alien and un-American (remember how John Kerry supposedly “looked French”). But they’ve been throwing that stuff at Obama for four years; if they haven’t managed to turn him into a Kenyan Muslim Marxist yet, they never will. Meanwhile, they themselves have a candidate who is definitely not like the rest of us, heavily engaged in tax-avoiding financial deals that may have been legal but which voters will rightly see as the kind of thing only the very rich can pull off.

What’s more, I suspect that the honesty thing will finally gain traction. For months some of us have been groaning over Romney’s almost surreal dishonesty over policy issues, but have largely given up hope that reporters would get best “shape of the earth: views differ”. But saying you were no longer at a company that listed you as CEO gets this down to the personal level.

And even this about Romney supporters, in reference to a quote by a guest at a Romney fundraiser in the Hamptons, who said “my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies — everybody who’s got the right to vote — they don’t understand what’s going on.”

So I was curious: what do “nails ladies” earn? The answer, according to the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics, is that in 2010 the mean annual wage of Manicurists and Pedicurists (395092) was $21,760.

Among other things, this means that nails ladies probably face a higher marginal effective tax rate than Romney donors.