World News Forum Commentary

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© 2010 by Paul Kennedy

Hello, Jewel. I vaguely remember this last CPAC convention. Basically, a bunch of rich donors to the Republican Party gathered to go over their talking points and write big checks.

This is sad stuff. This is the best they can do. Red state-blue state? Really, Rick? Texas ranks 21st among states in per capita income in the United States–New York ranks fourth, and most of the rest of the top twenty are blue states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And Texas has more citizens without health insurance than any other state, according to a Gallup poll taken in 2011:

Texas continues to be the state with the highest percentage of residents without health insurance. At 27.6%, its rate is more than four percentage points higher than the next highest state, Mississippi. This is the largest gap Gallup has measured between the first and second state since it began tracking health insurance in 2008.

During the last presidential election campaign, as I’m sure you’ll remember, Rick Perry’s Texas was lauded by Republicans as a model of sensible Republican fiscal management. Never mind that he used billions in Federal bailout funds to balance his state budgets, even while bashing Obama over federal stimulus spending:

But the reality of Perry’s relationship with fed-stim is complicated. Through the second quarter of this year, Texas has used $17.4 billion in federal stimulus money — including $8 billion of the one-time dollars to fund state expenses that recur over and over. In fact, Texas used the federal stimulus to balance its last two budgets.

Source: The Texas Tribune.

Because Republicans have no earthly idea how to grow an economy, they are desperate to slash spending whenever and wherever they can, except for rich people, because the very, very wealthy are, after all, the minority interest they represent.

America incarcerates a larger percentage of its population than Putin’s Russia or Communist China, and those countries put people in prison just for making the government mad by saying unpopular things. And Texas, by the way, executes more people than Saudi Arabia.

Republican governors have discovered that, in the long run, it might actually be cheaper to spend money on things like education than on incarcerating people. Republicans have had a sudden revelation: after decades of pushing for harder and stiffer sentencing laws, that maybe it doesn’t really make all that much sense to put every kid convicted of a minor drug offense into prison for decades.

Republicans are the party of bold new thinking. Trouble is that it’s progressive thinking from the 1930s.

Former Gay Propagandist SpongeBob SquarePants Is Now a Conservative Darling

After years of vilifying him as a flamboyantly gay, liberal propagandist, conservatives are now claiming SpongeBob SquarePants as their hardworking, anti-food-stamp hero.

On Monday, November 11—almost two weeks after the nation’s food stamps program was slashed by $5 billion—Nickelodeon is set to air “SpongeBob, You’re Fired!” in the United States. (The episode aired in Greece in July.) After the beloved sea sponge loses his job at the Krusty Krab in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob slips into a slovenly depression. His friend Patrick, a starfish, tries to teach him the benefits of “glorious unemployment”—as in free time and free food. “Unemployment may be fun for you, but I need to get a job,” the determined and eager SpongeBob tells Patrick.

And with this, conservatives found themselves a new star. “‘SpongeBob’ Critiques Welfare State, Embraces Self-Sufficiency,” the Breitbart headline reads. “Lest he sit around idly, mooching off the social services of Bikini Bottom, a depressed SpongeBob sets out to return to gainful employment wherever he can find it,” Andrea Morabito wrote at the New York Post last week. “No spoilers—but it’s safe to say that our hero doesn’t end up on food stamps, as his patty-making skills turn out to be in high demand.”

Read more at Mother Jones

Addicted to the Apocalypse

Once upon a time, walking around shouting “The end is nigh” got you labeled a kook, someone not to be taken seriously. These days, however, all the best people go around warning of looming disaster. In fact, you more or less have to subscribe to fantasies of fiscal apocalypse to be considered respectable.

Paul Krugman

And I do mean fantasies. Washington has spent the past three-plus years in terror of a debt crisis that keeps not happening, and, in fact, can’t happen to a country like the United States, which has its own currency and borrows in that currency. Yet the scaremongers can’t bring themselves to let go.

Consider, for example, Stanley Druckenmiller, the billionaire investor, who has lately made a splash with warnings about the burden of our entitlement programs. (Gee, why hasn’t anyone else thought of making that point?) He could talk about the problems we may face a decade or two down the road. But, no. He seems to feel that he must warn about the looming threat of a financial crisis worse than 2008.

Or consider the deficit-scold organization Fix the Debt, led by the omnipresent Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. It was, I suppose, predictable that Fix the Debt would respond to the latest budget deal with a press release trying to shift the focus to its favorite subject. But the organization wasn’t content with declaring that America’s long-run budget issues remain unresolved, which is true. It had to warn that “continuing to delay confronting our debt is letting a fire burn that could get out of control at any moment.”

As I’ve already suggested, there are two remarkable things about this kind of doomsaying. One is that the doomsayers haven’t rethought their premises despite being wrong again and again — perhaps because the news media continue to treat them with immense respect. The other is that as far as I can tell nobody, and I mean nobody, in the looming-apocalypse camp has tried to explain exactly how the predicted disaster would actually work.