Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


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The Hope of Damocles

“All you have to do is just listen to what’s happening out there and you realize there is progress.” –O’Brien Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)

Take that, fat cat!

Take that, you old fat cat!

Rachel Maddow loves truth—so much, in fact, that she prefers to keep it as far away from her audience as she can, lest either get away from her. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy her style—she really does make intellectual laziness and systemic dishonesty look downright magical. I would even go so far as to say she reminds me of many a dear friend I made at and since Yale. But however fond I might be of her personally, her political analysis—and its tendency to represent the liberal consensus on “reality”—skews somewhere between malicious and unhinged. More importantly, it’s also very insightful.

In case I was not clear enough about this in my last post, the Left is not invested in spending reform. Just as President Obama has, with liberal enabling, enhanced and perpetuated the Bush approach to national security, the Democratic coalition has doubled down on Dick Cheney’s infamous riposte: “Deficits don’t matter.” To be sure, Republicans are not innocent in the matter of squandering a hard-won surplus, but George W. Bush is long gone, as is any fealty—at least on the right—to his spending agenda. (For what it’s worth, W would have squandered much less on the stimulus.) Put simply, the Right has learned from past mistakes.

Which brings us back to Maddow and the Democratic line: there are three essential truths about the budget crisis that you will not learn from her—or the President’s—latest post-election campaign of Orwellian doublethink. First, the federal debt is on track to exceed 100% of national GDP (i.e., the entire size of the U.S. economy) in the next decade. Second, escalating entitlement spending drives this debt above all else. Third, if that spending is not resolved, we’ll lean forward into inexorable ruin.

The annual deficit has exceeded $1 trillion for four years running. Barring sequester or balanced reform, the debt—already north of 70% of GDP—will escalate beyond reckoning. In the face of fiscal reality, the Maddow-approved Obama plan calls for $1.6 trillion in new revenue—up from $968 billion—over a decade and minor spending cuts that may very well be outmatched by another round of stimulus spending. If we pretend that these new taxes (and ObamaCare) will have no deleterious impact on the economy and will meet optimistic revenue projections, they will accrue enough money to offset a single year of deficit spending in about 6½ years (again, being optimistic). In the meantime, without significant cuts that pre-election Democrats agreed are necessary, our economy sails closer to Greece on an odyssey of war against “the rich” and Grover Norquist. (By the way, the Rising Tax Brigade may soon be coming for your 401(k).)

Of this Olympian catastrophe of a plan Maddow writes, “For the left, if there must be a focus on debt reduction, the White House proposal is the right way to do it.”

It is a terrifying world indeed when the President of the United States is aiming to govern by the playbook of MSNBC. But alas, here we are with the powers that tax (or want to) from the White House on down openly belittling the very legitimacy of reducing the deficit. The Left is not invested in spending reform. One could argue that some of them are deeply invested in defeating and breaking the GOP, but I imagine most wouldn’t put it that way.

Some have argued that Obama’s plan is primarily a bargaining position from which liberals expect to compromise. That may very well be true. But if nothing else, the nature of the starting line exposes the contours of the priorities in play. In opening with a proposal that fixates on tax hikes (with stimulus!) and hedges on cuts or any pretense of serious reform, Democrats are prioritizing raising taxes over anything else—budget balance, entitlement solvency, economic growth, etc. In other words, the President and his allies are negotiating as though these once-bipartisan goals—on which both sides ran for election—are merely concessions to be won by the other side rather than shared values to guide compromise. This is the crux of the whole problem.

Notwithstanding the unusually progressive essence of the U.S. tax system, Republicans agree that revenue ought to be included in any viable deal. Call it a major concession, if you like. But a “deal” that is heavy on hubris of spite and light on enduring solutions to underlying problems is not a deal; it is a sadistic game of chicken played by recalcitrant children against the faith and credit of the United States.

If the Democrats refuse to take spending cuts seriously with looming sequester, it would be asinine to expect them to change tune once all leverage has been conceded. Going over the fiscal cliff would be terrible, and the consensus holds that Republicans will be blamed for whatever happens. But if we don’t bear in mind that there are darker ships on the horizon, the Right will be as complicit as the Left in all the turmoil to come.

Balanced recession or unbalanced collapse: which would the President prefer we choose?


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This Nation, Me

“One thing I think Americans should be proud of… this nation, me, my administration stood with them” –Barack Obama

“L’Etat c’est a moi” –Louis XIV

Because the nature of our military’s changed, we use fewer ships and don’t  spell-check.

The final presidential puerile squabbling fest debate of the cycle has come and gone—thank goodness—and we’re left to puzzle out an understanding of where we are to go from here. For starters, liberals are already crying foul over Romney seeming too presidential to be painted a raging extremist. You would think they’d be happy to find a Republican keeping his enemy close agreeing with Obama. Speaking of, what are the proposals, visions, and opportunities represented by the Leader of the Free World?

First off, this was a foreign policy debate, and it was supposed to highlight the strengths of the incumbent who killed bin Laden. Yet for all the talk of Barack Obama’s purported victory, the president left many questions unanswered and many potential voters uncomfortable. President Obama has opposed any attempts to defuse sequestration, but Debate Obama vowed that the sequestration cuts would (since backtracked to “should”) not happen. How exactly will you prevent those cuts, Mr. President? By shifting them elsewhere, as the Republicans (and the Secretary of Defense) have asked along? By raising taxes on small businesses during a recession? You would be forgiven any wariness of the president’s sincerity on the matter, as he continues to defy his legal requirement to disclose how sequestration cuts would be implemented.

The other inconvenient budgetary situation is that of ending the war in Afghanistan, which both candidates have pledged to do by 2014. Once Twice again, Obama promoted economic benefits:

“You know, one of the challenges over the last decade is we’ve done experiments in nation building in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. And we’ve neglected, for example, developing our own economy, our own energy sectors, our own education system. And it’s very hard for us to project leadership around the world when we’re not doing what we need to do here.

But what I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building here at home. And what we can now do is free up some resources to, for example, put Americans back to work”

I’m glad we can all agree that the incumbent president, whoever that is, should have been “nation-building here at home” by “developing our own economy” to “put Americans back to work”. Moving along, concluding the war in Afghanistan will eliminate only a fraction of the $1.2-trillion deficit. (Remember when it was supposed to be $520 million?) This will certainly mean less debt, but there will be no savings to put elsewhere. Obama can choose to restore the deficit by borrowing towards different spending, but if that is his intention, why hasn’t he said and defended it? Is he hoping the American people won’t notice?

On the subject of defense budgeting and strategy, what was the point of comparing Navy ships to “horses and bayonets” in jocular derision of valid concerns about defense policy? Does Obama believe ships are obsolescent in a modern Navy? Given that “aircraft carriers” and “nuclear submarines” are also ships, does it follow that the president believes we should have fewer of them? Is this where he intends to direct those undisclosed sequestration cuts? Whatever the answers, this clever gimmick allowed Obama to shrewdly avoid Romney’s actual point: due to defense budget cuts, the Pentagon has abandoned its “two-war strategy” and is reducing our ability to wage war. Why is it that the president seems so unwilling to defend this decision?

Regarding war direction and authority, Obama defended his actions in Syria by citing Muammar Gaddafi’s many crimes. The assessment is accurate, and we notice how much the exercise recalls George W. Bush’s indictment of Saddam Hussein’s violent record (notwithstanding the discredited 9/11 association). Am I saying Obama’s deployment of force in Libya is akin to the initiation of the Iraq War? No, of course not. President Bush sought and received congressional authorization for his invasions; President Obama never bothered and, when pressed, denied the need. This begs us to ask: what is the Obama Doctrine for the engagement of American martial power? What limits, if any, ought the executive to acknowledge on his authority to commit acts of war?

It is by no means clear what a second Obama term would hold for our military and our national budget. But the gist of it seems to be that the president is committed to three proposals: 1) cut the defense budget & downsize the military, 2) maintain a deficit to finance more government spending, and 3) don’t answer too many questions about 1 and 2. It’s almost like this president feels entitled to rule the country as he sees fit, without the burden of oversight or popular approval.

Can we afford four more years of this governance?