No Record to Run on?

Let’s start with a simple wager.  During this election please count the number of times that Republican candidates actually run on their party’s record.

How often do they speak of their periods in power, which were far more extensive than the Democrats’?  Any statistically measurable accomplishments or proved positive effects?  Shouldn’t effective leaders brag about their past effectiveness?

Over the last twenty years, the Republicans often controlled all three branches of government. During that time the dems never controlled more than two branches — and that for only four years, total. True, the dems did a lot in those short intervals and their record is a legitimate topic.

But isn’t the Republican actual record also fair game?  How often do you hear them mention the name George W. Bush?  As Peter Beinart points out in Newsweek, “Romney has tried to handle the Bush legacy the same way McCain did: by ignoring it.”

Ask your adamant-ostrich friends to name one unambiguous statistical metric of national health that went up as a direct result of Republican rule. They cannot. So, what is the GOP sales pitch? It amounts to ” Okay we’re terrible! Insane and corrupt. But Democrats are worse! So hire us again, no matter how awful we were!”

Only parts of that pitch are at all true.  But it is one heckuvan interesting sales campaign.

== The story that statistics tell ==

We’ve become a people driven by assertions and truisms.  For example, the oft-spread notion that Democrats are squishy-compassionate, and therefore:

(1) they are naive and inept at running a Pax Americana that can be agile and win at international realpolitik, and

(2) those “socialists” must do badly at encouraging growth in an entrepreneurial-competitive capitalist economy.

Would it surprise you that these truisms run diametrically opposite to fact?  I will deal with canard #1 in a week or two, by comparing the vastly different (like day and night) ways that democrats and republicans wage war or enhance Pax Americana influence.

But let’s start with some basic comparisons of how markets, GDP and all that do under the two parties. I have asserted that the capitalist economy of the United States nearly always does better under Democratic presidencies and congresses than it does under Republican ones.  This flies into the face of the common propaganda nostrums credited by Fox viewers.  But see for yourself. Start with the statistics Bill Clinton cited:

Since 1960, Republicans have controlled the White House 28 years, and the Democrats 24. And in those years, Democratic administrations have created 42 million jobs, and Republican ones 24 million jobs. This, according to a Bloomberg analysis of BLS data, is accurate and true. It’s a devastating set of numbers–and by the way, the stock market has performed better during Democratic tenures as well, as another Bloomberg analysis showed that returns on investment under Democrats have done about nine times better than under Republicans).

But let’s assume you folks are members of that dying race, wonk-citizens who are moved by facts.  Try this explication of economic growth vs debt under the two parties.  Do you still believe (against ALL evidence) that the GOP is the way to fight the deficit?

Or employment. In modern times every Democratic presidential administration left office with a lower unemployment rate than when they took office. The same would be true of Obama today. But only one Republican Administration has managed this accomplishment.  That fact is basic.  Devastating.  Absolutely verified and true.

And here is a more comprehensive “presidential economics” review, though dated (2004, but I hardly think GWB 2005-2009 offer much of a counterpoint) — and the author pledges to update the data before election night. He looks at some other social categories too, and the verdict is almost unanimous, across the charts of indicators.

== So what does the GOP really want? ==

Not the health of competitive entrepreneural markets, that’s for sure.  No level playing field for startups. (Startup businesses always do better under dems.) But this should be no surprise!  Long ago, Adam Smith recognized that the great foe of freedom and competition across the millennia was owner-oligarchy. The American Revolution was against feudalism, remember? Wealth is GREAT at enticing lively business competition. I have a little and I want to earn more. But like all good things (e.g. water, food, oxygen) it can become toxic if too narrowly concentrated.  Smith knew this.  Gaze across 6000 years and tell me you really think otherwise!

Discussing the return of oligarchy, several new books have focused on this phenomenon, with a mix of depressing and suprisingly hopeful insights.  These books, Inequality and Instability. By James K. Galbraith, and Affluence & Influence. By Martin Gilens, were reviewed by Pacific Standard:

“(Galbraith suggests that) we seem to have forgotten how to grow the economy except by increasing inequality. The result has been a series of bubbles, and bubbles always cause damage when they pop. Galbraith also trains his lens on Europe, and finds that the common assumption that Europe is “more equal” than the U.S. is untrue; precise measurements reveal that, aside from the handful of northern European social democracies, the opposite is true.”

The other book is more pessimistic “Surveying a 40-year period, he finds that legislative outcomes almost never correspond to the public opinion preferences of the poor (at least when their expressed interests differ from those of the rich), whereas they much more frequently match the policy preferences of the wealthiest 10 percent.”

There’s a lot in the review and even more in the books.  Get concerned.  And realize that when GOP rule always benefits the very top oligarchy and never benefits entrepreneurial or level-playing-field capitalism, perhaps sincere libertarians and conservatives should go dust off their copy of Wealth of Nations and read the actual words of the founder of the modern, Anglo-American Enlightenment that so transformed the world.

“All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. As soon, therefore, as they could find a method of consuming the whole value of their rents themselves, they had no disposition to share them with any other persons.”  — Adam Smith

 == Ostrich Bait ==

The AIG bail-out has returned a profit to the US government. All $182 billion the government invested in AIG has been repaid and the government still has a 22% stake in the company to sell. And the auto industry is repaying it all, as well.  And there are many other cases.The alleged multi-trillion-dollar cost of the various bailouts is actually south of $100 billion.

Indeed, had Timothy Geithner not made his one huge mistake — failing to extort stock from Goldmann-Sachs in exchange for saving their asses — the whole bailout thing would be completely in the black.  Obama’s share, that is.  Not Bush’s. Which was, like the whole Iraq War, viewed as a way to channel billions to family friends.

== And now political potpourri ==

Climate scientists in the U.S. are now facing ferocious and organized harrassment campaigns.

As Mr. Transparency, I am always worried about growing technological empowerments that help our elites see better than we do.  Mind you, noting will stop elites from seeing!  So what’s the solution?  To demandsousveillance… an ever-incresing ability to look-back and supervise and watch the watchers.  For example, I do not mind the FBI’s new face recognition database. (Do you have a way to stop it?)  What I mind is the glacial pace of our new, sousveillance rights and powers.

For those who care about the health and well-being of our children, the low-point of the Republican convention was surely this line by Romney — and the response it got from the audience:  “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans — [bites lip and pauses for audience laughter(!)] — and to heal the planet. MY promise is to help you and your family.”

HOW he plans to help your families?  Vague and unsaid.  But judging from the GOP’s track record… oops!  Did I say track record? See the first part of this posting, above.

Want contrast? Have a look at the moderate and reasonable Republican Party Platform for Dwight Eisenhower’s re-election campaign in 1956. Or Ike’s dry-but-inspiring acceptance speech. Show it to your favorite ostrich-conservative, who is in deep denial over how spectacularly his movement has changed. My God.  I would vote for that sensible man, in a shot.

How changed is today’s GOP?  Texas judge warns of possible ‘civil war’ if President Obama is re-elected…   “He’s going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N., and what is going to happen when that happens?,” Head asked. “I’m thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we’re not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we’re talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.”

Stark… jibbering… loony.   And yes, there are loonies on the left, as well! They occupy a few soft studies departments on some college campuses and have no influence.  They provide anecdotes for Hannity & co. But they don’t run a complete political party, nor have a track record of running the nation off a cliff. Nor are they judges, congressmen, or senate candidates for a major party.

I do agree with Judge Head about one thing, though.  This is Civil War.  The sides are the same. And now a leading pundit, Andrew Sullivan, seems to have either picked up on my allegory or come up with it on his own.

The fashion statement for Blue America, should the Bushites return to power?  The civil war Union soldier’s cap.

===================

* Addendum for those of you with “ostrich” republican relatives. Look up Gary Johnson, the best candidate ever fronted by the  Libertarian Party.   If your Republican friends admit their movement has been hijacked by monsters, but cannot bring themselves to vote for a democrat, show them Johnson. Get him to the debates.  At least some one will speak up against the crazy Drug War.  And your ostrich friends will have a place to free from the insanity.

2 Comments

Filed under economy, politics

2 responses to “No Record to Run on?

  1. It would be so nice if people stopped voting for the lesser of two evils. I can’t see that Obama would be substantively better for the US than Mitt would be… or vise versa. The two major parties cooperate in a monotonic erosion of freedom so please consider stepping away from these architects of oligarchy and casting a vote for Gary Johnson. It may take a few election cycles to accomplish any real change in the the politics of Washington- but what changes will come from holding your nose and voting for more of the same?

  2. Mike

    Re: your Presidential #’s above:

    1. Go look at the comments in those links. Many people have taken his methodology and numbers apart. Bush’s # quadruple with a minor 1 month tweak.

    2. The bulk of job growth occurred in Democratic presidents in the “low hanging fruit” (to paraphrase Tyler Cowen) postwar to 1980 era. Clinton got the cold war end peace dividend and dot com boom (Bush got the bust part of that too!) but nobody really thinks he was responsible for those enormous factors.

    3. The “oh my gosh the Republican party is so extreme” line has been going since Goldwater. Was NASA closed? Any government Department? Budget slashed? Prayer in school? Abortions banned? This is why my eyes roll when I hear it – always backed up by one or two backwater examples (the judge you mentioned) but zero proof on the national level.

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