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July 29, 2010

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As a Republican friend of mine once said, "I'm voting for Bush (the Lesser) because I want to keep my own money."

If only such sentiments were paralleled by an equal passion for our common wealth.

I am a registered Independent. Due to my current station in life as well as location of residence, I would guesstimate my surrounding citizenship to be:
60% Republican
20% Independent
20% Democrat

One of the strangest phenomena that I witness on a regular basis is how the bulk of the Repubs and Independents associate themselves and relate to the Super wealthy of this country. These folks aren't rich, not even near. Yet, they still relate to the super rich and feel that if you are threatening the welfare of the super rich (if that is even possible) you are hurting them too. They really do believe that if you make sure the super rich get richer, the super rich are going to make it a point to "trickle down" all that money to them. Even though the trickle has not occurred in 30 years, they still think it is coming. I personally know people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their vehicles and they still relate to and defend the class above them as if they were a part of that class. It is unbelievable.

You can't escape Arizona even when addressing national fiscal policy. That's because our state is Exhibit A in the Randian devolution of the social compact. Cutting taxes, cutting government, abandoning the public square, and widening the gulf between the haves and have nots are considered policy triumphs here. Arizona may be failing every perceived index of social equity but our low tax bite is what seals the deal.

The increasing radicalism of the Republican Party may be cause or result, but it's not a mistake. It's as fundamentalist as any Baptist church in Oklahoma. This faith is exclusionary and hard-core. It will eventually fail for that reason and this fact, too: revolutions made up of old white people are doomed at the outset.

Obama and the Democrats will pay a heavy price this fall, and not without reason. Leadership means driving the debate, not ceding the debate to people like Olympia Snowe. The too-small stimulus package may have been a necessary compromise to get something done but it was clear even in December of 2008 that the economy was significantly worse than the administration was admitting. Obama's timing was unfortunate but his political judgment was even worse. He set himself up as the owner of the Bush/GOP catastrophe simply by downplaying it. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/how-did-we-know-the-stimulus-was-too-small/

Longer term, there's little we can do except wait for the coming GOP implosion. The arduous task of creating a functional social democracy will not be easy given our impaired sense of social reality. Much of the GOP today is composed of Homer Simpsons with a cabal of Montgomery Burns lurking in the shadows. Waking up Homer means getting him to see his boss for what he is, not what he thinks he is.


Speaking of Montgomery Burns:

"Pinnacle West’s Brandt joins Nuclear Energy Institute executive committee"

http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2010/07/26/daily61.html

"Excellent!"

Mr. Talton wrote:

"The American economy did very well with Eisenhower's 90-percent range top bracket for the wealthy..."

In fact, the 91 percent top bracket was in place during the Truman presidency (1945-53) and Eisenhower's (1953-1961) and JFK's (1961-1963), barring a few years when it went up to 92 percent. It went down to 77 percent in 1964 and then to 70 percent in 1965, where it stayed through the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter presidencies.

http://www.taxfoundation.org/publications/show/151.html

The fact is, economic growth rates in the U.S. seem to be pretty well independent of the top tax rate. You can get an easy to read, interactive graph showing U.S. real GDP per capita from 1913 to 2009: go to this calculator/plotting economic website,

http://www.measuringworth.org/usgdp/

and uncheck all of the boxes except for "US real GDP per capita" (this statistic removes fluctuations attributable to population growth and inflation) and enter 1913 and 2009 as the start and end years.

Click "Retrieve" and you'll see a table; click on "Plot Series" and you'll get the graph of the series. (Don't confuse this with the logarithmic plot link immediately below.) Wish I could just give you a link, but this website is worth exploring anyway.

You can see data for specific years by moving the mouse over the curve. Since the stable, post-war 1950s, the only real dips correspond to recessions (1953-4, 1957-8, 1960-1, 1969-70, 1973-5, early 1980s, early 1990s, early 2000s, and of course the Great Recession starting in 2007).

None of these correlate with tax increases; and the per capita GDP growth rate (as judged by the tangent to the curve -- hold a sheet of paper or other straight edge against it) is pretty much unchanging from the late 1950s through 1996, when the tangent line increases in angle fairly sharply until the Bush era recession of the early 2000s; this sharply increased rate of GDP growth corresponds to the last half of the Clinton years. The boom after the early 2000s recession until 2007 is comparable to that and to the rest of the series.

Mr. Talton wrote:

"Zonie readers will have to forgive me. I've reached a point where Arizona's cruelty, narrow-mindedness, magical thinking and self-destructive policies are ... boring. I promise to snap out of this fugue state next week."

It palls, in too large of doses, because it's so static. The status quo blunders on, same as it ever was. Current events on the national stage offer a broader and more dynamic pallet for the artist as writer.

That said, I enjoy your Phoenix and Arizona columns: (a) When there is a new development to comment on; (b) As an occasional reminder of where we are, how we got there, and where we're heading; (c) As the occasional historical essay (with tie-ins to the present as appropriate).

There are only so many ways that one can say "the state is a basket case and is doomed" (assuming that this is your take on the matter) and too frequent repetition of this theme (without sufficient variation and development) is tedious.

Sorry, I meant "palette". Pallet is for the artist as watchmaker. :(

Nice comment, Soleri; I especially liked what you said about leadership driving rather than ceding the political debate.

You wrote:

"It will eventually fail for that reason and this fact, too: revolutions made up of old white people are doomed at the outset."

Alas, it's not as easy as that: whole new generations have been indoctrinated via right-wing talk radio, and the Internet websites it supports and is supported by.

"The too-small stimulus package may have been a necessary compromise to get something done but it was clear even in December of 2008 that the economy was significantly worse than the administration was admitting."

In fact, the latest revised figures make it clear that it was even worse than *recently* thought:

"The worst U.S. recession since the 1930s was even deeper than previously estimated, reflecting bigger slumps in consumer spending and housing, according to the Commerce Departments annual revisions also issued today.

"The world's largest economy shrank 4.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2009, compared with the 3.7 percent drop previously on the books, the report showed. Household spending fell 1.2 percent in 2009, twice as much as previously projected and the biggest decline since 1942."

http://www.azcentral.com/business/articles/2010/07/30/20100730biz-grossdomesticproduct0730.html

There was an interesting Ken Silverstein piece in the July Harpers, now available on line, arguing that Arizona is basically a model of what GOP governance would look like on a national level.

David Stockman, OMB director during Reagan's first term, has a Times op-ed piece that is angry and compelling. He's an old-school Republican who would just as soon see the poor and elderly suffer in silence. Still, he's honest enough to call bullshit on the faith-based economic theory of today's GOP radicals:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/opinion/01stockman.html


CDT, here's the link to the Silverstein piece:http://harpers.org/archive/2010/07/0083023

Old-timers may note a few errors in his reporting. Nonetheless, it glows with wonder about Arizona's ongoing descent into a deep, deep hole.

David Stockman, OMB director during Reagan's first term, has a Times op-ed piece that is angry and compelling. He's an old-school Republican who would just as soon see the poor and elderly suffer in silence. Still, he's honest enough to call bullshit on the faith-based economic theory of today's GOP radicals:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/opinion/01stockman.html


CDT, here's the link to the Silverstein piece:http://harpers.org/archive/2010/07/0083023

Old-timers may note a few errors in his reporting. Nonetheless, it glows with wonder about Arizona's ongoing descent into a deep, deep hole.

The Stockman piece was a nice surprise. Former supply sider Bruce Bartlett is also doing some good work at his Fiscal Times web site. There's some modest call for honest accounting on the right, at least.

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