JON KYL ENTERS BABEL! Jon Kyl engaged in some clownish old cant. In part, the fault lies in us: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JULY 14, 2010
What does Dwight Michael Frazee know and why the heck doesnt he know it: In yesterdays Washington Post, Michael Fletcher offered a front-page report about unemployed workers whose benefits have expired. He focused on Dwight Michael Frazee, a 50-year-old New Jersey man who has been unemployed for the past several years.
In the following passage, Fletcher describes Frazees work situation, and his state of high stress. He then quotes Frazee semi-explaining why he has been abandoned:
As Jonathan Chait notes in this intriguing post, Frazee seems unclear about the reason for his loss of unemployment benefits (which he describes as being abandoned). In the passage posted above, Frazee seems to blame Obama, along with the Congress, for his loss of benefits. This seems even more clear in the passage below:
Who does Frazee blame for his loss of benefits? Fletcher never makes this fully clear. But the quoted statements would seem to suggest that Frazee blames Obama. Frazee does not seem to realize that Obama and almost all the Democrats favor an extension of unemployment benefits, and Republicans oppose it, Chait writes. He just knows that Obama is in charge and Obama is not giving him what he wants.
Does Frazee understand that Obama and almost all the Democrats favor an extension of unemployment benefits? Fletcher doesnt seem to have asked. By the way: If Frazee reads Fletchers piece, as he presumably will, will he then understand the politics of this situation? How clearly does Fletcher explain this situation? Theres no right answer to that questionbut Fletchers second paragraph seems to say that no one is trying to extend benefits for people like Frazee. We see other points of confusion as we peruse the piece.
Could you explain this ongoing situation? Were not completely sure we couldand were not sure how much Fletcher helps.
Of one thing we can be certainsome will rush to condemn the unwashed. Chaits second commenter complains about Frazees ignorance. Anyone who pays attention to the news at all should be able to understand who is responsible for ending unemployment benefits, this high-minded observer says.
But what if Frazee pays attention by listening to talk radio, or by watching Fox? What if he reads every news report at the Post? Will he understand even then?
For example: In this June 26 news report, Lori Montogomery described the senates failure, one day before, to extend emergency jobless benefits. If Frazee read this report, would he understand then?
JON KYL VISITS BABEL (permalink): Do we humans ever understand anything that gets said? Yesterday, we semi-wondered, as we read Salons slightly odd treatment of Jesse Jacksons recent remarks.
Jackson hammered Dan Gilbert, Cleveland Cavaliers owner, for the way he trashed LeBron James after James decamped for Miami. Gilbert trashed James remarkably hardand Jackson was soon PUSHing back. He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers," Jackson said in a press release. "His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave. This is an owner employee relationshipbetween business partnersand LeBron honored his contract.
You may think that statement makes senseor not. You may think the statement is wiseor not. But its fairly clear what Jackson was saying, presumably in a metaphorical sense. He was saying that Gilbert sees James as a runaway slavenot that he, Jackson, thinks pro athletes are like slaves in some way. In effect, he was saying that Gilbert wouldnt have trashed a white superstar in a comparable way.
Would Gilbert have trashed a white LeBron James in this same remarkable way? We have no idea. (In the wake of Gilberts letter, many sports pundits said that Gilbert is routinely a big giant blowhard.) At Salon, Joan Walsh expressed her view of Jacksons statement, then invited ten other people to comment. But many of these writers seemed to think that Jackson had said that he himself saw James as some sort of slave. The third guest writer, Professor Blair LM Kelley, ended her post like this:
LeBron James is a free man, we were told. Did Jackson say anything different? Two posts later, author Dan Gilbert says that slavery is an inappropriate and ahistorical metaphor to describe the current state of labor relations in professional sports. Is that what Jackson was doing?
We were struck by the lack of clarity which ribboned through that piece at Salon, in part because the disintegration of American discourse has been so blindingly clear this week. For example, consider Senator Jon Kyls remarkable statement about budget deficits. Beyond that, consider liberal objections to Kyls statementand consider the role this statement will play in our mainstream press dialogue.
Kyls foolishness started on Fox News Sunday. Chris Wallace asked a good question about the Bush tax cuts for high earners, which Kyl would like to extend:
Kyl went off on several tangents, but Wallace kept restating his question. On Wallaces third attempt, Kyl relented, and finally answered:
This answer was thoroughly foolish. Congress can offset a tax cut by raising some other tax. But duh! Congress can also offset a tax cut by cutting spending. And of course, thats something Republicans like Kyl constantly say they want to do.
On Monday, TPMs Brian Beutler spoke with Kyl about his statement to Wallace, and the foolishness continued. We have to rely on paraphrase in part of the following passage, and Kyls quoted statement doesnt seem to make sense. (Did Kyl mean to say reduced spending?) But note the oddness of what Kyl seems to have said to Beutler:
According to Beutler, Kyl said that tax cuts make it easier to shrink the size of the government. This is standard conservative policybut the way you shrink the size of the government is of course by reducing spending! Why then cant Kyl simply say which spending cuts he would recommend? Beutler doesnt seem to have asked.
Eventually, Mitch McConnell saved the day for the Republican side. Beutler spoke with the Republican senate leader about the various things Kyl had saidand McConnell restated a famous old bromide. If we extend the Bush tax cuts, theres no need to pay for these tax cuts, he said. You see, when we cut tax rates, we increase federal revenue!
Yes, its truethats perfect cant. But so McConnell seems to have said:
Kyl hadnt offered this famous old bromide when he spoke with Wallace, of course. But apparently, McConnell told Beutler that we dont have to pay for tax cuts for a famous old reasontax cuts pay for themselves.
Truly, McConnell made a remarkable statement. No serious analyst could truly believe that tax cuts typically pay for themselves. (For Jonathan Chaits rebuttal, complete with graph, click this.) But conservative talkers have pushed this ludicrous sound-bite for decades, and many voters have come to believe it. McConnell used this hoary old claim to rescue Kyl.
In this post, Steve Benen summarizes this whole episode, then asks a reasonable question: What's to be done when an entire political party buys a first class ticket to Bizarro World?
Benens question is perfectly apt. But it aint easy to answer.
Does anyone ever understand anything in our American discourse? Increasingly, the answer tends toward no. Conservative talkers like Rush and Sean have been pushing this tax cut nonsense for decades. But tell us this: When has the liberal world ever tried to form a large-scale rebuttal? When has the liberal world ever tried to find a way to approach conservative voters (and others), telling them theyre being disinformed when they hear this claim? The answer is simple: The liberal world has never done this, not in any serious way, and it shows little inclination now. Meanwhile, the mainstream press will address this nonsense about the time Hell hardens.
Does anyone ever understand anything in our devolving political discourse? The answer is no, and much of the fault lies with us liberals. Here is a short capsule history of recent American discourse:
In the 1950s and 1960s, the public discourse was defined by a small elite. David Brinkley turned out to be fairly conservative; Walter Cronkite turned out to be fairly liberal. But neither of these men was a nut. Neither man would have told you something as silly as this: If we lower tax rates, we increase federal revenues.
At some point in the past several decades, we began to democratize media. Idiots got to join the club. Stern got a show, then Imus followed. After that, we got Rush, and Sean, and Drudge. Some of these people were open dissemblerswilling to do and say anything. As this lunacy spread through the culture, the liberal world slept in the woods.
We now have our own loud talkers. Their response to most events? Youre just a bunch of racists! In this world, Babel hardens.
In this very significant post, Benen notes the way Carly Fiorina is parading this same ridiculous notionTax cuts pay for themselves!in her run for governor of California. Justifiably tearing his hair, Steve makes this half-false statement:
The first part of that statement is true. In 1980, Candidate Bush 41 referred to this general sort of claim as voodoo economics. But Candidate Bush then flipped, becoming Candidate Reagans running mateand the liberal world went to sleep in the woods. As a result, this raving stupidity has not come to be known as belief in the Tax Fairy, or as anything else at all; most voters have never heard this nonsense addressed in any manner. In part, McConnell was free to use this nonsense as an escape hatch because our side has done such a poor job critiquing this claim through the years.
Our public discourse is currently Babel, and Babel will be hard to fix. The mainstream press corps will let this latest nonsense go, as it has done for the past several decades. Once again, voters wont hear that theyre being misledthat theyre being played for fools. In a remarkable array of ways, raving stupidity now defines our public discourse.
The fault in this lies not in the stars. It lies in Rush, in Sean, in Beckand in part, it lies in us. The liberal world has helped create Babel. The Tax Fairy is alive and welland she has fed off us.