FIRST, NAME RONALD REAGAN! When conservatives say the trust fund aint real, you should just name Ronald Reagan: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, AUGUST 20, 2010
No R-, X- or I-bombs for Dean: However a person may choose to proceed, we thought Howard Deans statement about Park51 made perfect sense. Other positions make sense toothough some make less sense than others. (We refer to Deans written response to Glenn Greenwald, which can be read here. Scroll down to Update IV.)
That said, weve been struck by the lack of R-, X-, I-, N-, H- or B-bombs directed at Dean and Harry Reideach of whom has said that the Park51 project might do well at a different address. A new, softer bomb has been thrown at these menwho are, after all, in the tribe.
Before we consider the things Dean said, lets consider a front-page report from todays New York Times.
Paul Vitello interviewed New York City Muslims, seeking their views on the project. On balance, we think the views expressed by these average people are more sophisticated than the loud, screeching views being voiced by us bomb-wielding liberals.
What do Vitellos subjects think about the project? Different people think different things. But as he opened, Vitello quoted one these Gotham Muslims employing a strange wordcompromise:
Khan and Akhtar are willing to move the site! Perhaps we white liberals can unsheathe our newest bomb, bombing these fellows as Reid and Dean have been bombed, deriding the pair as cowards.
In our judgment, and we quote Richard Nixon: We could do itbut it would be wrong.
Different people will think different things about the best way to proceed in this matteralthough it turns out that this project has no funding, no architect and no discernible game plan. (This doesnt make its backers bad people. It may mean they arent super-savvy.) But throughout his article, Vitello speaks to Gotham Muslims who understand something we white liberals dontthey understand that, inevitably, projects like this have political dimensions.
From redoubts in South America, white liberals drop B-bombs all over the land, though they wont have to live with the consequences of a high-profile project which is handled poorly on a political basis. In New York City, with nowhere to hide, others seem more savvy. Some even said they understood the other sides feelingsan approach which is forbidden within the war councils of our high-minded liberal tribe:
Unlike us lofty white liberals, these are the people who will live with the consequences if this project draws even more resentment. According to Vitello, some of these Muslims said they understood opponents misgivings, a bit of wisdom which will never intrude on white liberals self-impressed musings. Some said the project shouldnt be pushed too hard; they worried about possible blowback. Others, reviewing the ongoing turmoil, wished the project had never been proposed in the first placewished the project had never been born.
Shall we get our C-bombs out and drop them on these miscreants heads? As Vitello continued, he quoted a man who has more understanding than most of the aggressive liberals whose musings weve read this week:
This is not unlike what Howard Dean said. Lets consider what Abid means when he says this project, as it has unfolded, was not a politically smart move.
We assume that Daisy Khan, the wife of Imam Rauf, is a good, well-intentioned person. Back in December, she appeared on the OReilly Factor and explained her view of the project, including her view of its proposed site. Why locate so close to ground zero? Khan explained to guest host Laura Ingraham:
Khan missed the chance to establish a pointthe project isnt at ground zero. Despite this, Ingraham was buying. I know your group takes a moderate approach to Americanizing people, assimilating people, which I applaud. I think that's fantastic, she said in reply. Asked about the views of some Muslims in other parts of the world, Khan again explained the location:
In our view, thats a great ideaexcept when it isnt, which may include the current instance.
Khan said the sites propinquity to ground zero would help promote a message of inclusion and common values. So far, something quite different has occurred. A gang of crackpots has roamed the land, dissembling about Khan and her husband and spreading ugly messages about Islam and Muslims. They have misstated the projects location; they have misstated the views of its backers. They have engaged in notably ugly conduct, indiscriminately comparing Muslims to Nazis and engaging in rank forms of hate speech. In a city with a savvier mayor, this problem might have been foreseeneven before the Ingraham interview, when Bloomberg was already on board. Savvy steps might have been taken to pave the way for this projector to move it to a different location before the demagoguery started. This is what is typically done in projects all over the countryindeed, all over the world. Such foresight can even be found on Long Island, as Vitello reports:
Habeeb, who must be a very bad man, would probably rethink the whole thing for the sake of communal harmony. But in his own case, he has tried to head off misunderstandings by taking pre-emptive measures. Unfortunately, New York City didnt have a mayor who foresaw the potential problems with the Park51 (nee Cordoba House) project; Gothams mayor may be a decent person, but he isnt especially savvy. All next week, well be writing about this mayors blunders with his citys public schools, a subject youll never see discussed by your liberal news orgs, whose editors and producers wouldnt stoop to discussing black and brown kids if you kidnapped their grandmothers and began to murder them one at a time. (Quick news flash: Professional liberals dont care about the interests of black and brown kids. Theyre too busy name-calling bigots.) Mayor Bloomberg may be extremely well-intentioned in this matter; we grew up one town away from his home town of Medford, Mass.; though we are a bit younger than Bloomberg, we well recall the open anti-Semitism described in this fascinating report. But Bloomberg didnt lay the groundwork which might have helped this project proceed in the way its sponsors intended. As a result, the demagogues seized control of the day, as they usually do when we liberals are involved. Khan and Rauf have had their vision turned upside down and dumped down hard on their heads.
To borrow a word from President Obama, where does the wisdom lie at this juncture? Howard Dean said the wisdom may lie in finding a different location. Thundering from Seattle and Rio, the Kinsleys and the Greenwalds can see nothing but bigotry here.
The childishness of the liberal world is stamped all over the sad discussion which has emerged from this mess. According to Vitello, some Muslims in New York City understand opponents misgivings, but this approach is forbidden to us, who are mainly skilled at naming bigots, and putting everyone in that group who doesnt see things exactly like us. (In the real world, feelings of victims are often deferred to, even when such feelings dont perfectly parse. But we white liberals arent in the real world, we muse from the campus of the worlds richest man, where weve been kept all these years.) And as always, we liberals fail to catalog our own massive failures of insight and wisdom; we turn instead to our various bombs. Even Dean, suggesting compromise, played this predictable, ham-handed game. He doesnt seem to leave home without it:
As a general matter, we would agree with Dean; we would assume that the vast majority of those who oppose this project are not hate mongers. But in the world of this upper-class Yankee, you cant talk about hate-mongers without saying right-wing first. Its a ham-handed, ludicrous tribal imperativeby definition, hate only comes from the other tribe! Thus expressing his own brand of hate, Dean helps define the world of the liberal hater and bigot.
Many very pious liberals say the sponsors should stand and fight. These are always matters of judgment, of coursethough we liberals show few signs of knowing. We will only note this point: These extremely high-minded people wont be the ones who pay the price when the demagogues overwhelm us feckless liberals, as they inevitably do, given our lack of skill.
It feels very good to throw B-bombs around, often from a distant preserve. By way of contrast, Vitello spoke to people on the ground. He spoke to the people who will be at ground zero if we liberals fail in our politics, as we always do.
In Vitellos report, those average people express a range of views about the best way to proceed in this matter. In the main, they display a vastly more complex understanding than white liberals have been displayinga much more advanced set of viewpoints about the real work of the world.
PART 4FIRST, NAME RONALD REAGAN (permalink): For the past thirty years, all discussion of Social Security has taken place within a hall of mirrors. This hall has had two primary builders: Pseudo-conservative disinformation, and sprawling liberal incompetence.
The hall of mirrors still exists; this recent Gallup survey bears tribute to its massive distortions. According to Gallups report, Six in 10 Americans who have not yet retired believe they will get no Social Security benefits when they retire. This means that voters are more pessimistic than at any time since Gallup began asking this question in 1989.
How powerful is our hall of mirrorsthe one our liberal intellectual leaders helped build? Incredibly, Americans voiced those unfortunate views in the face of what Paul Krugman recently wrote. As a basic point of departure, lets recall his (unremarkable) words:
Say what? Benefit cuts wont be needed for twenty-seven yearsand such cuts may never be needed? Read Krugman, then ponder that Gallup survey. In the combination of those documents, you see the shape of liberal failure over the past thirty years. By the tens of millions, voters have been skillfully conned into thinking this program may go bankrupt. Our loveable losersthe Dionnes, the Kinsleys, the Richeshave snored, dozed, gamboled and lived the good life all through this thirty-year scam.
Cuts to this program are back on the table, as Krugman notes in his recent column. Its highly unlikely that we liberals will bother trying to educate the rubes; in the liberal scheme, the rubes exist for the purpose of being called bigots. That said, if you want to know how to help a friend scratch this thirty-year itch, well make a few more suggestions:
Long-term outlook: Rememberbarring national meltdown or nuclear war, Social Security will never go broke (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/17/10). Payroll taxes will always roll in; benefit checks will always go out. At some point in the future, it may be necessary to reduce promised benefits by some amount, or to direct new revenue to the program. But even given the trustees conservative economic forecasts, this wont happen until 2037. And once again, heres the key idea: The program will never go broke.
In the past thirty years, this key idea has rarely been voiced by liberals, producing those Gallup results.
The function of the trust fund: Alas! While its easy to explain the long-term situation, the short-term situation has long been confused by claims about Social Securitys trust fund. People have heard, for many years, that the trust fund is just an accounting fiction. (The money isnt thereits already been spent!) In a recent interview, Sharron Angle blamed this scam on Harry Reid, repeatedly claiming that Reid has raided and pillaged the trust fund. Confusing, skilled claims about the trust fund have been recited for years.
Such claims produce a problem. If the trust fund is a fictionif the money has already been spentit cant supplement payroll taxes through 2037, maintaining promised benefits. Our suggestion on the logic: In explaining this matter, liberals should start with Ronald Reagan. Our first, second, third and fourth explanations should all go something like this:
The system has been working exactly the way Ronald Reagan designed it!
What role does Reagan play in this? To all intents and purposes, the trust fund was established in 1983, as part of the Social Security reform created under Reagan. (These reforms were devised by a commission chaired by Alan Greenspan. The commission was loaded with Democrats.) From that day right up to this, the trust fund has been used exactly as Reagan and Greenspan designed itwith the help of major Democrats, like Speaker Tip ONeill.
Wikipedias account of this matter is close enough for government work. In the following passages, you read about a program which has been executed exactly as it was planned in 1983. No subsequent pillage or scam has occurred; there was no later nefarious conduct. Despite decades of conservative disinformation, no subsequent tricks were ever played with the Gippers quite sensible plan:
In that last sentence, Wikipedia refers to the endless, hopelessly muddled discussions about whether the trust fund is real or just an accounting fiction. Ignore those questions for the moment. Whenever people start suggesting that the trust has been looted, raided or already spent, liberals should start at the beginning:
The use of the trust find (the use of those annual surpluses) has proceeded just as Reagan directed.
Claims that the trust fund doesnt exist normally come from the right. When conservatives make these claims, they routinely suggest that some sort of nefarious conduct has occurred in the years since 1983, when Reagan (and Greenspan) passed tax increases, thus generat[ing] a large short-term surplus of funds, intended to cover the added retirement costs of the baby boomers.
Bamboozled respondents to Gallups survey have heard such claims for decadesbut such claims or insinuations are false. And so, before other words are said, such critics should be brought back to the start: The use of the trust find has proceeded exactly as Reagan directed. No one came along after the fact and pulled any tricks. Congress has invested these surpluses into U.S. Treasury securities, in precisely the way the program was designed.
If you dont like the way those surplus funds have been used, you simply dont like Ronald Reagan.
This is just the start of a response to the trust fund bamboozle. Tremendous energy has been invested in making Americans voters believe that there is something odd about the process which created this so-called fund. In fact, the story is simple, and here it is: In the past three decades, the United States government has borrowed lots of money, from many different sources. It has borrowed money from the Social Security trustees (those pre-planned over-payments). It has borrowed money from big Chinese banks, and from many other sources.
You may not like the fact of this borrowing, but this borrowing has occurred. And guess what? The money all gets paid back! No one will ever tell those Chinese banks, Sorry, we cant pay you back. The money isnt there its already been spent! But the loans from those payroll tax over-payments are no different from the loans from the Chinese. The money was borrowed, just as Reagan designed. And now, it will all be paid back.
Decades of aggressive, skilled effort have gone into that Gallup result. The conservative world invented a series of slick, slippery scamsand the liberal world slept in the sun. The fruit of that pairing can be seen in the numbers who think they wont ever see any benefits. It may also be seen, in coming months, in new cuts to the program.
Sixty percent of Gallup respondents said they would never get any benefits! People like that are ripe for the slaughterand decades of skilled, unrebutted disinformation went into preparing the feast. That said, we liberals have remarkable skill at failing to see how things really work. Nothing to look at, Digby said. The young people always say that!