Sunday, March 4, 2012

GOP - OMG

The current leaders of the Republican pack -- Romney, Santorum and Gingrich -- represent the GOP’s three classic prototypes – the Corporate Moneybags, the Christian Jihadist and the Evil Genius. These three types have dominated national Republican politics for decades as evidenced, for example, by George H. W. Bush, Dan Quayle and Richard Nixon. Or John McCain (through marriage), Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney.

It’s actually a bit of a stretch to call Newt Gingrich a genius, but the evil part is self-evident. Dumping divorce papers on his first wife, while she lay in bed recovering from cancer surgery pretty much speaks for itself, as does having an adulterous affair behind his second wife’s back while attacking Clinton for his adulterous affairs. Then there’s the censure from Congress for ethical violations.

Think about that for a minute: Gingrich’s ethics did not even measure up to the minimal standards that Congress sets for itself. Yes, I’m talking about the same Congress that legalizes insider trading – but only for itself – and provides health and retirement benefits for itself that it routinely labels as “socialism” when granted to the rest of us mortals.











Homo satanicus



Where Gingrich’s unspoken motto might be “Power! Must have power!” Santorum’s is more along the lines of “People who no stuff about evolution and global warming and things like that shood just shut up.”

But wait. I’m not sure that Santorum is simply dumb. After all, he earned a B.A. with honors in political science from Penn State and followed this up with an MBA and a law degree. (Hmm. I wonder why he called Obama a snob for promoting college education.) No, rather than raw stupidity, I believe Santorum is motivated by fear. In fact, where pride is the primary motivator of the GOP Evil Genius type, fear is the besetting sin of the Christian Jihadists. Santorum and his followers look at the world as a scary place, and they have an irresistible yearning for the kind of security that doesn’t exist in reality, but that a fanatic attachment to religious ideology can conjure up as an imaginary refuge.

Santorum’s followers want the world to consist of white people who go to church and who will someday go to heaven, except for the ones who enjoy sex or vote for Obama. Suddenly coming to mind as I write this is a hefty white woman from West Virginia who, during the 2008 election was asked by a reporter why she opposed Barack Obama. “I don't like the Hussein,” she began, “I’ve had enough of Hooosane!” - emphasizing this last word with a twangy self-assurance.

Her problems with Obama were that he was not a white guy and he had the same last name as a Third World tyrant that the U.S. had recently demolished. More than anything, she was afraid of people who were different from herself and her neighbors. This, I believe, is the foundation on which Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum build their candidacies.






Homo ignoramus






Mitt Romney, like Gingrich, is driven largely by pride. (Of course all candidates, Republican and Democrat, are suffused with more than a daily recommended dosage of high self-regard. After all, how could a humble person aspire to be president?)

But where Gingrich’s pride is bursting with a deranged megalomania, Romney’s churns with a strong, insistent current of greed. Making lots and lots of money is what Romney’s life has been all about, and his “Make government smaller” position is code for “Don’t let those pesky regulations stop me from siphoning more money out of the middle class into my own bank accounts.” This, after all, was Bain Capital’s primary objective when Romney ran it.








Homo conglomocorpus

Romney with the ones he loves (which are being held by some people he knows)





In addition to these GOP types, of course, there is also Ron Paul, the only one among them who everyone knew from the start could never be president. GOP leaders reject him because they like our monstrous military budget and regard it as a source of strength. Of course, a quick look at history will remind anyone that America became really strong by NOT going to war in the 1930s when the other great powers were bankrupting themselves doing so. Score one for Ron Paul, when he points out that we don’t actually have to spend billions of dollars to station troops in, e.g., Germany.

But Paul is rejected by GOP leaders (and almost everyone else) because of his extreme views on economics. I’ve been looking for a neutral, university-based economist who accepts his rather nineteenth-century economic ideas (eliminate the Fed, go back to the gold standard), but so far I haven’t found any. The economists I have spoken to assure me that following Paul’s economic policies would plunge us into a depression worse than the one we experienced in the 1930s.

So, though I do wish political leaders, Democrat and Republican, would give his foreign policy ideas some consideration (without buying into them wholesale), I’m grateful that nobody believes in his economic plans. I will say for him that at least he is neither a phony nor a standard issue Republican. He’s just an honest but hopeless case. And I wouldn’t at all object to him mounting a third party candidacy…







Homo anachronus

12 comments:

  1. Bob Moore blogging at his best. Insightful, articulate and funny as hell! Do you offer these to your other siblings to read? I'm sending a link to this to my Air Force Colonel friend in Colorado.

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  2. Well put! It's always funny to hear guys like Santorum talk about American strength and "exceptionalism" in the same breath as fear-mongering about Muslims and Sharia law taking us over! One point of contention though ... there is plenty of academic support for Ron Paul's economic ideas. Professors at NYU, George Mason, Auburn, Cal State, and U of Missouri (to name a few) support and teach the very principles that Dr. Paul stands for. Not to mention Dr. Mark Skousen, former professor at Rollins. I would also add that most of the academic economists who think Ron Paul would send us into a depression also failed to predict the economic turmoil of the last five years.

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  3. Comrade Justin, I don't agree. There are economists who take a general position along the lines of "We need less government." But I would like the names of some who openly endorse Ron Paul's specific positions - back to the gold standard, etc. I haven't found any who actually say Ron Paul's over all program is the way to go, so give me names if you have them.
    I remember Mark Skousen well. He taught "Austrian economics" for us, by which he meant the theories of Hayek and similar economists. But note that Hayek would be a moderate compared to Ron Paul. Hayek advocated much more government involvement in the economy than Paul does (though not as much involvement as most economists do).

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  4. Oh, one more thing - As I recall, there were some academic economists who foretold the recent crash. As always, opinions were divided. The ones who were totally blind-sided by the crash were the tv promoters like that awful Jim Cramer.

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  5. I think it’s worth clarifying Paul’s economic views a bit. It’s not that he is a rogue economist espousing his own contrived ideas, he is simply a follower of the Austrian school of economics. His stance on money is actually much closer to that of Free Banking (a concept pioneered by Hayek) than it is to a classical gold standard in which government can essentially fix the exchange rates of precious metals. Paul simply refers to gold as a backing because it’s what the market has chosen for thousands of years. Despite his support of free banking, gold backing, etc., Paul still doesn't claim he would implement those policies if he were in office. The only major revision he is suggesting is to allow for a more thorough audit of the Federal Reserve (a bill he proposed in congress which received bi-partisan support and over 300 co-sponsors).

    That said, there are many academic economists who openly support Ron Paul, including Dr. Skousen who was a member of Paul’s 2008 Presidential Campaign Committee.

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  6. I had not heard about Skousen supporting Ron Paul so I googled those names to get more details. The first thing that came up was this from Lew Rockwell's blog of June 2008: "Mark [Skousen], an advocate of the revenue-neutral flat tax, can't resist a slam at Ron Paul for wanting to end the income tax."
    So, even Skousen, whom I consider an extremist, critiques Paul's extremism. I don't think Ron Paul is "simply a follower of Austrian economics." He is more extreme than, for example, Hayek. And I should think his "end the Fed" position is significant regardless of what he suggests he wold implement were he in office. And, by the lights of all the economists I've talked to, eliminating the Fed is both extreme and, if ever implemented, would be disastrous.

    Really, I think the idea that we should minimize government's role to almost nothing is entirely irrational. People mouth "small government" as though they were reciting sacred scripture, but the ideal of small government has no more basis in reality than the story of Noah's Ark. Never in a modern society has a Ron Paul-style "small government" program been tried, and every time we got close to one, by eliminating regulations and letting "the market" call the shots, we have met with disaster. First, the Great Depression, which followed the orgy of conservative capitalism in the 1920s, then the collapse of the Savings and Loans after they were given freer rein in the 1980s and finally the current recession which, according to most economists, resulted from inadequate regulation of the housing and banking industries. Of course, Ron Paul has some convoluted counter-arguments explaining how these disasters were all the result of government interference, but my point is that I trust the consensus positions of academic economists far more than I would trust Ron Paul's visions which seem to be based on a religious-like faith in "small government" without any grounding in economic science or history.

    The "small government" ideal, for the past 150 years or so, has been a product, first, of pro-slavery southerners who wanted the federal government leave their slave-based economy alone and then Reconstruction-era southerners who wanted to continue to exploit former slaves without interference from the US government. The small government doctrine was ultimately supported by corporate enterprises that wanted to prevent such things as collective bargaining by employees and regulation of food and drugs, etc., to protect consumers, the kinds of things that might interfere with corporate profit-seeking. These "small government" advocates had rational, if unethical, reasons for supporting an anemic government. The Ron Paul position seems not rational at all, but simply based on a religious-like belief: "A miracle of justice and prosperity will occur if government can be eliminated from the economy."

    Again, where are the academic economists who support an end to the Fed, a return to the gold standard, elimination of the income tax, etc.? Names?

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    1. Let’s back up a little. My intention was not to debate government’s role in the economy. I’m quite familiar with your stance and I wouldn’t attempt such a feat in a few comment lines :)

      What I do want to clear up is the distinction between Austrian economic studies vs. policy recommendations. The cornerstones of the Austrian school are the recognition of the epistemological challenges in the field of economics and the study and understanding of Austrian Business Cycle Theory. In a nutshell, the theory says that there is no Santa Claus, or, in slightly more technical terms, central banks printing unlimited amounts of money does not always lead to economic utopia and in fact may carry negative consequences. In light of this study, the school has developed numerous recommendations for sound monetary systems including free banking, 100% reserves, and hard backed currencies. There is a great deal of debate within the school on the correct path, but there is overwhelming agreement that the current system is not sustainable. Subsequent to monetary policy is the question of government’s role in the economy. Details regarding appropriate taxation, regulatory policies, and government services are much more open to discussion. Admittedly though, the school favors non-statist solutions largely as a result of Hayek’s arguments regarding the pretense of knowledge.

      To sum up, I don’t know how every Austrian scholar would critique every one of Ron Paul’s economic policies, but it is not irrelevant to point out his hesitation in applying all of his favored solutions from a position of authority. Much the same as it is important to distinguish between his personal pro-life views vs. his opposition to a federal ban on abortion. Even many hardcore Keynesians have begun questioning the wisdom of Fed decision-making as of late, though fewer have come to recognize the inherent moral problem of an independent institution capable of funneling freshly printed money to well-connected Wall Street firms. If you’re genuinely interested in academic economists who support Paul’s views I would recommend Joe Salerno, Peter Klein, Peter Boettke, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Walter Block, Bob Higgs, Ralph Raico, Steven Horwitz, Bob Murphy, Mark Thorton, and Nassim Taleb to get the ball rolling.

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  7. how about Milton Friedman ? A little known economist of 20st century... He would have fully supported Ron Paul's economic views.

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    1. Friedman would definitely agree with Paul's free market views and his desire for ending the Fed. They differ in their opinions on a proper replacement since Friedman felt the money supply needed to grow steadily with GDP. Paul and the Austrians would oppose this type of centrally managed inflationary system. Actually one of Mark Skousen's books is dedicated entirely to this subject. It's called Vienna and Chicago, Friends or Foes? It gets fairly technical, but it gives a very balanced critique of both schools.

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  8. Dang, Justin, are you telling me these guys, Joe Salerno, et al., are overt Ron Paul supporters? Somehow I don't think so. Naturally, I'm not going to dig into every one of them, but here's the first position I found from Taleb (the only one I'm taking even a little time to investigate today) that contradicts Paul: banks should be regulated so they are prevented from taking lethal risks.

    That doesn't sound like "down with government regulation" Paulism to me.

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    1. Taleb is the only one on the list who is not explicitly "Austrian". He is more involved in the field of risk management, but he does recognize the epistemological problems in economic study, similar to the Austrians. Still, he fully endorses Ron Paul. Here is an interview he gave with CNBC last week on the subject:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N4Tql8YHn0

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  9. Thanks, Justin - now I have a name of an economist/supporter of Paul that I can pass on to my econ buddies.

    I have to say, though, that listening to Taleb's interview put me off a couple of times. The first time was when he said Ron Paul was the only candidate with "the guts" to criticize the Fed.
    This is clearly false. The people I read or listen to who oppose eliminating the Fed are not lacking in "guts," they simply think the Fed has done more good than harm during its lifespan. A couple other things Taleb said also struck me as "out there," but I really don't want to carry on an endless blog comment exchange, so I'll switch to another medium for future reference.

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