Monday, September 13, 2010

Have We Lost Yet?

The Morning Joe Rebuttal for September 13th, 2010


1) Joe Biden had it figured out before all of us. What was amazing about the seemingly enlightened conversation that took place between Joe Conason, David Ignatius, and Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough was what was missing. Seeming like a retroactive genius, Joe Biden had this Afghanistan debacle figured out light years before anyone else. Whether he was blasting Karzai to his face, or making the Pakistan math plain, or showing us the right solution, Joe Biden has been out in front for a long time. A lot longer then myself, a lot longer than the panel today.

We need to go back to a 15,000 person expeditionary force under CIA control. Maybe even less. And we need to control the airspace, freely using the predator system to make no corner of the vast, uninviting terrain of Afghanistan safe for enemies of the United States. That skeleton force should be agnostic to the government of Afghanistan and should rightly be as empowering to the opposition as it is to the ruling party.

The implication that the surge is having an opposite effect actually makes a lot of what Morning Joe has been wishing for suddenly realistic. If we can go from $100 billion in meaningless to $500 million in no one is safe if we’re not safe targeting, that’s a lot of fiscal change for our country.

I do understand that the last of the surge troops just got there in the last few weeks. That doesn’t make me happy, and should bring up continued charges of slow walking by the Pentagon. I am no longer sure if that slow walking was residual effect from the McChrystal regime or if it is a lingering issue, but either way the strategy by those doing it is fatally flawed. The flaw is that there was little calculus in a slow walking strategy for the deteriorating domestic fiscal situation.

A second possible scenario that would disturb anyone may have been that the slowing of the implementation was a process of obstruction by the Pentagon similar to what legislative Republicans do every day: we just won’t do our jobs until a friendly governing regime takes over in Washington. No one knows whether that is part of the calculus, but if Wall Street and Mitch McConnell are doing it, if United Technologies is openly endorsing regime change in the United States, what would generals in the US armed forces do if they want post retirement high paying work?

Nonetheless, now the December evaluation can’t come soon enough, and look for the Biden plan to get several million more eyeballs now that throwing $150 billion more dollars into the ocean didn’t work.

2) Who is retarded now? How can you not be motivated by the Frank Rich article over the weekend? When Rahm Emmanuel slighted the base of the Democratic Party over their incessant calls for real reform instead of lip service, all of us got a reality check. Did we really have a naiveté of a level that made wanting to fix our crumbling governing services on a real level an exercise in Shangri-la?

Reminded by Rich of the FDR vitriol spewed at the robber barons who used fallacy optics to try and populize their self serving enrichment, reminded of the Obama claims made on the way into the oval office that it was real change not something titled change that is being heralded as change but can’t pass any reasonable muster as change, you have to feel at least a little better that you weren’t just dreaming irrationally for the last 22 months.

Rahm is jumping ship. We are left with his awful compromises, and in need of someone who has his moxie, but aims that moxie at adversaries instead of eating his own young with it.

What happens next is clearly indicative of whether we were duped at the outset, or if this is the most cardiac arresting new scale yet of the Obama ‘real good in the fourth quarter” phenomenon. Is it a setup where all the Goldman guys got the finance gigs, Rahm the chief of staff gig, Gates stayed on as defense chief to keep the wolves circling? Will the Goolsbee appointment, a Warren nod, a new Defense Secretary, and a street fighter with the people on his prevailing agenda as the new chief of staff be Obama setting the tempo for a 6 year run of cementing the loose cornerstones into a formidable new style of US governance? Or is it next stop, Manchuria?

3) Can I get an economist, please? I’ll remind you of one other nugget from my month long pro Paul Krugman rant: part of Keynesian doctrine insists that the private sector be harnessed in times of crisis and made to work towards a common goal of full employment. That is not from any Krugman rant, surprisingly, but is a most valid connection to this weekend’s Frank Rich column. You have to not let the Wall Street guys hold you hostage, it has to be the other way around. Listen to the Joe Scarborough harping on capital gains taxes today and you will see my point. Joe Scarborough desperately needs to have an economist on set at all times right now because he rarely makes more than base algebraic sense when he talks about the subject. But when you raise the capital gains tax without going the extra step of steepening the raise for gains made at the expense of the domestic tax base, and lessening or removing the tax for gains made that evolve the domestic tax base you leave a resonating point on the table. When you make numbers move without a substantive reasoning you give hipshot anecdotes like what came from Scarborough today a whole new round or repetition, and repetition outlasts, and can ultimately undermine, more logical paths when mixed with political rhetoric.

You, Mr. Obama, also have to not let the guys running around without a logical leg to stand on maintain the high ground simply by attrition of your will. I’ll gladly continue to take a pickaxe to Scarborough’s fallacy economics every time it comes up. He has yet to be right with that argument about the top-level tax expiration. The only reason he is almost right about the capital gains thing is that the administration lacked the conviction to use targeting of the capital gains tax to grow the economy, a reason Scarborough didn’t cite or base his argument on, he just got lucky.

Mr. Scarborough, you got the high ground via attrition, don’t get used to it.

That’s all for today, see you tomorrow

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