Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Spin on! Spin on! It’s only a new year


Theatre in Washington closed on a delicious high: every oration and most asides were quotable and on message. The second season of “The Fiscal Cliff” transfixed the world, teased the markets, and climaxed without a blood bath or exhausting its writers.
Too bad about the writers.
Enough changed in this week’s $600 billion income tax deal to require some adjustments in future messaging. However, Democrats must continue to go on about “balanced sacrifice” and Republicans must continue to tear-up about the wretched world facing their grandchildren. The changes were big enough to settle discussion on income tax rates, for a while. But, they were not enough to satisfy worried liberals or calm worried conservatives.
“The Greek Abyss” remains the inspiration and meal ticket for the long-view wordsmiths in national politics.
For Mayans in Washington, 2020 will soon be the new 2012.
George Will is already on his feet raging against the effete dimensions of the “The Fiscal Cliff” denouement. In his column “Our decadent democracy” he complains that America’s leaders have been cowed by the “entitlement state”. Then, ta da, he invents a fresh pack of heroic Republicans preparing to come to the rescue.  
“Furthermore, a critical mass of Republicans reject the careerists’ understanding of “politically rational” behavior. These Republicans have a different rationale for being in politics.
“The media, which often are the last to know things because their wishes father their thoughts, say the tea party impulse is exhausted. Scores of House Republicans and seven first-term Republican senators (Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio and Tim Scott) will soon — hello, debt ceiling — prove otherwise.”
Will plays with history with the same abandon that he plays with tomorrow.
The career politicians he named, along with Paul Ryan and other members of Ayn Rand’s Congressional book club, only got excited about Mitt Romney when he started to look like a winner according to the old rationale—beating a Democrat by promising to leave voters with their entitlements and only throwing legitimate bums off the dole.
Ari Fleischer was George Bush’s press secretary and now is enough of heavyweight to get his thoughts on the economy into the New York Times. He offered this gigantic pivot to set the stage for the next man-made crisis Will is already cheering on:
“As a Bush loyalist, it’s fantastic that the Bush tax cuts, which now have to be seen inarguably as overwhelmingly for the middle class, are being made permanent. On the other hand, it’s inarguable that this adds $4 trillion to the federal debt.”
When Obama promised to raise income tax rates on the top two percent, Fleischer followed the Republican Party line: that would be an intolerable tax increase. Now that Obama has agreed to raise income taxes on only the top one percent, Fleischer introduces a brand new party line: it will cause a gigantic increase in the national debt.
In the fall, the same Democrat vision would turn Americans into godless Swedes; today it’s penniless Greeks.
According to the logic of Fleischer’s new found fascination with debt and its origins, Mitt Romney’s tax plan of piling a further 20% tax rate cut on top of Bush’s tax regime didn’t constitute a $4trillion revenue problem at all. Rather, it constituted an $8 trillion revenue problem that would have would have landed America on the west coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Will regrets that Americans missed a wonderful educational opportunity by not being lead over “The Cliff”.
Actually, in choosing not to jump, we learned a great deal about contemporary America and its politicians. Conservatives don’t want Washington to have the means to keep growing and liberals still believe government can help. But they will compromise with each other because Americans are united—they still prize economic growth and non-discriminatory, reliable, access to the services of a competently run, well-financed government.
The nice thing about man-made crises is that they are played out by humans according to what humans want. 

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