Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Political Notebook returns

There are always political things I see and would comment on, except that they’re not big enough, or I don’t have enough to say about it, to fill a blog post. Sometimes they end up being things I share on the AmeriNZ Facebook Page, but there are things that don’t even get mentioned there. Other times, there are things I do want to talk about, but for any number of reasons I don’t want to do a post on it. So, I decided to bring back my Political Notebook posts to catch those sorts of topics that would otherwise get away.

A ‘fact-challenged televised plea’

Today the current occupant of the White House “delivered a forceful and fact-challenged televised plea to the nation Tuesday night for his long-promised border wall”, as The Washington Post put it. The paper also provided live fact-checking of the speech.

The question is, what’s he up to? Is he really fighting a losing battle he cannot win, or is he setting the stage for something—bigger? Maybe, but because he’s not intelligent it’d be the people directing him calling the shots. Either way, it could be dangerous: “What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency”, published last month by The Atlantic, talks about the dictatorial powers a president gets when declaring a state of emergency. Many of the brutal dictators that the current occupant of the White House admires so much have used emergency powers to cement their dictatorship. And, of course he’s said he should be president for life, though his acolytes insist he was joking.

Is it all about cruelty?

Plenty of critics think that the entire point of the current regime’s obsession with the border fence is cruelty, as much as anything else. “The Cruelty Is the Point” of this regime and its supporters, as Adam Serwer put it in The Atlantic a few months ago. John Pavlovitz had the appropriate response last month: “I Don’t Grieve Over His Cruelty. I Grieve Over Yours.”

We need to talk about what we’re talking about

No one can know everything—surprise!—and that’s true of political stuff and policy issues, too. There’s no shame in that, as long as we try to be as well-informed as possible. Recently new US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez caused a stir when she suggested a new top income tax rate of 70% to fund a “Green New Deal”. Republicans attacked, of course, but what was shocking was that most of them didn’t seem to understand how marginal tax rates work. Or, they were betting that most Americans don’t, which would be a pretty safe bet, considering how many people of “moderate means” attacked the proposal because they thought—wrongly—they’d have to pay 70% of their entire income in tax (in fact, only the very rich would be affected at all). People really ought to know better, sure, but they need to know better.

A huge number of people don’t understand how marginal tax rates work, and opportunistic politicians exploit that fact to manipulate voters. “How marginal tax rates actually work, explained with a cartoon”, published by Vox, may help make things clearer, and the pocket analogy could be useful. We need to educate ourselves so that unscrupulous, opportunistic politicians (some of whom may not understand this, either) cannot easily manipulate us.

Related to that is a new video from Robert Reich about what he calls “The Big Economic Switcheroo,” thought we’d correctly call it a swindle and con game. Essentially, he explains why the rich paid far more in tax in the past, and that’s why they really should pay their fair share of taxes:

Sometimes issues are more complicated than we think. There’s been a big debate about “arming teachers” in the USA, but while we do, some teachers have already decided. In “When You Give a Teacher a Gun”, Jay Willis takes a look at teachers who are training to shoot to kill. The debate has mostly been about whether arming teachers ought to be a government policy, but another issue is whether suitably trained teachers even be allowed to carry guns. I certainly never thought about the second part before.

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That’s enough for this first Political Notebook post in a re-launched series. There will be more to come, of course. Politics is the gift that keeps on giving.

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