This blog used to be about debt. Now it's about a few more things. But really, it all comes back to debt. Trust me.

Friday, April 25, 2008

No Fight Left In Us?

As is often the case after a Hillary survival win and moving goal posts via Jedi mind tricks, the whole thing kind of gets into your head and makes you drink some of the toxic clorox spin. Dread has defined the past couple of days.

I know. We're not supposed to get this emotionally involved in, well...anything, according to mental health professionals. Oh well. I'm just trying to recognize my country again. And in the past few months I could do it without squinting.

Anyway, the point of the post: they've gotten into our heads again. I too fear that Obama has been irrevocably damaged. Marc's roundup yesterday morning didn't help either!

But do we have no fight left in us? We are a new, energetic generation. But we are also the self-esteem generation -- i.e. whole institutions and curricula were constructed to make sure we never felt bad about anything.

The point is, maybe a lot of us haven't had to fight for much. Or at least have never allowed ourselves to confront this much uncertainty or disappointment. I've fought to get where I am. But, to be honest, I haven't fought to help anyone else. Or to move a group of people in a different direction.

So anyway, in thinking about Pennsylvania...we have to remember a couple of things. Obama closed the gap considerably. Yes, there is more to overcome. But should we really now acquiesce to the spurious argument that just because he is not winning working class voters in a
Democratic primary, he can't win them in a general election? Clearly his economic policies are markedly different from McCain's -- a contrast he can't make with Clinton (not to mention one she can't make with Obama, which is how the kitchen sink was born). He needs to win
enough of these voters. But he also needs to expand the coalition he has already built -- young people, the educated but disengaged, minorities. Isn't this the awakened electorate the Democrats have been waiting for?

I owe some of this to Andrew Sullivan, who also has recently emerged from doom and gloom. To paraphrase him: this is about whether American society has changed enough to move beyond Rove-Morris bickering. With all due respect to the good people of Pennsylvania, it is not the best place to look for evidence of that shift (I went to school there). As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Obama's tide will lift working class boats, whether all of them had the good sense to vote for him or not.

But since I wrote Andrew about this, I've also come to see just how profoundly this is a change election. There is an awakened electorate, yes. A realization that American politics and policies are broken, and have already accelerated our long predicted decline. But also a realization that we need to change ourselves. That we need a little more fight in us. That we need to unlearn some of the comfortable truisms of the past 20 years. Just look at the housing market, or the geo-political chaos, or the consequences of unchecked globalization, or global warming and energy inflation stemming from our voracious demand for cheap Chinese goods.

We've been had.

We must come to terms with this: there is no going back to a 90's brand of peace and prosperity. That peace and prosperity came only because we procrastinated on meaningful solutions to problems we knew were festering. We won't get anything close to that prosperity again without first INVITING a period of sacrifice and long term, structural change, both in ourselves and in our government.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Student Loan Tax Code

So here's a proposal, perhaps radical, perhaps too moderate depending on your vantage point.

First, the pie in the sky other developed countries already have:

Education, even at the most prestigious schools, should be free (or close to free) for all citizens. Education is a right and has clear benefits to society: lower crime, higher income, elevated civil discourse, easing the class struggle...the list goes on.

Ok, that's never going to happen here. People believe in a tiered system of education (which, by the way, is fine with me as long as it's based on merit and not your family wealth at age 18). But perhaps we can do something radical with the tax code that, as a society, would promote the pie in the sky.

Why can't student loan principal and interest be fully tax deductible, regardless of income level? For those who had to rely on student loans, this program would reduce their taxable income and presumably give them a helpful refund each April. How's that for economic stimulus?

Why am I not excluding high income families from this? For the same reason you can get a free education in Europe no matter how rich you are. Education is a right. And in these times I would argue it's much more than that. It's a necessary expenditure that will create a generational shift away from a culture bent on destroying itself. Fine, that's an exaggeration because I'm tired. But I do believe what Al Gore has termed "the assault on reason" is an incredibly damaging and absolutely real phenomenon that is accelerating the decline of our civilization. And guess what. We might bring the world down with us....Global interdependence and whatnot.

Sorry, exaggerating again. But 80-plus percent of Americans think we're on the wrong track. I would say a lack of education is at the root of most of these years or reckoning. Why not just fix it already? To see real, world changing benefits, I bet we'd only need 20 years. And maybe some more text books.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The World According To Judis

John Judis has this over at TNR

Historically, there are three circumstances in which Democrats have been able to win over these ["small town"] voters:

The Unacceptable Republican: Republicans have run candidates with whom white working class voters have not been able to identity--either because of their backgrounds, beliefs, or actions...

The Acceptable Democrat: The Democrats have sometimes run candidates in these states who are sufficiently moderate on guns, abortion, and religion to neutralize the Republican appeal on these issues...

The Empathetic Democrat: The Democrats have run a candidate who can connect with these voters in spite of his or her beliefs on abortion and guns. Pollsters try to get at this by asking voters whether a candidate "cares about people like me..."

Apparently, Obama is none of these.

Well, glad that's all cleared up! We don't even have to wait for election results. It's a good thing John created this rigid view of the world to remedy all our electoral uncertainty. Or perhaps amplify to it.

2 points here:

1. I don't want to fuel the Obamamania too much, but clearly he is a paradigm shifter, game changer, new phenomenon -- whatever you want to call it. The campaign has not followed any traditional pattern up to now.

2. I have not read a single clear argument against this possibility: the white working class voters who are democratic and happened to vote for Hillary in the primary will clearly switch to Obama in the general, unless McCain is the beneficiary of miracles in Iraq or "mavericks" himself into being a socialist in the face of economic disaster. Anyone?

Yet the vast media prediction engine still vrooms, doing us all a nagging disservice.

Maybe that will all change this year. As Andrew Sullivan has been saying for quite a while, we will see.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"Increasingly" a.k.a Lazy Journalism

I made this comment over at salon in response to Rebecca Traister's article about so-called sexist Obama boys.

I'm not going to make any point on the content of the article one way or another.

But the use of the word "increasingly" as a perfectly acceptable substitute for actual data or research is becoming ridiculous, surpassing old favorites like "officials say," "critics argue" or "experts agree."

Apologies in advance to Rebecca Traister, who happened to trigger the last straw but has been far from the worst offender.