Texas State Capitol Dome

On Believing Political Rhetoric

Last night there was another State of the Union address — this president’s 5th — and of course that means reading everyone’s comments and critique. Many of my friends and acquaintances either identify as democrats or are leftist/liberal/progressive/whatever. And a lot of my family and friends from growing up identify as republicans or are rightist/conservative/whatever. If there is anything I learned working on my master’s it is that I prefer to be independent/moderate/whatever, even if I tend to lean more conservative on some issues.

One of the consequences of reading and studying so much in media bias and messaging, semiotics and encoding, is a keen awareness of the tricks used during televised speeches. It is so ingrained in American political history, ever since the famous John Kennedy-Richard Nixon debate, that I think most Americans tend to only listen to what’s being said doing nothing to weigh it with reality.
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Musings on a U.S.-Canada Merger

This is not the first time such a merger, or union, has been proposed. A mordant-minded friend of mine has often suggested, with apparent sincerity, that the great tragedy of modernity is that Lincoln, stubborn to the point of paranoia, forced the South back into the Union, with all the death that caused, instead of letting it go, thus forcing American’s imperial affections northward. How that might have worked out for the remaining slaves is another, large, question.

via Canmerica the Beautiful: The Case for a U.S.-Canadian Union : The New Yorker.

Interesting that politics would continue to bring this idea into the temporal world. It’s also interesting that many Americans have less of a penchant for Canadian culture and sensibilities than they might for British or Japanese artifacts. In this case it takes politics to move the thinking in the direction of cultural versus historical ties.

Not saying it’s gonna happen by any measure, but it plays into this ‘identity based on culture’ path I’ve been thinking down.

Image of the Week

Assignment:

Control your political feelings (hard to do these days, but this class is NOT about politics, it’s MEDIA STUDIES!), and tell us how you think these posters compare in terms of their impact on the public (feelings they evoke, memorability, ability to motivate, power to incite rage/euphoria, all other).

Shep Fairey vs. Joker Obama

What I find interesting about both images is the timeliness of their references. The Fairey image immediately reminded me (upon first view) of soviet propaganda art (or the Che Guevara image we’ve all seen – which, during the Cold War makes a lot of sense with this art style). The vector silhouette with monochrome coloring and the large “HOPE” looked, to me, like “OBEY”. But this style was popular in graphic and web circles at the time of its release and I doubt most non-design nerds (true of us, yes???) would pinpoint it as “propaganda,” even if the head nod was there. It’s an image of “¡Revolución!” that fit well into the “change” mantra of his campaign.
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On the New Health Care Law

I was going to write out a nice post with a summation of the things I don’t like about the new bill-become-law, but you know what? Other people have written these thoughts down in better ways than I will, expressing the same concerns and informing new ones that I have. I’ve written in the past about how I am not a fan of government-run health care. This isn’t to say I am against universal health care in general–it’s just that I have little faith in central government to dish it out fairly, cost-effectively, and beneficially. Why is that? Look at their track record with other programs.

Dr. John Mark Reynolds wrote a great overview of why he supports universal health care–just not the current health care legislation. He mentions something about Conservatives that I think is worth quoting because around these decision-times there tend to be memes that start floating around that over-generalize the Conservative mindset (note: I mean actual Conservativism–not the fiscally irresponsible, arrogant shell of the past decade’s Conservative thought). I don’t consider myself a full-on Conservative, but I definitely lean toward proven values and responsibility. Here is that piece, and I’d encourage you to read the rest of his reasons.

Conservatives are not all libertarians. We recognize that some government help may be necessary, but also know that at some point help becomes a hindrance. Health care is not the only good thing in a society. There are also the values of the soul: liberty and happiness. It is the American and Christian idea that too much government can stifle the soul of a man.

Why I Support Universal Health CareThe Scriptorium Daily, John Mark Reynolds

Time to Weigh In

Well, everyone else is talking about economics and the stuff going on with the now $838 billion stimulus bill, I figure after a few Twitter conversations I should weigh in a little. Because, as @matthewgood says: Everyone is a macroeconomics expert right now.

And he’s right. The past few weeks and even back before the first bailout was issued, everyone was espousing their ideas, waxing intellectual on the topics of how the government should spend money, where it should go, how big that number should be, etc. There are a few differing camps and they seem, often times, to be broken up between the more liberal and more conservative. That line between Democrat and Republican is always rough and each side claims to have proven results in their case.

As far as macroeconomics go, it’s pretty simple really. While in Washington state last month, I talked to my cousin Josh (who has a doctorate in political science and teaches at SUNY Buffalo) about this stuff a bit. We carried the conversation over to facebook via a few articles we’d read, and he explained that it doesn’t really matter where the money goes or how it’s spent, it just matters that it is. “It’s Keynesian economics 101,” he told me. Just by spending that money – wherever it may go – we’ll increase GDP and thus revive the economy.

I trust my cousin more than most people on these issues–mainly because he’s been into politics for as long as I’ve known him, and now has a doctorate in poli-sci–but, being me, have to question that line of thinking. Now, there may not be a question of whether spending that money will start some motion, the question lies in how effiicient that spending is going to be. Because large spending didn’t seem to help out during the Great Depression or with the New Deal, didn’t help during the Panic of 1893, and hasn’t helped more recently with stimulus checks and automotive bailouts.

The two differing sets of ideology are summarily this:

  • Free Markets should exist outside of government meddling and be allowed to run their courses no matter what.
  • Government should have a say in how Free Markets are run and step in at any time to fix things.

I am not opposed to government regulation, but I am opposed to bad, arbitrary government meddling. A lot of our problems now are due to 1.) The unethical behaviour of those with the most power (I lump in certain politicians), and 2.) Poor or inefficient regulation. I think regulation can be good, if it’s done intelligently. But so far, we don’t seem to have a good track record with knowing how to regulate markets effectively. This has gotten to the point where we now need to re-regulate our regulations in order to fix what’s been screwed up in the first place by regulatory legislation.

So, starting with the first problem I’ve pointed out above, those with financial power have abused the markets to better their positions. This is seen in the mortgage crisis, bad loans, automotive collapse, the stock markets, etc. In a capitalistic system of free markets, you would normally allow this collapse to take place in order to build a better system the next time around. That’s the phenomenon that will inevitably happen in a system left to its own devices.

Here in America though, we believe everything has to be constant (except, apparently when it comes to presidential campaign marketing – though that’s another topic for another time), so we meddle with those markets by instituting legislation. Sometimes it works, more often than not it just bogs down the system, making things more expensive. We push legislation into effect to stop global climate change – regardless of whether the science is *actually* valid, and regardless of whether it matters. We think we have to keep a static system, that any change is bad.

I contend that when industries or companies fail due to their misdeeds, newer, better, more innovative identities will take their places. That’s how the system is supposed to work. GM goes under because their cars aren’t selling. Their cars aren’t selling because the company hasn’t been smart enough to make the cars people want to buy. Whose fault is that? Who should take responsibility? If they disappear will not a newer, smarter, more appealing car manufacturer take their place?

Instead we take tax-payer money and put it back into an industry, that has been failing for a while, to keep it alive just a few more years. To give them another chance. That’s not responsibility, that’s stupidity. That’s gambling. (more…)

Throwing Money Doesn’t Fix the Problem

I’ve had this discussion with a few people, including my good friend Danny, and keep coming back to the point that spending more money has not yet helped in times of economic crisis. Bush shouldn’t have thrown money at the problem with his “economic stimulus plan”, no bailout has helped, and now our leaders are trying to pass a plan to spend, at the moment, $800 billion. That will surely rise to over $1 trillion after everyone get their say, their earmarks, their pork.

I still don’t understand why the President’s (any President) economic advisers are given more weight that Nobel Prize winners, active researchers, and other leading economists who have no party affiliation and no reason to spread doom and gloom.

More money hasn’t yet fixed the problem. Not now, not during the Great Depression, not during the Panic of 1893. We need smart, efficient spending, tax cuts, regulation reform/scaling back, and we need businesses who made poor decisions to be allowed to fail.

CATO took out this ad yesterday and I thought it was pretty interesting. Click the link to see the 200 signatures of economists who signed the petition.

Fiscal Reality Central.

“There is no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jumpstart the economy.”

— PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA, JANUARY 9 , 2009

With all due respect Mr. President, that is not true.

Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians and that we all support a big increase in the burden of government, we do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policy makers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.

On This Inauguration Day

Remember:

Keep Calm and Carry On