The Red Lionfish of Politics

How can this be?

Most people are now familiar with President’s Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security by reducing the annual cost of living adjustment. While the final formula is somewhat convoluted, the net effect is to reduce benefits by an average of roughly 3.0 percent.

Since Social Security benefits account for more than 70 percent of the income of a typical retiree, this cut is more than a 2.0 percent reduction in income. By comparison, a wealthy couple earning $500,000 a year would see a hit to their after-tax income of just 0.6 percent from the tax increase that President Obama put in place last year.

While President Obama is willing to make seniors pay a price for the economic crisis, his administration his unwilling to impose any burdens on Wall Street. Specifically, it has consistently opposed a Wall Street speculation tax: effectively a sales tax on trades of stock and derivatives. The Obama administration has even used its power to try to block efforts by European countries to impose their own taxes on financial speculation.

If the idea of taxing stock trades sounds strange, it shouldn’t. The United States used to impose a tax of 0.04 percent until Wall Street lobbied to eliminate it in the mid-1960s. Many countries, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, China, and India already impose taxes on stock trades.

Oh, wait, it’s simple:

Wall Street bankers have a lot more political power than old and disabled people who depend on Social Security. That is why President Obama is working to protect the former and cut benefits for the latter.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me repeat two things I’ve said often before:

1. We need a Tobin Tax too.

2. Consider this administration the flowering of the Nelson Rockefeller wing of the GOP. Obama governs like the moderate-liberal Republicans of my youth — a species now all but extinct in its original habitat, but thriving like red lionfish in their new home.

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4 Responses to The Red Lionfish of Politics

  1. Vic says:

    Obama is NOT a centrist by any stretch, even if he occasionally does things that appear this way.

    I’m going to repeat my axiom once again:

    The ONLY way to fully understand and reconcile what politicians do, even when their actions seem to be at odds with what you expect, is to understand that EVERYTHING a politician does is political, and tied to gaining and holding political power. They have NO OTHER prevailing interest.

    When you look at their actions through that lens, they always make perfect sense and are never actually contradictory.

    Eventually, you will start believing me on this one.

    If nothing else, the series of current scandals should be more evidence for you. Viewed under my rubric, they ALL make sense and are perfectly logical and believable (not some rogue actions).

    • Cynical power-seeking may be the norm among elected officials (although I’m not even sure about that in these ideological times), but it is not an iron law, nor is always the case that motives are purely one thing or another. I’ve worked for a number of candidates for various offices who I believed had real convictions. Many lost. (I remember Mo Udall. If only the cowardly UAW had endorsed him in Michigan, history would be so different.) Of those elected, I was only disappointed sometimes.

      But never mind that: even if you are right, my joining with others in trying to hold their feet to the fire is still the rational thing to do, if it has any hope of creating a counter-veiling force.

      As to the various scandals, I think it depends. I do tend to buy into what the British call the ‘cock-up theory of life’ more than the conspiracy theory of life. It’s not that I believe there are never conspiracies, just that it is far from my default explanation for most things.

      • Vic says:

        Well, first off, you seem to be presuming that ideology (in the sense of a political BEING ideological) is somehow separate from my axiom. It is not. Being an ideologue or not being one, once again, is a purposeful move that has as its purpose getting and holding power. A politician will be, or not be, according to which is the path to being elected, or not losing the seat. Ideology IS politics – just as not appearing ideological IS a political move.

        Second, a politician who does NOT conform to my axiom, tends to lose most of the time and not be an issue anyway (as you have noted). It’s political Darwinism.

        Third, there are a number of “good guy sent there to change things for the better” types that seemed incorruptible when elected. Usually, they either wind up as outcasts in Congress, who never really do much of anything, or they become corrupted by politics as well. Look at (the late) Sen. Wellstone for a good example.

        And finally, you SHOULD hold their feet to the fire. We ALL should. Unfortunately, most of us (the American People) don’t follow politics, don’t understand the issues in a real sense, don’t know enough to really understand the issues in a real sense even if explained, and frankly, don’t care about any of it 99% of the time. there simply aren’t enough people who both care and know why.

        Sadly, Obama was elected, due in no small part, to SIGNIFICANT numbers of people thinking “Cool, we can elect the first black President!” As if that’s a valid reason. (And don’t kid yourself, I know a number of these people, including my own mother, who is very smart and aware politically, but readily admits that she voted for him twice for NO other reason than he was black, as did many) Whatever I might think about ANYBODY, that’s not a reason to vote. Granted there were a significant number of other voters voting for and against him for equally inane reasons, so who knows how the result would have actually been affected if the idiots didn’t make up the vast majority of voters every time.

        But it is just that fact that keeps the politicians in power, and prevents you or I from sending people to Washington that might have our actual interests in mind. The politician know that you and I don’t MATTER, all they have to do is appeal to the idiots. Someone who is very smart and goes on TV for an hour to explain exactly how the economy works and why plan A will help it and plan B won’t, is far, far, far less electable than someone who goes on TV for 2 minutes and screams about how someone is trying to re-enslave blacks, or turn us into a Communist State. The ideologue (the politicians who acts as one) will win every time it matters.

        So as I said, I don’t find your post even remotely odd, because I see it as just more evidence, to be piled with that which is already overwhelming, that a smart politician doesn’t have any abiding interest in what you or think about anything, because we don’t matter. Only VOTES matter, and votes are gained and lost by politics.

  2. Anon says:

    I was chatting with a friend the other day, about how, at least under Bush, we knew who the conspirators were pulling strings. Cheney and Rumsfeld couldn’t be hidden. I mentioned that, with Obama, it’s harder to tell who’s pulling the strings. My buddy thought Obama was controlled by Goldman Sachs, maybe Geithner is the one in control. He’s also a Bilderberger and on the Council on Foreign Relations.

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