Kentucky Fall wallpaper – Money, Power and The American Aristocracy

Kentucky Fall wallpaper

 

Nate Silver makes some good points about Herman Cain’s statistical chances of becoming the right-wing conservative presidential nominee – Herman Cain, Outlier

Mr. Cain has also led in most recent polls of the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina primary, has taken the lead in Ohio, and is close to Mr. Romney in Florida. If all you had to go on was the polls, you might think that Mr. Cain was the favorite to win the Republican nomination.

But then there are the nonpolling factors, some of which can be objectively measured and some of which cannot, but which would generally point toward Mr. Cain as being a second- or third-tier candidate. Mr. Cain has no endorsements from Republican members of Congress or Republican governors, and very few from officials in key early voting states. He has raised very little money. He has not hired well-known names for his campaign staff. He does not have traditional credentials. He has run for elected office just once before. He has begun to get a fair amount of media coverage, but the tenor of it has been fairly skeptical. His campaign commercials have been … interesting.

 

Nate says Cain should not be counted out until voters have their say. Having said that he also points to why the Cain boat is likely to be this year’s political meteors that ultimately crashes.

Has there ever been a candidate with such strong polling but such weak fundamentals? Almost certainly not, at least not at this relatively advanced stage of the race.

‘It is no small thing that no prominent conservative leader in the House or Senate has sung Cain’s praises much less endorsed him. Add that to the how we know the conservative political machine works. At the local level and even Congressional reps the conservative machine is fine with a few loose cannons. Not so for Senators and Presidents. Those decisions are made by the powers that be in the Republican establishment. I’m not saying – to take up Nate’s theme – that the cards have been dealt and Cain has no chance. I’m looking for signs from Rupert Murdoch/Roger Ailes/Fox News, Bill Kristol and The Weakly Standard and the far Right pundits at the WaPo. So far they don’t seem to have embraced Cain. The wild card here is the Koch brothers, who love Cain and Cain himself. he reminds me a little of actor and conservative Fred Thompson in 2008. Thompson wanted to be president, but didn’t want to go through the grind of a nearly 24/7 campaign to become president. Cain shows similar signs plus some personality baggage.  As Cain Promotes His Management Skills, Ex-Aides Tell of Campaign in Chaos

If Herman Cain feels his management skills are up to any challenge, some of his former staff members think he should have started with the disorder in his own campaign.

Mr. Cain has hardly shown up in New Hampshire and Iowa, they said, spending the bulk of his time on a book tour through the South. He occasionally mishandled potential big donors or ignored real voters. His campaign churned through the small staff; last week, his campaign announced the appointment of the veteran campaigner Steve Grubbs, his third Iowa leader in four months.

Even bumper stickers have been hard to come by.

And then there was that e-mail to the staff about traveling in a car with Mr. Cain: “Do not speak to him unless you are spoken to,” the memo said.

That last part confirms the impression that Cain is used to being an insulated top dog in a corporate environment where everyone is an underling. He doesn’t listen, he speaks and people jump. When he does peak conservatives report that he is folksy and easy-going. It is as though he enters the stage, puts on his act and the act ends when the talk ends. Back to the limo for another engagement. Remind you of anyone. Say a certain half term governor from Alaska.

But interviews with Mr. Cain’s former staff members, volunteers and supporters give a glimpse of a candidate who appeared to show ambivalence toward basic campaign management, which led to problems in hiring, scheduling, fund-raising and messaging.

Together, these problems are at odds with a central theme of his candidacy. Because Mr. Cain does not have a legislative or political track record, his campaign rests heavily on the contention that he would bring proven, executive-level expertise from the business world to the White House.

[  ]…“Everything we tried to do was like pulling teeth to get accomplished,” said a former staff member in Iowa, who asked for anonymity. “I’ve never been involved in a job that was as frustrating as this one. We couldn’t get an answer on anything. Everything was fly by the seat of your pants.”

The argument Cain and his supporters have to make – there are no options – is that he is focused, organized, someone who though without political experience knows how to get things done. The only thing Cain has accomplished thus far is show the public he can promote himself and his book.

Management problems extended to important events. In July, a businessman and Tea Party supporter, Bill Hemrick, invited some 200 friends to the private Standard Club in Nashville to meet Mr. Cain. Mr. Hemrick said the Cain campaign had asked him to serve as its financial chairman for Tennessee.

After speaking to the crowd, Mr. Cain was to attend a private club dinner for a select group of conservatives, who were in a position to donate the $2,500 maximum.

But somehow Mr. Cain forgot, or his staff failed to follow through. After his speech, Mr. Cain called to thank Mr. Hemrick for the evening. “I said, ‘I’ll see you upstairs,’ Mr. Hemrick recalled, where the potential donors had gathered. “He said, ‘Well, I’m at the airport.’ ”

“I thought, wow, good communication there,” Mr. Hemrick said.

Knowing where to be and what to say is not something Cain thinks to do because he has always had an underling of some kind to handle such details. he cannot seem to be able to handle his supporters and doesn’t seem to feel the need to hire someone to fill that role. Sure Cain could be the outlier that lasts. In that case it will be because he was carried in on a tide rather than as a result of Cain’s own efforts. That would be truly historic.

On a trip to Iowa last weekend to participate in the Faith and Freedom Forum, a meeting of evangelical conservatives, Mr. Cain stayed on his campaign bus until it was time to take the stage, while other candidates worked the crowds. Shortly after he finished speaking, he left the room.

Most politicians end up living at least a little bit in the bubble. Cain is already there and enjoying it. If he goes all the way to the White House he might be the most disengaged president since Millard Fillmore.

Income Inequality Reaches Gilded Age Levels, Congressional Report Finds

America’s 99 percent are not just imagining it. The gap between the incomes of the rich and poor in this new Gilded Age is strikingly broad and deep, according to an October report from Congress’ data crunchers.

The study by the Congressional Budget Office, released this week, found that income has become dramatically concentrated, shifting heavily toward the top earners between 1979 and 2007.

And although incomes at all levels have risen some, they’ve skyrocketed for the very wealthiest of earners.

At the other end of the scale, Americans in the bottom fifth of earners saw their incomes increase by less than 20 percent across the nearly three decades. Incomes for those in the middle 60 percent climbed by less than 40 percent over the same span.

Things start to look especially good for the top fifth of earners, who saw their cash flow jump by 65 percent.

But it’s among the top 1 percent where the growth was breathtaking. That contingent saw their incomes spike by 275 percent.

 

There is a fairly ridiculous post at the right-wing conservative American Enterprise Institute Blog that says this CBO report blows a huge hole in Democratic arguments about wage disparity and income gains. In other words it is great that 1% of the country owns about 70% of the country’s wealth. Nothing wrong or unfair or weird about that, right? This is all because those high income earners have more education. The problem with that type of analysis is that we have to have a reglious-like belief that these people in the top 1% have such unique intellectual gifts that they contribute something so essential to society they are worth the money. There is an old Eddie Murphy-Dan Aykroyd movie called Trading Places in which the poor Murphy relatively easily assumes the wealth and responsibility of Aykroyd. It is a movie and a little simplistic, never the less there is a lesson there. That you can go out and find someone with a reasonable IQ and education who would be happy to run Exxon for a million dollars a year instead of $29 million. We have some brilliant people working as scientists, engineers and doctors who make 6 figures a year. They not only create the products that make CEOS rich, they make society a little better than it was. The income of that 1% – actually the upper ten percent is not based on the kind of measurable standards we have for the scientists, it is based on beliefs. Somewhere along the line values were assigned to the 10% that were completely out of line with what most of us consider part of the basic free market model. Compensation based on producing something of value. Sure Wall Street produces value, but not so much that it justifies this gigantic disparity in compensation. I have always wondered by large stack holders don’t complain more about compensation and its lack of connection to value produced. It is as though there is a club at the very top where with a wink and a nod everyone has decided to participate in this ridiculous farce. Let’s reward wealth and tell those who do actual work they should be grateful for what trickles down. As Krugman, Robert Reich and others have written about we all know that some undeserving elites are going to make more money than they actually earn. In exchange the rest of society would get some compensation back via taxes that paid for good schools, to keep our bridges in good repair, to fund the kind of basic medical research corporations find unprofitable. It was the grand bargain. Now we have a near feudal system of the elite royalty at the top and a fair-sized professional class in the genuine middle and nearly half the population are struggling to keep their heads above water.

If you’re pro capitalism. You know that system where work is supposed to pay. A system that is merit based, something seems amiss. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, and their zombie audience would have us all believe that the bottom 50% are the leeches. Just to remind us that we should be grateful for the wonderfullness of the top 10% we have Paul Ryan speaking at the right-wing think-tank of corporate cronyism the Heritage Foundation - Paul Ryan Is Living in a Fantasy Land Older Than Ayn Rand

Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you today’s worst paragraph in political rhetoric, courtesy of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Dickens), in an appearance at the Heritage Foundation, which must be like seeing The Beatles at The Cavern in Liverpool, back in the day. Take it away, big guy.

“We’re coming close to a tipping point in America where we might have a net majority of takers versus makers in society and that could become very dangerous if it sets in as a permanent condition. Because what we will end up doing is we will convert our safety net system — which is necessary I believe to help people who can’t themselves, to help people who are down on their luck get back onto their feet — into a hammock that ends up lulling people into lives of dependency and complacency which drains them of their incentive and the will to make the most of their lives.”

Sentence No. 1: pure Ayn Rand. “Makers vs. takers.” Moochers and leeches. You and Them. But especially Them. But not in a divisive way. Oh, no. The Congressman doesn’t believe in divisive class rhetoric.

 

Those “makers” are people who generally don’t break a sweat until they reach the back nine at the country club. They are very much like the kings, princes and dukes of Medieval Europe who told the serfs to be grateful they lived under their beneficent rule. Ryan and the Right are warning the serfs not to get uppity and ask for your fair share as the feudal lords load up their vaults with even more gold. The gold is important, but it is also all about power. In the USA money is power. If the bottom 50% had more power, started voting in their rational self interests, the big shots could no longer call all the hots. We really would live up to that crazy old ideal about government for and by the people. This possibility is what scares the hell out of Paul Ryan, the Koch brothers and Karl Rove. From a classic essay,

From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use “social issues” as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

 

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