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May 04, 2011

Ryan Plan Losing Support Nationally, According To Even Rasmussen

Opposition rises from 27% to 34%, and that's not necessarily good, since the rest don't support it -- 40% have no opinion.

I've wanted to talk about this for a while.

The "Elite" class has many things in common. I want to focus on one thing they all have in common, whether on the left or the right: All persons deeming themselves "serious" about government policy recognize, and often agitate for, reforms (reductions) in Social Security and Medicare.

I can't stress this enough. Take any liberal who considers himself a serious pundit, fluent in math and wonkery, and, at least prior to the last few months, he will tell you that of course Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid need to be reformed.

This is as close as a self-selected credential as you can have: "Serious" people recognize this; if you wish to be considered "serious" rather than just some babbling partisan, you recognize the mathematics of inevitability, and simple actuarial projections, and see, and announce, that based on demographic trends (we're having fewer babies so there are fewer younger workers to support older retirees) the entire system, as it stands, is unsustainable, and doomed to bankruptcy.

And not a smooth bankruptcy, either, not a "gracefully degrading" sort of bankruptcy, but a jerky, one-day-comes-and-there's-no-money-left bankruptcy.

Until Obama made the decision that no other "serious" government policy intellectuals would or could ever make -- that is, to embrace the unserious position that nothing needed to be done and it would, somehow, just sort of fix itself through some sort of unknown magic to be announced later, no serious person would ever even consider embracing such an unserious, irresponsible, politically-pandering and know-nothing-jackass view of government finance.

But when Obama announced to his liberal coreligionists that he was going all-in on the demagogic do-nothing doom-and-bankruptcy unserious platform, suddenly they all changed their stripes within 48 hours and now deem Obama's non-plan to be worthy of consideration and a "serious" (in a way) response to the problem.

I cannot stress the fact that I cannot stress this fact enough. Prior to Obama's gutless bet on irresponsibility, you could not find more than ten liberals in a serious policy-analysis position, whether at NPR, or Slate, or The New Republic, or even the budget and policy experts of the Democratic Party, who would endorse the unserious, know-nothing, policy-illiterate position that some Magic To Be Announced Later would solve our entitlement problem.

Even Paul Krugman. Yes, there was a day, long ago, that your grandfather will tell you about if you ask, when Paul Krugman was (or posed as) a serious economists, and he wrote numerous columns about the shared "cowardice" of both parties in failing to be "serious" on this issue and failing to "talk straight to the American people" about the inescapable math -- that without reform, the system would collapse.

I have written about the Neutral Story Line. The Neutral Story Line (term coined by Mickey Kaus) is a story line which purports to be neutral, usually because it indicts both parties equally or is about some ostensibly non-partisan issue like campaign finance. (I have also noted that Neutral Story Lines only seem superficially to be neutral; but they are chosen for partisan reasons -- outsized donations from private donors is a Very Bad Thing when Bush does it, but suddenly when Obama does it, it becomes a testament to the vitality of American democracy.)

For thirty years running, we have seen one Neutral Story Line written over and over, by virtually ever serious policy wonk, whether on the left or right: Politicians need to stop pandering -- lying -- to the public and educate them about the real situation of our finances and explain to them that we face two undesirable outcomes -- reform or bankruptcy -- but the former is far preferable to the latter.

We have seen virtually every pundit at one time or another get on his high horse and castigate politicians from both parties for being cowards. We have seen virtually every pundit, right or left, indict American democracy as fundamentally dysfunctional because our political class, left and right, was unwilling or incapable of telling the American public the true facts of the situation, and enlisting their support in putting things right.

We have seen virtually ever broadcast news-reader tut, tut at one time or another about both parties' inability to actually act in the positive good of America.

But things have changed, haven't they? That was a Neutral Story Line beloved by the chattering class so long as it could be deployed against both parties; that is, as long as it did no harm to the Democrats.

The 2008 version of Obama explicitly ran on a platform of dealing straight with people and finally reforming entitlements. The media praised him for his courage in doing so, and made sure they always backed up his statements with their own commentary that what he was saying was true and wise.

But the 2011 version of Obama has repudiated the 2008 version of Obama. And it's the 2011 version of Obama that's important now, as that's the weak failure of a version which will be seeking re-election.

And so, just as dissent went from patriotic to treasonous the day Obama took the oath of office, suddenly a 30-plus-year-old agitation and consensus opinion conviction of the chattering classes has been repudiated as well. And suddenly Obama's position -- previously dismissed as demagogic and disastrous when anyone else embraced it -- is now not only serious, but preferable.

And meanwhile the people who are doing what the chattering classes have for decades demanded -- shooting straight with the public and giving them realistic, but painful, choices regarding their futures, so they can honestly and knowingly choose between reform and chaos, are actually now criticized by the media, instead of feted.

Why? Because the media always had it in mind that it would be the Democrats who finally became fiscal heroes and select the honest, serious choice of reform and honesty.

But it didn't turn out that way. It turned out to be the despised Republicans who chose reform and honesty, and the media's beloved Democrats who agitated against what all serious people know is necessary and wise.

And so, because Republicans are, as Gabe terms them, the "Designated Villains," and Democrats the "Designated Heroes," suddenly what was considered villainous (demagogy and pandering and irresponsibility) is credited as heroic, and what had once been heroic -- with the pundits on the right and left calling for since 1980 (or before) -- is now not only not heroic, not only not necessary or honest, but rather... villainous.

I wrote previously that we were in an odd position, regarding the Ryan plan-- bizarrely, and fatally, we were in the position of needing the media to show some consistency and continue saying the same things they said for 30 years before Obama. We actually needed them to tell the truth, as they saw it, and as they declared it, for thirty years.

If they did this, the public would be educated and understand that our choices are the Ryan plan (or something like it, like the Simpson-Bowles plan) or bankruptcy.

But when I said that, of course I suggested that the media would not remain true to their previous convictions, but would shed them instantaneously, pretending they had never before what they'd said and written 3000 times prior. Suddenly, I figured, what they had always deemed to be irresponsible and unserious would be elevated to the privileged position of Common Sense Moderate policy, and what they had long dreamed of and exulted as heroic and wise would be dismissed as "hurting grandma."

And that's precisely what's happened, of course.

The media likes to pretend it serves an important educational function -- curing the public of its misunderstandings -- but it will only do so in direct service of the Democratic Party.

If the public is starting to wonder about Obama's birth certificate, they'll devote up to 10% of all news time to repudiating that false belief. If the public thinks there's a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Ladin, virtually every newscast will announce no such direct connection exists.

But if over half of all Democrats believe that Bush might have deliberately permitted 9/11 to happen so he could have a pretext for invading... Afghanistan? Oh, that they don't want to talk about. They won't note that both John Kerry and John Edwards, running as candidates in 2004, played footsie with and indulged Truthers to get votes, suggesting their was some merit to their claims.

And if the Democrats are suddenly taking a position the media smarties have long considered snake-oil? Will George Stephanopolous be interrogating every Democrat with actuarial projections as he interrogated every Republican about the birth certificate? Will CNN spend 10% of all available airtime repudiating the false belief that nothing much has to change with entitlements?

No. Suddenly the public is welcome to harbor their misunderstandings and foolishnesses, because such foolishnesses redound to the political advantage of the Democratic Media Party.

So go fuck yourself with your "education function," Media. The only sort of public education you engage in is "Vote Democrat, early and often."

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posted by Ace at 12:18 PM

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