An Upside-Down Political Equation

upside down dollar An Upside Down Political EquationAmerica — and the rest of the world, really — is living with this political equation:  Our collective spending, guided by government,  is needed to create jobs and stimulate a global economy still in recession. But political rhetoric is turning to spending cuts and deficit reduction. Such steps will plunge those who can least afford it into yet more joblessness and poverty. But the worse it gets — the more joblessness, bankruptcies, health crises, repossessions — the better the deficit reducers will do at the polls, because many economic victims will blame the wrong side. And, gutless moderates will go along with the deal thinking they can ride safely to shore on the surfboard of deceit.

It’s an upside-down political equation, and I’m damned if I know how to erase it from mad teachers’ blackboards. Let’s review. Deregulation of the financial markets, tax cuts for the rich and the right-wing assault on the nation’s infrastructure (remember Grover Norquist dream of drowing it all in a bathtub?) caused a deep global recession. They are the causes of our economic misery. But what’s the dominant narrative recommend? Why, more deregulation, more tax cuts for the rich, and deeper cuts in public education, health care etc.

This is madness, of course. And the craziest of all are the poor suckers who keep taking the bait. They will suffer the most economically, and their children will pay the price as well.

In a book called, The Price of Altruism — really a biography of mathematician George Price — there are long passages about the evolution of the Darwinian free marketeers, the Milton Friedman types who keep promising that if we will simply divorce all economic activity from any accountability whatsoever — from the courts, from the cops, from legislators, especially from voters — then we’ll all get ice cream before bed and rise happy in a new dawn.

But these guys are loons. You read about how they did their so-called economic science and it goes like this:  We are afraid of the communist bugaboo, and we need an economic ideology that will make us rich even if it makes many, many people poor. So, let’s, uh, make up an equation like this, and another like this, and abracadabra, presto-muy-dinero, we’ve got it! In other words, more upside down equations.

In the end, of course, the presence of these shady nutjobs among us simply makes the argument for a little regulation with bite, for an equitable tax system, for investment in our schools and health care systems. We shouldn’t go overboard. I don’t like big government any more than I like big corporations. We should be vigilant, engaged, and skeptical of authority of all kinds.

And we should quit being fools.

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About Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as MoveOn.org. In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”