upside down rhetoric on government

At election time, here in Rowan County, North Carolina, I’m almost always on the losing side. But I can’t remember, in my lifetime, a more frustrating set of arguments.

It occurs to me that the political rhetoric coming from the right is completely upside down.

The things government can do, they want government not to do.

The things government cannot do, they expect government to do.

The government can do a lot to provide health care to all people.  It’s a proven fact.  Many governments have done it very successfully — including ours.

Yet, the rhetoric coming from the right is for government to stay out of health care and leave it entirely to the private sector.

The government can do a lot to educate people (children and adults).  This is a proven fact.  Many countries have done this very successfully, including our own.

But some on the right even want government to step away from education.

Government can provide a safety net for those who are unable to work. This is a matter of common decency in a civilized society.  Yet, cutting aid to the poor and disabled is a loud battle cry from the right.

Energy.  European countries have cut consumption by passing policies that conserve energy.

Yet, Reagan eliminated Carter’s tax credits for solar energy.  In 2000, Bush mocked Gore for suggesting we produce hybrid cars.  And the opposition to energy conservation goes on and on…

Government is even pretty good at running prisons. Yet, there are movements to privatize this.

The government cannot control oil spills.

The government can control unnecessary war.

But the biggest matzah ball of all is employment.

This is mostly a private sector problem.  The government can only do a few things that affect employment around the edges.

And yet, the campaign rhetoric from the right is “jobs jobs jobs.”

If we take them seriously, which is not easy, they actually want government not to do anything around the edges, but still create the jobs.

Government cannot create tens of millions of jobs.

It can help with the long-term, allocating funds to research and infrastructure, which can lead to millions of jobs in the future — and has done so with much success in the past.

But Republicans criticize this kind of spending.

The Republicans campaign on wanting government to do what it cannot do, and not to do what it can.

If something’s not working right and needs improvement — they seem to cite that as justification to cut it altogether.

If you think about it, it’s really frustrating!  Which is why it’s best not to think about it.

That said, the Democrats still have a lot better record on jobs and budget deficits than Republicans.

Not the most effective campaign style

I took a walk around the Catawba campus this afternoon, shortly after the end of the homecoming game (Catawba 31, Brevard 21, I think).

It was a nice walk.  Beautiful day.  People tailgated.  Families played football.  Kids jumped on inflatables.  I saw one mother teaching her young daughter a few dance steps.

“Divided by Four,” a local band with giant speakers, poured it’s music onto the campus green.

And scattered along the parking lots were brochures advertising Jon Barber for County Commissioner.

Is this effective campaigning?

Now — it’s possible that the candidate himself attended the game, shook hands, and gave out his brochures.  If that’s the case, then I retract the following critique.

But let’s suppose that somebody put these brochures on windshields.

One must consider the context of such marketing.  It’s not a positive presentation.

First of all — many of the people who attend homecoming are alumni from out of town.  They won’t vote in the local election.

Secondly — those who find paper on their windshield won’t be that happy about it, especially if they’re already in the car when they notice it and then have to get out and remove the paper from the windshield.

Thirdly — when it’s on the ground, it becomes litter, which is not what a candidate wants to be.

Is it possible that these efforts lost Mr. Barber more votes than they won?

Trusting Obama

Today, I delivered Coffee News to restaurants in Concord, NC and listened to NPR the whole time.

They reported Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech — playing clips, analyzing, and parsing.

Interesting stuff — waging war and seeking peace.

I haven’t had time to read or watch the whole speech, but it sounds like it’s destined to become an historic document.

I really trust Obama — both as a President and as a politician.

I’d like to see him step on some of the opposition’s ridiculous ideas a little harder (especially ideas about creating jobs by reducing the budget deficit –  ideas put forth, hypocritically, by those who put the D in Deficit).

But I think he will step on those ideas soon enough.  At this point, he’s doing a little governing, which is a better political strategy than campaigning (which so many can’t seem to stop doing).

Think Tank (a ten minute play about right wing ideas)

Think Tank. Copyright 2009. Samuel M. Post

This is different.  I’ve never written a play and posted it on the blog first, before it at least had some kind of reading (and preferably a performance).  Feedback welcome.

An office. Could have a small sign denoting the name of the organization: “Institute for American Study”

SMITH WONNER, a gentleman — distinguished, gray hair, flawless conservative suit and tie — sits at his desk reading.

He picks up the phone and dials.

He has a heavy, but refined, southern accent.

SMITH: Mrs. Ghondlesonni, may I see you in here for a minute.

He continues reading.

Enter JANE GHONDLESONNI. She’s young, bright, preferably blond, pretty, and sharp. She has a huge smile with great teeth. Her business suit is conservative in color and style — but with a short hemline that’s deliberately sexy.

JANE: Good morning, Sir.

SMITH: Mrs. Ghondlesonni, I’m thinking of making a few modifications.

JANE: Modifications?

SMITH: A shift.

JANE: A shift, sir?

SMITH: Modifications, really.

JANE: We’ve been doing fairly well sir. The radio heads have been loving our–

SMITH: Oh oh oh oh oh — don’t think I’m not pleased with your work, Mrs. Ghondlesonni. It’s been superb. Just superb. You did get the bonus check last month?

JANE: Oh, yes sir.

SMITH: Well, good.

JANE: That “African Muslim” campaign has worked out well, don’t you think?

SMITH: My God, Girl! That was brilliant. Couldn’t hope for any better!

JANE: Sometimes the ideas just…

SMITH: Genius! Pure creative genius!

JANE: Yet, you’re thinking of making a change?

SMITH: Not a change. A modification. A additional line of attack, if you will.

JANE: Do you think the public can handle more? We know that too much noise can confuse the audience. We’re still using the “racist” label and getting good traction out of “Nazi” and “Socialist,” don’t you think?

SMITH: Traction? My girl, our polls tell us they’ve taken root! And I’ve got to hand it to you, I never thought we could pull that one off. “Nazi” and “Socialist” at the same time! I thought that was a leap but damn if you didn’t fuse those two into one powerful label — like a marriage, in which the whole is stronger than the sum of two halves. Exquisite work, Mrs. Ghondlesonni. Exquisite!

JANE: Couldn’t have done it without Hitler.

SMITH: I agree. That was the glue that made the whole thing stick.

They laugh, enjoying the moment of victory.

JANE: Then, since it’s working so well, are you sure you want to change, sir?

SMITH: looking at his papers Been reading a proposal here given to me by Stanley Bead.

JANE: Stanley Bead the third.

SMITH: Yes, so he is. Mr. Stanley Bead III.

JANE: What’s he proposing?

SMITH: It’s bold. Quite bold.

JANE: Like what?

SMITH: For one thing…well…why don’t we invite Mr. Bead in here and we’ll just knock these ideas around for a minute?

JANE: It’s not “flip flopper” again, is it?

SMITH: Of course not. It’s much too soon to recycle that one.

JANE: I agree, sir.

He picks up the phone and dials.

SMITH: Mr. Bead, how soon can you be in my office?

He listens.

SMITH: Excellent.

Enter STANLEY BEAD III. Sharp. Conservative. Young. Handsome.

STANLEY: Yes sir.

They shake hands and sit.

SMITH: Good to see you, Stanley.

STANLEY: And you, Sir.

SMITH: Been reading over this, and I’m intrigued.

STANLEY: Thank you, sir.

SMITH: Looking ahead. Forward thinking. I like that.

JANE: So do I.

SMITH: Of course you do. We need to always be looking around the next corner.

STANLEY: Yes sir. Glad you agree, sir.

SMITH: What Stanley’s proposing here, Mrs. Ghondlesonni, is fairly far reaching. I see a three year plan here, putting us into the heart of 2012.

JANE: Really.

STANLEY: Presidential elections are my specialty, sir. Get’s my adrenalin flowing. Helps me rise to the challenge.

He smiles — almost as if he’s taking a bow.

STANLEY: Flip flopper.

SMITH: We’ll always be indebted you for flip flopper, Stanley. The whole country owes you a debt of gratitude for that.

JANE: Too bad “paling around with terrorist” didn’t gain credibility. Do you remember how I reacted the first time I heard it?

SMITH: Yes — you had your doubts. I remember.

JANE: I thought it was weak then, and I still think it’s weak now.

SMITH: And you were right.

STANLEY: Hey, nobody hits a home run every time at the plate!

JANE: It was a very costly mistake!

STANLEY: Obama still would have won.

JANE: I’m not so sure.

STANLEY: You still think calling him a Momma killer would have worked?

JANE: I damn well know it would have!

STANLEY: You had no narrative to go with it! None! Zip!

JANE: No narrative necessary!

STANLEY: If you’re a thinairist!

JANE: I am a thinnairist — and proud of it!

STANLEY: Well I’m not! I need a hook!

JANE: Why! That’s old school! For slow media! Things are too fast now!

STANLEY: Fundamentals are fundamentals!

JANE: And the fundamentals have changed!

STANLEY: They most certainly have not! That’s why we call them fundamentals!

SMITH: Okay, okay!

He chuckles.

SMITH: That’s what I love about this institute. Vigorous debate. Wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I would like to take a look at Stanley’s proposal here. Stanley thinks this health care bill will eventually pass and we need to be ready for the aftermath — and he’s got an interesting theory. Stanley, you tell her.

STANLEY: Well, in a year or two, we’ll have some health care reform, and guess what? A lot of people will still be sick. And a lot of people will still be dying.

JANE: That’s obvious.

STANLEY: We’ve gotta be ready to take advantage of that. We won’t want to repeal it, even though we’ll talk about doing just that. But primarily we need to be prepared to use it.

getting more excited

STANLEY: We need to pounce — pound home the idea that it’s a failure. That it doesn’t work.

JANE: Hit me.

STANLEY: Doctor Death..

JANE: We tried that.

STANLEY: No — we tried Death Panel.

JANE: Seems a little recycled.

STANLEY: Dr. Death is fresh. It’s alive. And it’s not thinnairist. It’s actually true.

JANE: True?

STANLEY: Every President is a Dr. Death. It’s part of the job.

SMITH: Could it be cliche?

STANLEY: Not if it’s presented right, by the right people.

They all ponder this.

SMITH: Mrs. Ghondlesonni?

JANE: I suppose it could work.

STANLEY: My wife loves it, and she’s my harshest critic. Dr. Death.

SMITH: When do you propose we launch this?

JANE: The longer you wait, the better it will work.

STANLEY: I go along with that.

SMITH: Excellent. Let’s look at this energy label.

JANE: Excuse me sir, but haven’t we already discussed publishing a book called “Hitchhiker Nation,” describing a world where only government employees are allowed to travel — the world Obama wants us all to live in.

SMITH: Stanley’s got another idea and I just want you to hear it.

STANLEY: “Comobile,” designed to evoke an image of prolonged suffering. The small cars Obama wants people driving will cause more fatalities and more people living in comas. Variation on “death trap,” but repackaged as Comobile!

JANE: Sir, don’t you think that sucks?

SMITH: That occurred to me, but I wanted some input.

STANLEY: It at least deserves an experiment.

JANE: It’s not worth spending on the focus group. That’s terrible.

SMITH: Let’s move on to taxes. When they want to raise taxes two percent on the upper one percent, we need to be ready. They’ll be talking about our own people then, you know. They’ll be talking about us.

JANE: Now I say we stick with fundamentals. un-American. Socialist. Nazi. Marxist.

SMITH: Stanley thinks we might need something new.

STANLEY: Beggar.

JANE: Weak.

STANLEY: Robber.

JANE: Weak.

STANLEY: Thief.

JANE: Weaker.

STANLEY: Commander in Thief.

They ponder this.

JANE: It’s clumsy.

SMITH: A little.

JANE: But…I’ve got to admit. Commander in Thief. It’s not bad.

SMITH: Let’s try that one out, Stanley.

STANLEY: Will do, sir.

SMITH: Now we get to the re-election, where Stanley has a pretty bold suggestion.

STANLEY: It’s not a thinnairst idea.

JANE: Just say it.

STANLEY: You weren’t a big fan of flip flopper at first.

JANE: Just say it.

STANLEY: I say we go for the heart of the matter and let the chips fall where they may.

JANE: What!

SMITH stands up at his desk.

SMITH: Maybe I should leave the room for a minute. Would that be useful?

STANLEY: Might not be a bad idea, sir.

SMITH exits.

STANLEY: Nigger.

JANE: Say what?

STANLEY: We just call him a nigger. I mean, keep in mind, the country will be experiencing a tremendous amount of African-American fatigue by then. It could backfire. But the odds are against us anyway unless we cause a fundamental shift in this country’s thinking about race and ethnicity. It could get us back Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia. Ohio. Florida!

JANE: (wistful)  Florida.

STANLEY: (filled with emotion)  Florida, Jane.

He stands up and paces.

STANLEY: Blanket all media with vigorous denials by the campaign. Start early and let it build.

JANE: It will build.

She’s mesmerized. He takes her hand. She stands up and they gaze into each other’s eyes.

JANE: The White House is forced to respond. We know race is our only issue. I say we stop playing in the sandbox with it. I mean, we hit the N word so long, so loud, and so hard that it becomes the only subject. The American people become totally desensitized. Make nigger a household word.

JANE: Like Nazi.

STANLEY: Exactly.

JANE: Hitler.

STANLEY: (tender) I did tell you how brilliant I thought that was?

JANE: No, I don’t think you did.

STANLEY: It was.

Mutual attraction getting stronger. Magnetized and moving closer.

STANLEY: You’re a genius, Jane.

JANE: (seductive) Socialist.

STANLEY: My favorite of them all.

They touch.

JANE: I’m married.

STANLEY: So am I.

Overcome with passion, they embrace and kiss.

Curtain