Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future

Who is voting for Bush? Who is his base?

Let's look at some cold hard logic here. The "Greatest Generation" went off to war. They were the generation of the New Deal. They came back and built a socialized capitalistic society with welfare entitlement benefits.

Then they spawned the Baby-boomers. GWB is a Baby-boomer. His father, Bush-41 was a WWII Pilot afterall. The Baby-boomers were then the Vietnam war generation. They were living in a system built by their parents, and they didn't like it.

It was the conservative Baby-boomers who gave us Reagan. It was the liberal ones who gave us Clinton.

As they get older, people tend to become more conservative. They also tend to become more well off. Who is benefiting from the housing market bubble? Who has money to invest in stocks?

These things were enjoyed by the "Greatest Generation," first - who afterall is gonna deny Rosy the Riveteer her Social Security check. Now the Baby-boomers want their turn.

Only it's coming apart - at the seams.

Tom Paulsen worked for 36 years as a trucking executive, and when he retired two years ago, he thought he had secured a comfortable life. He had a 12-acre farm near Sacramento and a pension of $151,000 a year, his payoff for years of working 70-hour weeks.

Then three months later his company, Consolidated Freightways, filed for bankruptcy and the federal government took over its pension plan. Mr. Paulsen's pension fell to $22,000. To pay his expenses, which include $9,000 for health insurance, he has had to divide up the farm and offer most of it for sale.

Mr. Paulsen, 61, is just one of more than 500,000 Americans whose pension plans have failed in the last three years and been taken over by the federal government, leaving many without health insurance and some, like Mr. Paulsen - high earners who retire early - with pensions much lower than those they had counted on.

This is why Bush is promising big entitlement giveouts and taxcuts. This is why he's sending an all-volunteer army to fight a war to control a strategic resource location. I don't know if the man above is voting for Bush, he may well be not, but he is perfectly representative of the demographic that is Bush's true support.

We tend to demonize Bush supporters as red-meat social conservatives or rich selfish bastards, but those are just periphial. What this is about, all of this, is that the Baby-boomer generation lived in the shadow of their parents, they either went to Vietnam or did their best to oppose it, they supported the "Greatest Generation" and dammit now it's their turn. These are people who worked all their lives, and now they want what's coming to them.

Now you might interject, but doesn't John Kerry keep on saying he will support Social Security - why yes he does and that's precisely the problem.

These are people who are mostly immune - at least the ones voting for Bush - from the soaring layoffs that are occurring as monetary policy is tightened and government stimulus fades.

These are people who grew up in a world featured with American predominance, and want that feeling that America is "on top" back - a feeling threatened after 911.

I don't mean to blame it all on the Baby-boomers. Clearly Kerry has demographic problems with younger voters and slipping among women, at least before the most recent debate.

But at the heart of it is the fact that each household owes about half a million dollars in debt on average.

Now the party is gonna come to an end. And the younger generations are already resigned to the concept that they ain't never gonna see a penny of it. But the baby-boomers might see some of it. If they get good Social Security and Medicare benefits while they last, and see the cost pushed off on someone else - through lower taxes now and higher debt and debt problems later when they won't be around to worry about it.

You see the Baby-boomers have figured out that the party is gonna end too, and the only way for them to get theirs is if in fact the government is not responsible. Because a responsible government that intended to preserve Social Security would have to drastically increase the burden now. But that's not fair, they've worked all their lives - and now they want what's coming to them.

I am not here to demonize the Baby-boomer generation. They just want their turn. It's not a strange thing to think. I've thought it myself, many a time. This is the way all people are, when they have no hope. When things fall apart, each person looks to themselves. That's the way people are. No use blaming them.

The only way people can be brought to agree to sacrifice is to believe in something greater, and we can all agree that the Democrats have lost the "vision thing,".

This is why it doesn't matter that Bush is a chin-drooling idiot. It's better that way, because a Thomas Jefferson or even a JFK would never tolerate the present state of affairs. It doesn't matter that Bush was a priviledged draft dodger, because most people including me would have avoided the Vietnam war if they could have. It doesn't matter that he's benefiting the rich, it's okay if they get a bigger cut just as long as I get something - that's better than nothing.

John Kerry right now represents two alternatives. He either represents the liberal welfare state which will not allow people to get their cut, because it will overtax and overspend things into the ground. Or the represents the neoliberal responsible market state which will nto allow people to get their cut, because it will impose market realities upon the profligate and unsustainable balance sheet of America.

GWB represents the path where people get theirs, they get what's coming to them. He represents low taxes so they can stash their money away now, Social Security private account funds so they can get back their Social Security Tax money, an expanded Medicare drug benefit so they can get their money back through drug prescriptions, and wars to control oil real estate to keep the party going as long as possible. GWB is selling a failed America. If you think America is going to go bankrupt and you want to get out with as much as possible, you vote for GWB.

All Kerry can offer them is to go down with the ship or to never see what's coming to them.

GWB winks at you, smirks, and telegraphs the message look we all know this is going to end, why not get your cut too?

In the words of Col Lounsbury:
Late Breaking News from the old days
The corrupt bastid settled.

He settled, the slimy motherfucker fucking settled. Something under USD 2 mill. to walk away from the mess.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

The slimey conniving bastid fucking kept the portfolio as well. This is just.... maddening. I want to drive a spike through something. Maybe myself.

Bloody hell, the bloody goddamned portfolio on exit easily was worth ... let me just use my company, I'll say 15. Maybe 30 if a good trade sale to a US firm had been set up, for an Arab property.

This is just unforgiveably corrupt. The deal fucking stinks. I can not believe the Feds walked away from this. I really can not. This really fucking stinks.

USD 2 mill to walk away from any and all fines, prosecution, and keep the assets. That's not a penalty, nor .... it's a bloody bribe. Someone back Stateside was dirty on this.

I need to go get drunk. Really goddamned drunk. Should have thrown in with the corrupt fucker, goddamned bastid was right
.

That's right. That's why Harkin etc. is actually a pro-Bush Advertisement. When people vote for Bush, they know he has no qualms about cutting a shady deal.

This is what we are facing, an America not ideologically fixated but tired, and afraid, and is angry about being humiliated by 911, and just wants what is coming to them - dammit.

This is why Kerry is having a hard time getting traction. This is why McCain couldn't get elected.

Of course this isn't the majority of people, but it is enough. The rest will go along because they others sound like they know what they're doing. That's the true damage of the flip-flopper campaign against Kerry. Monkey see, monkey do. People will just go along with stuff if that's what they see everyone else doing.

There is this Gene Hackman movie called the Poseidon Adventure. In it he helps some people escape from a capsized cruise ship turned upside down. Along the way they meet a large group of people following a ship officer - going in a direction which leads deeper underwater instead of to the surface. They can't convince these people to go the other way, toward the surface.

Remember the Baby-boomers have been in the center of political gravity for some time now. When they move, other people will follow just because it's the trend.

These are the people pulling others back into Bush's corner already, even after his whiny debate performance. These are the people making Kerry's job uphill all the way.

People don't pay a lot of attention to politics, but this doesn't mean that they don't pay attention to what impacts them. The Clintonista gang placated this generation as well, they just did it differently. But Kerry isn't promising them Clinton part II, he can't - the terrain has shifted. Even if Clinton were re-elected for a third term, he couldn't recreate the nineties. Things are falling apart, and people want to get their share while they can. They don't believe Kerry can restore the ninetis, which is why surrounding himself with Clintonites is worse than useless.

GWB is selling the politics of cynicism and despair, and Democrats can't beat him there. They can't beat his post-modernistic revisionist interpretations of the most obvious events. Democrats however can become a neo-modernist party, a party that offers a "third way". GWB represents the asset liquidation approach to America. The party is gonna be over anyway, so get your cut while you can- hence the approval of the open looting. People who are looting will tolerate someone else getting a bigger cut so long as they get something - as opposed to nothing if they like Col decide to turn their noses up. It's the tragedy of the commons, all over again.

Those that are voting for Kerry all have one thing in common: they haven't given up hope for the future. If I had given up hope, I'd be voting for Bush myself.

21 Comments:

At October 5, 2004 at 1:54 PM, Blogger Grand Moff Texan said...

Lemmee see if I've grokked your gist. Are you saying that the BaBoos would rather have a train-wreck after they're dead than starting to pay the piper now?

There is no prototypical Bush voter. These decisions aren't made practically, since not only is good information rare, but denial is preferable. I think a lot of people cling to Bush because admitting his failure, however well documented in red ink and blood, is just too scary. This is a corollary of Krugman's Rambo Coalition: play-tough is easier than real tough, since in play time you get to make up (or remake) your enemies, too.

Bush has always practiced an electoral-college pork politics. There is no ideology present. Ideological rhetoric is merely a marketing tool.

On the other hand, the massive transfer of debt from companies to individuals, as companies refrained from hiring while Americans kept on buying to make the pain go away, combined with the massive transfer of the tax base, from companies to individuals and, among individuals, from richer to poorer (since political speech is money and therefore policy is merely a commodity), means that a minority of Americans can vote Bush out of honest and well informed self-interest.

By which I mean short-term self interest, of course.

The same polity which has bought Bush as a security necessity after his unspeakable security meltdown (which deserves the alchemist's award of the eon), is similiary frivilous to want short-term consolations instead of long-term planning with up-front pain. Bush's borrow-and-squander administration does indeed embody this drunkard ethic.

Cutting taxes buys you political capital. Spending on pork buys you political capital. Reagan and Bush II (or their handlers) showed that they knew this. A little jingoism (regardless of failure), a little fear (ignoring the possibilities for peace), a generous helping of drooling superstition and a dash of eschatological frisson and you've got a political juggernaut, my friend! No bills! No accountability! No tomorrow! Jesus is comin' on a big white cloud before the Visa bill's due!

Give these people real free markets, real free trade, give them only the socialist services they say they want, and they will hang you from a big oak tree. On the other hand, butcher some Arabs at random and keep us drunk and we'll sing any tune you call.

Is that about right?

 
At October 5, 2004 at 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of your best, Oldman.

 
At October 5, 2004 at 3:34 PM, Blogger Oldman said...

Yes but why will pork buy political capital? Besides the obvious, you can only buy what someone else will sell. Why will people take pork in exchange for blanket political support of morons and cretins? Because that's how they get their cut, that's how they get their piece of the asset liquidation pie.

 
At October 5, 2004 at 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oldman is on target with this one.

Funny thing is I've come to the same conclusion he has about the baby boomers who vote for Bush. I had a talk today with a couple of 50's type well to do conservatives and the gist of the talk is pretty much in line with Oldman's view.

These are selfish people who don't give a shit who gets screwed as long as they get what they want and they don't care what the future holds. They don't care about the blowback from Iraq or anything else Bush is doing. I think their only hope is to die before things really tank.

You cannot reason with these people, their intellects have been regressed by decades of inactivity. Only simplistic soundbytes resonate with them. If you chant "Greed is good", "capitalism is Christianity", "selfishness is a virtue" they get it. Go beyond that you might as be lecturing physics to a pig. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

 
At October 6, 2004 at 12:32 AM, Blogger Oldman said...

I wouldn't put it that way. These are all hard-working people, with pride and dignity, that worked very hard all their lives to get what they have. Now they want to enjoy it. The problem is that the country is built a house on quicksand, and the next big wind will knock it down. If I didn't have hope for the future, I'd be angry too and just want "what was mine,". They paid all this money into the system, and now it's going to fail them. Hell yeah, I'd want my money back too.

 
At October 6, 2004 at 12:32 AM, Blogger Oldman said...

I wouldn't put it that way. These are all hard-working people, with pride and dignity, that worked very hard all their lives to get what they have. Now they want to enjoy it. The problem is that the country is built a house on quicksand, and the next big wind will knock it down. If I didn't have hope for the future, I'd be angry too and just want "what was mine,". They paid all this money into the system, and now it's going to fail them. Hell yeah, I'd want my money back too.

 
At October 6, 2004 at 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my reading, talking and thinking, I have not found anyone, except maybe Greenspan, who is produceing any "real, logical, economical, long term solutions" to the problems of America!!! The real long term solutions are left by the way side by the media, IF they ever get there in the first place!!!

The problems of America did not happen overnight. They did not come about because of any one group of people. If you look back in the history of economical crashes, you will find that the same type of coruption, lack of punishment went on then also. This is the way the system was set up to work. ie. against "we, the people".

Looking at this article from the pro-Bush side, what I see/read is that neighter side is going to solve ANY of the problems in America and it is going to be business as usuall!!! The democrats will put bandades on the problems, blame the republicans, and go down with the ship. The Republicans will speed up the process and make it happen sooner. Herein lies the benefit. If the decline of America is more pronounced, then maybe, the media will stop frenching around and start presenting for open form, the real solutions that have been discarded for lack of interest from Joe Soundbite!!! This is why I've been following this blog. The solution to America's problems revolve around good economics in America!!! And the promotion of reforms that will increase the basic fundamentals of the American system with better economics as the endgame goal. Neighter party is doing this!!! Neighter party is going to do this.

The only solution is that "the people" get educated into looking for the "logical, economical, long term solutions"!!!

Jim Coomes

 
At October 6, 2004 at 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

[cm]

Oldman, Anonymous @ 10/5/2004 10:55:18 PM:

It strikes me you are both right in a way on Anonymous' poinst, but looking from different directions.

I would like to submit another aspect, which is that while the Boomers (and perhaps the generation(s) following) rightfully want their share, they have been bullshitted by unsustainable debt-financed living standard increases and "prosperity" propaganda into expecting too high a standard, and put in their work effort under exaggerated expectations.

So in a way they are right to demand it, but at the same time as they can have it only at others' expense they are "selfish". You can try to put yourself in their shoes. Many of them worked hard, though not all, and at the end of their career they have no leverage work-wise to withhold or retroactively reduce the effort they made (whether that effort was effective or not). It's like when you join a company and everybody is waxing big about the year-end bonus (and it is made clear it is part of the compensation package), you make a lot of effort, and come year end, it's oops, there is no money, the executives had too many parties and first-class flights, but your advance effort is unrefundable. But maybe if we give a pay cut to the new hires, we can save at least part of your bonus? How does that sound?

What do you think?

 
At October 6, 2004 at 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oldman,

I understand what you are saying about the boomers. But what gets me about them, that they are not by any real measure the real beneficiaries of the Bush agenda. They are only upper middle-class and not rich by standards today.

They are in fact victims in their own right, their problem as I see it, they bought into to GOP bullshit machine telling them that by gutting all the safeguards for workers, rights, etc. They would share in the wealth - except they didn't. They got to where they are by hard work as you pointed out.

At one time they could have been democrats, but the Democratic party is so f**king obsessed with all sorts of wierdo agendas and issues that they lost the boomers and the blue collars. Thats why I'm not a Democrat, they don't know how to talk to working class people anymore(except for Edwards). I'll just vote for Kerry to get rid of that lunatic at 1600 Penn Ave.

The Democrats don't have a vision, they are not known for being pragmatic but are still "lets throw money at it until it works" mentality. This is a disaster given our current fiscal straights.

Just look at CA and what a financial mess we're in.

And yes I blame the Democrats along with the GOP on the destruction of our economy and society. Both will gut it, only the motives are different.

Rodger

 
At October 6, 2004 at 12:57 PM, Blogger Oldman said...

I think we are really getting at the heart of the issue, of the constituency that the Bush co. doctrine is appealing to electorally. They are victims and having been victimized by false expectations now they are desperate to get something for themselves while they can. I started thinking about this issue when I talked to a lot of decent, hard working Boomers (and some younger folks) who were right behind Bush despite his record. Then I realized that they were voting not for Bush, for a chance to save themselves and everything they've built up their entire lives.

In order to win these people over, the Democratic party needs a vision. Of course we're not talking about everybody here, but we're talking about Bush's core electoral base without which his other cobbled together alliances would fragment - the proLikud jewish vote, the neoconservatives, the social conservatives like the Catholic vote, everything is tied around this core constituency that he keeps on falling back on when he's in trouble.

To win decisively and seize the Senate, the connection between Bush and these people has to be severed.

 
At October 7, 2004 at 7:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So! The scape goat is Bush...I am betting that the democrats will not fix the system!!! What is needed is a compleat system overhall! The democrats will not do this. They are catering to the small special interest groups, have been for the last 30 years and made a mess of our educational system and traditional family system by removing the paddle and spanking of misbehaving children from legal choises we have.

You have given lots of reasons -not to elect Bush- mostly by using him as a scape goat for the wrong/stupid mistakes made over the last 30 years!

But, you have given no REAL, LOGICAL reason to elect kerry!!! The only proven record that he has is that he is a flip floper, (another word for LIER?).

What proof can you give that he will even try to fix problems that he has mentioned, let alone problems that he has not mentioned???

The main problem is that Joe Soundbite eighter does not know what is frenched up, or will not take the time to think and talk about the basic fundamentals of the problems that are bringing America into a decline. Sure, Joe complains about the problems but will not try to rationalise a REAL SOLUTION!!!

Jim Coomes

 
At October 7, 2004 at 3:51 PM, Blogger Oldman said...

Jim - calm down. If I had the power to fix the country's policy problems tomorrow I would. Frankly I only see two alternatives, one an outside intervention which forces the system to correct itself or to continue the present pathological path into self-destruction as a nation. Yes, it's bad but getting shrill about the dysfunctional political system won't help. We have to be rational about this.

 
At October 7, 2004 at 8:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim,

Bush merely accelerated the pathologies that face this nation by 20 or so years in the last 3. Now we're really close to the adge of the abyss. But what do you expect from a political party that has been running the county the same way a corporate takeover/raider does to a newly aquired firm?

As for special interests of course the Bush/GOP has'em. The rich, the really rich, corporations, fundies, defense contractors, etc. IOW the monied and the fanatical all in one nice package.

In regards to a solution, I'm not too optimistic. The Democrats have a lot of problems compared to the GOP which is a monolithic party for all intents. The Democrats right now are united but once Kerry wins and say the Senate too. But its doubtful they can maintain this sort of discipline after the election given all the conflicting special interests.

This discipline is a must, because they really need to clean house domestically if they want to right the country. If they don't...

Rodger

 
At October 11, 2004 at 6:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oldman, Yes, I agree with your response. I had in mind your earlyer post about Bush speeding up the Debt/economical decline and the Middle East war comming in the next 5, 10, 15, years regardless. Maybe, these speeded up senarios might shake things up so that some of the necesarry changes might take place.

Jim Coomes

 
At October 11, 2004 at 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rodger

You have a good point about not being too optomistic about the future.

What we, on this blog site are doing, I see as part of the solution. "Trying to get down to the basics of the problems". The more ideals and information we have and share about the problems will enable us to come up with better solutions. The more people who talk about solutions the more likely that solutions will be implimented.

Jim Coomes

 
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