The Air, the Air Is Everywhere

rightwingoverse I’m hoping Salon and Tom Tomorrow don’t mind my borrowing a panel of today’s strip, but I haven’t seen anything that better sums up the current state of the Right than the panel at left. What’s hysterical about it is that it’s not exaggerated.

The Right cannot merely disagree with Democrats and with the Obama Administration. No; every point of disagreement (which is everything the Obama Administration is doing, because it’s them doing it), no matter how minor, is framed not as a bad idea but as The End of the Universe as We Know It.

For example, at the Los Angeles Times Jonah Goldberg explains the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in the evil plot to bring America into the grip of dictatorship. Because the EPA (Goldberg says, ominously) has given itself the power to regulate everything, including the air you breathe.

Nominally, the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement last Friday only applies to new-car emissions. But pretty much everyone agrees that the ruling opens the door to regulating, well, everything.

According to the EPA, greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide — the gas you exhale — as well as methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. It is literally impossible to imagine a significant economic or human activity that does not involve the production of one of these gases.

Ah, how diabolical. The EPA can regulate everything that involves carbon dioxide, which is pretty much all air-breathing life forms on this planet.

For a little background, read the New York Times editorial on the EPA policy:

The formal “endangerment finding” names carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases as pollutants subject to regulation under the federal Clean Air Act. This in turn sets the stage — after a 60-day comment period — for broad new rules touching major sectors of the American economy and profoundly influencing how Americans use and generate energy.

The finding is also likely to accelerate the progress of climate legislation in Congress and will give the United States the credibility it lost in international climate negotiations during the Bush administration. The next round of talks is scheduled for Copenhagen in December.

The decision has been a long time coming. Two years ago, the United States Supreme Court ordered the agency to determine whether greenhouse gases harmed the environment and public health and, if so, to regulate them. Scientists at former President George W. Bush’s E.P.A. largely agreed that greenhouse gases are harmful and should be regulated. In December 2007, the agency forwarded an endangerment finding to the White House, where senior officials promptly suppressed it, refusing even to open the e-mail to which it was attached.

Talk about judicial activism! The Supreme Court was in on the plot two years before Obama became President! Of course, what you don’t see anywhere in Goldberg’s column is anything resembling a reasoned, documented argument why the EPA’s policy regarding greenhouse gasses is not the best approach for, you know, protecting the environment.

BTW, here’s the background on the Supreme Court decision, which passed by a 5-4 vote, the usual dissenters (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas) dissenting. More here and here.

But, you know, there’s a list that goes on and on. The marginal tax rate for millionaires is bumped up by 3 percent, and the wingnuts start screaming about econo-fascism. (Because, you know, calling it socialism isn’t working.) What you don’t get is anything resembling a reasoned, factual discussion of Obama’s actual tax policies (as opposed to the fantasy Obama tax policies the Right complains about) and why they might not be a good idea.

For that matter, someone explain why wingnuts scream bloody murder when someone suggests paying taxes is patriotic. They say they love America, but they don’t want to pay to maintain it? Isn’t that a bit like saying you love your children, but not enough to be bothered to feed and clothe them?

A rightie might argue they are only opposed to taxes that are too high or unfair taxes — taxing some people at a higher rate than others. OK, fine. Then stop fomenting hysteria and attempt a reasoned, factual discussion. (Clue: A fact is generally defined as something that has objective, verifiable reality; it is not anything you want to believe because it fits your prejudices.)

In other news, the lying aggregate of fecal matter known as “Newt Gingrich” went ballistic because President Obama not only shook hands with Hugo Chavez; he smiled and shook hands at the same time. Satyam Khanna points out at Think Progress that lots of presidents have shaken hands with dictators and smiled while they were doing it.

Gingrich said on NBC,

How do you mend relationships with somebody who hates your country, who actively calls for the destruction of your country and who wants to undermine you?

Which brings me back to the cartoon at the top of the post. We turn once again to Richard Hofstadter, here quoting Theodore W. Adorno:

The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, shows “conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulses, and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere … The pseudo conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition.”

How much more spot on can one get? They’ve somehow simultaneously staked claims on both “love it or leave it” super-nationalism and “hate the Gubmint” anarchism, which may be unprecedented.

Almost Christmas, and Other Reflections

So I stayed up late last night to finish and efile my taxes. Filing the taxes always fills me with the same warm glow I feel after Christmas. In both cases, I cheer myself thinking it will be a whole year before I have to deal with it again.

So today’s the day the True Believers will take to the streets to protest the marginal tax rate rising 3 percent for millionaires. Joan Walsh points out that most of the people who will show up for the tea parties have just had their taxes reduced. Walsh writes,

Of course, the real irony, maybe even tragedy, of the Tea Party movement is the fact that it’s Obama who kept a campaign promise and lowered taxes on roughly 95 percent of American taxpayers. How many folks attending the protests do you expect will know that? There may even be a significant percentage of Tea Partiers who could be penalized by high-balance fees by the credit card companies or who might ultimately need help with their mortgages. Sucks to be those guys! Expect the president to spend much of April 15 talking about his tax cuts and other assistance for struggling, middle-income Americans. Let’s hope his message gets through, even to some of the Tea Party attendees. There’s still so much class-unconsciousness going on.

I am reminded of the mass insanity that struck New Jersey in the 1990s. When Democrat James Florio became governor in January 1990, he faced (to his surprise, I understand) a nasty $600 million budget deficit left him by outgoing Republican Thomas Kean. The state Supreme Court also had issued an order to equalize spending between suburban and city schools, and obeying the order required finding a whole lot o’ money to send to city schools.

So to raise revenues, Florio proposed a 1 percent sales tax hike plus a rise in income tax. The income tax increase was progressive, beginning with a small rate increase for individuals making $55,000 (it’s 1990, remember) and rising to a very big tax increase for those in the very top income bracket.

As a result, the whole state went ballistic. “Dump Florio” bumper stickers bloomed on vehicles all across New Jersey, including old clunkers being driven by people whose income almost certainly was below $55,000. I remember the woman who was my manager at the time actually circulated a petition among employees calling for Florio’s ouster, which no doubt was against company policy, but no one she supervised would have been affected by the income tax hike; just her.

At one point I realized this woman’s clerical assistant was in terrible distress worrying how she was going to pay the awful income taxes. I told her that her taxes weren’t going up (the salary scale at that company was fairly standard; people in her position made $18,000-20,000). She didn’t believe me. I found a newspaper article that explained the tax rates. She was stunned and relieved, but then asked why everyone was making such a fuss. You tell me, I said.

The answer was, of course, that people in the top income brackets (who really did get a big increase) have a really big microphone. No doubt some smart Republican political operatives were “helping” generate hysteria to bring down the new Democratic governor. People who got most of their news from radio, television and other people just heard there was a big tax increase and went marching against it. One fellow who was “promoted” (again, one saw many manipulative hands behind this) as the head of the anti-tax movement not only lacked the income to be affected, but reporters noticed that his kids’ school system was among those that would benefit from increased state aid. To this day the guy probably doesn’t realize he was being used.

Later that year, the Republicans came very close to ousting U.S. Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ). Bradley stayed out of the New Jersey state tax issue, neither defending nor criticizing, and Christine Todd Whitman ran against him almost entirely on the question of why Bradley was not speaking out against Jim Florio’s taxes. And she damn near beat him. This put Whitman on the map politically, and she became governor of New Jersey in 1994. I say again, there were some smart political operatives in the shadows, whipping up tax hysteria as a wedge issue.

Anyway, regarding today’s planned “tea parties” — I hope no one is stupid enough to show up to counter-protest. Yes, righties crashed plenty of anti-war and anti-Bush marches and rallies. But the Rightbots already see themselves as victims and martyrs being oppressed by the evil forces of Libruhlism, and taunting them just reinforces their cherished sense of victimhood. You can taunt them here all you like, of course.

Make the World Safe for Tax Increases

E.J. Dionne has another good column today. Last two paragraphs:

The larger problem is the emptiness of all the howling over the long-term deficits. Nibbling away at bits of Obama’s proposed budget will do very little about them. Talk of “entitlement reform” is empty unless we have health-care reform — and unless we acknowledge that we will never cut Medicare and Social Security enough to close the budget gap. In fact, Social Security is more important than ever, now that the value of so many 401(k)s has plummeted.

The task of those who genuinely care about deficits is to make the world safe for tax increases. Under current conditions, it’s a whole lot easier for politicians to talk a lot about deficits, and then just let them grow.