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« The Wicked Paradox (Repost) | Main | The Wicked Paradox: The Cleric as Public Intellectual »

September 08, 2011

Gov. Rick Ponzi

In handicapping the Republican presidential nomination race, my friends over at The Rise of the Right suggested that Perry might not only be the new favorite of the Republican right wing base, but the more electable in the general, as well. I’m not convinced she’s wrong. His gun-toting swagger and straight-talking, no nonsense demeanor certainly make him the most charismatic and dynamic candidate in the race—and such personalities are almost always greeted favorably (there are plenty of Democratic equivalents, so it’s an attraction that transcends party and ideology). They suggest, by style alone, that they have sufficient personal force to “get the job done.” Often, the public is less concerned about what job needs to get done, as long as somebody's doing it with gusto. That acknowledged, I am far from convinced that she’s right. As an Obama-supporting liberal democrat, my instincts tell me to be much more concerned about Romney. First, Perry is vulnerable on the very issues he touts as strengths: Texas state governance and job creation generally: while Texas does have impressive job growth, more than half of the new jobs created were in the public sector--that is, the government he wants to make "inconsequential." On top of that, Texas received more than 25 billion in federal stimulus (third largest recipient in the nation), some of which Perry used to ballance his state budget. At some point, somebody is going to argue that if there has been a Texas miricle, Perry should thank Obama for pulling it off.

More importantly, however, it’s not what he’s done that makes him vulnerable, but what he apparently wants to do, and especially how he talks about it. For years, Republicans have argued for some sort of privatization scheme for social security (which they now call “personalization” to rhetorically disinfect it of its reliance on the increasingly unstable stock market). But such schemes are typically couched as attempts to “save” the system. Republicans generally describe the system as financially instable and in need of the sort of reforms a bright accountant might supply. They don’t call it a criminal enterprise—a Ponzi scheme structured like the one that landed the original Charles Ponzi in the penitentiary a century ago (or the one that earned Madoff a life sentence more recently). Millions of older Americans (including Republicans) depend on that system, and millions more middle-aged Americans factor in their projected social security income when planning for retirement. (Young people, it’s argued, don’t really believe that social security will be there for them when they retire, so aren’t likely to be made nervous by Perry’s language. That’s probably right, but it’s also irrelevant to any calculation of the program’s viability. Most young people, I suspect, don’t really think about old age at all—its severe physical, cognitive, and financial debilitations. Middle aged Americans do, especially when they are watching and caring for aging parents as they fall, shocking fast, into decrepitude. And these Americans tend to be acutely aware of the way their parents depend on the system.) In this context, would not be surprised to find millions of independents voting for Obama just to save the system, and millions of Republicans simply staying at home. For a little statistical support, take a look at this post from Nate Silver.

Posted by stevemack at September 8, 2011 08:04 AM


"A Whitman for our Time."
- Jerome Loving,
"Stephen John Mack's The Pragmatic Whitman: Reimagining American Democracy, [is] The most thoroughly informed philosophical reading of Whitman to appear in decades. Mack develops the premise . . . That Whitman shares with John Dewey a vision of democracy as a 'civic religion' in America, a profoundly secularist and progressive perspective.

- M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Texas A & M University
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