The hope-y, change-y thing

I must admit to Sarah Palin’s line about “how’s that hope-y, change-y thing working out for you?”  All in all, not so bad I’d say.  Of course, I never personally bought much into the whole hope and change thing.  I was glad to see it really energize and excite a lot of voters– especially young ones.  I do think it’s clear, though, that this truly is where Obama has let people down the most.  Of course, in one sense this could never be more than rhetoric as it’s almost impossible for one man to accomplish the kind of changes he suggested were possible.  That said, I think he really could (can) try harder to actually lead and guide the American public in productive ways.  I think Ezra has a great analysis of the matter when you look at the issue of tax cuts:

But I’m not surprised to see Obama playing word games with taxes. Since the 2008 campaign, Obama and his team have shown themselves to be terrified of the tax issue. They swore never to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 — which tied their hands when deficits exploded. They initially fought the individual mandate, in large part because, like most taxes, it polls poorly. After they embraced it, they worked to call it a “penalty” rather than a “tax,” which has contributed to the provision’s legal difficulties. They argued for letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the rich, but they were never willing to say that the tax rates should reset to Clinton-era levels across the system, which was a tacit admission that most of the tax rates Bush put into place were — and are — appropriate.

In general, they’ve just not been willing to try to push the national conversation over taxes to a more rational place. Rather than disputing the GOP’s contention that cutting taxes is almost always and everywhere a good thing, they’ve quietly agreed and attempted to defuse the issue by grabbing the mantle of tax cuts for themselves. That might be good politics, but in the long run, we’re going to need to raise taxes in this country, and that’s going to require some leader or group of leaders to talk about taxes with a bit more courage and honesty. So far, the Obama administration has left that job to someone else.

To me, that’s a failure of leadership.  If not, Obama, who?  As long as Democrats keep playing the tax game on the Republican half of the field, we’re going to be stuck with under-funded government and structural deficits.  Obviously, this problem is a lot bigger than Obama, but this is certainly an area where we could have hoped for some real leadership.

Attack of the Smurfs

Oh, the many happy childhood memories of watching the Smurfs.  We used to have theme July 4th parades on my street when I was a kid and I think my favorite was the Smurf theme.  I went as Hefty and my best friend Stanley Bean made a great Papa Smurf (he was the only one to actually own red pants).  Anyway, via Kevin Drum and the Post, we learn that some Iphone game manufacturer is engaged in some incredibly underhanded behavior in using the smurfs.  Drum:

The Washington Post reports today on problems with an iPhone game for children called Smurfs’ Village, which allows kids to “build a complete Smurfs village from scratch”:

Over the winter break from school, 8-year-old Madison worked to dress up her simple mushroom home on the iPhone game Smurfs’ Village. In doing so, she also amassed a $1,400 bill from Apple….But like a growing number of parents, Madison’s mom, Stephanie Kay, was shocked to find very real charges from iTunes show up in her e-mail box days later.

….The practice is troubling parents and public interest groups, who say $99 for a wagon of Smurfberries or $19 for a bucket of snowflakes doesn’t have any business in a children’s game. Though a password is needed to make a purchase, critics say that the safeguards aren’t strong enough and that there are loopholes.

Loopholes? You’ve got to be kidding. What possible justification can a game developer (Capcom in this case) have for charging real money for virtual objects under any circumstances? If you can sucker adults into doing this, that’s one thing. But these are games for kids. Of course they think the charges are just play money. So would most parents. What person in his right mind would even consider the possibility that a corporation would charge a hundred real dollars for a wagon of virtual Smurfberries?

So, so wrong.  Somebody should sic Gargamel and Azrael on this evil company.

Reagan could not replace Reagan

So, with all this Reagan’s 100 birthday talk, I heard in passing some news broadcast the other day ask “who can be the next Reagan?”  Ummm, no one.  Not because the current crop of Republican leaders is particularly lame– though I think a good case can be made for that– but because the “Reagan” everybody talks about and Republicans reflexively revere as the Soviets did Lenin is not a real person.  He’s a historical/mythical creation that only bears passing resemblance to the actual man.  Of course, back in the 80’s I pretty much hated Reagan.  Being a teenager I knew I was liberal and cared about things like the environment and poor people and that Reagan didn’t (still fairly accurate, I’d say).  The grown-up political scientist in me definitely gives him some credit.  He really was a savvy politician, an effective politician, and a genuine leader– he sought to re-shape the American political landscape (in ways I didn’t agree with), but I think he should get a fair amount of credit for that.  Anyway, the Post has a nice 5 Myths feature on Reagan.  The Reagan that modern Republicans love is the tax-cutting, government-shrinking, culture warrior who never exactly existed.  Chait takes on the right-wing counter-attack on the left having the temerity to discuss the reality of Reagan:

The source of the revisionism is that, in two of those areas, Reagan reversed himself completely. In foreign policy, he alienated the right by pursuing a detente policy with the USSR. Domestically, his administration recognized that the formula of higher defense spending plus huge tax cuts was a recipe for total fiscal disaster. Reagan agreed to a series of large tax hikes after 1981, and in 1986 signed a tax reform that, while lowering nominal rates, increased the share of taxes paid by the rich.

All of these things would be totally anathema to the modern GOP. (The Bowles-Simpson commission proposed a tax reform similar to Reagan’s, and a handful of Republicans were willing to accept it only in return for large spending cuts.) The liberal case for Reagan, then, is that, after introducing new, previously unthinkable right-wing policies, he pragmatically abandoned them as a failure. Conservatives have since pretended that they were Reagan’s consistent policy as part of a successful effort to entrench them as unchallenged party dogma.

The right’s reaction to this revisionist account is an attempt to preserve the myth of Reagan as right-wing purist. Heyward, in National Review, repeats the charge — “He raised taxes! He talked to the Soviets and reached arms agreements!” — but seems to think that putting sarcastic exclamation points after these facts is sufficient to refute them. Heyward’s refutation focuses on the fact that Reagan and the left did not like each other much at the time, which doesn’t refute the point.

Anyway, a pretty scary thought that the real Reagan would have been, in many ways, too liberal for the modern Republican party.

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