Kathleen Parker is onto something

Yesterday’s column about Paul Ryan.  Got a kick out of this:

In another example, Ryan criticized Obama’s plan to cut $700 billion from the growth of Medicare. Ryan’s own plan also calls for $700 billion in cuts, though with different details. Why not acknowledge this? Everyone knows it — unless Ryan believes that his audience isn’t up to speed [emphasis mine]— so why not set the record straight?

Wow Kathleen Parker, you think maybe?  Just maybe Paul Ryan thinks his audience doesn’t actually understand policy or his Medicare proposals?  Oh, I’d bet on that.  As for “Everyone knows it,” Um, sure national opinion columnists know it, and liberal bloggers know it, but that’s not exactly “everybody.”  Also, those “different details” are a really big deal.  That’s like saying dropping the atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 is “different details” from an all-out invasion.

Mitt on Moms

Given my interest in politics and parenthood, I really enjoyed this Yglesias deconstruction on the utter incoherence of Mitt Romney’s positions on motherhood.  Of course, utter incoherence is what you get from shameless pandering to an audience you don’t think is bright enough to catch onto the glaring logical inconsistencies in your statements.  I’m just going to excerpt Yglesias at length:

One of the Romney campaign’s most controversial moves has been its decision to persist with widely debunked claims that the Obama administrtaion is gutting the work requirements attached to TANF money. But questions about truth-telling aside, the Romney policy view here is clear—spending money to bolster the living standards of single mothers is fine, but they have to be made to engage in paid work in the labor market both for their own good and for the good of society.

But then again, when Hilary Rosen said that lifelong homemaker Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life” the Romney team purported to be outraged on behalf of mothers everywhere. And last night accepting the Republican Party nomination for president, Romney left the welfare attacks unmentioned and instead doubled-down on the idea that non-market work is crucial.

“I knew that her job as a mom was harder than mine,” he said “And I knew without question, that her job as a mom was a lot more important than mine.”

You see the inconsistency there?  Of course you do– it’s not hard.  Yglesias adds some interesting historical context:

That’s a provocative idea. And indeed it’s part of the idea behind the original pre-reform version of TANF known as AFDC. This idea, representing state-of-the-art 1930s thinking about gender roles held that the state should act as a breadwinner figure for families with dependent children that lacked adequate income. The idea wasn’t that mothers in such families “aren’t working” it’s that they’re doing the job of a mother, which is often conceptualized as “harder” and “a lot more important” than the job of earning wages in the labor market. But as more and more middle class women began engaging in paid work even after having children, this came to seem as obsolete to many people. AFDC was seen as a poorly designed program that created bad incentives and encouraged resentment on the part of working people. So both that specific program and the American “welfare state” as a whole were substantially reformed over the course of the 1980s and 1990s to put much more emphasis on subsidizing the living standards of the working poor (through EITC, Medicaid, and the revised version of TANF) rather than old-fashioned check writing.

But now here’s Mitt Romney telling us that Ann Romney’s work is both harder and a lot more important than the work he did at Bain & Company and then later at Bain Capital. So what to make of that?

Most likely the answer to the riddle is that he’s just bullshitting (in the Harry Frankfurt sense) about the importance of homemakers.

You can’t have it both ways (unless you are talking to the Republican base).  Now, I’m sure Democrats have their own logical inconsistencies, but it is hard to think of something both this glaring and this prominent.

Photo of the day

From a Big Picture set of humans (and a few animals) in flight:

A squirrel aboard the USS Constitution exercises its sea legs in Boston, Mass. on August 16, 2012. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

I’m guessing the squirrel did not expect the ship to actually move.  (This one is for you JPP).


Love this week’s New Yorker cover.  Here’s the largest image I could find.  My absolute favorite is Paul Ryan reading Atlas Shrugged as a bedtime story.

The New Yorker Cover - September 3, 2012 Premium Giclee Print

Value of the convention

I was interviewed by the local news yesterday on why we even still have conventions and isn’t it crazy that the public subsidizes them (I love WordPress in general, but their minimal support for embedding videos other than youtube really drives me crazy).

I must say, my comments ended up being heavily influenced by reading this post from Seth Masket earlier in the week:

I rather enjoyed Hanna Rosin’s thoughts on this question during last week’s Slate Gabfest:

Look, most Americans pay no attention to politics, and then comes the convention, and then it’s like a pageantry, and that’s as interesting as politics is going to get. I feel it’s slightly bogus when political reporters say things like, “Oh, no policy happens.” Like you were going to write about policy if it did happen? All you do is write about image and message for the entire year and then the convention comes and you complain because it’s only about image and message.

I agree with Rosin: the pageantry matters! This is the part of the election cycle where normal Americans (read: not political junkies) begin to pay attention to the candidates, the parties, and the issues, and the conventions are a big part of how that happens.

Along these lines, conventions serve as an opportunity for a party to present its candidates and its stances to the general public. Those who only learn about the current election from advertisements are getting a somewhat abbreviated and decidedly negative perspective; the conventions are the parties’ chance to define themselves and lay out their arguments for why they should be in charge. We also get to see some of the up-and-coming candidates in a party; the next two weeks will give most Americans their first opportunity to hear from some of the likely 2016 presidential candidates.

And Jonathan Bernstein:

But really, the reason I think that the conventions are worth saving is because both a democracy and its political parties need rituals, and we really don’t have that many left. Indeed, the rise of the parties over the last 30 or 40 years has been accompanied not by renewed and updated rituals but by a political culture that continues to demand we vote the person and not the party and which considers independent voters to be superior to partisans. Against that, the funny hats, the balloon drops, the roll call of the states and the rest of it aren’t much … but at least they’re something. Until someone can come up with good 21st century customs and rituals appropriate to our modern parties, I’m all for hanging on to what we have – and so I’m very glad that the conventions have survived 40 years after their original political function was stripped from them.

Now, I think you could make a good argument that when parties are raising tens of millions of their own for the convention that the public subsidies may be out-dated, but even if no real “news” happens, conventions remain an important part of our democracy.

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