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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Had my First Centrist Thought Today

And I got a chill...

So, as you know, I just finished reading the Power of the Vote by Doug Schoen. Doug Schoen, for those of you haven't been following along is the political pollster of Penn, Schoen & Berland, the Democratic political polling and strategy outfit that advised, Koch, Clinton, Corzine and Bloomberg.

He makes a lot of points in the closing chapter about how Democrats should position themselves in the 2008 race. This book was written before the race started, and makes no mention of Obama or HC. One of them that actually makes sense to me is this: Doug is a centrist. And he feels that one reason the Dems lost touch with the electorate is that they failed to appeal to the middle class. The Dems had considered their base the lowerclasses and so their messages had been spun toward them. In fact, he claims that the middle class does not identify with messages of public welfare at all. And why not, under the tax schematic of the last ten years, the middleclass has paid for the brunt of welfare, social security, medicare and medicaid. It doesn't matter that these services are there for them if they fall below the line. But I think that this will matter more now. For ten long years the Middle has strove to hang on, with wages actually slipping below the rate of inflation. And they've done it by living on good credit. With the mortgage meltdown--those turkeys are coming home to roost. Troubled banks are calling in their loans, trying to raise capital for their mistakes, forcing more and more people in the economic median to the edges. Regardless, the middleclass doesn't consider itself the lowerclass. In fact, they pride themselves on where they are. They're educated, extremely hardworking, and feel themselves to be positive roll models for their children. They don't want a handout, but they do want help. They want more of their own income. They want help repaying their loans--they don't like to be in debt and are not necessarily comfortable with it. So when Doug Schoen says the Dems have to position themselves for this, he makes a sound point. The Democrats have to be the party of fiscal responsibility. That means promising a balanced budget, but it doesn't mean wealth redistrubition.

That was my big centrist thought. When I read an article about the convention this morning, and I heard those sorts of ideas being bandied about, it suddenly occurred to me that the man is absolutely right. Look--I hate the fact that certain executives live in an entire different stratosphere from the rest of us. But can I really espouse taking their money away? Well--in some cases I can. The Bush tax cuts NEED to go. And the Clinton tax, needs to be made stronger to help the middle and not shield the uberrich. However, in general, I want to make money too. It's a betting against the house, I know, but in every American there is that seed of hope that one day, they might make it to that top 1%. People revere Warren Beatty, and Mike Bloomberg like they're some sort of god. This is the convoluted logic that the Republicans have relied on for years. You and your spouse can bring in under 50Gs together, but if you work hard, and believe in the American Dream, you too can live like a King. And the unbelievable credit market showed that it could indeed happen to a guy like you. And now its gone.

The populist rhetoric is important to me--but appealing to the middleclass is of the highest importance for this race.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Accounting 101

So this will be the first blog about my new subject of education: Accounting. That's right, the Master's begins.

That's actually misleading, actual graded classes won't start until next week, but I started the precursor class.

Enough intro, to wit, I was inspired/disturbed by something I read in the intro papers. Something our teacher spent some time on as well. I guess I was pretty naive, because I thought that Accounting was something that one did, simply as a matter of course in business. You have a product, you need to sell it, you've sold it, you need to keep track of it. You paid X amount on it to get it off the ground, you want to determine if it was worth it. Weeeelll, that's part of it. But no--the line that struck me was the open admission that the purpose of tax accounting is to exploit the tax system. That simple.

I have to admit, I was a bit horrified. Sure I know the drill, people do all sorts of things, usually harmless to avoid paying taxes. But that tax accounting says it, openly and unapologeticly, struck me as rather frightening. If the accounters aren't making honest accountants, than who is being honest?

Now, the professor made a point on this subject that in my naivety, helped shed a little light on the predicament. Remember, that when Moses came off Mount Sinai, he wasn't carrying a tax code. These things didn't come out of thin air. Nor do they come from basic economic principles. They came from the government and the people. So the rules are already sort of busted. I mean, clearly the government looks out for its own interest, the people theirs, and no one really gives a shit about the big picture. And from this constant warfare of 250 million interests plus however many corporations are out there, a tax code is hacked into shape.

So if you think about it, exploting the code is really the only way to gain fair treatment. I thought about trying to change the wording. If exploiting is in its commonality, a rather gross term, then maybe learning the code would be better. But no. Because it just doesn't make the point. The system is a crazy, controvercial, often conflicting set of rules, that no average person could ever navigate without extensive training. And lets face it--is Joe Average going to do that? Hell no! My office mate goes to H&R block every year. They do her taxes. I use Turbotax. My girlfriend is the only one I know who actually sits through the damn thing and calculates it herself.

So I'm okay with "exploiting the tax code" now. It isn't exploting like how the diamond merchants exploit the Congo, it's maneuvering, completely legally, and completely justly, to maximize your gain. Plain and simple.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Doug Schoen-Business Consultant

So I was struck in the head today by an idea that is in no way novel--but the implications of which had not really occurred to me.

So get this--Doug Schoen, the Democratic political consultant who helped Clinton get reelected in 1994 had worked with Dick Morris. Everyone knows that. Dick Morris also helped Clinton get elected as governor, and for his first term. Everyone knows that too. What I don't think we all knew was that Dick Morris worked on the 1994 campaign--while at the same time working for some very important Republicans in the Congressional run that same year!

All of which goes to prove what Doug was talking about in the preceding chapter of his book, The Power of the Vote, that advertising campaigns are political campaigns. They're not just similar, sort of passing likenesses. With the one immediate distinction that advertising decisions are rarely made on the fly. But sometimes they are too.

We all know that politics is a business. But are we all really prepared to accept that Democrat and Republican are really just brand names? On the surface, it sounds pretty obvious. To the extent that the consumer, I mean the public, buys into the advertising of a political campaign, then yes, name recognition, slogans, party ideology, and the endgame "the vote," are all facets of the identity of "The Party." But isn't having an ideology more than simply being a consumer? I mean belonging to a party doesn't necessarily mean that you share all the tenets of a certain ideology--but it is inavoidable to commute some of those tenets to a person when they claim membership in one of those parties. So then, "liberty, equality and justice for all," really are quantifiable objects--to be bought, sold, traded, inflated, refined and all the other fantastic things we do with products. Again, a cynic would simply state, "well...duh," and I get that. But that isn't my point. The point is the language of the thing. For an idea to be an idea, it has to share a similarity with another term, and it has to have a distinction, however grey. If ideology, government, and democracy itself are really just facets of capitalism at large, then the parallels must hold true throughout history--not simply just

This topic needs to be refined, but I have to work.