As Jonathan Chait points out, Bobby Jindal — who is supposed to be one of the intellectual leaders of his party — has just published an op-ed on the cliff that sure looks as if he has no idea whatsoever what the cliff is about. There’s nothing in that piece even hinting that the looming problem is spending cuts and tax increases that will shrink the deficit too soon; and his big policy ideas would actually make the lurch to austerity worse. It’s not just the idea of a balanced budget amendment, which would force harsh austerity every time the economy goes into recession; putting a cap on spending as share of GDP would do the same, because you’d have to cut spending whenever GDP went down.Oh, I don't know about that. Writing op-eds about things you know nothing about (climate change; economic policy; health policy; how your preferred candidate is going to win the next election by eleventy billion percent) is practically a necessity among the pundit class, and if we really were to expect our major political figures to know about things that they are having very bold public opinions on, well, that sounds like communism. Or something.
You really have to wonder how someone who’s a major political figure could be this uninformed — but you have to wonder even more about the state of mind that induces you to write an op-ed about a subject you don’t comprehend at all.
No, our political discourse is firmly rooted in the premise that knowing things is for academic types and other denizens of nerd-land; the true masters of our fate, people like George Will and whatever poor sap has to write the latest house op-ed for the Washington Post, on any given day, pride themselves on being generalists. They know precious little—preferably, next to nothing—about a great many things, which makes them far superior, pundit-wise, to anyone who might know a great deal about any one particular subject. We could ask what a much-respected medical researcher thinks about some certain thing that will profoundly affect medical care in the country, or we can ask, say, Orrin Hatch to hork something up based on their personal ideological theory of how the human body might work—something involving humors, I believe. We can base our decisions on whether or not to, for example, monitor potentially dangerous volcanos near population centers as a means of perhaps warning the population when something Very Very Bad is going to happen in accordance with scientific suggestions on whether or not that might be a good idea, or we can launch a national movement to not do that based on the fact that Bobby Jindal thinks it sounds silly.
Six of one, half dozen of the other. Whatever works, America. Now if you'll excuse me, George Will seems to be muttering something again about how average global temperatures are not what scientists say they are because free enterprise, you damn science bastards.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2008—Obama: Biggest public works investment since Eisenhower planned:
|In this morning's weekly address, President-Elect Obama promised to roll out the biggest investment in public infrastructure since the federal highway system of the 1950's was undertaken. In addition to roads and bridges, the new administration will upgrade public schools, build out broadband, make public buildings energy efficient and modernize medical record-keeping.
Today, I am announcing a few key parts of my plan. First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.