Translating Newt Gingrich’s CPAC comments into plain English

Newt Gingrich addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference today and, as is his habit, had some interesting things to say. This session doesn’t seem to have been as much fun as the 500 Racist Hillbilly Over the Top Rope Battle Royale we had yesterday, but credit the far right with understanding the value of offering up a diversity in its entertainment, if not in its actual politics.

For instance, Newt said this:

“The Republican establishment is just plain wrong about how it approaches politics,” Gingrich said.

For once, he and I agree on something, although we disagree for vastly different reasons. He also said that GOP leadership is “mired in stupidity.” Again, couldn’t agree more. Again, really different reasons.

He said this, which is certainly true:

“It is virtually impossible to get people in Washington, D.C., to actually learn how to think about a new world.”

Of course, he also said this, which is utter silliness:

“We are not the anti-Obama movement; we are for a better American future.”

I mean, it’s been pretty well documented that the GOP’s prime (and sole) directive since early 2009 has been to obstruct anything and everything the Dems propose, even if it means they wind up filibustering themselves.

Then we got to the money shot. Here’s what Newt said:

“You’re going to hear a false attack that we don’t need new ideas,” he continued. “Let me draw a distinction: we don’t need new principles, but we need lots of new ideas about how to implement those principles in the 21st century.”

Since I speak Republican, let me translate for you.

The problem isn’t our sexism, racism, and neo-feudalist economic principles. It’s that we have to find a way of convincing minorities, women, the middle class and the working classes that racism, sexism and neo-feudalism are good for them.”

I guess my take is that the GOP has plenty of ideas. The problem is that the demographics have turned on them and many of the people dumb enough to believe those ideas are dying out.

If I worked for Mr. Gingrich, I might pull him aside and say “sir, with all due respect, I think maybe your principles are the problem. It’s easier to sell the public a bag of apples than it is to convince them that a bag of road apples are really tasty.”

Just thinkin’ out loud here….

Two reasons why the new CREDO Action petition to limit CEO salaries wouldn’t work

There’s a new petition going around – maybe you’ve seen it on Facebook. It points up our growing rich-poor gap and asks Congress to cap CEO pay, which is obscene in many cases.

The ratio of CEO pay in the United States has ballooned to 380 times that of the average worker. Pass legislation to limit the salary of CEOs to 50 times as much as the average employee at their company.

The petition notes the recent viral video highlighting wealth inequality in the US, and argues that “a major driver of this inequality is pay disparity, with CEOs in Fortune 500 companies now making 380 times as much money as the average worker. This is a massive increase from 1980, when CEOs were making 42 times as much as the average worker.”

The proposed solution?

To help rectify this problem, Congress needs to pass legislation that caps the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay at 50 times. CEOs can still be very well compensated, but this will help to drive down the massive disparity we’re facing right now.

I don’t disagree with either the statement of the problem (although there’s more at work than CEO pay), nor do I have any moral or ethical problems with the solution, in concept. At some point the accumulation of material wealth becomes a pathology, and no society that hopes to thrive can allow itself to be held captive to the sickness of its elite minority.

But this petition is a waste of time. Two reasons.

The first is obvious. You can call on Congress all you like, but you won’t find ten votes for this bill in Washington. A good many of our Representatives and Senators are rich themselves and are unlikely to be interested in limiting their own future earning potential. As of two years ago 47% of Congresspeople were millionaires, and those who aren’t hyperwealthy themselves are in the pocket of the 1%. If you’re a fair-minded Rep and you vote for this bill, you may as well announce that you won’t be running for reelection while you’re at it. Dr. Denny has written about this dynamic a number of times, most recently here.

Of course, I suspect this petition is less about expecting actual reform and more about driving public awareness.

The second reason is important in understanding how corporations actually work. Even if this law were passed – even if you let CREDO, the petition’s sponsor, word the bill themselves – it wouldn’t make a scrap of difference. Faced with such measures, corporate boards would simply respond by boosting their outsourcing programs. They’d decide how much to pay the CEO and then they’d draw a red line just above the employees making 1/50th of his/her salary. They would hire a contract management firm and terminate all the employees below that line, who would then be hired by the contracting firm to keep doing the same jobs in the same ways they were before.

Given my experience a few years back as an employee of such a firm, my guess is the end result would actually be worse for the affected workers, as contracting firms lack the market heft when it comes to negotiating benefits with health care providers. So if you’re one of those outsourced employees, even if you make the same salary you probably lose ground on benefits.

This is just the start, of course. There are all kinds of accounting gymnastics that a corporation could engage in when building compensation packages, and the way Congress works these you start with loopholes and then weave the illusion of reform around them.

I appreciate what CREDO is trying to accomplish here, but I can’t imagine meaningful reform issuing from our congenitally corrupt system.

Paul Ryan: stock right wing VP hitman


By Robert Becker

Nothing bold, visionary, or adventurous here: the knee-jerk right winger in spades.

Whether you responded with shock, surprise or delight to his V.P. pick, Mitt Romney delivered no bombshell with Paul Ryan. Au contraire. The briefest survey confirms “going hard right V.P.” typifies the modern era for the Gruesome Old Party. That Romney the Null and Void would pick an extreme partisan to shore up his skeptical base was inevitable: lock up the sheeple who trust super-rich Mitt even less than they did Dole, Dubya or that old guy enamored with the Palin.

Continue reading

Terry Pratchett and the 99%: A reply to Gavin Chait

When we were putting S&R together in 2007 I hunted down Gavin Chait and begged him to join us. He’s one of the smartest guys I know, a relentless, good faith thinker and someone you can count on to hit you with a perspective you hadn’t thought about. He wrote our very first post and also penned at least one of our absolute very best posts.

We don’t always agree, though. (Which is good – how boring would it be if we did?) In a recent post, Gavin addressed the topic of the latest Discworld novel in a post entitled “Terry Pratchett and the redemption of the Orcs.” If you review the post and the comment thread you’ll see that I take Gavin to task for misrepresenting Pratchett. Gavin’s reply (@2) neatly gets to his overarching point: Continue reading

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading