January 03, 2008


Caption: Seamus McGoogle does not like to be conned.

El Cabrero is winding up New Year's week by highlighting some important books about current events published last year. Today's pick is The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics. The title is kind of self-explanatory. The author is Jonathan Chait, one of El Cabrero's favorite writers at The New Republic.

The book is one of several with the how-did-we-get-in-this-mess theme. Here are the first two paragraphs by way of a teaser:

I have this problem. Whenever I try to explain what's happening in American politics--I mean what's really happening--I wind up sounding a bit like an unhinged conspiracy theorist. But honestly, I'm not. My politics are actually quite moderate. (Most real lefties, inf fact, think I'm a Washington establishment sellout.) So please give me a chance to explain myself when I tell you the following: American politics has been hijacked by a tiny coterie of right-wing economic extremists, some of them ideological zealots, others merely greedy, a few of them possible insane. (Stay with me.)

The scope of their triumph is breathtaking. Over the course of the last three decades, they have moved from the right-wing fringe to the commanding heights of the national agenda. Notions that would have been laughed at a generation ago--that cutting taxes for the very rich is the best response to any and every economic circumstance, or that it is perfectly appropriate to turn the most rapacious and self-interested elements of the business lobby into essentially an arm of the federal government--are no so pervasive they barely attract any notice.

Chait does a good job of tracing the rise of supply side economics from the fringes to center stage and suggests that the main thing that has changed about US politics over the last few years is that the right wing has moved from a moderately conservative position (think Eisenhower) to an extreme position. That's the key to our current so-called polarization. He does a good job of lambasting the media for not noticing this and attempting to portray moderates as people who split the difference between yesterday's consensus and the far right.

It's worth a look. Here's a link to the NY Times review.

SPEAKING OF THE WHOLE BUSINESS LOBBY THING, the lobbyist-written Medicare Part D prescription drug plan is about to stick it to seniors this this year.


THE HEALTH GAP. According to new research,

the relative advantage in child mortality rates and health associated with social and economic advantage was about the same at the end of the 20th century as it was at the beginning of the 20th century. People with more money, more education and higher status jobs experience consistently better health and lower child mortality rates.



Buzzardbilly said...

It is amazing just how many intelligent, educated, well-thinking people have been conned into believing this is all a-okay by the Fox Opinion Channel (their motto should be "If you believe us, you've been FOC'd").

El Cabrero said...

Sad but true. From your previous blog posts, I think we both came of age at the point when the Big Con just got off the ground. "The time is out of joint..."