Saturday, September 8, 2012

Real Time With Bill Maher: Counterpoints (9/7/12)

Welcome to another edition of counterpoints. This time, the show is gonna be Real Time With Bill Maher. And despite the fact that he isn't that great of a comedian and isn't nearly as knowledgeable as he secretly thinks he is, it's still the best political discourse show on TV right now.

But many times, he simply has a bad argument and many times the Republicans and libertarians on his show don't do a good job of articulating their own arguments. That's where I come in. So without further ado...

1. Citizens United vs FEC didn't kill democracy as we know it.

It's the unpopular decision that both Republican and Democratic strategists like to (publicly) denounce. Supposedly by uncapping the amount of money that individuals (or groups of individuals) can spend influencing a Federal election, we've effectively sold our government to the highest bidder.

Except we haven't. In 2010, Meg Whitman spent 180 million dollars, 6 times as much as Jerry Brown did, to try and win the California gubernatorial election. She lost. Linda McMahon spent 50 million dollars trying to win a Senate seat in Connecticut and outspent her Democratic opponent over 15:1 and still lost. Money doesn't buy elections. It simply gives challengers a more effective platform to communicate to voters.

If the voters don't like what the challenger has to say, they won't vote for them. Votes determine elections, not money. The single greatest determining factor in an election is usually incumbency. The person in office wins reelection the vast majority of the time, at every government level.

Finally, let's look at how much additional money is being spent. Republicans and Democrats are projected to spend 5.8 billion dollars this election cycle. In 2008, they spent 5.3 billion. That's an increase of less than 10%.

So it doesn't seem like big business is flexing their muscle this election cycle. And there's a good reason for that. Corporate donations to election campaigns have very little ROI. Businesses spend more time and money lobbying elected officials (not politicians seeking election) because they are already in office and in a position to benefit a business.

Plus they also work the bureaucracy. Oftentimes, it doesn't matter who's in elected office. The (unelected) regulators overseeing the private sector usually matter a lot more to a business's day-to-day affairs than an elected politician. So when a company lobbies a bureaucrat, regulatory capture happens.

Simply put, Citizens United doesn't change a single thing in American politics. It's wrong for people to try and argue that it does.

2. Katrina van Heuvel is an annoying, sycophantic blowhard who is the perfect example of what is wrong with the American intelligentsia.

There was a moment on the show where one of the guest panelists, Katrina van Heuvel, was trying to burnish her "liberal" credentials by observing how "pale and old" the RNC crowd was. It was essentially left-leaning code for "look at how white, angry, and old these people are in the Republican Party!"

The irony is that she is an old white person herself. As are most of the prominent politicians in the Democratic Party. And it's classic white guilt at its finest. In academia, journalism, and media, the best way to "prove" that you are a progressive Democrat is by saying "I am white, privileged and not only do I recognize that, but I (publicly) reject that privilege".

Because academia, journalism, and media is overwhelmingly white. And most of them are Democrats in their political ideology. And it's no hard thing for them to say that they recognize and want to repair the inequities in life (achievement, education, and socioeconomic gap between whites and the rest of the population) because they already occupy the top of the socioeconomic stratosphere.

Okay, this is kinda going off the rails here. I'm going to complete this thought with a much longer, dedicated blog post. But please bear in mind that Katrina van Heuvel is a terrible, hypocritical person.

3. David Simon is right in that our problems are rooted in things set in motion decades ago, but he's wrong on what we need to do to fix those problems.

Ultimately, the President alone has very little power to shape the economy. And while he's right that it's unrealistic to expect a much improved economic picture in just 4 years (when things in the economy often take decades to fully develop), it's amazing that he doesn't realize how impressive business has been in developing this country.

Globalization is a good thing. So is free trade. And the decline of labor unions (after most of their original objectives have been enshrined in culture and codified into law). The society we have now is much more prosperous and tolerant than anything we had in the 20th century.

Okay, this is something else that needs to have its own dedicated blog post. The ideas I'm trying to communicate can't be adequately expressed in a few measly paragraphs.

4. Democrats are as bad as Republicans.

Bill Maher wanted examples? How about the Joe Soptic ad where he (and the ad's creators) essentially blame Mitt Romney for killing his wife? Or their own gleeful and willful misrepresentations of Romney's speeches ("I like being able to fire people"). Or how about the ad where a Paul Ryan lookalike shoves granny off a cliff (seriously, that's a real ad)?

Republicans and Democrats both do despicable things to try and win elections. And it's because voters are dumb. It's that simple. And the only reason why Bill Maher can't recognize it is because he suffers from a massive case of confirmation bias.

1 comment:

  1. I am going to have to start watching Real Time now that you have started a counterpoints. With regard to your examples of Democrats being as bad as Republicans, the following was posted to a message board in response to my observation about there being 6 pages of Liberals bashing Conservatives and vice-verse, without anyone actually saying anything:

    "there's 3 pages of Liberals bashing Conservatives because conservatives are braindead stupid and they have absolutely no common sense. We're all tired of Conservatism. It is a plague, it is a disease, it is a freaking STD. Fact: all conservatives are terrorists, either economic or physical or both. Obama should use the NDAA to detain every single right-winger in this country."

    True, this is just an anonymous person on a message board, not a well known public figure, but it shows that intolerance is not an exclusive trait of the Right.

    BTW, off topic, but have you read "Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party" by Geoffrey Kabaservice? I am about half way through it and is quite good, I think.

    Look forward to your next posts, Jay.