Friday, November 05, 2004

Sailing on the Denial, Sleeping in the Lifeboat

I've read several "don't give up the ship" pep talks this week from my progressive brethren. And now for a contrasting POV ...

What are the salient facts of this election?

Bush is arguably the dumbest and without doubt the most inarticulate candidate on a national level in living memory, probably in history. I have never heard of so many reputable insiders (esp. Clarke and O'Neill) not only quitting in disgust but actually laying out the gory details demonstrating that this emporer has neither clothes nor prospect of acquiring same.

He ran on the worst record of any incumbent (considering both economic and foreign policy results) in living memory, possibly in history.

Granted, he had funding. The Coalition of the the Conniving and the Clueless managed to scrape up about half a billion dollars.

Most of his supporters (the latter half of the aforemention coalition) believe many things are just flat out wrong, and fairly widely reported to be wrong in media other than broadcast. Facts simply do not matter to them.

The Dimmocrats settled on a pretty good slate (significantly better than 2000's) very early and dedicated themselves to a surprisingly united and well-funded effort to unseat Bush, running an arguably indifferent campaign but still better than 2000's.

How could we lose?
Well, we lost.

We really did not even come close.

Now it's time to face the hard conclusion: if you can't beat such a bozo with such a bad record, you simply cannot win in the foreseeable future, period. End of sentence. GAME OVER.

True, Bush will have only 4 more years to inflict his peculiar brand of devastation on the country and the planet. In that 4 years you should expect
over 3 TRILLION dollars more heaped onto the national debt (combining federal and current accounts deficits), and
3 more Scalia clones joining the Supremes, with an average life expectancy of 30 years each.
And that's just for openers.

The surging debt picture will be accompanied by rising interest rates and a declining dollar. If real estate prices continue their rise in this environment, it will be a minor miracle. We could be looking at a perfect monetary storm.

The Conniving will continue to make out like bandits and the Clueless will continue to support them at their own considerable expense. Employment remains about 9 million under where it should be at this point in the cycle, October's 300K new jobs notwithstanding. And the education system continues to turn out HS grads ranking about 24th in the world, slightly ahead of Nigeria's. Two million more every year.

We'll likely see continued ineptitude in the management of the military, more dead than I care to imagine, and a draft is certainly possible if not likely. Enlistment rates for the guard and reserve units are a closely held secret, probably for good reason.

I refuse to speculate on the atrocities that will be committed on the Constitution, but given that the Dark Side has working majorities in damn near everything including both houses, the courts, and most state legislatures, anything is possible.

Fast forward to '08 when the GOP offers up a significantly improved model of the workhorse Bush II:

Will the Clueless be any less ignorant or the Conniving less generous in their funding? No. Even an unmitigated string of disasters in the next 4 years will not deter them, and it is hard to imagine how we could be more inspired than we were this year. We'll still be outmanned and outgunned, the issues no better defined, and the differences in character of the candidates no clearer.

Finally, there's the tsunami of accumulated deficits and exploding Medicare/Social Security payments (no, we didn't put all those past payments in a lock box, and yes, Medicare will get top billing as outlays race past Social Security's) that's piling up for anyone with half a brain to see, but it will not swamp the economy by '08 despite what some economists say.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office warns that “substantial reductions in the projected growth of spending or a sizable increase in taxes – or both – will probably be necessary" but as David Broder notes, "It’s not true that Washington can’t agree about anything. Across the political spectrum there’s a clear recognition that the present path of budget-making is unsustainable – in fact, ruinous.”

Paul Krugman thinks economic chaos will start about 5 years out but I think he's a tad pessimistic. We probably have 8 to 10 good years left before that debt tsunami dominates the economic landscape, maybe 15 before it really hits. Meanwhile, rich folk should continue to make out rather well, assuming their investments are prudently diversified overseas. (Of the money flowing into equity mutual funds this week, %70 went to foreign markets. And that's with a rip-roaring rally on.)

Soldier on, optimists. I wish you all the best but watch out, the Denial River has some nasty rapids. No one's giving the order to abandon ship, nevertheless I'm sleeping in the lifeboats.

...Life jacket, anyone?

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