Grover suddenly wants transparency

Boy oh boy. This episode of Press The Meat is one for the record books. If you didn’t know that Grover was a co-founder of the K Street Project and the host of his infamous Wednesday morning meetings, you might think he was really concerned about the integrity of the political process!

DAVID GREGORY: Grover, I want to start with you as we get first reaction to Secretary Geithner. the line in the sand is clear, and that is that the administration, the president, says that Republicans will indeed blink, that they will ultimately have to acquiesce, tax rates have to go up.

NORQUIST: Well, your interview with him was very, very helpful to me because in the past, there have been some Republicans who thought that maybe the administration, like Clinton, was going to be reasonable, that they might put real reforms like welfare reform like Clinton did on the table. what we just heard was no reforms. He even took the $1 trillion in spending cuts they agreed to, to the debt ceiling, took that off. So we’ll spend $1 trillion more there […] this is a massive collection of spending increases and tax increases. Every Republican who had impure thoughts of maybe I could raise taxes a little because the other guy would be reasonable has to go back to the drawing board. They have just been told there are no real reforms in this budget at all.

GREGORY: But what about the –

NORQUIST: $1.6 trillion in tax increases, and some of the savings are actually tax increases.

GREGORY: How about the direct point? The Treasury Secretary telling me, look, Republicans are not going to stand in the way of tax rates going up. True or false?

NORQUIST: Republicans want to continue the Bush tax cuts and the extenders and the AMT patch and so on. And what we did two years ago, what Clinton signed two years ago, with a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate did two years ago, is exactly what we should do now to start with. It’s the president who is threatening to raise taxes on the middle class if he doesn’t stamp his feet and get his way. He needs to get into a room with cameras there and negotiate. That was all show and no economics. Have it in front of C-SPAN cameras. If the Republicans are reasonable, we’ll see that. If not, we’ll see that. Have cameras there.

Actually, Grover, it wasn’t Clinton – it was President Obama who signed that. But it appears you’re feeling a little insecure and shaken up lately. I wonder why?

And if you want to negotiations to take place on C-SPAN, fine. Just as soon as your Wednesday morning meetings are televised, too. Only fair, right?

The common good and our fiscal future

Anat Shenker, author of the wonderful book “Don’t Buy It: The Trouble With Talking Nonsense About The Economy,” has a very useful piece up at Alternet about how to talk about the fiscal negotiations underway:

What’s the worst way to advocate for increasing revenue in today’s fiscal fight? Talk about taxes. It only serves folks on the right to bring this topic front and center. Whether the pesky facts confirm it or not, they’ve cemented themselves as your money-saving alternative in governance – the Walmart of Washington. But progressives, a group of people who believe in a collective kitty, do our share of trashing taxes as well. We resort to this even when we mean to be defending them, hoping to make a case for government at the same time.

Consider the current debate about the fiscal crossroads; both sides are tripping over themselves to say “taxes” more often. Oftentimes this includes implying they’re something to be reviled. Democrats can be heard parroting variations on the pronouncement that allowing tax cuts to expire will “punish” the middle class. What does that tell you about taxes?

Even the official 2012 Democratic party platform managed to convey taxes are a bad thing — an affliction, to be more precise, by using the phrase “tax relief” no fewer than eight times. This is bad enough. But the bigger problem is that there’s simply too much airtime devoted to talking about taxes.

When was the last time you walked into an Apple store and had them try and sell you an i-anything by rattling off “Have you seen the price? Look at the price. Did I mention the price?” Notice how, in that exclusive boutique with the seven artfully hung items, the price tags are about the size of your pinky fingernail. There’s a reason for that. Marketers know they need you to fall in love with the object – then let’s talk about what it will cost.

So how about those items we’re getting? I personally appreciate having every exit marked for me on every highway. Big fan of stoplights, too. The fact that you can open a faucet anywhere in our giant country and have potable water come out is amazing. These things are government, bought and paid for by taxes. My kindergartener started public school – a fact that makes me so happy I routinely say he’s out of pre-school and into free school. I drop him off at half past eight every morning and know he’s looked after, engaged, socializing with his peers and mastering his letters. If I can say this as a resident of Oakland, California, one of the most beleaguered and resource-strapped districts in our nation, I would say government is working. In short, my taxes are buying me some pretty fantastic things. But, instead of leading with discussion of these items, we accept having a debate on thoroughly conservative terms.

We underestimate just how counterproductive it is to begin an adult conversation with Americans by leading with the price tag. Peer-reviewed psychological studies show that money-primed people (those shown list of words associated with topic) become more selfish. They are, for example, much less willing to spend time helping another student pretending to be confused about a task. When an experimenter dropped pencils, money-primed subjects elected to pick up far fewer than their unprimed peers. Also, when asked to set up two chairs for a get to know you chat, those who had money put on their minds placed the chairs farther apart. Money-primed undergrads showed greater preference for being alone.

The results of these experiments should give progressives pause and serve as lessons for how we do our messaging. Talking about money first makes the whole subsequent conversation start in a mean and selfish place — the last thing we want when we’re talking about the common good and our national future. Our representatives need to stop banging the tax gong, recognizing that the cognitive din it creates drowns out whatever else they intend to say about the necessity of shared responsibility and the value of our public goods.

Go read the rest, she’s eminently sensible –and fun to read.

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I, Pencil: The Movie

A lovely little film about how everything is connected. Because, as Charles Eames famously noted, “Eventually everything connects — people, ideas, objects… the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.”

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