Walter Rhett

Two for One: Regulations and Elections

In National Affairs on August 26, 2010 at 6:14 pm

A double blog today.

(I) As ad agencies know, one of the best selling tools is fear. Fear is set in the future, with unforeseen consequences, always ending in apocalyptic circumstances–in the case of the drilling moratorium, dispossessed families, starving children, a collapsed economy, empty churches, ghost towns. Well, ain’t going happen, one report says. But the fear is still there, and there is some effect, 2 rigs have left.

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Obama’s adminstration should have faced its fears, and done a better job of carrot and stick, offering incentives for maintenance and improvements on rigs and in the yards, instead of new regulations; actually conducting review and inspections of the platforms, mandating safety training, creating tax breaks linked to safety innovations–thereby making sure that producive use would be made of the down time on the rigs.

The administration’s utter lack of insight, meddle, and creativity is the cause of it being stuck to the past; most of its “change” has been nothing new, simple repackaging with minor tinkering, a formula for frustration since people are being sacrificed without real gains or benefits.

Notice the President hasn’t been able to pull out for photo opps an individual benefitted or protected or engaged by his policies and actions in the Gulf. His favorite device for “show and tell” is found wanting because his administration has repeatedly underestimated its challenges, repeatedly underserved its populations, and repeatedly confused changing directions with substantive restructuring.

Deficits worry me less than the lack of bold leadership within the administration. The moratorium demonstrated a bunker mentality; all stick, no carrot.

(II) Partisans from both parties need to be careful in reading trends from the summer long series of primary elections. In particular, the influence of local issues, attitudes and organizational skills may have more to do with outcomes than any national mindset. In South Carolina, I live in the First Congressional District, and in a Republican primary race hotly contested by the sons of two former governors, (one the son of long-serving Sen. Strom Thurmond, former President Pro Tempore of the Senate), both of whom held local offices, they and the field lost to an African-American candidate, who handily won the run-off as well.

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Tea Party influence seems to be limited to false positives, late endorsements (mainly shrewdly calculated by Palin) that are then matched to victories, when, in reality, the Tea Party made no robo-calls, hung no door knockers, canvased no neighborhoods, or put leather on the street. (At least, not in my Republican neighborhood!) Their influence is a political faux (deliberate pun!) that begs the facts!

Democrats must tread on Republican’s “righteous” anger over deficits. Bombastic and indignant, it rings true for many voters, despite the illogic by which the Republican shed the mantle of budget hawks when it comes to party and class interests. (eg, the idea the economy is too fragile to handle ending millions of dollars of tax cuts for only 120,000; to reduce the deficit by the $680 billion the cuts represent might well sink the recovery!)

Republicans need be mindful that their half measures of truth can create a voter whiplash by those who see nothing but smoke and mirrors and images of hate and xenophobia in their policies.

The elections may turn on a pragmatic question: it better to have a deficit or dismantle social security?

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Thanks for reading! /wr. One of the posts is revised from my comment highlighted as 1 of 5 (out of 108!) as”thoughtful and interesting”  by editors at the New York Times.
All images; fair use.

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