I didn’t watch the debate — allergies. I did read the transcript, God help me. This is how I know that former US Senator Alan Simpson was in the audience. Apparently he’s a member of the debate commission. That figures; he wants to do for the marketplace of political ideas what he wants to do for Social Security. He must have been extraordinarily gratified when the candidates and the moderator, Bert the Turtle of Duck and Cover fame, all endorsed the diseased plan produced by him and Erskine Bowles, his co-chair on the failed deficit-reduction commission created by the President because.
(Bowles, the one-time Jimmy Carter chief of staff who made his fortune with JP Morgan, and current White House chief of staff Jack Lew, who made his fortune with Citibank, are thought to be the leading candidates to replace Timothy Geithner, Wall Street’s current federal government branch manager, in a second Obama administration.)
If you’ve missed it, all but a few of the Important Serious People have endorsed Bowles-Simpson. Those Few who haven’t, have embraced Simpson-Bowles. Bowles-Simpson and Simpson-Bowles are schemes in which anyone who isn’t untouchably rich is made to suffer by giving up important bits of their retirements previously secured by social insurance programs, while the country at large is starved of the resources necessary to dig our way out of what is inescapably a largely unnecessary decline, while the resources are instead diverted into the pockets of the people who precipitated the decline, who may possibly have to return a few pennies in restored taxes or recovered loopholes but not if they can help it, which odds are they can.
This is called “shared sacrifice;” the election will determine whether the sacrifice will be extracted by the party of the center-right or by the party of the far right, and possibly also how strenuously, if at all, depredations beyond those currently agreed to by all parties will be resisted.
The plan concocted by Simpson and Bowles is austerity by another name. Romney brought up Spain in the context of situations into which we don’t want to get, but if there’s a way to get into that kind of trouble then Alan Fucking Simpson is a great place to start.
There are a host of other horseshit and worse issues and policies already decided upon or already in place that weren’t addressed because both parties, both candidates and Bert the Moderator are all fine with them. You won’t be voting to determine whether or not the US remains the world’s most enthusiastic jailer; whether or not the growth of the national security state accelerates; whether or not we continue to blow up increasing numbers of people and things in an ever expanding war zone; whether or not the pirate sector of our economy continues to operate with letters of marque; whether or not dispensaries catering to cancer-ridden pot smokers are a greater threat to the public order than, say, publicly confessed war criminals. Those trains have left the station and you’re voting on the conductor.
On paper, the debate doesn’t seem as unbalanced as apparently it did in real time. Romney went with the spread, in which the challenger throws out as much shit on as many points in as little time as possible, and Obama countered about as much of it as anyone could have, albeit in spectacularly lackluster prose. As for Bert, well, the first thing they teach you about high stakes debating is that you go to war with the moderator you have, not the one you want. It is unseemly for the Obama camp to complain about Bert — and wholly unrealistic to expect that he would be any better than the president at calling bullshit on Romney; the guy is a professional waffler, fer chrissake, a dispenser of conventionally judicious this’s and that’s, not a maverick educator with a baseball bat — and anyway he seems not to have done anything more offensive than to get run over and compulsively sputter “Simpson-Bowles.”
More reasonable is the campaign’s complaint that Romney won by lying about everything, but this is a guy whose campaign manager compared him to an Etch-A-Sketch. How could you fail to predict and prepare for a debate-related reset?
I don’t know how these moments played out on the teevee screens, but Romney’s use of “trickle-down” as a pejorative description of Obama’s conception of government, and his appropriation of Joe Biden’s characterization of the middle class as having been buried during the past four years, were comedy gold in print.
I’m not among those who have thought the election was already decided so I don’t think Romney’s win, if that’s what it was, changed much. The Republican vote-suppression effort still has legs, electronic voting is still spectacularly insecure, quite a few voters still don’t know who they’ll vote for and there’s a world of inimical shit stirring out there beyond our borders.
But of course we’re more concerned with the world of inimical shit right here at home. Take it away, Bert …