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Guest Thinkers

The Emperors Have No Clothes On

I rarely watch Meet The Press since Tim Russert died, and even then, I wasn’t all that regular a viewer. David Gregory, Russert’s replacement, may be a smart guy, but he looks like he is afraid of his guests, with the result that he lags about three beats behind them when he should be beating half of them over the head with the ridiculous assertions that habitually issue from their lips. In fact, all of the Sunday morning political shows have gone a little stale these days, with their fairly static round robin of guest panelists who can be counted on to say the same old thing week in and week out. The addition of Rachel Maddow to yesterday’s panel on Meet The Press was refreshing enough, though, that I ended up watching the show until the end.

I am no fan of The Rachel Maddow Show. The couple of times I’ve watched it has left me with the same kind of feeling I get whenever I visit one of these modern day contemporary churches, as if there is an inordinate amount of pageantry and spectacle that has to be suffered through in order to get to the main event. But since Maddow and mega church ministers basically have the same mandate, they have no choice but to pander to their audiences in order to keep their numbers up, no matter how many degrees or specialized talents they may possess.

I had quit paying attention to the familiar phrases the carefully coiffed politicos were uttering, and was actually in the midst of remarking aloud about how much Harold Ford Jr. resembled the actor Michael Douglas each time his eyebrows arched upwards, when Maddow came out of nowhere with a litany of damning remarks about tax cuts and the deficit that none of her fellow panelists seemed to be ready to hear.  She didn’t mince words. She didn’t use couched phrases that could be countered with other couched phrases. She simply did what very rarely happens on these shows—skip the political overtones and lay out the facts, one by one, as if she were daring David Brooks, Ed Gillespie, Harold Ford Jr. or David Gregory to dispute the veracity of her claims while the cameras were rolling.

“I think that most Americans would also, though, understand the basic arithmetic that when you’re talking about pushing tax cuts that do mostly benefit the wealthy, and you’re simultaneously talking about getting tough on the deficit, you’re talking about a world in which math doesn’t work the way most people think it works. If you’re gonna talk about tax cuts, I mean, Harold, as a Democrat, proposed some very significant tax cuts when you were thinking about running for Senate in New York, huge corporate tax cut, a big payroll tax holiday, and then said simultaneously, then we’ve gotta get serious about the deficit. Tax cuts hurt the deficit.”

Rachel Maddow on Meet The Press

The other guests all seemed to go on alert, their necks stiffening, their eyes narrowing, as if Maddow had pledged to play nice in the green room beforehand and then had reneged on her word. In some ways, seeing Harold Ford Jr. try to regain control of the narrative was like watching the climactic scene in a production of The Emperor’s New Clothes, where the child has cried out “but he isn’t wearing anything at all!” and the emperor is forced to keep up the fiction that he is not parading around in a state of undress.

Raising taxes and cutting spending and services simultaneously is the only way we will actually eliminate the deficit, but this combination is one you won’t be hearing from any elected officials who are in office today, or have aspirations of running for office any time soon. But what if Americans are a little more grown up than conventional political wisdom gives us credit for? What if we already understand that in a world of rising production costs and shrinking markets we are going to have to adjust the econometric outlook the country has been living by since World War II?

If all these Sunday show regulars can do when someone comes into what they obviously see as their lair spouting cold, hard facts is bluster and whiny as if the economy is totally controlled by tax policies or political ideologies or moral purity rather than the pocketbooks of the vast majority of the 300 million Americans who right now have little or no money to buy anything more than the necessities of life, then maybe the TV producers just need to be gutsy about it, put all of these naked emperors out to pasture in wholesale fashion, and round up some folks who are able to deal with the fact that two plus two always equals four.   

Who knows…

…the Sunday political show ratings might even go up.

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