Also posted on The Policy Think Site — http://jaygaskill.com/TheRACE.htm



Thursday, April 26, 2012

► Political Analysis

By Jay B Gaskill

Race should not matter at all or as much as the media seems to want us to believe.

But don’t ask a market analyst.  We are expected somehow to dress, vote, shop, and eat according to stereotypes derived from long standing racial and ethnic patterns.

Our purchasing habits aside, most of us (me included) tend to feel insulted when someone tries to attach a false stereotype to us.  After all, the Enlightenment ended all that nonsense, right?  I mean, after the American and French revolutions and the humanist movement, we are all fellow earthlings, equal under the skin, right?  Try this for a reality check.  The authors, compilers and analysis responsible for the U.S. census of 2010 attempted to achieve a race / ethnicity catalogue into which the entire US population would be sorted. Here are representative categories that the experts came up with-

  1. White;
  2. Black or African American;
  3. American Indian or Alaska Native;
  4. Asian;
  5. Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander;
  6. Not Hispanic or Latino;
  7. Non-Hispanic White;
  8. Non-Hispanic Black or African American;
  9. Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native;

10.  Non-Hispanic Asian;

11.  Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander;

12.  Non-Hispanic Some Other Race;

13.  Non-Hispanic;

14.  Hispanic or Latino;

15.  White Hispanic;

16.  Black or African American Hispanic;

17.  American Indian or Alaska Native Hispanic;

18.   Asian Hispanic;

19.  Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander Hispanic;

20.  Some Other Race Hispanic…

See http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf

I chuckled when I read a note following the summary–“Due to rounding, figures may not add up to the totals shown.”  Rounding? Really? The total far exceeds 100%.  The reason for this was not a series of rounding errors. It was a policy of double counting and category overlap. Why do that? you ask? Because these are political categories, potential voting blocks, marketing targets.

Such blocks matter because, sadly, we don’t live in an Enlightenment era.  We live in an era shaped by the psychology of post-modern multiculturalism and the lingering detritus of old patterns of tribal oppression.  The very stereotypes condemned by the Enlightenment (class, race, language, gender) are allowed in via the backdoor marked, “enter the oppressed”; the side doors marked “enter the oppressors”; and the front door marked “enter the vicarious guilty.”

So let’s leave aside the issue of just how black our incumbent president is – bearing in mind that he calculatedly celebrated St. Patty’s Day in honor of his mother’s Irish ancestors, and that prominent black opinion leaders complained that senator Obama wasn’t “really” one of them because neither he nor his African father were scarred by the evils of American slavery.

President Obama is an African American male by contemporary American political standards

CENSUS DATA, if believed, puts the so called white population of the USA at 72.4%.

Suppose just 70% of the “white” electorate votes for a candidate. Recall that 80% of black voters supported Obama in the last election.  Just seventy percent of white voters will deliver an absolute majority- 50.57% of the total vote. The first African American elected to the presidency (but probably not the last), won because of white voters.

The question before the bar of public opinion and history that no one seems willing to talk openly about is this one: If the American voters do decide to replace Mr. Obama in November, will America have to live with a massive guilt trip because such a vote would be racist?

As someone who still cherishes the Enlightenment’s ideals, I say “No” – this race is not about Race.  Mr. Obama was elected on the perceived merits and he will be defeated (if that happens) on the perceived merits.  The race-based voters (prominent among them, most of Mr. Obama’s non-white supporters) will be important but not decisive in this election. Elections are won by turnout, cumulative impressions, recent events, issues, a sense of confidence in leadership, all of which are tricky to assess, too difficult to predict at this point. All things considered, Team Obama has a lot to worry about these days. I detect a trend line.

“A newly-released FOX News poll, complemented with the latest Gallup weekly tracking numbers, suggest … that Obama’s approval ratings with white voters have dropped so badly that even a surge in minority turnout and enthusiasm towards Obama wouldn’t be enough to win him a second term.

“The poll, released Thursday, shows Obama with a brutal 34 percent job approval rating with white voters. That’s not necessarily an outlier: Gallup’s latest weekly track found his job approval rating at 36 percent with white voters. (For context, Democrats still managed to win 37 percent of the white vote in the 2010 midterms, even as they lost a historic 63 House seats that year.)  And his approval with nonwhites — at 71 percent in Gallup, 65 percent in the Fox survey — is far from the 80 percent he tallied in the 2008 general election.”

Read more:http://times247.com/articles/week-exposed-obama-s-weakness#ixzz1shYUuWxu

JBG continues –

The situation is complicated.  Turnout among so called “white voters” is traditionally higher than among so called “non-white” voters.  This is why the Rasmussen Poll did a more accurate job in predicting recent races than all the others – it is weighted to reflect probable turnout.

But attitudes about the incumbent are constantly shifting in both directions. So far Rasmussen is showing a very tight race.  And key states can matter more than the overall popular vote.  As I write this, there is an Electoral College Map circulating on the web prepared by GOP guru Carl Rove, that  shows Team Romney badly trailing Team Obama in electoral votes based on early projections  http://rove.com/election. Watch Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania…

As of today, Rasmussen shows–

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows President Obama earning 47% of the vote, while likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney picks up support from 46%. Four percent (4%) would vote for a third party candidate, while another three percent (3%) are undecided.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney now runs even with President Obama in the key swing state of Florida.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Sunshine State finds Romney with 46% of the vote, while Obama earns 45% support. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate, and another three percent (3%) are undecided.

“Friday, April 20, 2012

‘President Obama continues to lead presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the key battleground state of Ohio but by a slightly narrower margin.

The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Obama with 46% support to Romney’s 42%.  Five percent (5%) prefers some other candidate, while eight percent (8%) are undecided.”

JBG again …

The volatility of the popular vote will continue until voters focus on the economy and begin to assess whether the president can be trusted with its handling for the next four years.

The most ominous trend for the incumbent is the stubbornness of President Obama’s disapproval ratings, and the erosion of support among independent voters.

Again, from Rasmussen:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 27% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty percent (40%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -13.

Seventy percent (70%) of Republicans Strongly Disapprove, while 57% of Democrats Strongly Approve.

Among voters not affiliated with either major party, 17% Strongly Approve, and 43% Strongly Disapprove.”

More from JBG –

Although it is a bit early, I am now persuaded that Mr. Obama’s presidency is in real jeopardy, especially when measured by the support for incumbents facing a failing economy at this late stage in a first term (Carter was still polling ahead of Reagan at this stage of the 1980 campaign).  Given the unsettledness of the economic situation and the background anxiety of the voters on that single, decisive issue, I believe that this president’s prospects of winning a second term are strong in only two scenarios:

  • A credible, sustained economic recovery becomes evident (as opposed to a new norm with 15% structural underemployment)

– Or-

  • A race-based vote emerges that cuts this new president slack that might be denied to any other incumbent with the same record.

Now the professional political analysts take it as a given that the so-called “black” vote will break overwhelmingly in Mr. Obama’s favor, no matter what.  Since Mr. Obama was decisively elected because of his strong support among white voters, the question of the day is this: Will the non-black 2008 Obama voters abandon him over the economy? This depends on the fear factor.  If voters are still afraid and insecure in October – which is the same as saying unless a strong recovery is credibly and unambiguously underway in October, they will jump ship provided only that the alternative is plausibly better.

In this sense, Obama’s victory was like a rebound relationship (we elected the anti-Bush); but one rebound augers the prospect of another.  The voters are just as fickle today as then. Politics is never fair. Governor Romney is well positioned as the rebound suitor.

The incumbent president had a clear run at fixing things with two full years of effective control of the congress, and promised to do so, even conceding in an overconfident moment that his failure would probably make him a one term wonder.  Politics is coldly unforgiving in such cases.  Even Mr. Obama’s closest advisors know that he owns the economy…for better and (as it now appears)…for worse.

In the most recent New York Times Op Ed by the increasingly irrelevant Paul (I’m still a famous economist) Krugman, we are told that it’s all about amnesia. Krugman argues in effect that Governor Romney and stupid voters have forgotten that the current malaise was all Mr. Bush’s fault.

(The Amnesia Candidate { http://www.nytimes.com/pages/opinion/index.html }


But Governor Romney has none of Bush II’s baggage, while Mr. Obama has accumulated the baggage of three years and three months of governance – enough that he now will be judged by results over hope…fairly or unfairly[i].

Recall that in Bill Clinton’s unexpected victory of 1994 over the senior President Bush, the winning mantra was, “It’s the economy stupid.”  Mr. Obama’s mantra of defeat may well be, “It was that stupid economy!”

The European mess is outside the president’s control.  This won’t be the first or the last election that is to be decided by matters outside the control[ii] of the Principal Resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In the opinion of a number of experts, the European economic crisis cannot end well enough or soon enough to avoid a palpable negative drag on the fragile US economy before November. Mr. Obama won because of an economic crisis that was outside his control in 2008 and may lose because of an economic crisis that is outside his control in 2012.



Copyright © 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law (quoted material excepted)

First published on the Policy Think Site { www.jaygaskill.com } and the Dot 2 Dot Blog.

Forwards, links and quotes with attribution are welcome and encouraged.

For everything else, please contact the author via email at { law@jaygaskill.com }.

[i] This means that the Obama campaign’s strategy will be to invent baggage for Governor Romney, whether directly or through surrogates. We can expect attempts to exploit the “Mormon issue”, the “insensitive rich guy” issue, and so on.  If the economy is shaky, these efforts will backfire. If the economy is sound, the advantage goes to the incumbent, baggage or no baggage,

[ii] “…[T]he reputations of our Presidents often turn on economic factors beyond their control,” writes

John Cassidy in the April 26th New Yorker – part of that author’s optimistic, liberal spin on this president’s prospects.  But the New York Times raised a cautionary note on April 19th- “A rising number of Americans see improvement in the economy, but a persistent wariness about their own financial circumstances is allowing Mitt Romney to convince voters that he could improve their economic prospects more than President Obama, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll”. The healthy thing about all this – from my Enlightenment perspective – is that nobody is talking about race.

Paul Krugman's Meltdown

Firing Paul Krugman


By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Paul Krugman was a shrill partisan liberal voice even before his accomplishments as an economist were recognized by the Nobel committee.  But this election cycle has brought out a new level of hyper-partisanship.  I believe that we are seeing the meltdown of a columnist who is squandering the last shreds of his political credibility in an intemperate and misleading attack on the political center.  In this writer’s opinion, Krugman has crossed the same line that a now-fired NBC News producer crossed in the Trayvon Martin case.

“NBC has launched an internal probe after running an edited version of the 911 call from George Zimmerman — the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin — that made Zimmerman sound racist.

‘We have launched an internal investigation into the editorial process surrounding this particular story,’ the network said in a statement to the Washington Post on Monday.

NBC’s ‘Today” show ran the edited audio of George Zimmerman’s phone call to a police dispatcher in which Zimmerman says: ‘This guy looks like he’s up to no good … he looks black.’

“But the audio recording in its entirety reveals that Zimmerman did not volunteer the information that Martin was black. Instead, Zimmerman was answering a question from a police dispatcher about the race of the ‘suspicious person’ whom Zimmerman was speaking about.”
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/04/02/nbc-launches-internal-probe-over-edited-11-call-in-trayvon-martin-shooting/#ixzz1rZBh5QyN

NEW YORK — NBC News has fired a producer for editing a recording of George Zimmerman’s call to police the night he shot Trayvon Martin, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

The person was not authorized to talk about the situation publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The identity of the producer was not disclosed.


Deception was punished.  Hold that thought.


Enter the New York Times’ pet economist, Paul Krugman whose 2008 Nobel Prize was awarded for his analysis of international trade patterns.  Based on his increasingly partisan columns in the Times, one could be forgiven for assuming his award was for achievements in left wing political polemic -given his hagiographic status among the liberal intelligentsia. But the award was clearly not a Pulitzer for journalism – because the writing and journalistic standards are higher.

In the parlance, Paul Krugman is losing it.  I sense that he has concluded that Barack Obama is probably going to be defeated in November.  He is despondent and angry.  As a result, his rhetorical style has reverted from ordinary partisan to frustrated diatribe.

Here’s a taste of the latest Op Ed that has exposed Krugman’s as someone who has lost his balance.

The Gullible Center


Published: April 8, 2012

[Speaking of Congressman Paul Ryan]

“He’s a garden-variety modern G.O.P. extremist, an Ayn Rand devotee who believes that the answer to all problems is to cut taxes on the rich and slash benefits for the poor and middle class.

“No, what’s interesting is the cult that has grown up around Mr. Ryan — and in particular the way self-proclaimed centrists elevated him into an icon of fiscal responsibility, and even now can’t seem to let go of their fantasy.

“Mr. Ryan insists that despite these tax cuts his proposal is “revenue neutral,” that he would make up for the lost revenue by closing loopholes. But he has refused to specify a single loophole he would close. And if we assess the proposal without his secret (and probably nonexistent) plan to raise revenue, it turns out to involve running bigger deficits than we would run under the Obama administration’s proposals.”


Congressman Paul Ryan in his own words

“A tax code should be fair, competitive and simple, and the US tax code fails on all three counts.  Here are common-sense ideas we’ve advanced before…ideas that have bipartisan support.

“First, we have to make our tax code fair.

“It’s full of deductions, credits and special carve-outs – otherwise known as “loopholes” – that let politically-connected companies avoid paying taxes. Every dollar that businesses spend lobbying for a better tax deal, is a dollar they’re not spending on making a better product.

And, since every dollar hidden in a loophole doesn’t get taxed – politicians make up for this lost revenue by increasing overall tax rates. So we need to close these loopholes.

“But if we just close loopholes, then our federal corporate tax rate is 35 percent, which is really high.

Add in state and local taxes, the rate climbs to 39.2 percent – the second highest tax rate among developed countries.

“On top of sending almost 40 cents out of every dollar earned, straight to the government, businesses pay investment taxes, payroll taxes, and a handful of other taxes our government makes job creators pay.

“In the 21st century global economy – and when American families need jobs – this approach just doesn’t make any sense.

“We need to make our tax code competitive.

“The budget we passed in the House of Representatives calls for closing the loopholes and lowering the rates.

The President’s bipartisan Fiscal Commission proposed something similar.

“Its plan would reduce the corporate tax rate to as low as 26 percent, and to lower the top individual rate that many small businesses pay to as low as 23 percent.

“So if we lower tax rates, does that mean the wealthy pay less in taxes? Not if we do it by closing loopholes. Because the people who use most of the loopholes are those in the top tax brackets. For all the money that’s parked in these tax loopholes, all that money’s taxed at zero. Take away the tax loophole; lower everybody’s tax rates – that money’s now taxed. But its taxed at a fair more simple, more competitive way so the small business men and women who are out there striving and competing have a better tax rate so they can compete in this global economy.

“Third, let’s make the tax code simple.

“All together, individuals and businesses spend over six billion hours and 160 billion dollars, every year, just trying to understand and comply with the tax code.

“Let’s simplify the code, not just by closing loopholes, but also by decreasing the number of different tax brackets taxpayers fall in.

“Fewer brackets, along with lower individual rates, will make the tax code less complicated, and let more people keep more of the money they earn.

“There’s a reason this approach has attracted bipartisan support: It’s Fair, It’s Competitive, and It’s Simple.

“America’s been knocked down before. We’ve had tough recessions before, and we know that the secret to growing jobs and prosperity in America are through the ingenuity and the hard work of our businesses – of our small businesses, of our large businesses, of job creators. We don’t want a tax system that rewards people for coming to Washington and getting special favors. We want a tax system that rewards Americans for hard work, risk taking, entrepreneurship , investment and innovation. These are the kinds of things that have made America great in the past. And these are the kinds of ideas the kind we’re going to need if want to grow our economy in the future and compete in the 21st century global economy.’

From Paul Ryan’s September 14, 2011 Speech


“Mr. Ryan wants two simple tax rates: 25 percent for higher incomes and 10 percent for lower incomes. He wants to abolish the alternative minimum, which has hit an ever-growing number of middle-class taxpayers, especially in high-tax states like New York and California. He wants the results to be revenue-neutral.

‘But there’s no getting around the fact that a 25 percent rate on the top earners would nearly double Mr. Romney’s effective rate and more than double it for the 101 of the top 400 taxpayers who pay less than 10 percent, assuming the loopholes are indeed closed. (The White House calculation that the Ryan plan would result in a tax cut for the wealthy assumes they won’t be.) A top rate of 25 percent may sound like a cut from current higher rates, but so few wealthy taxpayers pay the top rate that it would be a significant increase for many of them.

“I caught up with Mr. Ryan this week as he was on his way to a vote on the House floor.

“’All I’m saying is, let’s have a fair, simple and competitive system. Let’s get beyond the rhetoric of class division,” Mr. Ryan told me. “The fact is that nearly all the loopholes and tax shelters benefit the top bracket taxpayers. For every dollar you park in a tax shelter, that dollar is taxed at zero. You take away the shelters, and we can have a lower rate for everybody. It’s really that simple. As for fairness, under the current system you can have two people living next door to each other with the same income paying a dramatically different tax rate. There’s something fundamentally wrong with that and we’ve got to fix it.’

“Of course, one man’s loophole or shelter is another’s beneficial social policy. Just what those policies should be, and which of the current tax breaks would have to be sacrificed to pay for them, remains to be decided.

“But Mr. Ryan said he believed everything should be on the table, even some of the Republicans’ most cherished tax breaks.”

‘”What we need is to get the country behind the principle first, which is to lower rates by broadening the tax base, then proceed to do it,” he said. “We need hearings in the light of day, with no back-room dealings. If we can’t afford certain policies, or if we can’t afford to retain certain tax breaks, then let’s have an open debate about it. But let’s do first things first. You can’t go out there with a detailed formula until there’s a consensus that we need to broaden the base and reduce rates.”’


Published: March 23, 2012



Paul Ryan has gone farther with more political courage and in more detail than any other federal elected official including the President in addressing the catastrophic imbalance between spending and revenue- using hard numbers and concrete proposals.  He has gone well beyond the administration’s timid and unrealistic rhetoric. He is a player is the sense that sideliners like Paul Krugman are not.

As Krugman attacks Ryan as an extremist and the political center as unintelligent dupes, we would be well to remember the behavior of the incumbent president.

How soon we forget that Mr. Obama fled from the recommendations of his own deficit commission, the report of which ironically was called “The Moment of Truth”:

“The Moment of Truth” (65 p.) is a landmark report issued by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in December 2010.  Co-chaired by former Clinton WH chief of Erskine Bowles & former Wyoming GOP Senator Alan Simpson, the report is a rare instance of a commission producing a document that addresses urgent and growing national public policy problems in a serious, credible way.

Sadly, the report–an assessment of its provisions follows–has been ignored by President Obama, who convened the panel in the first place.  Notably, as reported by Politico, the nation’s governors are disgusted with the spectacle in Washington.  The states have seen creative activity as never before, ranging from very liberal to very conservative, while Washington is mired in stasis.

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama was backstage at an auditorium at George Washington University last April preparing to give a major speech, when William M. Daley, then his chief of staff, spied an unexpected guest in the audience: Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, whose budget plan Mr. Obama was about to shred.

“Try to tell the president!” Mr. Daley directed an aide.

It was too late to deliver a warning. Mr. Obama went on stage and outlined his proposal to reduce deficits — but not before he flayed the Ryan plan, saying its deep tax cuts and deeper spending reductions would harm students, seniors, the disabled and the nation.

“It’s not going to happen as long as I’m president,” Mr. Obama vowed.



U.S. President Barack Obama’s new budget is no Valentine’s Day love note to deficit hawks. The blueprint ignores the cost-cutting ideas of the president’s own deficit panel and will add $2.7 trillion in new debt over the next two years. It’s an economic and political bet that invites a fight with congressional Republicans.

The budget would cut cumulative projected deficits by $1.1 trillion over the next decade. That’s a bit more than 10 percent of the debt likely to be added during that span, according to Congressional Budget Office forecasts. Some two-thirds of the reduction would be achieved by spending cuts — including a five-year freeze on some domestic spending — and one-third by higher taxes.

Those proportions may not be so far away from what Obama’s deficit commission proposed in December.  But the scale of debt reduction falls way short. The budget also skips the panel’s recommendations for reforming Social Security and Medicare spending, the biggest drivers of long-term deficits.



“In early 2011, Barack Obama received a report from the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission he himself launched that outlined a series of significant cuts and new taxes that would have at least lowered the rate at which the country added to its debt.  Obama ignored the report completely and instead proposed a budget with nearly $1.5 trillion in deficit spending, with no serious attempts to cut spending.  It was so embarrassing that Republicans had to force the Democrat-controlled Senate in May 2011 to bring it up for a vote, where it failed unanimously, 0-97.

“This is the second year in a row that Obama’s budget couldn’t win a single Democratic vote in Congress.  In parliamentary systems, that would be a vote of no confidence and the party would be looking for new leadership.”




Paul Krugman’s attack on Paul Ryan (and on any “centrists” silly enough to take Congressman Ryan seriously) was disingenuous and misleading…I believe by calculated omission.

It was deceptive in the same way as was the redacted 911 call by the shooting suspect Zimmerman.

The Ryan smear column, like so many other recent Paul Krugman columns, betrays a hint of delusional thinking:  Paul Krugman apparently actually thinks that he occupies the political center. Compared to most mainstream elected leaders (other than Mr. Obama), Krugman’s political positions are very left of center, and in some instances are outliers.

In January for example, Paul Krugman wrote that – “nations with stable, responsible governments — that is, governments that are willing to impose modestly higher taxes when the situation warrants it — have historically been able to live with much higher levels of debt than today’s conventional wisdom would lead you to believe. Britain, in particular, has had debt exceeding 100 percent of G.D.P. for 81 of the last 170 years.” [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/02/opinion/krugman-nobody-understands-debt.html?_r=1]

Surely Paul Krugman was not implying that, under the Obama deficit/debt load, we should emulate Post WWII England. But he was.  Yet most of those glorious 81 years when England was “able to live with much higher levels of debt than today’s conventional wisdom would lead you to believe” were spent in grinding economic stagnation.

Omitting a discussion of England’s dire economic condition while mired in debt was more than an oversight.  That glaring omission made Krugman’s startling claim about the harmless UK sovereign debt every bit as misleading as was the redacted Zimmerman 911 recording.

Krugman did not bother to note or report that England was a ruin following the war, deep in sovereign debt; that rationing was in place throughout the 1950’s; that the English “recovery” during the 1960’s foundered on a fuel crisis and high interest rates, until the economy was rescued by the North sea oil discovery.

Make a note – oil revenues kept England’s sovereign creditors at bay.

And make another note:  Paul Krugman’s misleading smear of Paul Ryan was of a piece with NBC’s early, biased and misleading reporting on the Trayvon Martin case.  In that instance a producer was actually fired in order to protect NBC News’ credibility.  Will the New York Times have the integrity to fire Paul Krugman?


Copyright © 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

First published on The Policy Think Site {www.jaygaskill.com}and linked blogs.

As always, forwards, links and quotations with attribution are welcome and encouraged.  For everything else, please contact the author via e-mail {law@jaygaskill.com}



…The Marriage from Hell?

[] Also published on The Policy Think Site []


“The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions”. Karl Marx, “Introduction to ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’” (1844)


“There is no devil and no hell. Thy soul will be dead even sooner than thy body: fear therefore nothing any more.” Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) “Zarathustra’s Prologue” from “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” (1891)


“Have you ever wondered who enforces and teaches the Moral Code?  I once naively assumed that the K-12 educational curriculum included the essential moral injunctions of the bible, the Torah and the Gospels. But the doctrine of separation of church and state has become the doctrine of the separation of moral law from all state ceremonies and institutions. This is as self-defeating as refusing to teach Newton’s laws of mechanics because he believed they revealed the mind of God, or refusing to teach the Golden Rule as if it were just Christian doctrine, or refusing to celebrate the American Revolution because its architects taught that human freedom was a gift from the Creator.” Jay B Gaskill, the “Thugology’ Lectures.” (2011)

Do Spiritual Narratives Belong In Our Political Discourse?

A Reflection


Jay B Gaskill

A good friend of mine, one of the great teachers, recently told me how much he enjoyed my piece, Why We Are Narrative Prey (http://jaygaskill.com/NarrativePrey.htm). Then he posed the following two questions:

►Q 1 –What do you think are the spiritual narratives inherent in our political discourse?

►Q 2 –What should be the spiritual narratives in our political discourse?

Q 1 – was interesting because (a) spiritual narratives necessarily include/import moral considerations; (b) and at least four narratives are in sharp competition.

The first represents an attempt to censor out any trace of a spiritual or moral narrative. It goes something like this: Politics is all about the allocation or material resources to provide the best mix of material benefits for the majority.  Any talk of spiritual or moral issues is divisive; especially when it splits up constituencies that otherwise might unite around, say, universal, government-administered health care.  The true believers in this narrative don’t want to hear so-called spiritual or moral objections to cloning, harvesting embryos, or those retrograde moral/spiritual arguments that threaten women’s absolute bodily autonomy especially where their reproductive rights are concerned.

The second narrative represents an effort to eliminate any candidates with strong personal moral and religious views, even when those views are not going to affect public policy choices. One thinks of someone who might favor gay marriage, but insists that it is a state-level issue, not to be imposed as national policy. [Dick Cheney, with a beloved gay daughter, holds the latter view and would be eliminated.]

The third narrative is strongly tied to a particular set of moral and spiritual views as a candidate litmus test, such that adherence to these views transcends even the most the pressing public policy issues.  This narrative results in an “elect the values candidates no matter what” stance.

A fourth narrative rejects the materialist benefits distribution thesis of the first narrative (which is essentially the foundational assumption-set of the current version of liberalism) in favor of a pro-liberty agenda but remains equally averse to spiritual or moral narratives because they conflict with an ethic of personal autonomy.  In effect, this is the narrative of those who find a theocrat under every bush (or a Bush under every faith-based invasion of secular autonomy). It differs from the second narrative because autonomy is the preeminent moral-equivalent value.

Each of these four narratives can be adopted by someone almost without thinking.  But the receptivity to argument and the reflexive positions of the adoptees (read narrative prey here) reveal the contours of the underlying narrative that has gotten hold of them, just as a paper rubbing can reveal an underlying indented message.

If you noticed elements of incoherence and the seeds of a functional rejection of dialogue in these four narratives, congratulations: You were paying attention.

When the elites play the “narrative prey” game (see (http://jaygaskill.com/NarrativePrey.htm), rational agreement on particular policies is not their goal: Once a particular narrative achieves dominance, then the actual policy choices belong to those elites who have won the dominant narrative contest. After this victory, if you are still expecting to witness a meaningful dialogue about the policy questions, you can “Forgetaboutit!”

I note that a spiritual/moral perspective is too difficult to encapsulate in a typical political narrative; it invites too much careful thinking. This is the difficulty (and lure) of the political power strategies that rely on competing narratives: Actual thinking is too unpredictable for the narrative pushers; better to just herd voters into their narrative corners.

Q 2 – is a tricky one to answer in any policy detail, because morality can never be separated from spirituality. As someone who has concluded that the moral dimensions of life should never be redacted from our practical, policy discussions, I am all too aware that there are many touchy “third rails” where morality is concerned. This is particularly true when moral concerns touch on sexual and procreative behavior.

Leave the third rails aside for a moment. There is a deep traditional connection between good public policy and the open recognition of our common moral ground. For example, the large scale financial failure of 2008 was tied to an underlying moral failure[1] as measured by moral precepts and principles that are so widely accepted that we can reasonably call them foundational. If you doubt this, try a simply thought experiment.  Imagine living in a social order in which lying, trickery, theft and deception are foundational values.  Having worked within the criminal subculture for a good part of my legal career, I can attest the even the crooks recognize that such a social order would be f**ked up.  This is why the tradition of “honor among thieves” has such staying power.

The practice of leveraging bundles of overvalued assets in cleverly misleading ways in order to sell them as collateral was immoral in a way that can be tracked right back to the Decalogue’s prohibitions against stealing, lying and coveting.  The players who took the brunt of the criticism for the great credit market failure should not have been pilloried because they believed in free market capitalism (assuming they even did), but because they lacked character rooted in core moral values.

In “old fashioned” America, our economic heroes were productive, hard-working, men and women of great personal honor and integrity. They were not shielded from the consequences of failure by complex credit instruments.  An “old fashioned” banker, for example, might make a loan with no collateral other than the credibility of the borrower’s promise and character. No, the old fashioned banker would not “float paper”, thus “securitizing” the loan and transferring the “risk” (i.e., responsibility) to others.

Accountability for failure wonderfully concentrates the mind…and exposes the moral lapses of the deceptive and careless.

That is the sort of “spiritual narrative” I’d like to hear right now.

I must add that (especially in the Judeo-Christian traditions) moral/ethical questions are ultimately based on individual choices, carrying individual responsibility. In the Great Credit Crash of 2008 we witnessed the systemic consequences of thousands and thousands of individual choices that were so clouded and obscured by the complexity of the credit instruments the key players were dealing with that the ongoing deceptions (both the self –deceptions and the deception of others) were masked until the massive collective consequences exposed the whole hollow game for what it really was[2].

Here is a generalization that applies equally in the public as well as the private sector: Collectivist solutions are flawed on both moral and practical levels…especially when they are meant to be implemented by the agents and agencies of the powerful.

In a short piece called Monsters Without Grace (http://www.jaygaskill.com/MonstersWithoutGrace.htm), I called attention to the “mischief” that follows whenever the religious-ethical rules that tend to govern the relationships of individuals to each other and their Creator become the charter of a bureaucratic state or of one of its powerful agencies.  Whenever governments attempt to comprehensively implement a makeover of human nature, things ways end badly. My discussion began with the observation that -“Marxism is a repellant caricature of Judeo-Christian ethics[3], the brutal substitution of faux material equality and collective political justice for equality before God and individuated personal justice. It is as if some ballet impresario trotted out Frankenstein’s monster on stage, miming the dance with crude mechanical movements, deprived of all grace, beauty and spirit”.

Actually the term “mischief” does not begin to describe the evils done in the name of Marxism’s attempt to reengineer human nature.  I believe that there is a natural law of human behavior that says – bureaucracies can’t help but poison ethics.

While reflecting on Marxist brutality and its malignant bureaucracies, I noticed a particularly interesting (and not-unrelated fact): Only the Judeo-Christian traditions (in the Decalogue’s prohibitions against coveting and desiring that which belongs to others) and the Buddhist traditions (in the Bodhisattva vows) condemn envy. It is as though these ancients sought to inoculate us against the envy-propelled collectivist nightmares of the 20th century.

Clarity, transparency, individual accountability and responsibility cannot be forever cloaked in an accounting fog without negative moral and practical consequences.  In the face of this blatant moral failure, we’ve become sidetracked by boutique social issues, like the question – “Who owns and controls the brand name, ‘marriage’?” and we remain hopelessly divided by much more serious (but even more intractable) moral issues, like the permissible limits of commercial trade in embryos.

At a result, our great, long standing societal consensus on the value and justice of individual accountability is being rendered “inoperative”.  This sorry state of affairs is being engineered (intentionally or unwittingly) by three interrelated developments:

  1. the uncritical adoption of algorithmic decision mechanisms in the marketplace (that leave no room for judgment);
  2. politically motivated bailouts (that eviscerate the willingness to be accountable); and
  3. …the adoption of transaction cloaking devices (that block the very ability to detect financial fraud and misdirection, choking off accountability at the very source).

Calling attention to this development is the one “spiritual” narrative that should be at the center of our political discourse. I suspect it was sidelined for the convenience of those who fear real accountability. And I also suspect that the policy paralysis that attends the clash of the four narratives I’ve outlined above serves the interests of those elites whose own disagreements are trumped by their common interests in escaping the bonds of moral accountability altogether.

American’s have been treated to a number of rhetorical flourishes over the years, each calling us to a new narrative: The Fair Deal, The New Deal, The Great Society, the Ownership Society, Hope and Change, and now, sadly, “Not my fault!”


Copyright © 2012 by Jay B Gaskill

First published on the Policy Think Site {www.jaygaskill.com} and its linked Blogs

As always, forwards, links and quotes with attribution are welcome and encouraged.

For everything else, please contact the author via e-mail at law@jaygaskill.com.

[1] http://jaygaskill.com/dot2dot/2011/11/07/when-the-sleeping-giant-awakes/

[2] We need to take seriously the insight that Bernard Madoff’s illicit scheme was a naked and blatant version of a more subtle but (because of scale) ultimately more harmful deception: the pretense that underwater mortgages represented real, marketable assets.

[3] Among the ethical precepts common to both traditions are the promotion of the generous and compassionate virtues; the notion of human equality before G-d; and the universal obligation to honor human dignity.  But when these are translated into political doctrine and enforced by top-down bureaucracies, the result quickly becomes brutal and repressive.  Human dignity is the first casualty of morally charged bureaucracies.

GAME ON – Obama vs. Romney

GAME ON – Obama vs. Romney

Election Analysis

By Jay B Gaskill

Also posted on The Policy Think Site –http://jaygaskill.com/GameON.htm

The general election campaign has just begun.  If you doubt this, ask yourself whether Governor Romney is still campaigning against Newt or Rick at the moment.

And suddenly the Rasmussen Poll has the two contenders in a dead heat.  [http://www.rasmussenreports.com/]

And Rasmussen also reports-

“Monday, April 02, 2012

“The number of Democrats in the United States rebounded in March after falling to a record low in February. However, for the fourth consecutive month, more people consider themselves Republicans than Democrats.

“During March, 36.4% of Americans considered themselves Republicans while 33.4% were Democrats. For the GOP, that’s a gain of 0.4% from a month ago. Democrats gained a full percentage point from February.”

In February, I proposed that the election will ultimately turn on Three “T’s”.[i]

“I believe that another, deeply psychological theme, will soon overshadow everything else.  I’m calling it the Three T’s – as I will soon explain.

“Over the long haul, this race will come down to leadership and “followship”. No leader who stands at the head of a crowd of reluctant, tepid supporters can be successful in persuading others. Whether the GOP nominee is former Governor Mitt Romney, former Governor Jeb Bush or the Messiah, it’s going to take an army of enthusiastic followers, or there will surely be an army of “I told you so”mourners on Wednesday, November 7th.

“At the end of the day this presidential election is going turn on an intangible trio of elements:

‘The Three T’s – TraumaTrust and Turnaround.

“The electorate has been traumatized.  The American people are willing to make a midstream course correction only for leadership they can trust, and only for a turnaround they can believe in.”

If you want a formula to predict the outcome in November, you will need to factor in the unknowable.  For example, one can make the case that a simple trend projection would have led to a McCain presidency …right up to the pre-election credit crash of 2008.  This was the seismic event that caught almost everyone flatfooted and doomed the GOP campaign.  We can’t rule out another seismic event.

But leave out the unknowable and this is what remains for you to track:

  1. Is the economy in a stable, credible recovery mode, or not?
  2. Is President Obama running ahead of the democrats, behind or about the same?
  3. Is Governor Romney running ahead of the republicans, behind or about the same?
  4. What is going on in the swing states? See this analysis for an Electoral College breakdown — http://spectator.org/archives/2012/03/15/election-year-math . Here’s a pull quote – “…newly successful people have become the pivotal bloc that swings the state between Republicans and Democrats. They are not committed to either party. They are not terribly involved with social issues. Their main worry is the economy. If Republicans make birth control and separation of church and state the major issue, they will go Democratic. If the Democrats mess up the economy and produce $4.50 gas and 8.3 percent unemployment, they will swing Republican. That will probably decide the 2012 election.”
  5. How are the independent, unaffiliated voters breaking?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that if the economy is stuck on bad and the incumbent is running behind his party while the challenger is running ahead of his, an upset is in the making.  Those trends, especially as they manifest in the swing states will be decisive – absent that hypothetical seismic disruption.


In January, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich opined —

Hillary Clinton on the ticket would generate the enthusiasm Mr. Obama needs. She’d be the first woman vice president. She’d remind voters of the successes of the Clinton administration. And as many recall from 2008, she’s a sharp and articulate campaigner.

Moreover, Ms. Clinton would help deflect attention from the bad economy to foreign policy, where she and Mr. Obama have shined. Chances are the economy won’t be in great shape in the months leading up to Election Day. If the European debt crisis worsens and if China’s economy continues to slow, there’s a better than even chance that unemployment will be back to 9 percent.

With friends like Secretary Reich, who need doomsayers?  Consider the historic correlation between unemployment numbers and trends and the fate of an incumbent president:

Hoover defeat

UNEMPLOYMENT — 22% and stuck

Ford defeat


Carter defeat

UNEMPLOYMENT — 7.5% and stagnant

Bush 1 defeat

UNEMPLOYMENT — 7.8 % unemployment and rising



Not add the underemployment wild card:

On March 9, 2012 Gallup reported the underemployment rate. Underemployment is the unemployment rate, plus the rate of people working at part-time jobs who would take full-time jobs if they could find them. Fully 10% of Americans fall into this latter category, giving the US an underemployment rate of 19.1%. This is up from 18.1% earlier this year.

The number of unemployed persons, at 12.8 million, was essentially unchanged in February. The unemployment rate held at 8.3 percent.

US Underemployment Rate is at 18.2%.

Updated: Mar 28 2012, 10AM

Next Release: April 04 2012, 10AM

Source: Gallup

Period: Mar 26 2012

Frequency: Daily

Long Term Average: 18.77%

Value Previously: 18.20%

Change From Previous: 0.00%

Copyright © 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law, forwards, links and quotes with attribution are welcome and encouraged.  For everything else, please contact the author via E-mail { law@jaygaskill.com }

[i] http://jaygaskill.com/dot2dot/2012/02/17/the-three-%E2%80%9Ct%E2%80%99s%E2%80%9D-of-the-2012-presidential-election/