The Miserable GOP Field
Perry started out looking like a rugged cowboy but soon gave voters the impression he would try to milk a bull. Herman Cain unveiled a “9-9-9” plan that, it turned out, represented the number of women he has hit on. Michele Bachmann, who made headway on the assumption that Republicans wanted a little bit of crazy, offered more than they could take.
Newt Gingrich talked himself to the top of the Iowa polls and then talked himself back down. No one ever left a Gingrich encounter wanting to hear more.
Rick Santorum, offering himself as a clear conservative alternative to Romney, got a big “no thanks” from New Hampshire voters. Even in the Republican Party, he has demonstrated, you can be too anti-gay. Jon Huntsman found that you can also be too reasonable.
Ron Paul, meanwhile, has unearthed surprising evidence that many Republicans think the battle against big government should not stop at the water’s edge. Unlike Barack Obama and George W. Bush, they are not eager to launch attacks on other countries or take on massive nation-building projects.
Paul sounds eerily like the Bush who ran in 2000 — promising we would be “a humble nation.” So he has no chance of getting the nomination of a party in thrall to endless war.
Mitt Romney remains the candidate for Republicans who are willing to settle, which is not most of them. His two chief credentials for high office are a career in private equity investment and one term as governor of Massachusetts, and he has been busy explaining away both.
Perry’s Flat Tax: It’s Not That Simple
Tuesday’s column explains why. Preview:
Taxes are not complicated because it’s hard to multiply your taxable income by X percent. (Heck, the IRS even does the math for you.) Taxes are complicated because of everything leading up to that final calculation… .
The really complicated question is how much you received in income in the first place. Some people collect one paycheck and nothing else. But many Americans have money coming in half a dozen ways. That’s where things get hairy fast:
Did you collect any interest last year – and if so, was it taxable or tax-exempt? Did you receive any dividends? If so, where’s your Form 1099-DIV? Did you collect alimony or jury-duty pay? Did you make any money from tips? (Allocated tips should be shown in box 8 of your W-2. See Pub. 531 for more details.) Renting out your basement? That’s income – see Schedule C. But note that improvements to the property can be depreciated using the modified accelerated cost recovery system. Are you a student? Scholarship money used for tuition does not count as income, but scholarship money for room and board does. Do you run a business out of your home? If the business percentage of an indirect expense is different from the percentage on line 7 of Form 8829, enter only the business part of the expense on the appropriate line in column (a)… .
It’s true that the tax code is cluttered up with a lot special favors for particular industries, groups, and causes. But as the preceding paragraph indicates, much of its complexity arises from the fact that modern life itself is highly complex.
The only energy question that came to Mr. Perry at Tuesday’s New Hampshire debate was this: How, exactly, is his state’s vaunted “Emerging Technology Fund”—which has dumped some 200 million taxpayer dollars into private companies—any different from Obama programs that subsidized the likes of Solyndra?
It isn’t, of course, and that’s a problem for Mr. Perry… .But no one should forget it was Republicans who in 2005 created the loan program that Mr. Obama would later expropriate to funnel stimulus dollars to his green boondoggles… . It used to be that Republican governors competed for business by lowering taxes and regulations. Then some genius worked out that it was easier to flat-out bribe companies to relocate by offering cold, hard taxpayer cash. And with green energy all the rage, a lot of state tax dollars started flowing to Solyndra-like ventures… .
Mr. Perry did all this on a grand scale.
Rick Perry’s Texas:
- Highest rate of high-school dropouts in the nation
- Crumbling education system
- Forced government intervention in personal decisions
- Low-wage economy, unlivable wages
- High poverty rates
- Corporate rule
- Over a quarter of the population does not have healthcare
- Income inequality
- Anti-Equal Rights
Rick Perry. Bad for Texas. Bad for America.
Shorter version: Rick Perry = Emmanuel Goldstein!
Republicans and Democrats also showed activation in two other brain areas involved in negative emotion, the insula and the temporal pole. It makes perfect sense, of course, why partisans would feel negatively about the candidate they dislike, but what explains the activation of the cognitive regulatory system?
Turns out [that] partisans turn up their negative emotional response when they see a photo of the opposing candidate, said Jonas Kaplan, a psychologist at the University of California at Los Angeles.
In other words, without knowing it themselves, the partisans were jealously guarding against anything that might lower their antagonism. Turning up negative feelings, of course, is a good way to make sure your antagonism stays strong and healthy.
"My feeling is, in the political process, people come to decisions early on and then spend the rest of the time making themselves feel good about their decision,” Kaplan said.
Although it seems paradoxical that people would want to make themselves feel poorly, Kaplan said partisans have a strong interest in feeling poorly about the candidate they are not going to vote for as that cements their belief that they are doing the right thing… .
The result reflects a larger phenomenon in which people routinely discount information that threatens their preexisting beliefs, said Emory University psychologist Drew Westen, who has conducted brain-scan experiments that show partisans swiftly spot hypocrisy and inconsistencies — but only in the opposing candidate.
When presented with evidence showing the flaws of their candidate, the same brain regions that Kaplan studied lighted up — only this time partisans were unconsciously turning down feelings of aversion and unpleasantness.
"The brain was trying to find a solution that would get rid of the distress and absolve the candidate of doing something slimy," Westen said. "They would twirl the emotional kaleidoscope until it gave them a picture that was comfortable."
Today’s Pun*: Perry Passu
I have been looking for an opportunity to write “Perry Passu" in a headline about the Texas governor.
The opportunity hasn’t arisen yet.
But I’m damned if I will let someone else do it first!
So, I just did.
* I didn’t say it was a good pun…
Caption Contest #11
"Brain cells? I already answered that. Next question."
That one’s pretty obvious. You can do better. Send your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org or add them in the comments.