Paul Tullis's Grim Tidings

Bitter musings on politics and policy

Now at HuffPo

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Loyal readers—all six of you:

I have moved my blogging self over to the Huffington Post. Catch up with me here.

This archive of my True/Slant blog, and the few since July 2010, will remain here indefinitely (in case you’re feeling wistful).

And you can always follow me on Twitter.


Written by ptullis

November 11, 2010 at 7:51 pm

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Being Clichéd Journalism

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My gut feeling is that I should just chill out right now and put this on the back burner, but at the end of the day I’m so cutting edge, such a hipster, that, in the final analysis, I need to speak from the heart and demonstrate my very unique, in-depth and encyclopedic knowledge of nondescript terms.

That’s the game plan, anyway. In the foreseeable future, or at least in the near future, such a hands-on, real time effort as this particular labor of love won’t be necessary, but at this point in time, the bottom line is that a state of the art essayist such as myself needs to tell it like it is and write something that is, in essence, just wall-to-wall clichés.

If anyone can suggest a viable alternative, I’m pretty laid back about suggestions, as long as they’re presented in a reasonable time frame; I know that, often, it takes a village to accomplish a task such as this. (Hopefully, I won’t be so spaced out that I fall down the slippery slope into Spanglish!) However, I should say up front that although I’m no rocket scientist, and essay writing isn’t brain surgery, nor am I your typical writer: I rarely succumb to the I-don’t-have-the-right-adjective-so-I’ll-just-string-something-together-with-dashes adjective.

Reflecting back, I realize that I usually manage to find the right word, even if I have to cut into family time to come up with one that really says it all. So this whole exercise runs contrary to my lifestyle. But the name of the game is to empower people with the knowledge that clichés often sneak into their writing, so even if it’s not pleasant, I want this to be the latest breakthrough in essay writing, a real must-have, not something people will read and say, “Been there, done that.”

Now that I’m in a meaningful relationship I can see that it will really affect people’s quality of life—even if you’re a legendary Hollywood star with a three-picture deal, or one that doesn’t speak with a heavy accent, anyway, more of an all-American type—to see the disconnect between good writing and stuff that’s over-the-top. Besides which, it’s the American Dream to produce timeless writing, and anyone can tell that this is gourmet essay writing.

And now that I’ve shown that I think I’m ready for my close-up.

Written by ptullis

October 21, 2010 at 1:49 pm

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The Right’s Favorite Lie About Social Security

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One of the most insidious falsehoods that rightists like to perpetrate about the deficit they’re suddenly so keen on reducing—after having overseen an 80% rise in military spending and the largest unfinanced entitlement expansion ever during the Bush administration— is that Social Security is bankrupting the nation.

We saw this last week in the NY Times, with Ross Douthat writing, “everybody knows the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security…”

Then today, here’s the WSJ‘s Gerald F. Seib claiming, “Any serious talk of attacking the long-range federal budget deficit has to acknowledge the need to control the coming explosion in the cost of [Social Security and Medicare].”

But as Mark Weisbrot’s excellent outfit, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, points out—and as anyone who’s ever looked at their paystub ought to know—”Social Security does not contribute to the deficit. It is financed by a separate designated tax.”

Seib continues with the old rhetorical trick of leaving out the most significant fact if it contradicts your argument, citing the CBO to state that “spending on…Social Security…is to rise by 70%…over the next 10 years.”

Yet, as CEPR writes, “The most recent projections from the Congressional Budget Office show that [the Social Security] tax will be sufficient to fully fund benefits through the year 2039 with no changes whatsoever.”

So, OK, Gerald, granted—Social Security spending is headed straight up for a decade. But that’s not the cogent fact. What matters is that it’s fully paid for already, for 95% of the next TWO decades AFTER your time frame.

The reason Republicans are doing this is to rationalize privatization, benefit cuts, raising the retirement age, and any other ways they can come up with to slash the most successful, most imitated anti-poverty measure in history. President Obama’s task force to “reform” the program is co-chaired by a Republican who spent his entire career in the Senate trying to privatize and cut benefits.

We’ve already largely replaced company pensions with 401(k)’s, which means that most people’s retirement savings have flatlined over the last 10 years. What if you were retiring in March, 2009 with a Social Security fund in the stock market? Your nest egg would have been about 60% what it could have been just seven months earlier, and less than half its value three years previous.

I have no problem raising the retirement age for people under 40; their life expectancy is more than a decade longer than it was for people at Social Security’s beginning.

But why isn’t there any discussion of raising the limit of income subject to Social Security tax way, way above the current $106,800?

And why doesn’t the Republicans’ discussions of deficit reduction include the bloated,  out-of-control Pentagon, which is still buying equipment to fight a land war in Europe and stuck in a counterinsurgency it’s not prepared for and keeps failing at?

And why did every Republican in the House vote against health care reform, when, as CEPR shows here, “If the United States had the same per person health care costs as any of the countries which enjoy longer life expectancies than the United States, then it would be facing long-term budget surpluses“?

There’s no other explanation: Because the GOP would rather enrich the military contractors and pharmaceutical companies that pay its bills.

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Written by ptullis

October 5, 2010 at 11:49 am

Midterm Elections: Is the Shine Wearing Off the Tea Party?

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Latest polls:

In the California Senate race, Barbara Boxer now has an 8 point lead, widening the spread from 2 back in March.

Just a few weeks ago, Meg Whitman had a 7-point lead over Jerry Brown. Now, after Whitman has poured tens of millions more dollars into attack ads which factcheckers have called disgraceful in their inaccuracy, Brown has a 5 point lead.

In Pennsylvania, Twoomey had a 10-point lead; it’s now tied at 45 each.

Rand Paul/Conway: was once more than a 15 point lead for Paul, now Conway—a Democrat in Kentucky—is just 2 points behind.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, a top target of the GOP, was tied with the Tea Part challenger Angle; now Reid has a 5 point lead.

This reminds me that in 1951, Frank Sinatra’s record label had just dropped him. He was walking past a theater where Eddie Fischer was performing; Fischer fans taunted Sinatra.

Who gave Eddie Fischer a thought between the 1950’s and last week, when he died?

The point is this: Americans love the new new thing. The Tea Party was a sexy fad. Now the shine has worn off, and people are realizing what they are: inexperienced extremists with no vision for how to run the country except to grind government to a halt at the moment its citizens need it more than since…what, 1957, when the National Guard started integrating southern schools?

Prediction: The midterm elections will have the usual ruling-party losses, but nothing more. Forget about the GOP taking the House or Senate. Obama’s mandate renewed, and hopefully his confidence restored so he can end the Bush tax cuts for the rich and ram cap-and-trade down their fucking throats the way Cheney did with the giant welfare-for-polluters act known as the Energy Bill of 2005.


Written by ptullis

September 29, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Cantor’s Song: House minority whips spins a tall tale in the WSJ

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One of my favorite ways to indulge in masochism first thing in the morning is by reading The Wall Street Journal.

Today’s edition had a few gems from the Republican Party, but on a per-word basis of untruthful omissions, misleading statements, red herrings and pure bunk, the best piece by far is Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) op-ed.

He’s explaining why the GOP “won’t back down” on opposing the tax “increases” which “President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi want…for those who happen to fit their description of ‘middle class.'”

That’s an interesting way of putting it. The president and speaker actually only oppose extending tax cuts that were to expire at the end of this year. These tax cuts—and their expiration—were enacted by a Republican Congress, and signed into law by a Republican president. But in Republican rhetoric, allowing a Republican law to expire as the Republicans themselves planned it to is a tax “increase.”

The “fit their description” part is also curious. If anything, Obama’s and Pelosi’s definition of middle class is expansive toward the wealthier end of the scale: They’re for extending the tax cuts for anyone making less than $200K a year. Only 4.3% of Americans earn more than that. So someone at $199,999 isn’t exactly in the “middle;” they’re in the top 20% of earners. I don’t know what universe it is that the top 20% is the “middle,” but apparently that’s not enough for Cantor; he implies that even people making more than $200k are “middle class.”

Cantor’s untruthful omission is the fact that the people who make the most money in the US aren’t getting it through earned income; they get it mostly through capital gains and dividends, which are taxed at 15%—far below even middle class marginal tax rates. In fact, the richest 400 Americans paid only 16.6% of their income in federal income taxes in 2007—even as their incomes rose.

But Cantor doesn’t stop there. He holds up the old Republican canard that “job creators…lack certainty” regarding “the tax and regulatory system.” This is how Wall Street and their pals in the GOP are holding the economy hostage: They don’t invest in the private sector and they don’t lend to small businesses (in whose name Cantor claims to be acting) because they “lack certainty.”

What would bring them certainty? Why, tax cuts for the rich, of course! To mix metaphors, what they’re saying is, Give us our free lunch or we won’t play ball. By the way, there’s no guarantee they will open the spigots of capital if they get the tax cuts they’re demanding for people earning a greater share of national income than at any time since the Gilded Age.

Then Cantor derides the “failed stimulus.” Here are the facts on the stimulus:

• President Bush enacted an economic stimulus in early 2008. If stimulus is so bad, why was it good enough for Bush?

• The CBO says Obama’s stimulus reduced unemployment by between 0.8% and 1.7%.

• Economists at Moody’s and Princeton say unemployment would be above 11% and GDP would be nearly $500bn lower. (Thanks to James Surowiecki for those last two.)

Some failure!

Later in that same sentence (way to pack the bullshit, Cantor!), the Minority Whip says private industry is better at creating jobs than government action. So how did Pres. Bush do in his 8 years?

1.5 million jobs LOST. The Republicans are like Superman: They created so many jobs that job creation went backwards!

Then Cantor disses “the new health care entitlement.” The biggest entitlement in the last 40 years, though, was Medicare Part D—passed by a Republican Congress and a Republican president, with no way of paying for it.

However, ObamaCare, as the Journal likes to call it, actually pays for itself—and saves money in the long run, according to CBO.

The next insult is a GOP favorite: accusing the Democrats of “class warfare.” Apparently, in the GOP universe, cutting taxes for the richest 5% of the country while income for the middle three quintiles stagnates; letting hedge fund managers (who made an average of $1bn each in 2009) declare the earnings they make on other people’s money their own capital gains so they can avoid paying a fair share; and calling the expiration of a law they themselves enacted a tax increase—none of this is class warfare.

But trying to change it, or even criticizing it, is.

The final rhetorical flourish is a red herring. Cantor writes (and he’s factually correct), “roughly half of all small business income in America will face a higher rate…”

If you’re a small business owner (like me), you probably read that (like I did) and think there’s a 50-50 chance your taxes will go up under Pres. Obama’s plan. But look carefully: “…half of all small business income…”

Because Bush was so expert with his policies at packing income at the upper end of the scale, half of all small business income in the US is earned by only about 750,000 people. How many small businesses are there in the US? 29.3 million.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 2.5% of the total of small business owners whose taxes will go up.

And some Americans want to put these disgraceful, hypocritical, selfish liars in charge again? Hard to believe.


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Written by ptullis

September 20, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Why McCain is a hypocrite on “don’t ask don’t tell”

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has vowed to block a defense appropriations bill if an amendment that’s been added to it which would end the military’s anti-gay policy isn’t taken out.

This is ironic, because the tactic of adding unrelated pieces of legislation to existing bills without a committee vote or floor debate was invented by none other than John McCain.

As Hal Espen wrote in an article I edited for Men’s Journal,

Southwestern activist David Hodges, policy director of the Tucson-based Sky Island Alliance, recalls McCain working behind the scenes in 1988 to craft a rider that exempted the construction of a University of Arizona telescope facility, in the middle of habitat for a critically endangered subspecies of red squirrel, from the Endangered Species Act. It was an unprecedented tactic, and soon anti-environmental riders were being attached to all kinds of legislation in Washington. “I don’t know that he knew what he was unleashing,” Hodges says, “but we certainly did.”

Just another day at the office for the Republican hypocrisy machine.

Written by ptullis

September 20, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Coming soon…

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Greetings. This site migrated from the website for “entrepreneurial journalism,” True/Slant. Check back soon as I will begin again to blog regularly.

Written by ptullis

July 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized