Now, take these words home and think it through
Or the next rhyme I write might be about you

Per Michael Miner’s advice, I tried to read John Kass’s weird column about liberty, but I hit a wall here:

“The entrepreneurial mind isn’t willing to settle and wants to make more than $250,000 in salary or whatever the federal government deems proper. They don’t want proper. What they want is to take risks and reach the American Dream.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. What he’s blithely referring to is Obama’s plan to raise income taxes on households making $250K. No one’s capping income, as Kass implies, but I guess 39%: socialism, 35%: TEH AMERICAN DREAM. If you think that’s too much–or Obama’s plans to substantially raise the capital gains tax on the same income bracket, or estate taxes on estates worth over $3.5 million dollars–fine. But it’s a better deal than the early years of Chairman Reagan’s reign, who saddled anyone with a 1983 income of $106K ($233K in 2008 dollars, via) with a 50% tax burden.

Joshua Green, now with the Atlantic and one of the country’s most perceptive political writers, reviewed “Reagan’s Liberal Legacy” in a January 2003 piece for the Washington Monthly. He wrote:

“Reagan continued these ‘modest rollbacks’ in his second term. The historic Tax Reform Act of 1986, though it achieved the supply side goal of lowering individual income tax rates, was a startlingly progressive reform. The plan imposed the largest corporate tax increase in history–an act utterly unimaginable for any conservative to support today. Just two years after declaring, ‘there is no justification’ for taxing corporate income, Reagan raised corporate taxes by $120 billion over five years and closed corporate tax loopholes worth about $300 billion over that same period. In addition to broadening the tax base, the plan increased standard deductions and personal exemptions to the point that no family with an income below the poverty line would have to pay federal income tax. Even at the time, conservatives within Reagan’s administration were aghast. According to Wall Street Journal reporters Jeffrey Birnbaum and Alan Murray, whose book Showdown at Gucci Gulch chronicles the 1986 measure, ‘the conservative president’s support for an effort once considered the bastion of liberals carried tremendous symbolic significance.’ When Reagan’s conservative acting chief economic adviser, William Niskanen, was apprised of the plan he replied, ‘Walter Mondale would have been proud.'”

Like I said, maybe you think Obama’s tax plan is unfair. And that’s fine. Maybe you’re a libertarian; maybe you’re an anarchist, and it would warm my heart if John Kass secretly wears a suit coat with safety-pinned sleeves around the house and gets down to Never Mind the Bollocks. What really chaps my ass about Kass’s column is the insinuation that Obama represents some kind of sea change in the philosophy of government.  He’s an SOP moderate Democrat. As Paul Krugman writes in the New York Review of Books, “He sounds, in other words, a lot like Bill Clinton in 1992.” Fairly or not, and Clinton’s administration has no small reponsibility for the economic crisis, people look back on those years with fondness for their relative stability.

Put it this way: Obama’s running a different offense on a different part of the field, but it’s still the same game. It’s sexy and it generates traffic to pretend that we’re living in a radically different country, as far as economics, personal liberties, and so forth, from any other point in my lifetime, but it’s just not the case.

Unlike Michael Miner, I do think people are supporting Obama out of fear (to an extent, of course). I think they look at him and see a calm technocrat with impressive message control and increasingly bipartisan support. I think people are afraid of fear, and I think McCain sunk his campaign with a series of impulsive, hasty decisions that show a complete lack of faith in their product, in themselves.

McCain, to borrow a useful phrase from Mobb Deep, is just a shook one. John Kass is the last person to be a shook one, I’d think, but go read the column. It’s nervous, meandering, and unsettled, like McCain’s pitch a trailing indicator rather than a leading one, standing athwart history yelling stop, I think I’m going to barf