Thursday, January 31, 2013

The World According to the U.S. Senate

At least that's what I would guess from the Hagel hearings today...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

As Though the U.S. were Trapped in a Bad 80s Film

On MSNBC this morning, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) shared with us his wisdom about addressing the U.S.'s problems with gun violence:

"You know, I think video games is [sic] a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people."

The statement "video games affect people" is, of course, a truism because so does everything, and the word "affect" has no innate normative connotation.  Moreover, taken simply at that level alone, so do guns.  And, even though (having never played video games much as a child) I've never been fond of violence in video games, the science behind Alexander's claim is slim.  We might know more about the how guns "affect" people if Congress didn't block research on that matter.

However, I want to get back to the point about the Republican vision of a world in which video games--certainly not guns--are the root of our disproportionately high rate of gun violence.  I thought to myself, "Self, somebody must have made a movie sometime about kids getting sucked into video games, getting trapped inside, and disappearing."  It sounds like the perfect idea for a D-rate horror film.

Of course, this exists, and, of course, it was made in the 1980s.  The movie in question would be Nightmares (1983), which featured four horror stories.  "The Bishop of Battle," starring Emilio Estevez, tells the story of a kind named J. J. Cooney who becomes obsessed with a notoriously difficult, thirteen-level arcade game called The Bishop of Battle.  No one that our video game wizard J. J. knows has ever beat the game--they've all died on the 12th level.  Yada yada yada...he gets sucked into the game and dies.

Effectively, the Republicans are acting as though the U.S. is in the middle of a bad 1980s horror film rather than a real-life tragedy.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Today's Exercise in Critical Reading of the Press: Reverse Robin Hood Edition

For today's exercise in critically reading the press (something that everyone should do as an intelligent citizen on a regular basis), I would like to turn to an article from The New York Times from Thursday that addressed the increasing push by Republican governors to shift the tax burden from the rich and onto the backs of the poor.  Governors such as Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sam Brownback of Kansas have both called for increases in their state's sales taxes in order to phase out the income tax.

What most caught my attention about this article was the subtle way in which the article's choice of language, whether intentionally or not, painted these Republican governors in a positive light.  We can see this first even by the title:  "Governors Push Bigger Reliance on Sales Taxes."  Although there is nothing false or even misleading about this, it fails to address why they are doing this, and by ignoring motivation, it presents this as a somewhat wonkish budget fix.

But let's get to the text of the article itself.

It begins with the following sentence:

 "Republican governors are moving aggressively to cut personal and corporate income taxes, including proposals that would increase reliance on state sales taxes, setting up ambitious experiments in tax reform that could shape what is possible on a national level." 

The author is calling these proposals "ambitious" and offering them as a template for the debates about federal tax policy that will come in the ensuing months.  These governors, one would glean from this opening line, are bold innovators, starting new experiments with the tax code that the nation as a whole could (and maybe even should) adopt.

Let's continue:

"Even as Washington continues to discuss, if not act, on ideas for making the federal tax system simpler and more efficient, governors, some with an eye on the next presidential race, are taking advantage of the improving economy and a gradual rebound in revenues to act."

First, we have an indictment on Congress for its failure to make the tax code "simpler" and "more efficient"; the use of "Washington" is an easy way of avoiding any clear blame for any individuals or parties who might obstruct the process.  However, this line also implies that these new tax proposals emanating from Republican governors will, in fact, make the tax code simpler and more efficient.  Since most people see simplicity and efficiency as normative goods--I would assume the author does, this line is an implied endorsement, whether partial or in full, of the proposals under discussion.  Moreover, this sentence continues the effort to frame these governors as bold thinkers and actors, making policy innovations while Washington idles.

The next paragraph just highlights the governors and states being discussed.  Let's go to the next substantive paragraph:

"Along the way these governors are taking small first steps into a debate over what kind of tax system most encourages growth in a 21st-century economy. In particular they are focusing attention on the idea, long championed by conservatives but accepted up to a point by economists of all stripes, that the economy would be better served by focusing taxation on consumption rather than on income."

This sentence now continues the "bold innovation" frame with discussion of a "21st century economy."  What does that exactly mean?  How does the economy of today differ from that of 1999? Are we talking about a more technologically-driven economy?  Are we talking about an increasingly diverse population?  The author simply assumes that we, the audience, all have a shared understanding of what this means--and, thus, how these policies fit into such a framework.  More importantly--and jarringly, the author then claims that these policy proposals are noncontroversial--that "economists of all stripes" endorse them, at least in part.  We are only told that this process of tax shifting is good because it "lift[s] economic growth and would "encourage more savings and investment."  The author cites nothing to substantiate these claims; the reader is expected to take them at face value.  One would think, if cuts in income taxes were so stimulative, the Bush tax cuts would have proven a boon to the economy.  But I digress...

The first voice we hear other than the author's--our first "expert"--is from a conservative think tank, and he provides us with this assessment:

"Everyone agrees we’ll get more growth with consumption taxes. It’s just that some people prioritize fairness." 

Notice how, again, we are told that this is common knowledge; everyone thinks this.  Likewise, the article has consistently advanced the perspective that economic growth is inherently good, a normative claim that one could challenge.  Indeed, some scholars have. What "growth" means is also unclear?  Does it mean more jobs?  Are we being told that tax shifting will reduce unemployment?   Who benefits from this growth?

Economics as Secularized Religion

There's a long history of interpreting Marxism as a transposition of Judeo-Christian eschatology/millennialism.  Raymond Aron's The Opium of the Intellectuals immediately comes to mind because this argument is built into the title itself. However, the connections between economic doctrine and religion extend far beyond this.  In 19th century England, the political divisions between Liberals and Conservatives to a decent extent mapped onto the religious divisions between Church and Dissent.  Conservatives, or Tories, supported the established Church of England, and Liberals tended to stem from the Nonconformist sects like Unitarianism and Congregationalism.  The Liberal belief in non-interventionism in religion matched their faith in non-interventionism in economic affairs.  Henry George, the 19th century advocate of the "single tax," developed his heterodox economic ideas because he rejected the fixity of classical economics---he could not envision a world in which a benevolent God would allow such poverty to exist and would deny human beings the agency to fix such a blight on their conscience.  Catholicism, too, developed a distinct economic doctrine in the 20th century in the form of distributism, with its twin (and sometimes conflicting) emphases on solidarity and subsidiarity.

However, the specific issue I would like to visit today is the language and argumentation used by those advocating economic austerity because, whenever I hear such arguments, I hear the distinct echo of religion.

Such arguments begin by claiming that we, as a society, have been bad--we have been wasteful, profligate, materialistic, and greedy (We, the people, have been greedy--not the banksters of course).  Our indulgence in the "ways of the flesh" have angered the market gods, and if we do not act quickly, the market gods will abandon us, wreaking vengeful destruction upon us.

And how might we gain back the favor of the angry market gods?  Well, we must engage in self-flagellation or other self-inflicted pain ("belt tightening.")  We must begin a period of fasting.  Perhaps, if we still are not able to appease the market gods, we must offer a human sacrifice.

We must not, however, allocate a single resource away from the maintenance of the warrior class.  The market gods do not care about that profligacy.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Equality as the Soul of Justice

On Friday at work, I began reading Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, which spurred my thinking about equality and justice in the US as it plays out in legal enforcement and in social welfare.

Alexander's book, which addresses the racial biases in our current age of mass incarceration, highlights the inherent inequity in the enforcement of drug laws.  For instance, even though roughly the same percentage of both whites and African Americans use illegal drugs, African Americans make up about 75% of those incarcerated for drug-related felonies.  Add on to that the fact that in many states, those with past felony convictions often face disenfranchisement and employment discrimination, and we can see how the current policies of the drug war and the US justice system exacerbate existing inequities and create a sort of underclass that goes against the values that both politicians and the public claim to hold dear.

Before I address a few cases of unequal treatment in US social and economic policy today, it is important to have a firm understanding of what is meant by the word justice.

Embracing the mathematical terminology that I so rarely get to use nowadays, I would express justice in terms of a mathematical function.  Let's represent the "enactment of justice upon action x" as j(x). 

Then we can say
        For every actions (or situations) x and y, j(x) = j (y).

That gives us the simplest representation of what justice as equal treatment means.  There are some areas of justice, such as distributive justice, where this function may require adaptation; however, as far as the enforcement of a legal code goes, it can suffice.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Equality and Inequality in the American Tradition

Yesterday, I saw Chris Hayes speak at the Enoch Pratt Library about his recent book Twilight of the Elites.  As I re-read his book the other day in order to freshen up my thoughts and come up with a few questions, I was continually reminded of a passage from one of many lectures by Felix Adler (founder of the Ethical Culture movement and professor at Columbia University) that I read during my dissertation research:

"What we in America understand by equality is equality of opportunity.  We have not even got that, but that is the American ideal—equality of opportunity.  We have not got it because there is no such thing as equal opportunity for our children as long as the economic situation of the parents is so desperately unequal…It means equal opportunity for the unequal to show their inequality…And there are a great many Americans who are infatuated with the belief that that state of society would be most satisfying in which artificial privilege was abolished, in which all the differences of talent, or gift, or energy etc. should have free play….so long as it is my ability, that is, my natural privilege, gives me the advantage of you…And it is not even true that the naturally privileged, that those who are finely privileged come to the top, it is rather those whose elbows are sharp and those whose shoes are shod with iron." ("The Opening of New Horizons in the Future of Mankind," 4/20/1924).

One of the joys of studying history is the encounter of penetrating social criticism that is as relevant today as it was almost 100 years ago.

Liberalism, Conservatism, and Radicalism

One perennially vexing problem with political discourse today—mainly because of the way the political center has drifted rightward—is the failure to distinguish between the “radical” position and the “liberal” position, a distinction best understood in relationship to a tripartite divide of political ideologies between the conservative, the liberal, and the radical.

The Conservative favors the status quo, be that out of self-interest or out of an aversion to change. S/he wants to stand still; the system is fine. Any problems that the system might have—if s/he acknowledges them—are far outweighed by the benefits. The Conservative also holds a rather a-historicist view although s/he would argue that s/he is in, fact, honoring history. S/he says, “The institutions that exist now have always existed and should always exist. World without end. Amen.”

The Liberal, however, takes a more historical position in that the Liberal looks at the past and sees that it has been changing and looks to the future and hopes to see change—in the direction of the better, that is. The Liberal thinks that there is a measure of good in the institutions as they exist now, but as they are not rigid—but, in fact, malleable—they can be and should be changed for the better. If the Conservative sees the system as beautiful (even if he thinks a bit of make-up would make it better), the Liberal sees the system and thinks, “With a better diet, more exercise, and more attention to mental and physical health, the system could be so much more beautiful.”

The Radical, also, engages in the historical attitude of the Liberal. The Radical sees that the ways of the present have not always been the same as the past; however, the Radical believes that the current system is corrupt at the core—it is diseased, it is syphilitic. However, seeing that things have not always been this way and, thus, need not always be this way, the Radical believes in making a better system, but rather than working within the current system as the Liberal prefers, the Radical, viewing the system as corrupt, seeks either to (a) abolish the current system or (b) work outside of it. If the Conservative sees the system and admires its beauty and the Liberal sees the system and recommends a new health regimen of diet, exercise, and emotional health, then the Radical sees the system and recommends major reconstructive surgery.

Must We Give the Right-Wing Lessons on the Interwar Period Again?

So after calling the Affordable Care Act "fascist" the other day, Whole Foods CEO decided to issue a non-apologetic apology.  (Maybe he's looking for a career in politics!)

"I'm totally sorry I called Obamacare 'fascist.'  I mean, I was just using the dictionary definition of the word.  You people are just so sensitive."

The dictionary definition of "fascism."  Let's consult with our good friends Merriam and Webster:

"a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition"

Sorry, John Mackey, I think you're definitions are a bit off.  The Affordable Care Act is more appropriately described as corporate liberalism--when big business and the "progressive" state work together to guarantee the market provision of public goods within a weak but nevertheless extant regulatory framework as an alternative for a more social democratic alternative.

Let's also help out our friend John Mackey with a quote from Benito Mussolini himself, describing the ethos behind the political-economic-social system he created:

"The goal is always empire!  To build a city, to found a colony, to establish an empire, these are the prodigies of the human spirit ...We must resolutely abandon the whole liberal  phraseology and way of thinking...Discipline.  Discipline at home in order that we may present the granite block of a single national will.  War alone brings up the highest tension, all human energy..."

So, if it does not involve imperialism, militarism, and a disdain for freedom of expression or conscience, then it is simply not fascism.  The economic system of fascism (whether Italian Fascism or German National Socialism) is a warfare state at its core.

And John Mackey, here's a good question for you:  Do you know who else was vigorously opposed to unions? 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

If Obama's a Socialist, Then Which Type is He?

The next time that I hear a Republican call Obama a socialist, I would like to follow up with the question: "Well, which type is he?"

Is he a scientific socialist, adhering to an orthodox Marxist doctrine of dialectical materialism, the labor theory of value, the immiseration thesis, etc.?

Is he a revisionist (or evolutionary) socialist along the lines of Eduard Bernstein, eschewing the materialistic determinism of orthodoxy in favor of a neo-Kantian ethic of universalism and respect for persons--and emphasizing the movement (whether in trade unions or in parliaments) over the telos?

Is he an ethical socialist like Keir Hardie and many of the founders of the British Labour Party, believing that socialism (collective governance/ownership) is the logical outpouring of the Judeo-Christian conscience?

Is he a gradualist or Fabian socialist, believing that socialism will come through the efforts of socially responsible government experts expanding their control over the economy bit by bit, learning how to administer each sector as it reaches a state of natural monopoly?

Is he a guild socialist like G. D. H. Cole, eschewing the centralized control of the bureaucrat in favor of the internal democratization of industry itself?

Is he a revolutionary syndicalist, viewing participation in bourgeois governments as futile and preferring instead to launch a general strike to use the force of the mass to bring the capitalist economy to a halt?

Please, my Republican friend, do let me know which type you think he is.  I'd love to discuss it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Children's Garden of Conservative History Verses

 So, in addition to his crusade against the leftist agenda of algebra (the distributive property!), Fox News host Eric Bolling also lambasted his child's history book for daring to say that Bush got us into war with Iraq because of WMDs, which happened not to be there.  What left-wing bias!  I've decided to do Bolling a favor and offer a more patriotic rendering of the history of the Iraq War for the kiddies:

Once upon a time, there was a great patriotic president named George W. Bush. One day, George W. Bush noticed that the Iraqi people looked sad. "Why are you so sad, Iraqi people?" the president asked. "We're sad because we are not free," they responded. That patriotic, freedom-loving president couldn't imagine how awful it would be to live in a country where the people were not free as they are in the United States, the greatest nation on Earth. So our president began to think about what he could do to help make the Iraqi people free. So he asked his good freedom-loving friend Tony Blair to help him set the Iraqi people free, and he even got some other friends to help out, too--except for the French, who have yet to truly understand the meaning of freedom. So our coalition of the free went into Iraq with the help of patriotic American capitalists, such as those from the great Halliburton, to set the Iraqi people free and to take down the mean leader that had kept them unfree. Unfortunately, once this coalition arrived, they reailzed that the Iraqi people--who had expressed their desire for freedom--weren't yet fully able to understand freedom. But, don't worry, child, the patriotic American capitalists were able to teach them about freedom, and they are still helping to teach them today.

(Image from

Partisanship vs. Ideology

I feel as though there is a problematic conflation of the terms "partisan" and "ideological" in a lot of discussion about US party politics. They are treated as essentially the same when they are in fact very different and often even oppositional.

The Democratic Party, for instance, is heavily partisan but only weakly ideological. You can see this at work on civil liberties and war-related issues most clearly. Whereas Democrats would have started screaming at policies under Bush, they mostly acquiesce (unquestioningly) when such policies are championed by Obama. The same can be said of cuts to social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security: an unthinkable betrayal of the middle-class if under a Republican president but a pragmatic concession to the exigencies of reality if under a Democratic president. Supporting a policy because the de facto head of your party supports it is a sign of partisanship; it has little to do with ideology.

Partisanship has its roots in in-group loyalty; it is the preferential treatment or consideration of one's own party (or group or cause).  Ideology refers to the intellectual tools by which data are translated into ideas and recommendations; ideologies are how we filter the world around us and come up with a view about how the world does and should work and about what our priorities should be.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Criticism is like Medicine for the Body Politic--You Might Not Like the Taste, but Take it Anyway

   Criticism is like medicine for the body politic; many don't like to take it, but it's necessary for good health.
   Earlier today, a friend of mine posted this lefty-bashing rant by Michael Grunwald in Time.  I jotted down criticisms as I read, so they took the form of bullet points.  They could cohere together with a logical flow, but I view it as the online article equivalent of annotating a book.

   (1) I think that the attack on Al Gore with which the article starts is unfounded. Al Gore is right that Obama has paid little attention to global warming as an issue and could do more to frame it as an issue of national importance. (He's certainly doing that with the deficit, for no good reason if you ask me.) Even when he does speak about global warming, he engages in a language I'd call anti-denial, which fails as a source of persuasion. He has also overruled suggestions by Lisa Jackson to appease the business community on several occasions (because of flawed selection of advisers if you ask me) and may do it again soon on the Keystone XL pipeline.

(2) I think he fails to properly address the progressive critique of the fiscal cliff deal. Yes, social insurance programs were not cut, but Congress created a situation in which they very well might be two months from now. They are not off the table, and Obama has expressed a consistent interest in reducing Social Security benefits (when not campaigning). The Democratic Party's open embrace of chained CPI as an offer was problematic both as policy and as politics; although it was not included in the ultimate deal, it very well might end up there next time.(And you know that the Dems would have gone crazy had Bush proposed it.) The fiscal cliff deal also contained a wide array of corporate giveaways that do nothing to "reduce the deficit" or really to help solve the unemployment crisis either. Moreover, the sequester was only delayed temporarily. It still exists. And it exists because practically everyone in the Senate, the House Republicans, and half of the House Democratic caucus voted for its existence in the first place. It is a crisis of their own making, which (ironically or unfortunately) is still probably better than what Obama had wanted to offer Boehner in July of 2011 (which Boehner himself noted would have given him 98% of what he wanted).

(3) I don't believe anyone expects to get 100% of what they want. However, Obama, because of a predilection for compromise, tends to shift the debate rightward at the start. He seems to believe that the Republican Party does want to work with him in good faith, so he offers policies that have a mix of liberal and conservative parts (Think ACA). The Republicans then proceed to soundly reject them. Granted, there is a fair amount of internal debate within the Democratic Party because of people like Nelson (Thankfully he's gone) or Landrieu or Pryor; however, the main problem here is what constitutes the starting point.

(4) His adivsers do, in fact, like to engage in lefty-bashing. Think Rahm, Axelrod, Gibbs.

(5) We don't have universal health insurance. There will still be people without insurance under ACA. It's just the closest we've ever been. (ACA was a half loaf by all means, but there is the potential to bake the rest of it in the future. And it does a lot of good.)

(6) Some of his advisers (e.g. Romer) did want a larger stimulus. He listened to Summers instead. Granted, some of the weakening also came from the moderate Republicans in the Senate; however, this is no reason to not criticize the not-as-high-as-needed ambitions of the stimulus. You can praise something for what it did but still wish it had done more; they are not mutually exclusive.

(7) On cap-and-trade, see #3. Obama began throwing away bargaining chips early on. A bill (although a weak one) did pass the House because Pelosi was a good Speaker. I expect nothing to happen on climate over the next 2 years. I am weakly optimistic that something might come from the Executive Branch (but only weakly), and I expect nothing from Congress. All I ask of Congress is "Do no harm."

(8) On immigration reform, Obama has deported a record number of people.

(9) On gun control, he actually weakened gun control while in office, allowing guns in national parks and on Amtrak. One could have hoped at least for a continuation of the not-so-great status quo.

(10) I think one of the progressive critiques he ignores (I mentioned this earlier) is that the "fiscal cliff" was a manufactured crisis. Also, he ignores that Obama himself chose to shift his emphasis to the deficit after the 2010 elections despite the fact that it led to (if you ask me) worse policy and did not help him in terms of public approval. Obama, either because he himself is more of a Rockefeller Republican by nature or because he believes that "we live in a center-right country," regularly embraces conservative language. It got on my nerves when I went to a fundraiser in Philly back in June (where I saw it best on display). Granted, language doesn't mean policy nor does it mean change. But if you aren't going to get policy and aren't going to get change, you can at least hope for vocal support for ideals.

I could probably go on for a while longer; however, I think my main gripe with the article is the belief that criticism of the President (that which is grounded in substance, not the fantasies of Kenyan socialist Obama) is somehow bad, that we should be happy with whatever we get, that we should regularly eschew any form of long-term vision for an opportunistic politics of incrementalism (building block by block without an architectural plan), that we should content ourselves with a half loaf or a three-quarters loaf and never ponder how we could have gotten more or whether the half loaf itself is in fact filled with poison or crusted and stale.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Redistricting is not Enough

The other day, Harry Enten had a great piece in The Guardian debunking the common wisdom that gerrymandering lies at the root of the polarization of Congress.  Many articles on progressive blogs since the election have faulted gerrymandering for the fact that Republicans continue to control the House although Democrats won more votes overall.  However, wide demographic trends, such as the concentration of liberals in cities and conservatives in rural areas, also bear strong influence.

As I see it, the current system of single member geographical districts produces a conflict between representativeness and democracy, which are both important in a nation that purports to have a representative democracy.

Although I, like many others, may decry gerrymandering, one can argue that gerrymandering produces the most representative districts possible, especially if it is done on a bipartisan (rather than partisan or nonpartisan) basis.  In other words, if Democratic majorities in cities are maximized and Republican majorities in rural and suburban areas are maximized, you end up with a map in which the largest possible number of people feel represented by the winner of their district's race. 

Pretend that we have 200 people, 100 Democrats and 100 Republicans.  Creating a 70-30 Democratic win and a 70-30 Republican win would yield a total of 140 people who feel as though their House member represents them.    On the other hand, if you created a 51-49 Democratic district and a 51-49 Republican district, only 102 people feel as though their House member represents their will.

However, even though the awkward and often aesthetically displeasing districts on a gerrymandered map can prove more representative, they are decidedly less democratic than the alternative.  In a democracy, each person's vote should count the same (one person, one vote).  Deep blue districts and deep red districts create the problem of wasted votes.  In the above scenario of the 70-30 district, there are 20 people whose votes did not ultimately matter to outcome of the election.  Such deeply partisan districts could also discourage voters from either party.  The voters of the majority party might feel as though their vote isn't needed, and those of the minority party might feel as though their vote is utterly meaningless.  Competitive districts help to maximize the number of meaningful votes and encourage voter participation.  However, if the winner achieves a victory of 50.2 to 49.8, the end result is hardly representative of the full range of popular will.

The ideal solution, as I see it, would be multi-member districts with proportional representation.  Treat each state as its own district, and allocate the seats in proportion to the popular vote (as closely as math allows).  With PR, every vote is meaningful and equal because all votes count towards the state-wide total, and the outcome will better reflect the popular will across the state, providing both parties with the number of seats that best reflects their popular support.  Granted, because of the varying number of seats per state, larger states such as California will end up with more accurate apportionment of seats than will smaller states such as Maine; however, the system as a whole will reconcile the claims for democracy and representativeness.

Moreover, PR by state will help solve another challenge to the democratic ideal of equal representation ("one person, one vote") that our system of representation produces.  Although districts should theoretically be equal in size, there will inevitably be an accepted margin of error.  One district might have 713,000 while another has 712,000 because equal population is just one of many factors to consider (geographical contiguity being another prominent one).  Multi-member state-wide districts eliminates such effect on a district level--ensuring that each vote is counted equally toward a state's total representation.  There will be, unfortunately, still be differences in population per House seat between states; however, representation by state remains important because of the tradition of federalism and because of the overall size of the country.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Thinking about the 1930s...

I ended up thinking about a few different connections to the 1930s.  Maybe I was inspired by this good article on Eleanor Roosevelt on Truth-Out, or it could be the tendency of my mind to wander in search of historical parallels.

Anyway, some quick thoughts:

(1) Quick primer on the difference between American and European politics: The far right in Europe wants to return to the late 1930s. The far right in the US would like to erase the late 1930s from history.

(2)  If you are a president who gets called a capitalist lackey by detractors on the Left (who likely will vote for you anyway) and called a fascist, socialist, and communist (at the same time!) by detractors on the Right and you've won a majority vote in multiple elections, then you could be either FDR or Barack Obama.  Here's to hoping for policy innovation and stronger social spending--and not another world war!