It’s all about … jobs

Rupert Murdoch's New York Post lauded McMahon's executive abilities with this caption: "Hustler without the porn: Linda McMahon got rich off the cultural pollution of World Wrestling Entertainment." (NY Post, June 1, 2010)

I’m sitting here looking at a nice glossy brochure that Linda McMahon, the Republican Senate candidate to replace Christopher J. Dodd, mailed to me. She sends me something every day. I read each piece cover to cover with coffee like I used to read the New York Times. (Actually I rarely read the B or D sections of the Times and most days not the C section and it was usually too much effort to find the jump in the A section, but otherwise I read a lot of each issue.) There’s no question, however, but that Linda’s pieces are much more satisfying. The ink doesn’t rub off on your hands. There are no annoying paragraphs; everything is written in bullet points. You don’t have to worry about advertisements — the whole thing is an advertisement. And best of all there are lots of pictures. Not black and white photos of people in Turkmenistan. Pictures of Linda McMahon, getting down to business. Big, glossy pictures of Linda looking visionary. This is a woman who made a fortune in a world of staged violence, real steroids, lunatic but quite limited fans, and an entertainment culture that panders to the worst instincts, has no moderation and believes in no principle except everyone for himself and make as much as you can any way you can. Linda’s a poster girl for the New Republican Party.

Linda knows how to put people to work.

I say Linda because I have really come to know her. She writes me every day. Or at least she hires someone to write me every day. I’ve gotten more mail from Linda than I have gotten from my mother during my entire life. And Linda’s pieces convey more than a mere letter possibly can. That’s because they depend on pictures. The brochure I’m looking at now is “All About … Jobs” (hence the title of this post; I’ve learned a great deal about the value of simple repetition from her mailings). This brochure has a large picture of Linda on the ground floor of an office or apartment building. There’s no one there — because there are no jobs! get it! — except the two men who are with Linda leaning over a plastic covered cardboard box. One man, with his back to us, is holding what looks like dirt, or coffee grinds, or perhaps rodent droppings. (I’d put the photo up but I’m sure you’ve gotten the same mailing. She sends it to everyone. I saw a National Geographic special on the Yanomamo Indians where many of the things she sent me were hanging on the walls of their huts.) Linda is looking right at the dirt-grinds-feces and is even reaching for it. The other man is looking at what she’s doing with rapt attention. It really conveys the sense that Linda is a take charge kind of person. The kind we need now. And although it never says what she is doing, you just know that she has the look of a jobs-creating visionary. Where other people see only dirt-grinds-pooh, she sees opportunity.

Venezuelan who regularly receives Linda's mailings agrees that if the marginal tax rate is increased on those earning more than $250,000 many of those now employed in raiding other villages will just give up and go back to licking poison dart frogs.

There was a time when Democrats talked about jobs. In 1984 the Democratic presidential candidate, Walter Mondale, was talking about a full employment economy. What a doofus! Didn’t he get “Morning in America”? Weren’t we watching our mutual funds rise? What else is government supposed to do? If the unemployed didn’t want to open up a mutual fund, that was their business. If they were simply too lazy to read the Wall Street Journal and take a course in day trading, what could we or anybody else do to help them?

Then came Bill Clinton. Clinton was elected with 40% of the popular vote and that signified to official Washington that he had a mandate for the “third way” of the Democratic Leadership Council. He proposed a balanced budget which so enraged the Republicans that to a man they voted against it and swept the Democrats out of the majority. With the Democrats no longer getting in the way of business, Clinton put his imprimatur on the “Neo-Liberal Consensus.” That doctrine holds that unemployment around 5 or 6% is about right and indeed necessary for optimal stock growth. Any higher employment might bring dreaded inflation. Higher unemployment, on the other hand, was unfortunate but what can you do? Somebody had to make sacrifices to ensure that Capital got its reward. And it is a small price that the unemployed have to pay; after all, they aren’t doing any work anyway. If for some reason, like mismanagement by business or excessive competition, the economy accidentally creates more jobs than the Neo-Liberal Consensus considers desirable, the government can always devise trade and tax measures to encourage the exportation of jobs. That’s the limit of what government can do for the economy. Since then, Democrats have stopped talking about jobs. Jobs are so 1930s.

Neil, Jeb and Pops gave George the Rangers because he couldn't figure out how to plunder a S&L. He traded away Sammy Sosa and made $18 million selling his share back. This guy understood business and understood taxes. Both Bush Administrations emphasized the same things: war, recession and systemic bank failure.

Even with this great innovation by Clinton, there was still one thing missing to allow Capitalism to unleash the magic needed to allow people to buy as many Hummers and flat screen TVs as their estates can accommodate. The missing ingredient? The so-called “Bush Tax Cuts.” George W. Bush ran on the principle that the Clinton budget surpluses were going to cripple our economy. His recipe? Financial deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy. When the mini-recession of his first term arose, the exact same tax plan was trotted out as a Keynesian remedy. (Tax cuts work are the solution to every evil. Deflation, inflation, recession, over-heated economy, you name it. Tax cuts, especially regressive ones, have been known to cure hemorrhoids.) And so the Great Bush Tax Cuts were passed and they began to work their magic. By the time Bush ran for re-election there were fewer jobs than when he was inaugurated. It was the first time this happened since the days of Herbert Hoover. The Democrats, however, decided to run, not on jobs, but on the ground that their candidate was a war hero. Oddly, when a group of right-wingers started a campaign saying he wasn’t, no one pointed out that this was a lie. Oh well, at least employment didn’t play into that result.  That would have been class warfare. And Democrats want no part of that.

Toward the end of Bush’s second term, we saw the real magic of his policies in action. As World Capitalism became constipated, the plutocrats who ran it were taking out bonuses equivalent to the GDP of entire African countries. And they paid at the lower Bush Tax Rate. Banks failed and it looked like the Mayan prediction of the end of life as we know it was coming true four years too soon. So Bush turned everything to his Secretary of the Treasury. (Bush had totally checked out at that point. He was planning what part of his future library would be the video game room. Any way, he had been told by his family not to get involved in anything complicated, given his history of screwing things up. So don’t blame him.) Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Paulson came to the rescue of global capitalism just in the nick of time. His solution was elegant. He gave immense infusions of cash to the failing banks without any meaningful conditions. So because they didn’t have to, the banks continued to refuse to lend money to anyone. They used it to buy other banks and to pay executive compensation. Some people at the time thought that this showed that Paulson had mishandled the situation. But not Democrats. Democrats realized that if those plutocrats were unable to take out unconscionably large bonuses and pay next to no taxes, they would probably have acted very meanly to the rest of us and we might have seen a crisis unlike anything since the Great Depression. Maybe worse. Without those bonuses and tax cuts, the production of flat screen TVs and import of BMWs might have come to a screeching halt. And then where would we be? No jobs, no flat screen TVs and no BMWs. Worse than the Great Depressions. But I digress. This is really about Linda McMahon and her fellow Republicans and their ideas.

There is really no reason for a person to sit at home without a job when Linda McMahon as Senator can teach everyone how to make money doing this. If you need to use steroids, that's your business. She's officially against it.

All About … Jobs. (I have to admit I’m somewhat worried about that ellipsis in her material. But she probably just thinks that an ellipsis indicates a dramatic pause. Surely someone like Linda McMahon wouldn’t be hiding something, right?) So what is this jobs plan? Well, it mostly involves the fact that Linda made a lot of money in business. It’s the same plan that Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, Carl Paladino and most other Republican have. The major difference seems to be that the women don’t appear as obsessed with pornography, bestiality and racism as Paladino is. Linda made her fortune in the business of soft core porn so she might be the closest in ideology to Carl — but Carl is running for governor, so they probably won’t get to knock heads on any national S&M/B&D  jobs initiative.

Linda stands behind such innovative business practices as simulated necrophilia on television. She'd like to show you her ideas in full, but given that the video this picture is from is "intellectual" property, WWE yanked it from YouTube.

Linda’s own business is a key feature in her campaign because she says in the very mailing I hold in my hand, “Politicians Don’t Know How to Create Jobs … Linda McMahon Does.” (Again that troubling ellipsis.) So a brief review of her career is invited. According to a loving portrait of the politician as a young girl in Wikipedia, Linda Edwards was the only child of parents who worked at a Marine base in North Carolina. She wanted to be a pediatrician but married Vince McMahon, who she met when she was 13, when she was 17 and therefore studied French rather than pre-med. Vince began their married life as a travelling paper cup salesman until he moved to Maryland to promote his father’s wrestling company. Linda helped out by becoming a secretary at Covington & Burling’s Washington office where she trained to be a paralegal in the probate department. This combination of haphazard semi-legal training and background in paper cup promotion proved pivotal in creating one of the powerhouses of American industry, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. Although Vince became the CEO and dominant media personality, Linda rightly takes credit for the phenomenal growth of the company which went from a sleepy fake wrestling organization to a real smut entertainment outfit. Among the more innovative business techniques that the McMahons introduced to help create jobs was public necrophilia acts, abuse of women and the mentally handicapped, forced “ass kissing,” and explicit on air sexual references to their daughter. Not that Linda was an uncaring mother. Far from it. In an interview with Seth Mates published on the WWE Website in October 2001, Linda McMahon explained how she counseled her daughter, as all mothers do, on how to select breast augmentation methods. Says Linda:

“My first concerns are always with health issues. Stephanie had thoroughly investigated the procedure, and she had answers to all the questions that I asked, and so I felt comfortable that if that was something that she wanted to do, then she should proceed, and she had my full support.”

After a disappointing ratings season, husband Vince began a segment involving dropping his drawers and insisting that people kiss his behind. No wonder Linda has such moxie.

Unfortunately you can’t read the full interview because it’s been blocked by the WWE’s robot.txt from appearing on web.archive.org. The complexities of copyright law, which she learned about at Covington & Burling, have greatly hampered her ability to show the voters how her business acumen worked in the rough and tumble world of real business. That’s a shame. When Linda stepped down to run for Senate, most of the YouTube videos which had been allowed up to promote WWE, were pulled as the “intellectual” property of WWE. Just when we really needed to see what kind of an intellectual Linda was. But, worry not, you can get a taste of Linda’s “… jobs … program” here, so long as you state you are over 18. This video contains clips of programs that the McMahons broadcast on TV. But you probably should not watch it at work, unless you have your own office. Because until Linda gets to Washington, there are still some laws against sexual harassment.

I won’t go into the steroids scandal at WWE, because making money off of sex, drugs and rock and roll is as American as the Beatles. Err, the Rolling Stones. I mean KISS. Needless to say all of that was necessary to accomplish step one of Linda’s ” … jobs … program.”  We can summarize it simply as follows:

Step 1: Make millions of dollars.

I’m not sure how Christine O’Donnell’s job plan fits in with this. Her plan seems to be: spend, don’t earn, and live off campaign contributions, according to her former campaign manager Kristin Murray in a recorded message to the voters of Delaware. But I’m not going to get involved in the minutiae of how making millions of dollars can be reconciled with being broke and having your house foreclosed upon as the first step of a “… job’s program …” It seems to me it’s a mere technicality. Anyway, they all agree on the second step.

Step 2: Do not increase taxes on those who have made millions of dollars.

Yes, yes, they are worried about the deficit. They complain about it all the time. But we can’t tackle the deficit problem at the expense of the exorbitantly wealthy. Everyone knows that. Even Jim Himes, millionaire Greenwich Democrat representing a district of Linda’s own Connecticut (he is Linda’s congressman in fact) has sent a letter to the Democratic leadership saying that the middle of a recession is not the time to ask the obscenely wealthy for financial support. It’s good to see a Democratic congressman able to set aside rank partisanship to join hands with other millionaires, “across the aisle” as they say, to protect their own personal fortunes. Politics is one thing, but class solidarity — that’s priceless. It’s especially important  today, when the Census Department Department revealed that 1 in 7 Americas is living in poverty, the highest proportion since before the War on Poverty began in the mid-1960s, especially now, I repeat, is not the time to ask for a sacrifice from the very, very rich. Since the bottom 15% is really in bad shape, we should not do any damage to the top 0.005% — we should at least have some segment of our population doing ok. And that segment just happens to be the filthy rich.

Linda's daughter Stephanie McMahon role playing on WWE. I'm not sure if this is the episode in which she pretends to be pregnant. I think that had something to do with their families values campaign. This looks like it was taped some time after the Mom-Daughter implantation talk.

Now this makes sense morally and economically. Morally, the rich earned everything they have. Carly Fiorina, for example, cashed in on her golden parachute when she was forced out of Hewlett-Packard because the stock price fell 50% during her tenure as CEO. Carly, just as an example, more than earned her millions, having to hear the slander that she was the 19th worst CEO in the history of American business. After all, she had a good case to be at least 8. Linda is another example. Having her family disgrace themselves for money certainly entitles them to all they can get their hands on. Nobody begrudges Ron Jeremy his fortune.

Empirical evidence

Economically, step 2 is also unassailable. It’s been explained over and over by intellectuals ranging from Arthur Laffer to Sarah Palin that cutting taxes — of any kind, for any reason, under any circumstance, no matter what, as long as most of the benefit goes to the rich — is good public policy. It’s been proven empirically too. Note the empirical evidence on the right. Any idiot can see that it is empirical evidence. But even if you don’t have a B.S. in B.S. it just goes to reason. Take the examples we’ve been using: Carly, Meg, Carl and Linda. After they made money, they put it to work creating jobs right? They took their hard-earned money and decided to try to buy an elective office. And what offices! Governor of California, Senator from California, Governor of New York! If you or I were going to buy an office, what could we afford? PTA rep? Library trustee? OK, maybe Senator from Delaware. That one doesn’t seem to require anyone who has earned any money. But these other Republicans, you got to hand it to them. They are not just seeking an office for their own narcissistic needs; they are employing people. Look at Linda. There’s the guy who keeps taking picture after picture of her looking at rat poop until it shows just the right level of concern and vision. I wonder if it’s the same cameraman who taped the sex in a coffin bit for WWE. And don’t forget the guy who collected the rat poop. And the printers and the makers of the glossy paper stock. The employment is endless. My only concern is that she uses the US Post Office. Isn’t that feeding the beast? Shouldn’t she have gotten someone to take the mailings around personally? But it’s hard to criticize. If you or I were doing it, who would we employ? That lazy brother-in-law who hasn’t had a job in 3 years? And as soon as the voters picked someone else for assistant poll watcher, he’d be back before the TV set again. That’s the good thing about these Republicans. The gravy never ends even if they win. Especially if they win. Once they’re in office, think of all the spending that the lobbyists will then do. And Republicans are not cheap dates. Plus Republicans like Linda and Carl and Fiorina will have to have people write their speeches, to arrange their lunches with lobbyists and prayer breakfasts with groups like Christians against Health Care, and to pick up the dry cleaning and figure out what kind of power outfit to wear when voting to end Social Security.

The final step doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me. It involves a whole bunch of things that seem unconnected: “increase the use of clean-burning nuclear power,” from McMahon’s brochure (they burn nuclear power?), ending “Card Check” (McMahon’s brochure claims that “legislation like a national energy tax and ‘Card Check'” — which have not been enacted — “have slowed our economic recovery.”), ending-off budget expenditures, stopping “cap-and-trade” and so forth. I guess these things can be summarized as

Step 3: Let rich people do whatever the hell they want to. They earned it, didn’t they?

I probably phrased this inartfully. I’m hoping that tomorrow’s letter from Linda might provide more details on how to characterize this last point. One thing we do know right now, it will help job creation. Linda says so.

Update [9/19/10]: Now here’s a kick in the pants. After I spent all that time building up Linda’s job creating cred, it turns out she was actually a job destroyer. The Shiva of WWE jobs as it were. According a January 9, 2010 press release by WWE, in the waning weeks of the last Republican Administration (remember him?), WWE laid off 10% of its staff. Linda was the spokesperson herself. She said it was a good idea!

“These efficiencies will help position the Company for the long term, by placing it in a stronger, more flexible position,” said Linda McMahon, CEO, WWE.  “With these actions, we believe we can execute our key strategic initiatives, including our digital strategy and international expansion, in a more profitable manner.”

Wow. I thought it was the politicians who destroyed jobs.

To make the whole job destruction even more dramatic, WWE hired guards to escort the employees out of the building. (See she did create [one day temporary] jobs!) It turned out, to everyone’s great disappointment, that the guards were unarmed. Nobody could have blamed Linda if she had armed the guards; her feelings must have been hurt when they called it the “Titan Tower Massacre.” That kind of talk normally justifies a big employer like Linda to call in the Pinkertons.

I may have to write Linda to get her take on the job destruction. I haven’t read about it in any of her mailings.

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  1. Accountability Autumn Follows “Recovery” Summer

    We are at the end of Recovery Summer and beginning of Accountability Autumn. Our incumbent congressman, Jim Himes, is running for re-election in a tough economic and political climate for incumbents with his voting record. Across the country, incumbents such as Himes are downplaying their votes for the stimulus, Obamacare, and record deficits. While Congressman Himes may be vulnerable this year, the 2010 election may also be a great opportunity for him if he is able to survive. That is because 2010 will be as bad as it gets for Himes in terms of accountability. If he can get a majority of voters to accept the status quo, then he will be practically invulnerable in future elections. Generally, incumbents face their toughest re-election battle after their freshman term. In this case, Himes’ first term ends amidst 10% unemployment and two out of three voters in his district under the belief that Washington is on the wrong track. If he can overcome those odds, then he can do anything –- set aside his campaign season moderation and vote how he pleases in the future. If Himes can win this election, then Accountability Autumn may become as big a failure as Recovery Summer. So the question before the voters is whether or not the status quo is good enough? Because there may not be another chance at an Accountability Autumn like this one.

  2. Wishy washy as Jim Himes is he has one advantage this election. His opponent, Dan Debicella, will make any thinking person of good will hesitate to sit out the election and allow a Republican to take the district. Debicella would make Chris Shays, the Republican Himes ousted, look like a statesman.

    Among the “big ideas” of Debicella is to repeal what (little) remains of the 2009 stimulus and return it (regressively?) as a tax cut. Republicans sing a one note samba on that point, and maybe they have actually convinced themselves that such a course is for the public good. God knows they have been saying it long enough, despite all the evidence before their eyes. But on this particular point we’ve seen in both the Moody’s Analytic report and the report on the CBO concerning the stimulus that the tax cut proportion have extremely small stimulus effect. (You can find a discussion of these by searching this blog. The posts have links to the reports.) So “public good” in this case comes down to “my own self interest as a rich person.” Debicella may not be the same kind of overtly bizarre, self-promotional, rapacious, amoral politician that McMahon is but they are members of the same club and will be working for the same goal. When it comes to greed, Republicans and their backers are a tightly-knit, efficient group. And their tools are kept on a short leash. If there were any doubt, consider that the source of the drive-by pro-Debicella comment someone from a New Canaan, Connecticut hedge fund. Hedge funds managers would seem to be the last group that should be lecturing on “accountability.”

    I won’t even go into Debicella’s deceptive campaign. It’s enough to know his goals. As we know, people with those goals don’t give a fig about the means. Look at the Senate nominee he is running with.

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