Tuesday, February 24, 2009

George Lakoff on The Obama Code

Another great post on FiveThirtyEight.com, this time by guest columnist George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at UC-Berkeley.

Lakoff talks about several issues closely related to this blog that Obama is expected to discuss during tonight's address:
  • Values over Programs -- the need to separate what government programs accomplish over the programs themselves
  • Empathy-based policy -- governing by acting in everyone's best interests, not just your own (or your Party's)
  • Biconceptualism -- finding common ground with traditional opponents and working together on those shared values
  • Protection and empowerment -- does government "work" to keep us safe and provide opportunity for all
  • Morality and Economics -- i.e. budgets are "moral documents"
  • Systemic Causation and Systemic Risk -- consequences, and risk, are not always directly related to actions, but instead are tied to a complex system, be that economic or environmental
  • Contested Concepts and Patriotic Language -- "freedom" meant something different when George W. Bush described it while at the same time authorizing domestic wiretapping programs; Obama will try to restore the common meaning
It's a long essay, and clearly Lakoff is coming at this as an Obama supporter, but his points are very interesting and worth a read. I firmly believe that many of the values Obama is trying to convey are truly American values. Partisan politics have poisoned both sides into taking harsh stands opposing (or supporting) policies based on political rather than moral grounds. If minds are kept open and partisanship set aside, we can do great things.

Note in this case I don't think bipartisanship simply means compromising and making concessions to the other side. Certainly that's a part of it, but I think both sides need to dig themselves out of their right vs. left posturing and look at all of our struggles and opportunities from a different perspective that allows them to take a new stock of the situation.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Rising Tide that Lifted All Boats

The chart below is from an entry on www.fivethirtyeight.com called The Clinton Economic Record and Rising Tides. In that post, Nate Silver breaks down the effects of White House economic policies from Nixon/Ford through Bush 43.

A quick glance shows the obvious:
  • Nixon/Ford policies were favorable to the rich, and oddly favorable to the very poor at the same time (an anomoly Silver suggests may be more to the delayed effect of LBJ's "Great Society" programs)
  • The Carter years were economically tough, but there may have been some upper-income benefits from the period's high inflation
  • Reagan/Bush showed improvements for everyone, but their policies steering wealth towards upper income levels were extremely successful -- for the wealthy, of course
  • During Clinton, a rising tide lifted all boats
  • Bush 43's policies were not successful for ANYONE, and they were simply DISASTROUS for the lowest income levels
Silver provides excellent analysis to these trends, and I don't want to steal any more of his thunder, so read his article for its even-handed breakdown of what was successful, not successful, and what kinds of policies can help everyone going forward.