The Unbiased Eye

A scientist's commentary on events and culture

Archive for September 2011

Fat Chance

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The guy from New Jersey has no chance. No chance whatsoever. I know he is being heralded by the news media on Wednesday, when he entered the strange Republican race for the presidential nomination by saying he was not a candidate at the Reagan Library.

That’s how they all do it. I’m not running, I’m not running … OK, you want me to run, I’ll run. Like a horse race. The loser horses jump out of the starting gate hoping beyond hope. The real horses, the ones who are supposed to win hold back. The bettors have a great time speculating when the winners will make their moves. Chris Christie

So Christie is a candidate no matter what he says (see the Washington Post for a more complete argument or this in New York Magazine) and he can’t win.

It’s so simple that it should make you laugh. He’s too short. He is 5-foot-9, and he would be running against a man who is 6-foot-1. Height disadvantage is well-documented in politics and business. On average, tall people earn more, win more promotions. And for a guy, tall guys win more girls. All this attacks the self-esteem. I know something whereof I speak. I’m a good couple inches shorter than Christie — more Bloomberg size.

We have had a couple presidents were 5-9 in the last 50 years. Truman was one, and Carter was another. That’s it. Even Bush 2 was 5-11 (and a half). But they all had an extremely tough time.

Christie is also, well, … He’s supposed to be someone who speaks bluntly, so I guess I can. He’s overweight. By a lot. You can look at any of the presidents since Franklin Roosevelt, and they’re all quite trim.

I can hear the partisans complaining that the campaign is about issues. I suppose we ought to forget all those ugly undercurrents about our urban president, too.

But I tried to listen to Christie’s message in the speech. I’m not a fan of political speeches, in general. They are unfailingly boring and almost all of us cede the job of listening and distilling to sound bites to the news media. I tried to listen. He went on and on with misstatements about Ronald Reagan and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He finally got around to the same old right-wing Republican song — albeit without the Baptist spin — about government and taxes: the nation-killing Roadmap for America. On the national level, that plan could do grave damage to our country. Unemployment is high and the economy stagnant. but if those people ever got their way, people would be forced to sell apples on the street corners or to hit the road. That’s another story.

As a governor who’s bent on imposing these right-wing ideas, he really doesn’t have much room to maneuver. The American economy is national economy, and not even the White House has much control of it. This is a capitalist country and a considerable amount of the power, and most of the economy, is solidly under the control of a few hundred giant corporate bureaucracies and the amorphous securities market.

If you need a short history of the economy today, repeat this: The entire banking industry imploded, nearly sinking our entire way of life, and in a very tangible way, the government — yes the hated, inefficient government — bailed out those banks and a couple other giant corporations, and saved the economy.

Christie and the rest of them are making a cynical bet that you won’t remember what happened to the banks in 2008, that you won’t even begin to suspect that the parts of the government you use (but don’t think about) are likely to be hurt, that you won’t realize that your taxes will not go down and that you won’t realize to what extent their program is nation-killing.

If you are not earning at least $400,000 a year (in Christie’s view a tax hike for millionaires would affect the near-poor $400,000-a-year crowd), their program offers you nothing. If you really believe that a millionaire will use his tax cut to give your brother-in-law a job, why not ask one to explain all the opportunities they would offer — if only the government would keep its hands off.

Despite all the bluster and all the promises, the school systems of New Jersey will survive Christie’s attack and life will go on. Maybe he can cut a deal or two with businesses by offering huge tax breaks, but remember he’s competing with people like Rick Perry in Texas, and no one can cut a deal like that man.

Meanwhile, we will have many more of these speeches about American exceptionalism, which means anything you want it to mean. I think it means, don’t worry kids: big business will save you, just get rid of big government. It means, trust us, your betters.

And we’ve all seen them in 2008 when the multi-million-dollar bankers sat in front of the cameras with their hands stretched out and conceded that the system got away from them.


Written by theunbiasedeye

September 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm