A Funny Thing Happened…
A funny thing happened on the way to the bottom of my coffee cup today. Today was a day that started like normal. I got out of bed and walked downstairs to let Miles out to do his morning essentials, and commune with the bunnies that fill the yard between sundown and sunrise every night. While Miles goes out, I scoop out some coffee beans, grind them for a few seconds longer than it really takes optimally, and get the coffee pot started. Miles is usually back at the door by the time I have the coffee maker started, with some variance based upon how many bunnies he runs into on that particular morning.
I open the door just wide enough to let a 95 pound yellow lab in because it is 19 degrees right now, and then close it just after the tip of his tail crosses the threshold. I turn, and grab my vitamins, and then pour my coffee as the last thing before leaving the kitchen and sitting down with my iPad to read The NY Times. The only thing I add to my coffee beans is water and heat, so I like it to be as close to the temperature it was when it was poured once I have my first sip.
The funny thing that I refer to is a new understanding. That new understanding is provided by Michelle Goldberg in her excellent column in the Times. I hope you can all access it. For those of you who enjoy coffee, or maybe even just require it medicinally, the experience is that of waking your mind up every morning. For some of you, it may be tea. Most of us take the caffeine infusion every morning, and watch our mental marbles take their places for whatever we plan to use them for that day. Goldberg’s column today is that, only on a grand scale. The morning in this case is about 40 years long.
There is a concept that another columnist has referred to that he calls “zombie lies.” They are lies that don’t seem to ever die no matter how much evidence comes along to refute them. The columnist in this particular case is Paul Krugman who has referred to such false concepts for many years. One such concept is supply side economics. Reagan rode the wave of a false notion that said that tax cuts create GDP growth. This particular notion has led to decades of fiscal error generally, after maybe one case of success specifically. Reaganomics, as George H.W. Bush once referred to it, does not work as a principle. The event that I thought would kill it off for all time was the GOP response to the Great Recession in 2008-09. George W. Bush and his Treasury Secy Hank Paulson sought a massive Keynesian bailout of Wall Street, which conflicted with their anti-Keynesian principles. Surely the zombie lie of supply side was dead now.
Sure enough, the zombie rose again. Watching this process repeat with this concept and others over the past couple of decades, I began to wonder about the capacities of human intellect broadly. I often used the image of bug zappers, and said we are more like a swarm of bugs getting zapped by reality than we are not like them. As a child I pondered why bugs did not seem to learn from the obvious in front of them, and as an adult, I wondered the same about humans.
Anyway, Michelle Goldberg’s column fixed all of that. I do so love when a piece of information comes along to provide clarity. This is definitely one of those times. Goldberg referred to a book by Stephen Skowronek, and his concept of “political time.” These run in 40-60 year cycles, and essentially explain that the Trump presidency was just the dying of the Reagan cycle. According to this concept, Jimmy Carter, and Herbert Hoover were also the final chapters of presidential cycles, which gave rise to new eras. There are similarities, and they are fascinating, if not also illuminating.
What’s more, it points to the notion that Joe Biden is a new chapter in this presidential time theory. If you are following along with what has been happening overt the last 9 days since Biden became president, he has been surprisingly more progressive than most expected. This column, and Skowronek’s book, provide a clue as to why that may actually be happening. So, in a time when we could use some optimism, this analysis provides both optimism and clarity.