Now that the US appears to have avoided its fiscal cliff (albeit briefly), I’m sure we all await an update from the Treasurer on the status of his “failure is not an option” budget surplus-now-deficit.
Despite emphatically claiming for the last 2 years that his government “has delivered a surplus in 2012-13”, Mr Swan snuck in a quiet “surplus now unlikely” statement just before Christmas. I guess we now know that failure is indeed an option for Labor.
But while many of us were visiting family, working our way through the leftover Christmas ham, and taking a well-earned rest, our fearless Treasurer was working doubly hard - to apportion blame.
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Julia Gillard is now faced with a troubling sets of numbers. This week Labor’s primary vote slumped four per cent in the final Newspoll of the year. This was not part of the PM’s Christmas script.
With the end of the year in sight, the PM had hoped to emerge on the other side of summer having convinced her caucus that she had begun to turn things around. Instead, and owing most likely to the muck of the AWU affair, voters abruptly ended the good run that Labor appeared to have been enjoying since July.
It has delivered a December body blow to the more sanguine among her caucus who had believed that Gillard had finally broken the hoodoo - and had returned the Government to a position of being potentially competitive at next years election.
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This morning Treasurer Wayne Swan took a big swipe at Romney’s party, saying it was full of “cranks and crazies”. He was having a go at the Tea Party, who he thinks would be responsible for the US economy going off a “fiscal cliff”.
The Republican Party does have its fair share of cranks and crazies.
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It is now beyond doubt that the 2012 US presidential election will be all about the US economy and which candidate can convince the majority of voters that he or she can do the best job of managing it. If you find this a depressing scenario you are not alone.
Virtually all international media coverage of America’s recent debt ceiling crisis carried with it a sense of disbelief as to how the United States could come so close to defaulting on its debt obligations when its capacity to pay them simply required a rubber stamp.
However the incredulity of so many of the world’s political commentators reveals more about their lack of basic knowledge of American history, and in particular how powerful the folklore of the “Founding Fathers” is to many citizens of the United States.
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American satirist HL Mencken once observed that democracy is the pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. Witnessing the latest efforts of the reactionary wing of Australian politics to develop a local branch office of the Tea Party, misanthropic as it may seem, one must concede perhaps Mencken had a point.
Of course, over-the-top rallies are not strange occurrences in Australian political life. Labor has been traditionally associated with uncouth Trade Unions demos, the Greens with hippies blockading various environmental degradations, and of course conservative parties show up at various meetings of annoyed farmers and frustrated middle-class types.
Obviously politicians of all stripes try to utilise such groundswells to further their own agendas, rather than the interests of the masses they claim to represent.
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It’s a strategy that President Obama’s spin team employed when he was neck-deep in political hot water over an incredibly unpopular health care policy – demonise the critics.
Instead of addressing valid criticisms, damn the people making them.
Witness the way the groundswell “Tea Party” movement was wrongly characterised by most of the mainstream media in the US and here as well. There’s a derisory edge, almost a snigger, whenever the media discuss this significant political movement.
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Think we’ve got a new paradigm? Get this: two comedians are positioning themselves as the voices of reason in American politics.
Jon Stewart of The Daily Show and his Comedy Central colleague Stephen Colbert have just announced they will hold rallies at the end of October in Washington D.C. calling for a return to common sense in debate in the US.
This is in response to last month’s rally led by conservative commentator Glenn Beck calling for a restoration of “traditional values” to American life. That rally, held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, was well-attended by members of the Tea Party movement, a loose anti-taxation, anti-establishment grassroots movement which has just managed to get some of its members installed as Republican candidates for the US Senate.
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