What is Black and Blue and Red All Over?

*Posted by Kirk Spencer


As Americans, we are held together by our common life, our shared fortunes and the sacred honor of being part of such a great country.  Beyond these ties, we have the strong political bands of our constitution.  This certainly does not mean that we don’t have our differences.  We certainly do—as we always have.  This is especially clear during election cycles.  But even in the midst of elections, even with all the passions of our various opinions, even with all the black and white issues, and an economy that is black and blue, when we go to the polls we go as one country—the very act of standing next to each other and casting our vote (whether for the red party or the blue party), shows that the United States is still united—that our political bands still bind us together.

And the election is not just about electing.  The results of the election—the data about who we chose, as well as the consequences of our choices—are a kind of representational art.  This information is like colorful paint.  It’s just that everybody seems to want to talk about their impressions and rarely talk about the paint (data) itself.  And even when they do talk about the “paint” it is usually as it sits on the pallet.  So I thought I would put “paint to canvass” in a work I call “Black & Blue and Red All Over” (If you click on the image at the top of the post you can see a larger version of this work, showing more detail.)  When you first look at it, don’t get lost in the details.  Just enjoy its form and symmetry and the vibrant pulse of colors, some hot and some cold.  Maybe even notice that it appears as a clock, or a compass, or a pit, each appropriate.  Spiraling clockwise around the edge is a streak of blood red that grows like a wound ever widening.  At the center or the bottom, like being viewed through a telescope or microscope is an image of our country divided between the big blue cities, east and west, and, in between, the red conservative heart of the heartland.  This is the centerpiece which shows very clearly the recent ideological division of our country where the urban centers, especially on the coasts, are distinctly dominated by Democrat ideology (blue) and the other regions of the country favor a Republican ideology (red).  This is one way to “read” the colors:

BLUE RED
The Democrat Party favors: The Republican Party favors:
Strong centralized federal government Strong state and local governments
Acting at a distance Acting close to home
Through top-down taxing and spending Through bottom-up free enterprise
With a more liberal social philosophy With a more conservative social philosophy

It should not be surprising that the New Deal Democratic Party, that emphasizes top-down decision making, would dominate in urbanized areas that are comfortable with communal hierarchical top-down power structures (universities, big business, unions, government workers).   Beyond these urban centers, there are still remnants of individualism and its innate desire for self-reliance, personal service and solving your own problems and doing it from the bottom-up without becoming dependent on a higher more centralized government.  This clear ideological distribution pattern demonstrates the genius of the founding fathers in fashioning an electoral college to spread out power geographically, so that a popular majority in the big cities (and big states) could not lord it over the minority throughout the country.

This “big picture” is made of ideas and their consequences, so I encourage those who see it to contemplate what it means about where we have been and where we may be going.  It is a clock and a compass of sorts.  I hope it brings to mind this question:  “Does anybody really know what time it is and does anybody really care?

As I was “painting,” here are some things I noticed:

  • There seems to be a kind of political “heart-beat.”   This might be due to an American sense of fair play where people think that parties should “take turns.”  Or it might be that eventually the party in power will make enough mistakes that they need to go.  Or it may be that with such a powerful and partisan media, the party in power is certain to show its human frailty and the media will “eat them alive.”  Or it might be that people just get bored with the status quo and want to try something new—change for change sake.
  • The “heart-beat” skips a beat from time to time and the incumbent doesn’t return to office.
  1. Johnson – The Vietnam War splintered the Democratic Party into at least four parts and the media generated a “credibility gap” between the public and their president.
  2. Carter – A continuing “stagnant” and inflationary economy caused a rising “misery index” throughout the country with long lines just to get a tank of gas—capped by the inability to solve the Iran Hostage Crisis.
  3. George Herbert Walker Bush – Recession, rising national deficits and the 1990 compromise with Democrats was seen as a breaking of the convention promise where he said publically “Read my lips, no new taxes!”

[In light of these things, it is interesting that President Obama also has a very slow recovery from a recession, growing misery index, foreign embassy crisis, widening credibility gap, rising national deficits and many broken promises, even with a filibuster-proof congress.  The only other time in the last fifty years that a president had a filibuster-proof congress (meaning he had complete control of two branches of the government) was at the beginning of the Carter Administration.  It will be interesting to see if history repeats itself.]

  • In the Kennedy and Reagan Administrations there seems to be a connection to the reduction of the tax rate on the top tax bracket and an increase in the productivity of the country (GDP).  This is the formula:  If the government allows the wealthy to keep more of their money, they will invest it in the economy and this will provide more industry, more jobs and more products and services.  However, it should be noticed that the effects are not continuous but only last for a particular period of time (So the tax rate should be dropped until GDP rises for a year or so and then raised so that it can be dropped again in the future when needed).  Also, this formula does not necessarily solve the deficit problems unless the Government stops spending at high rates, especially on wars and armament.
  • After 1980, there seems to be an alternating of Party control of the congress and the presidency.  Only in rare cases have both the Congress and the Presidency been controlled by the same party.  And only once in this period did the President have a Filibuster Proof Congress and thus total control of two branches of government.   That was about a 6 month period during the Obama Administration.
  • In the elections of 60, 76 and 08, there were recessions followed quickly by the election of a Democrat president.  It makes sense that during times of economic crisis the country would believe they needed a strong centralized federal government to solve the economic problems, the Democrat Party being the obvious option.   However, in the early 1960s, the way that JFK solved the economic problems was actually very “Republican” by today’s standards.  JFK dropped the tax rate on the highest tax bracket, allowing them to keep their money and invest it in the economy in wise investments to be productive and make money.  Facing a similar recession, in 2008, BHO did not lower the tax rate on the top tax bracket. Thus, he did not allow them to keep the money and invest it in the economy in wise investments to be productive and make money. Rather, he and the Democrat controlled congress invested the money themselves in what is called “stimulus spending.” This shows the difference in ideology.  JFK believed that the rich who got rich by investing knew how to invest to make money and strengthen the economy (which would be good for everybody).  BHO believed that the Federal Government knew better how to invest the money to strengthen the economy.  There are hundreds of law suits contesting how the stimulus money was spent, much of it being given to cronies and risky “green industry” ventures which have since failed.  Even companies that were showcased during the publication of stimulus spending have gone bankrupt and taken the stimulus money with them.  I heard that they put Uncle Joe Biden in charge of making sure there was no hanky-panky and malarkey in how the stimulus money was spent, the same Uncle Joe put in charge of getting an agreement with the new government in Iraq before we pulled out so that we would have some sense of accomplishment (which did not happen).  The same Uncle Joe we saw recently in the debate—which explains a lot.  (You can see a similar pattern to JFKs strategy of lowering the taxes on the top bracket in the Reagan Administration… this is why the Romney-Ryan Campaign wants to implement this strategy… it has a history.  It just makes sense to let experienced self-interested business people invest in the economy rather than self-interested, inexperienced, crooked, crony politicians.
  • The electoral maps along the outer edge show that, recently, the change that is occurring from election to election is occurring in states that border the Democrat controlled New England States and West Coast States.  The states that are changing are often called “swing states” or “battle-ground states.”  One possible reason for the fact that these “swing states” border Democrat (blue) strongholds is that people with a Democrat ideology are migrating out of these states into the surrounding states.  And why are thy migrating out of the blue states into the red states and making them purple?  Maybe it is the consequences of the Democrat ideology in the form of policy, especially higher state taxes!   If so this explains why so many blue states now have Republican governors.
  • When looking at the growing debt crisis, seen as the bright red “wound,” there was a time that was different.  It was a glorious time of surplus instead of deficit.  It is a period in the Clinton Administration from 1996 to 2002.  When I saw this, I thought, “We need to find out what we were doing then and do it over again.”   I noticed that this is the first time that both houses of congress were controlled by Republicans.  This is not an insignificant thing when you consider that congress is much more responsible for setting economic policy than the president; they hold the purse string, so to speak.  And I have heard that Clinton worked with the Republican Congress during his second term on many important issues, such as Welfare Reform.   However, as best I can tell, the surpluses of those years were due more to luck and “cooking the books,” than to wise political policy.  For instance, this was a time when the internet exploded and the “dot-com industry” with it.  This created a significant rise in GDP.  At the same time the money collected for Social Security was counted toward Government Receipts, when it had not been before.  If this is still the case, then our deficits are even more gargantuan than they appear if compared with what went before because we are still spending Social Security money as part of the budget.   It is something I have noticed in my own personal budget—when I get more money, it somehow quickly evaporates into the economic “fog.”
  • It is also easy to see the unwise nature of the choices during the Bush Administration and their effects on the economy.  It seems that lowering taxes does strengthen the economy, but it serves a priming function and if allowed to continue does not allow it to be reset to use again in the future.  If you drop rates to spur economic growth during a bust, you cannot drop the rates again in the future unless you raise them during times of boom.

“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower (or a war), does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish (without help from China), all who observe it begin to ridicule him…”     Luke 14:28-29

[And the next verses are interesting too, though not very PC in the red camp.]

  • Looking at the electoral maps on the outer circle, on the right side of the circle from 1960 to 1990 there are elections where the electoral country is almost all red or all blue.  However, on the left side, from 1990 to 2012 the blue and red states are much more stable and the changes are mainly along the edges of the blue strongholds.   For instance, in the last five elections, the New England States, the West Coast States and the Great Lake States have gone consistently to the Democratic Party.  This may be the 47% that Romney confused with the 47% that doesn’t pay income tax, which he then confused with the dependent class.  There may be a dependency; it is just an ideological rather than financial dependency.  If so, their minds are probably not going to be changed in this election cycle.  Those states are going to be blue again, so it would be wise for someone who really wanted to win the election “not to care” about them—meaning “not caring” about trying to get their vote, not about their well-being.  Another point of interest, especially in reference to an earlier point, is that the man responsible for publicizing the secretly taped video of Romney’s now infamous “47% comment” is the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter and bears the same name.  It is ironic in that so much of what is happening is a repeat of the Carter years.  All we need is a “Malaise” speech from President Obama.  Maybe that’s what the debates are… a protracted “Malaise” speech.  The difference is that President Carter called for the nation to take blame together for unbridled consumerism and the social and economic crisis it brought.  President Obama just blames the rich, especially one rich man or maybe two.
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