Much Ado about Nothing

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - 12:07 AM

"They say, 'What's your show about?' I say, 'Nothing.'"- Jerry Seinfeld

I was reminded of the Seinfeldian idea, the show about nothing, as I listened to the State of the Union. Don't get me wrong, President Obama said a lot, and some of the things he said I enjoyed hearing, but ultimately it was a speech about nothing.

Our union is strong, said the president, but he also said that the tragedy in Tucson should usher in a new era of cooperation. A strong union does not need a mass murder to teach us about civility.

He said "at stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else," but also supported the children of illegal immigrants or foreign students being put on a path to citizenship. On one hand, Americans lose jobs to foreign countries, on the other they lose jobs to those who broke the law to be here. Is there a difference to the American who lost their job which it is?

There was a lot of talk about the greatness of America, and I truly appreciated that. The language of patriotism shouldn't be only used by the right, and I loved the part about there not being "a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth." To an immigrant like me, those words ring so true.

I also enjoyed the talk about closing the deficit and vetoing any bill which contains earmarks. Of course, these proclamations would mean so much more if there wasn't an unfunded health care bill to consider and a laundry list of projects that Obama hopes will help us "win the future."

Ultimately, these are nice words for a conservative to hear, but the reality — that Obama is unlikely to cut spending in any meaningful way — is something that should concern all Americans who worry that winning the future isn't something we will be able to promise to our burdened children and grandchildren.

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 BabyShe can be followed on Twitter.


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Comments [21]

Marcello from Brooklyn

Here is the thing: who needs “Seinfeld” when we have “Karol's World”, our weekly source of conservative comic relief?
You just cannot make up gems like “Nazis were socialists...” (K. Marcowicz - Jan. 14th 2011), or the historical economic revisionism of “Bubble Boy” Gerard who takes the principle of basic Keynesian expansionary fiscal policy thought in every beginner's Macroeconomic class, and declares it “bizarre” and “absurd”:(“By the way, the bizarre notion that public works projects, and the expanding tentacles of alphabet soup agencies created by FDR, revived the economy is absurd.”).
We even have our own Art Vandeley! (How is the latex import going?...Or was it export?...).
This is just priceless!...
As Karol's points out in her clever roof analogy, we cannot afford to build a new roof because “we have no money, zero dollars”. She is absolutely right! Of course she forgets to specify that we have no money because the federal budget surplus of 236.2 billion dollars left behind by the Clinton administration (fiscal year 2000) was turned into a deficit of 1413.6 billion dollars (fiscal year 2009) by the Bush administration and eight years of conservative policies.
So we can choose to repair the roof and go deeper into debt (not a good choice), or we can choose to die under the ruins of the collapsed roof but with a lighter debt burden.
Whatever the choice, it is worth to remember how the roof got to the current level of disrepair.
Karol states that the road to bankruptcy was paved by frivolous waste (“you have already borrowed to fix the garage, remodel the den...). And once again she is right! The masterful transformation of the budget surplus into a crater of debt accomplished by Bush, was mainly due to large tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and by starting two conflicts, one of which was a war of choice based on lies and deception.
Now she is obviously skeptical about the future, based on Obama's “unfunded health care bill”.
Aside from the fact that the Health Care law is not a public program per se, since it relies on the private insurance market, but in general, based on the history of the last decade, if I were a conservative I would probably try to use the word “unfunded” as little as possible.

Jan. 28 2011 10:06 AM

"buy a collection of overpriced art you can't afford"? what? i couldn't agree more that it is befuddling that WNYC continues to have markovicz as the conservative voice for a forum for intelligent debate. her partisanship distracts from debate. for example, she just can't help putting in comments like "I was enjoying the speech--which means that the mostly liberal WNYC party must not be", which has nothing to do with the content of the subject. her delight at thumbing her nose at other points of view and lumping all "liberals" together overshadows any points she is trying to make (look at the blog on blaming sarah palin). sad for us (and sad for intelligent conservatives).

Jan. 27 2011 12:08 PM
Karol from NYC

Nick from Yukon,

"Anyway about the SOTU, Karol, you should be happy, Obama is becoming more Republican with each passing day!"

I am happy! Mid-speech I tweeted that I was enjoying the speech--which means that the mostly liberal WNYC party must not be. "Don't send a bill to my desk which contains earmarks!" was awesome. More conservative than W.!

Jan. 27 2011 11:07 AM

By the way, the bizarre notion that public works projects, and the expanding tentacles of alphabet soup agencies created by FDR, revived the economy is absurd. Most credible historians and economists-and I don't include Mr. Krugman in the latter category-will tell you the same thing.

The Great Depression lasted for over a decade, and only grew worse under FDR's stewardship. He restrained interstate commerce, set wage and price controls that retarded economic growth, and turned what would have been a severe, but short, recession into the worst period of economic stagnation in American history.

Jan. 27 2011 03:01 AM

"I was using Krugman's words to highlight an example of a well-thought out opinion..."

See, that's where you went wrong.

Jan. 27 2011 02:46 AM
Nick from The Yukon...I mean.. NJ

Great fight!

In defense of Karol:
I despise most of the right punditry. They are awful to listen to, and I need to have up and running full speed in order to sort through their crap and spun lies. Karol, I don't think you are that bad. You get a little scratchy sometimes, but I think that is a good thing. I mean, could you imagine replacing her with Glenn Beck? You can't debate with someone like that because he doesn't make sense. You both look at the sky, it is clearly blue, but he says it's red. How do you have a civil debate about that?

Anyway about the SOTU, Karol, you should be happy, Obama is becoming more Republican with each passing day! Soon he will be declaring war on Venezuela as a premptive strike! I kid, I kid..
I think everyone expected exactly what he said, which made it boring. If he would have reiterated FDR's Second Bill Of Rights, well, then we'd have a reaction!
Socialist! Communist! Socio-Communistic Fascist! New words would have been made up! That would have upped the "emotion" of the speech. But instead he kept it civil and tried to set a legimate attainable plan of action, which, let's face it, is boring! Remember too folks, the 2012 campaign season is currently open....

Jan. 26 2011 08:26 PM
Raymond from Jersey City, NJ

This, from a listener in Brooklyn:

"I do not understand Karol Markowicz's presence on this program, or her voice in the discourse in general. She seems amateur and knee-jerk in her positions and is, frankly, an ineloquent guest. Certainly there are other conservative voices that are better qualified to defend right and right-of-center viewpoints."

Now I suppose Mr. Vandelay could pull out his dictionary to take issue with the words Amateur, Knee-Jerk and Ineloquent, the way he did with my use of the word Ignorant. But why quibble over semantics?

That's the million dollar question. Why come on to this blog using a silly pseudonym to quarrel with a stranger in order to defend the ineptitude of the blogger. Maybe Mr. Vandelay doesn't believe she has the ability to do so herself. Well, at least that much is obvious.

Jan. 26 2011 05:14 PM
Raymond from Jersey City, NJ

Mr. Vandelay,

I do not think anyone who uses a well-respected source to help make a point, and quotes said source, has done anything at all wrong. Apparently, you do.

But the fact of the matter is, I wasn't using Paul Krugman's views to help me make my point, per se. I was using Krugman's words to highlight an example of a well-thought out opinion vs. an ignorant opinion. The reason I had to do so was because it seems that ideas, thoughts, expression, and words in general need to be explained very carefully and in great detail to Ms. Markowicz as her rebuttals are non-sensical and obtuse.

Anyway, my example was entirely lost on Ms. Markowicz, and it seems to have been misinterpreted by you as well. Maybe I wasn't being clear when I wrote what I did.

Another thing regarding Ms. Markowicz' interview today, several people on the various IAFC blogs have been asking the same questions as I have, wondering how someone with so very little to add to the debate got on the radio. Maybe you should go take issue with them also.


P.S. If you truly believe that anonymity on the internet is a beautiful thing, that's just two things we'll have to agree to disagree about.

Jan. 26 2011 04:47 PM
Art Vandelay from Queens


We are all anonymous, it's the beauty(?) of the internet. And I am not here to rescue Karol but I do agree with her assessment regarding our ability to invest in infrastructure and do not feel that the viewpoint was diminished by the analogy.

I do find it odd that you on one hand need to quote an economist to make/confirm your point and attack the opposing view, while at same time get offended when called out on it.

Jan. 26 2011 04:28 PM
Raymond from Jersey City, NJ


I respect your opinion on the issue. And you've done a nice job coming to the rescue of Ms. Markowicz. Also, I apologize if my use of the word ignorant offended -- it seems as if it did. I didn't come here to insult anyone and I certainly don't care to get into a war of words with an anonymous writer who chooses a name taken from a '90s sitcom. Though I do feel that you defining the word ignorant: "Lacking awareness in general" most definitely applies to Karol's unsophisticated analogy. I try to choose my words carefully when I write.

Also, I take some offense to you insinuating that I need to go trolling on Paul Krugman's website to make my points. That is very smug behaviour on your part.


Jan. 26 2011 04:14 PM
Art Vandelay from Queens


Notwithstanding Mr. Krugman’s impressive credentials, his opinions are by no means sacrosanct. For every proposed project that you or Mr. Krugman deem to be “essential” there are other such projects in other parts of the country that are also held in similar high regard despite minimal evidence of their need. High speed rail lines in the Midwest and California are the most recent ones being touted as part our “essential” national infrastructure investment. However, there is no handy link for you to include that proves these projects would not be another government funded sinkhole (see: Amtrak).

Mrs. Markowicz’s analogy with respect to the roof repair was certainly a simplification of a complex issue, which both you and she noted. However, I fail to understand how it was ignorant. Perhaps, I should refresh your memory with the definition of the word.

Ignorant: Lacking knowledge or awareness in general.

The analogy regarding the roof did not lack knowledge or awareness. As a simplifying example, it highlighted the dire situation of the federal government after decades of reckless entitlement spending. While Mr. Krugman, you and other like-minded individuals may believe that we MUST repair the roof, Mrs. Markowicz merely points out that there is no money in the bank and the thought of taking another loan on your over-leveraged home will likely leave your children repaying your debt. This is not ignorant, although you can continue to take throw your nose in the air and claim that it is beneath you to use such simplifying analogies.

We can also move forward with the great national investment and hope the money for repayment comes from future economic growth which will certainly not be impeded by the ever expanding debt per capita. (Best to ignore Europe’s left-leaning socialist governments and current debt problems when making this argument.) I wouldn’t call that ignorant but possibly just plain stupid.

P.S.: Have fun going through Krugman’s archives looking for an appropriate response (and please think twice about referencing his recent piece comparing Europe and the US States. It will not end well for you).

Jan. 26 2011 03:56 PM
Raymond from Jersey City, NJ

"If your example of a conservative perspective you might agree with is Paul Krugman...."

Karol, I don't recall saying any such thing. This is getting really tired. Do you really need everything explained to you?

Jan. 26 2011 03:30 PM
Karol from NYC

If your example of a conservative perspective you might agree with is Paul Krugman you're right that we have nothing further to discuss.

Jan. 26 2011 03:10 PM
Raymond from Jersey City, NJ

At the risk of writing a third comment on this blog and receiving no substantive reply on the issues, I'll try my hand yet again.

Concerning the government investing during a period of economic malaise and high deficits (due in large part to tax breaks given to the nation's most well off), a current economics professor at Princetown and Nobel award winner, Paul Krugman writes:

"By refusing to pay for essential investment, politicians are both perpetuating unemployment and sacrificing long-run growth."

(For the full article:

Krugman's opinion I would not consider ignorant. Agree with it or not, it is likely based on proven economic theory and a thorough knowledge and research of recent modern history.

Conversely, public relations consultant Karol Markowicz' opinion when comparing government investment in infrastructure, education and so forth, to someone who needs a new roof, is based on ignorance. (If not, what else?)

As said previously, the metaphor you offered on today's radio program was simplistic, to say the least. That truth doesn't mean that anyone who realizes, "Hey, that opinion sure is simplistic!" refuses to listen to differing viewpoints. For you to suggest that shows more than a hint of narcissism.

That narcissism, along with your defensive and accusatory responses, are the very qualities that make a person like Sarah Palin so infuriating. She doesn't have a clue as to her limitations and anyone who disagrees, well, she can simply say she's "sad" for them.


Jan. 26 2011 01:59 PM
Karol from NYC


I respond to criticism and don't shy away from discussion or argument. My opinions are from the point of view of a conservative and it's unlikely that most conservatives would think differently than I did about the president's speech last night. I'm not sure what "based on ignorance" means if not "I disagree."

Jan. 26 2011 12:39 PM
Raymond from Jersey City, NJ

"Raymond, I'm sorry that you and Ed can't listen to opinions with which you disagree. Sad for you."


You are making gross assumptions with this statement. Do you really think that if someone doesn't like what you say and decide to change the channel that means they won't listen to divergent opinions? Again, you're being incredibly shortsighted.

I did listen to your opinions, which I found to be based on ignorance.

P.S. Your "sad for you" comment won't go over very well with crafting your persona in this medium. Disingenuous and misguided pity will not benefit you in any way.

You may want to take a few notes from Brian Lehrer, he is always a gentleman.

The fact that you are in the public relations business is truly baffling to me.

Jan. 26 2011 12:16 PM
Karol from NYC

Ed, the roof analogy works better if you've already borrowed to fix the garage, repave your walkway, add a new addition to the house, remodel your den, and buy a collection of overpriced art you can't afford.

You say I oversimplify but it's actually not much more complicated than this. We have no money, zero dollars. We have to wait until things get better before working on any further projects.

As for foreign students, the payroll taxes generated won't be better for the U.S. than having Americans in those jobs. I'm pro-legal immigration, and we should import skilled labor as needed, but blanket citizenship for all is just not smart.

Raymond, I'm sorry that you and Ed can't listen to opinions with which you disagree. Sad for you.

Jan. 26 2011 11:56 AM
Ed from NJ

Not going to read your blog post... but I heard you on the radio. A few things that you said make me think that the field of punditry has been stretched beyond it's tensile strength limit.

1) you said ' you weren't sure of the difference between protecting american jobs, and allowing U.S. educated foreign students to stay here to work...'

-how about the generation of income/payroll tax-revenue by these foreign nationals?
- or keeping valuable human capital here in the age of information?

2) your metaphor comparing national infrastructure improvements to, someone 'needing a roof that is unable to afford it,' I found grossly over-simplistic. If my roof was leaking and/or going to cave in-- I might be forced to borrow the money needed.

I expect better arguments from a financially compensated WNYC blogger. There were flaws in the speech, sure, but can we have more thoughtful commentators on the dominant local NPR syndicate? Maybe it's just easier for me to temper my expectations and turn a deaf ear.

Jan. 26 2011 11:18 AM
Raymond from Jersey City, NJ


Your belief that the government shouldn't invest in infrastructure while unemployment is so high is shortsighted. It's those very programs that create jobs. Your conservative logic is flawed. If you take a brief look back in history you'll see that it was investment that pulled the country back from the Great Depression. FDR's alphabet soup programs such as the TVA, AAA, and so forth ( helped create jobs via investment.

All in all, I'd have to give you a very low grade for your segment on Brian's show today. You sounded like a broken record and had nothing interesting to add to the discussion.

Furthermore, suggesting that the parents of college students in the US who do not yet have citizenship broke the law and are illegals is quite insensitive. I'm sure your ancestors came here legally, so you're OK with that. But maybe you should consider them to be more fortuitous than others who don't have the money or connections yet risk everything to make better lives for themselves and their children here in America.

I realize It's a Free Country is a new program and a big "investment" for WNYC. I take it you are the token Elisabeth Hasselbeck in the hopes of generating more hits for the site. Well in this case it worked, my note case in point. But next time I hear you on the show I'll happily change the dial to 91.1.

WNYC could do A LOT better.

Jan. 26 2011 11:12 AM
David in Great Neck from Great Neck

The President was terrific. Still a huge relief after 8 years of Bush Jr. He is trying to move boldly ahead knowing he's constrained by the new House. He was great. The replies were poor. Bachman, especially, is completely nuts. And she seemed to be looking off-camera, which only made her worse.

Jan. 26 2011 10:34 AM

Perfect reply to the dreary SOTU delivered last night. Plus, it clocked in at under an hour by my count.

Jan. 26 2011 01:32 AM

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