Sunday, March 25, 2012

Who is Insulting the Middle Class?

A deep irony, underlying our political season, is that the U.S. middle class...the biggest victims of the first decade of this century, are also being slandered relentlessly. The ongoing campaign of propaganda that democracy can't work and we should turn to oligarchy has many threads. May I take you on a tour of some of the nastiest and most repulsive component memes?

One of the oldest is a nostrum that under a democracy the people will inevitably drain the public treasury by demanding more spending than taxes. The theory is that citizens who get more than they pay for will vote for politicians who promise to increase spending.

TYTLERCALUMNYThis is often called the “Largesse Canard” -- an outright fantasy that was first fabricated by Plato, in order to demean the Athenian democracy, and that more recently was expressed in an oft-quoted aphorism, supposedly by Alexander Tytler: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

“Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”

This smugly cynical assertion has been circulated widely among the dour Rothbardians and Randites who dominate today's warped version of the libertarian movement....

...and it is a damned lie.

Remember the 1990s?  When Bill Clinton ran budget surpluses and wanted to spend the black ink buying down  public debt, instead of frittering it on short term “largesse”?  Nearly all of his support came from the middle class. By huge majorities, those working Americans polled their preference for debt buy-down. So why did it instead get flushed down the toilet of Supply-Side (voodoo) tax gifts for the rich?

Because (duh) the aristocracy - supposedly wise and far-seeing - rationalized a demand for instant gratification, instead of reduced debt which (ironically) would have lowered commercial borrowing costs overall and led to the very scenario that they were supposed to be after in the first place! In other words, U.S. federal debt pay-down would have engendered far more new business activity than opening our veins for the wide-open maws of plutocrat vampires.

History shows that it is always the aristocracy that behaves in spendthrift ways, not the middle class.  (Oh but they do like to invest lavishly in “think tanks” and media empires, ordering them to spread calumnies against citizenship. Propaganda like the Largesse Canard.)

Now a new twist. Dean P. Lacy, a professor of political science at Dartmouth College, has identified a theme in American politics over the last generation. Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.

Conversely, states that pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits tend to support Democratic candidates. And Professor Lacy found that the pattern could not be explained by demographics or social issues." See a map showing the geography of government benefits.

The full article is six pages, a typical New York Times in-depth Sunday magazine drill-down.

Seriously, read up on this.  You need to be armed against these insults to the people who actually create the wealth in our civilization.


Follow-up:

Collected articles on The Economy: Past, Present and Future

81 comments:

Tom Crowl said...

Really great points.

What this clearly substantiates is the need for enabling MORE citizen involvement in an empowered way... via an ongoing and easily exercised method.

Moreover their need for associations and re-associations with evolving and differing coalitions formed to advocate or oppose SPECIFIC legislation or policies...

(rather than what civic life has degraded to for most people: a once every couple or four year sporting event focussed on the current 'heroes' of the only two opposing teams... in other words: personality politics)

suggest a need for some neutral network facilitating those empowered associations.

As you know, I suggest that the one-click, political microcontribution (employing a simple confirmation method suggested, I believe by you in "The Transparent Society"...

via a neutral network...

is the viable... pragmatic approach to building a wiser and more capable electorate.

I believe its a concept that deserves some air.

Tom Crowl said...

As for the elitist view that democracy can't survive:

I'd suggest that it MUST. And it has nothing to do with being noble or 'kumbayah'. It's pragmatism.

The relationship between ICT, technical vulneralbilities of complex civilizations and the "Ultimatum Game"... ( if the offer sucks I'm tipping over the board) creates an increasing justice imperative.

I don't believe a highly technical society with significant portions considering it 'unfair' can survive.

Moreover... re past failures of democracies:

Over time in a scaled society oligarchies tend to emerge.. (I believe this is connected to the "Altruism Dilemma")..

But methods of accountability never kept up with the need to continuously monitor and interrupt the oligarchical tendency.

Issues in Scaling Civilization: The Altruism Problem

The Foundations of Authoritarianism

rewinn said...

This Anti-Largessian b.s. is structurally similar to the doctrine of Original Sin: humans are created or born disordered and prone to sin, and therefore require a priestly class to direct them. You cannot trust people to figure things out on their own because the flaw runs too deep!

This, of course, is not supported by objective evidence ... and so objective evidence must be discounted.

1. The evidence of personal experience:

Look around you. Don't you find that, on the whole, people LIKE to work? We don't like to be abused. We don't like unduly dangerous work (...although there's always more applicants for firefighting jobs than positions open ... ) and we don't like wrecking our bodies and minds for another person's benefit. But creating crops, houses, cars, dinners, books, software, aircraft, bridges, paper products ... whatever ... is a source of pride and pleasure to every healthy adult (... some choose to raise kids, which *is* such a job, just one hardly ever paid ...).

There are a few people content to sit in their mommy's basement, get high and watch tube, but they are vastly in the minority and highly disrespected. I suppose that, on the nationwide scale, these would be those red states who depend on blue state subsidies.

2. The evidence of world history:

The Largesse Canard doesn't match any period in human history that I can think of; can you? I mean, seriously, do they think the Roman Empire "fell" because of apathy and complacency? Hardly. Rome moved to Constantinople because it was a better location.

Further, the 200-year-average is a joke. If you mishmosh together enough data, of course you'll come up with something you can call an average, but so what? How do you meaningfully compare 5000 years of Chinese history with American Indian culture almost devoid of written records? You might as well measure everything in a hardware store from rubber washers to power washers, and say that "on average" everything related to home improvement is 2 inches wide ... and therefore can fit in your pocket.

3. The evidence of American history:

The 200-year process from "... abundance to selfishness to complacency to apathy to dependence ...” doesn't make any sense at all, applied to the USA. I can't think of anyone more selfish than a slaver, and we got rid of (almost all of) them in 1865. Say what you will about America's crazy foreign wars, but we didn't launch a dozen invasions from 1960 to present day out of apathy.

In the real world, most of us are grown-ups. We don't like to pay taxes or obey the speeding limit, but we understand that we have to do what has to be done, and we're proud of it. Because we're grown-ups.

I do have one theory: some basement-sleeping tube-watching dopists justify their behavior by saying everyone is like them. Perhaps the Largesse Canardists cling to their beliefs that everyone is lazy ... because THEY are.

alanuk said...

Tom. Exactly the same is playing out in the UK. In the UK the aristocracy plays both sides against the middle.

The Labour party did not disappear down an altruistic black hole. They turned into alpha-ape oligarchs getting very well feed by the rest of us. The aristocracy were more than happy as long as they got their way. Look who benefited? Sure Labour splashed some cash around the poor, but the aristocracy benefited far more.

Look at Labours record. They removed habeas corpus, double jeopardy, innocent before guilt, prima facie evidence. Court records are sealed to hide imprisonment of innocents and protect oligarchs from embarrassing revelations (nice twofer). Not very altruistic; a vile destruction of democracy.

The Torys promised to fix capitalism. Failed banks have not been investigated for fraud and improper accounting. Oversight of the financial industry has not been restored. Off-book accounts still exist. All they did is give the lower ranks in banking an insignificant spanking in their wallets. What happened to the support for small business? Again very quickly forgotten. High sales tax (VAT) puts small business at a disadvantage. Extreme regulations that only large enterprise can afford are still in place.

The Libdems promised to fix democracy, but that was quickly forgotten about and reversed by advocating “democratisation” of the House of Lords. The House of Lords provided apolitical oversight over the House of Commons. Yes very quirky, very British, and it worked well. Too well in fact. Under Labour the House of Lords dared to try and stop the removal of civil liberties. The legislation bypassed the House of Lords by using emergency powers.

We already have much more citizen involvement. And the aristocracy are running scared. Jail for saying naughty words on twitter/facebook/blogs. Talking about redefining "journalist" to exclude bloggers.....

All of the recent "investigative journalism" in the UK came from citizens not the press.

The scandal of the "court of protection" was reported first by bloggers, The "press" still keep a big distance from the topic. The MP expenses was a digital dump of data by a concerned citizen, not hacked by a journalist. Blatant abuses of statistics by the government to justify policy are being analysed in detail by bloggers, not the press. The death of a civilian by the police was recorded in detail by citizens cameras......

Citizens are turning away from the machines of propaganda and increasingly looking elsewhere for their facts.

Ian Gould said...

It's not that the oligarchs are necessarily spendthrifts.

But as net lenders, they have a rational interest in high official interest rates since i increases their returns.

Which may just be why, the Republican Party is so perennial incompetent at putting into practice their promises to cut the public debt.

Carl M. said...

Supply side voodoo or Keynesian voodoo? Where is H. Ross Perot when you need him?

Perot was the type of aristocrat the Founders had in mind: too rich to bribe.

Tom Crowl said...

Yeah, I like Ross Perot too!

Good related post (in my mind at least) by Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture referring to the F.I.R.E. sector...

What This Industry Needs is a Good Disruption

I naturally make a few suggestions.

Tim H. said...

I see it as more of a misrepresentation than a lie, as campaigns become more dependent on money, the number of "voters" they need to influence shrinks to the few who can afford to bankroll the campaign. Bread & circuses become special considerations & tax breaks, less a flaw in democracy than plain old corruption.
News out of Britain about Tory fund raising goes a ways to lessen the Murdoch tarnish:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17508271

Alex Tolley said...

@rewinn
"seriously, do they think the Roman Empire "fell" because of apathy and complacency? Hardly. Rome moved to Constantinople because it was a better location."

I hope that is some sort of humor, because otherwise it is ridiculous.

You might wish to read Paul Kennedy's "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers".

The basic theme is that nations create empires that become increasingly costly to maintain and thus eventually collapse. Rome (West) is one of the cases. Kennedy argued that the US was following the same route with its large military budget. All this before the 2 Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.

Alex Tolley said...

The Lacy article is very interesting. It shows that these aid recipients are not stupid (as one might suspect, a priori), but they are highly conflicted.

The piece of the puzzle they are missing is that the burden of taxation has been progressively lifted from corporations and the wealthy. In my limited experience, people are both unaware of this, and the highly skewed distribution of income and wealth in the US as a result of this.

Tim H. said...

As I said Alex, not a lie, just some confusion about who the welfare recipients really are.

Ian Gould said...

"The basic theme is that nations create empires that become increasingly costly to maintain and thus eventually collapse."

The Roman empire was essentially at its full geographic extent by about 50 AD. (With a few later and temporary additions like Dacia and Armenia).

The Western Empire lasted several hundred years at that size so its hard to see how overreach was involved.

RandyB said...

I don't know what Paul Kennedy wrote about the Iraq war, but he had rethought some of his earlier ideas after the response to 9/11.

It's a good time to look at the numbers:

That book was written in the late '80s. Reagan's defense budget exceeded 6% of our GDP. It started going down again, and was under 5% during the first Gulf War. With the "peace dividend" (remember that?), it was about 3% when Clinton left office. Keep that in mind when you think about his ability to balance the budget.

It was about 4% during most of Bush's two terms, going up to 4.7% in his last budget year. In other words, as a % of GDP, Reagan spent a lot more -- although nothing like what the Soviets spent.

For real perspective, it passed 9% during one of the Vietnam War years; it was about 10% during the Eisenhower years (important to consider when you hear people use the phrase "military-industrial complex"). It was about 37% during the WWII years. IIRC, I think NASA's budget reached around 1% of GDP in one year of the Apollo program. The Manhattan Project took similar numbers.

Military spending is estimated to be 4.6% in 2012. (link to XLS file and whitehouse.gov)

sociotard said...

RandyB, do you have a source that shows actual expenditures, including expenditures on mercenaries, instead of budget?

RandyB said...

More details here:
http://comptroller.defense.gov/Budget2013.html

For "mercenaries," consult a graphics novel.

Tacitus2 said...

"By huge majorities, those working Americans polled their preference for debt buy-down."

Mention was made a couple of weeks back of polls that indicated this. But I was unable to locate this data. Anyone got a link? Some pollsters keep their old data as proprietary so I am not a "Denialist" here, but all atypical data wants scrutiny...

Tacitus

Tacitus2 said...

Oh, and ReWinn, the move to Constantinople was not a reasoned economic choice. It was part of a truely desperate attempt to revive a dying empire with a division of power into multiple centers. It partly worked, but the sicker Roman West continued to senesce and decline.

Tacitus

Robert said...

Sounds like a corporate spin-off. The non-functional aspect of the Roman Empire, the West, was spun off and left to wither on the vine, while the more robust East continued to flourish until multiple invasions finally sundered this Empire as well.

One thing that is interesting is the utter cynicism of "experts" concerning this. There are some significant differences between the Empires of old and the United States. First and foremost is technological innovations and an integrated communication system that allows all parts of the American Empire (by which I mean the 50 states and territories, not "colonies") remain connected and in contact. Next is a significant infrastructure that allows for rapid transit, especially compared to even 100 years ago.

One problem that many empires of old faced was that once the empire grew to a certain size, it took a while for messages to move through the region, and those messages could be lost. This allowed for "barbarian" groups to gain power and rebel against the central government, and the need for military action to regain control. This is not the case (for the most part) in the United States.

Next, the interconnectedness of the fifty states through the Internet has allowed the United States to become a united nation, despite efforts from certain groups to split us into opposing factions. A pro-choice and a pro-life American has more in common than two people living in neighboring countries in Africa or Asia.

If America goes into "decline" it is only because other nations have been uplifted to become closer to being our equals. This is not necessarily a bad thing, no matter what certain doomsayers may claim. And as other nations are uplifted to the same standard of living as the U.S., there is a lessened need and desire for war. It is increasingly unlikely Russia or China (or India) will attack the United States with each passing day. It would harm them as much as it harms us. This would be the case even if they achieve equality with the U.S. The interdependence of nations is a good thing.

Rob H.

sociotard said...

For "mercenaries," consult a graphics novel.

*shrugs*
I prefer not to use the euphamism "private security contractors". And yes, those are real and really employed by the US govermnent today.

RandyB said...

Sure, the U.S. government hires guards, just like they hire clerks, technicians, and truck drivers. Guards aren't mercenaries any more than those clerks, technicians, and truck drivers.

For example, the Blackwater guards involved in the Baghdad shooting incident several years ago were hired to protect diplomats, not to fight in a war. They worked for the State Department, not the Department of Defense.

Another famous example is the 2004 killing of four Blackwater guards who were delivering food. They weren't working for the military either. They'd been hired by the catering company who needed guards.

I guess every night watchman is going to be called a "mercenary" now.

Rob said...

No... the maps I've studied *suggest* that Byzantine Rome didn't fall apart, it just shrank until all it was was Constantinople as a city-state roughly the size of Macedonia... until it fell to Ottoman invaders on their way to Vienna.

Wrong?

sociotard said...

I guess every night watchman is going to be called a "mercenary" now.

The rent-a-cops in your area must be much better armed than mine if you can't tell the difference.

TwinBeam said...

I think you're stretching things a bit to call it an insult to the middle class. The "voting largesse" meme ususally is implicitly aimed at social programs benefiting the poor.

The middle class traditionally have been able to consider the benefits aimed at them (mainly retirement benefits) to be "earned", in that they paid in over their working years. That wasn't too far off, until Bush pushed through the wholly unearned prescription drug benefit.

And if you also turn it around and also consider the rich lobbying for privileges that let them get richer, I think it's pretty clear that the saying has a lot of truth.

We are very much in the process of voting ourselves largesse from the Treasury, top to bottom. Whether that means the end of democracy, we shall see.

rewinn said...

Fall of Rome 410 AD

Fall of Constantinople 1453 AD

If that is failure: give us more!

Alex Tolley said...

@RandyB - defence spending is ~20% of the federal budget, which is arguably a more relevant measure than vs GDP.

While the "rise and fall" thesis may need modification, it is too early to call it. One key finding was that nations go to war when the GDP of the rising aggressor nation matches that of the empire. China may be that rising nation. While I don't expect a hot war between the US and China, a new cold war consuming domestic resources could impoverish the US.

RandyB said...

Sociotard,

"The rent-a-cops in your area must be much better armed than mine if you can't tell the difference."

Neither of us live where the AK-47 is a standard kitchen appliance.

It's not the armament that determines the difference between a guard and a mercenary.



Alex,

I think %GDP tells a fuller picture.

But either way, both sets of numbers will still tell the same basic story. It'll just be a bit more exaggerated in the earlier decades.

LarryHart said...

Caveat emptor...I've just spent a long weekend out of town and have not yet caught up on this blog in general. Just chiming in here.

Someone on this list recently recommended Stephen King's latest time travel novel called "11/22/63". My library got it for me a few weeks back, and between being home with a cold two weekends ago and traveling this past weekend, I was able to pour through its 800+ pages in short order.

It was well worth the reading--quite satisfying in many ways that time travel stories sometimes are not. I'd recommend it to anyone who is a fan of alternate timeline stories. Thanks to whoever it was here who recommended it.

The way my brain works, though, I did notice two anachronisms in the book which did not seem to be intentional on Mr King's part:

Two youngsters in 1958 mention Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, even though I'm pretty sure it would be at least ten years later before Carson would take over the Tonight Show from Jack Paar. Heck, Johnny Carson was still appearing in bit parts on shows like "Get Smart" in the mid 60s.

October 9, 1961 is said to be part of a three-day weekend for Columbus Day, but at that time, Columbus Day was celebrated on its actual date of October 12. It wouldn't be until the mid 1970s that most US holidays were changed to Mondays.

Those didn't ruin the book for me or anything, but they did surprise me into wondering if I should hire myself out to writers as a period consultant.

In any case, after the latest interruptions of this novel and REAMDE, it's time to get back to Dr Brin's "Glory Season" for the third time.

:)

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

This is often called the “Largesse Canard” -- an outright fantasy that was first fabricated by Plato, in order to demean the Athenian democracy, and that more recently was expressed in an oft-quoted aphorism, supposedly by Alexander Tytler: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury..."


As has been pointed out before, if we look at just WHO has benefited from the public treasury over the last 30 years, it's obvious who has bought and paid for the politicians in this particular democracy. And it's not "the public."


“Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”

Among those who have carelessly bandied this smugly cynical assertion has been sci fi author Jerry Pournelle, along with many of his more right wing colleagues. It circulates widely among the dour Rothbardians and Randites who dominate today's warped version of the libertarian movement....


Waitaminute, Randian libertarians are complaining about selfishness and warning that it leads to complacency and ultimately to ruin?

Isn't selfishness their entire raison d'etre?

LarryHart said...

It occurs to me that what the Randians and the oligarchs have in common is an objection to the very notion of a positive-sum game.

It is popular to talk of privilege to the wealthy as a "rising tide" which "lifts all boats". However, in reality, both the Randroids and the oligarchs despise that notion. The Randians think that the boats should pay (in gold) the OWNERS of the tide for the lift, while the oligarchs consider the rising of other boats to be the same thing as the sinking of their own boats, since they care much more for their RELATIVE status than they do about their objective standard of living.

Enlightenment civilization is a positive-sum game. The sum is more valuable than the parts. Most of us here take for granted that this is a good thing for all participants. Technological and procedural improvements make it such that workers can work (say) 20 hours a week to support a standard of living that would once have required 80 or 100 hours.

Yet, the Randians insist that the workers themselves haven't EARNED that technological advantage, so they are moochers and looters for living off of it. While the oligarchs claim rentier authority OVER the technological ownership, forcing the workers to continue working the 80-100 hour weeks and pockting the extra value for themselves.

When Paul Ryan rolled out his latest budget, he (ironically) asserted that we have to decide what kind of country we want to live in. A stopped clock being right twice a day, he's right about that. The question for voters in 2012 is whether we are a positive-sum Enlightenment society or a zero-sum oligarchy masquerading as a libertarian adolescent fantasy.

RandyB said...

Larry,

I'm not sure about one of those bloopers. Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon were working together on a game show in 1958.

The Wikipedia article says it got "a significant number of young viewers coming home from school." The Tonight Show couldn't have done that.

Hank Roberts said...

Remember the Cato/'ibertarian position on ozone/chlorofluorocarbons:

"During the 1990s several think tanks began casting doubt on the evidence that a build up of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were causing ozone depletion and an ozone hole over the antarctic each year. The Cato Institute published Eco-scam: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse by Ronald Bailey."

The world, if they'd won:

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/world_avoided.html

locumranch said...

But "Largesse" is not a canard. It is a basic human truth. Politics aside, we all want "something for nothing", so most people will inevitably drain the public treasury by demanding more spending than taxes. This applies to all political systems, including democracy, oligarthy, aristocracy or autocracy. The canard in the "Largesse Canard" comes from applying this concept only to democracy instead of all human political forms.

Sure, democracies love to spend more than they make, but so do marxists, aristocrats, oligarths, thieves, dictators and wage-slaves. If non-democratic systems were so cost effective, then we never would have heard of bankrupt royalty, solid gold toilets, easy credit at usurious interest rates, the Soviet economic collapse, the Wall Street Bailout or the mortgage crisis.

Also, let's not confuse wealth-creation with wealth-accumulation. Stuffing money in your mattress does not 'create' wealth, it just concentrates it. Wealth is created by judicious spending on practical 'public-spirited' largesse. As George Bailey (Wonderful Life) said during the run on the bank, (paraphrased)"You're money isn't in the vault, it's in John's store and Bill's house".

Now, that's wealth creation, putting political considerations aside.

Best,
Matt

TheMadLibrarian said...

The question being, will we use our treasury to benefit all, or a few? What will give us the best return on our dollar, to put it in terms that Randroids and other 'me-firsters' will understand? I submit that investing in things that give back to everyone, not just a select few at the top of the heap, is better for the overall growth of our economy. Definitely for those below the 1%, for whom island tax shelters and dedicated lobbyists are but a pipe dream.

TheMadLibrarian

houns givicha: a pastry preferred by dogs

LarryHart said...

RandyB:

Larry,

I'm not sure about one of those bloopers. Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon were working together on a game show in 1958.


That's actually good to hear. I'm not trying to score "gotcha" points. I'd rather know that Stephen King had the period information right after all.

EliRabett said...

The point about the Republican backing states being the ones at the trough was first (Eli thinks) put forth by Daniel Patrick Moynahan in 1977 quite some time ago.

There was something recent about this paradox
www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/research/published/rb_qjps.pdf

EliRabett said...

In addition, the middle class is really the working class, but too proud to admit it

sociotard said...

Obamacare's Supreme Court Disaster
Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. should be grateful to the Supreme Court for refusing to allow cameras in the courtroom, because his defense of Obamacare on Tuesday may go down as one of the most spectacular flameouts in the history of the court.

duncan cairncross said...

Locumranch -said

"But "Largesse" is not a canard. It is a basic human truth. Politics aside, we all want "something for nothing", so most people will inevitably drain the public treasury by demanding more spending than taxes."

Cobblers - or - "That turns out not to be the case"

No more than every man is a robber or rapist if the sky fairy is not watching him

Most people accept the notion of the commons and are willing to put something into the common pot

This has been shown historically - recently with the Clinton debt pay-down (start)

The Rich however historically do meet this "canard"
Some recent studies have shown this experimentally as well as historically

RandyB said...

Larry,

Well, some gotchas are fun.

Oddly enough, this site says Columbus Day was on October 9th in most regions. But I remember the Monday holidays starting later, like you do.

BTW: I hadn't mentioned my agreement that that is a great book. Didn't care for the ending, but that's just me. Even so, the final scene was a good compromise.

Stefan Jones said...

Hank quoted;

"During the 1990s several think tanks began casting doubt on the evidence that a build up of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were causing ozone depletion and an ozone hole over the antarctic each year. The Cato Institute published Eco-scam: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse by Ronald Bailey."

Ah, yes.

This is what caused me to lose all faith in the neutrality of the Cato Institute.

But there's more to it than simple denial. When it became obvious that there WAS an "ozone hole," they went into "but it would cost too much to fix!" mode.

I remember Cato Institute flaks suggesting that we'd be better off subsidizing sunglasses and sun block lotion. Because the cost of replacing CFCs would wreck the economy.
Of course, this totally ignored the environmental consequences.

And the final, ludicrous disgrace:

After it was accepted that ozone depletion was a problem, and the nations of the world banded together to fix the problem . . . there was spell of hot weather in Los Angeles. A temperature inversion was trapping pollution. Ozone levels had rising to harmful levels.

There was a call for car pooling, and keeping cars off the road.

The matter was discussed on a PBS news show, possible the McNeil / Lehrer report. One of the participants was a Cato Institute flak. Paraphrasing: "This would be a disaster! Haven't you heard of the ozone hole? We NEED that ozone to protect us from ultraviolet rays!"

Seriously. This was said on the airwaves, by a Cato spokesperson.

God! The hypocricy, the sheer GALL!

The same scheme of mendacious smugging was deployed to smear fears of global warming. And it worked. Fear, uncertainty, doubt, and new things . . . conspiracy theories, smearing environmentalists as "religious fanatics."

To hell with them. Any good the Cato Institute has done -- and they have stood up against the rise of the panopticon security state -- has been overshadowed by their reflexive defense of corporatism.

infanttyrone said...

The same scheme of mendacious smugging was deployed to smear fears of global warming. And it worked. Fear, uncertainty, doubt, and new things . . . conspiracy theories, smearing environmentalists as "religious fanatics."

Sounds like the anti-peeper firewall in The Demolished Man:
Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun.

Paul451 said...

Study of dolphin social groups (particularly male alliances.)

news.discovery.com/animals/dolphin-society-120327.html

"I work on the male dolphins and their social lives are very intense; it seems there is constant drama, [] I have often thought [] that their social lives would be mentally and physically exhausting, and I'm glad I'm not a dolphin"

LarryHart said...

RandyB:

Oddly enough, this site says Columbus Day was on October 9th in most regions. But I remember the Monday holidays starting later, like you do.


Well, you proved that King was right about one "mistake", so I'm willing to give him a lot of slack about the other one.

I personally remember Columbus Day celebrated on October 12 during the 1960s, but that calendar site you linked to says "most regions", so maybe Chicago/Illinois was different? And that calendar does show Veteran's Day and Memorial Day in 1961 the way I remember them, before they were always Mondays.


BTW: I hadn't mentioned my agreement that that is a great book. Didn't care for the ending, but that's just me. Even so, the final scene was a good compromise.


That sort of book is always going to have something unsatisfying about the ending. If it's "happy", it feels like a cheat since we know things didn't happen that way. If some anti-deux-ex-machina prevents time from changing, then THAT feels like a cheat too. Given the nature of the beast, I think this particular book handled it as well as it could.

I'm not a really big Steven King fan, but I did read "The Dead Zone" and "The Stand", and in both cases, I think his endings were much weaker than the book led one to anticipate, so maybe endings just aren't his strong suit?

Hypnos said...

I’d like to go back to the debate over Western culture and progress. Please tell if you’re not interested anymore. This blog used to be much slower!

To recap the discussion so far:

David argues that the Western model of progress – competition, markets, reciprocal accountability, individual rights, democracy – is the only way forward for humanity, and if it stops, we go back to rule by aristocrats, inequality and grinding poverty.

Ian made some brilliant examples of non-Western Enlightenment-like cultural movements which were crushed for various reasons. Those were great and I’d like to add the Mu’tazila school of Islamic thought, which might have brought the industrial revolution to Baghdad in 1100 if it had not been defeated by Al Ghazali (and puts paid to the notion that Islam is incompatible with modernity).

I will try to summarize my position on this:

Progress as currently defined is a Western concept. Take the example of women liberation. Our definition of it is based on Western concepts, and women in different cultures might define liberty in an entirely different way, and find that Western women are enslaved and objectified, forced by peer pressure to wear high heels, a form of body modification that creates permanent damage and deformation in leg tendons. Meanwhile, Western institutions tell some African cultures that female genital mutilation is wrong, based on the idea of adulthood being achieved at 18, an arbitrary figure (in those societies maturity comes at 13), while millions of Western males are genitally mutilated daily without their consent, and nobody says anything. Basically we’re telling them their culture is wrong based on universalized notions which are actually culturally specific to the West.

As such, the idea of universal human rights is based on faulty premises. We only recognise rights that are specific to our culture. Since we live in nation-states, we do not recognise the right to freedom of movement, which might be much more important to other cultures – especially nomadic ones – than rights we hold more important such as the right to own property. We claim freedom can only be delivered through representative democracy, and one person one vote, while cultures exist that do not recognise the individual as the founding unit of society and as such do not recognise the concept of representative democracy as delivering any freedom at all. There are many more examples but the bottom line is you cannot claim universal progress when the indicators to define that progress – universal human rights – are a Western-specific construct.

Hypnos said...

Finally, I want to argue that the positiveness of the Western model of development has not been proven for the West itself. Our focus on individual material progress and competition has created a system that is unable to conserve resources of achieve balance. We are forced into constant expansion (hence the drive “to the stars”). But that might well be incompatible with the resources we have. Or maybe only a slower, collectively determined rate of progress rather than a competitive race of all against all would put us into the stars. But our culture is against that. We have become welded into a myth of progress, which argues that constant expansion is made possible by technological advances, and all problems have a technological solution. Even reportedly anti-science conservative movement in America still essentially believes this.

The problem is that it is not true. The energy and environmental crisis can only be solved socially. We don’t need better cars, or electric cars, we need to stop using cars. We need to radically change our cultural understanding of natural resources as something we can simply exploit to our heart’s content. But Western culture is not currently able to do that. Most environmentalists still believe in progress and technology as the solution. Western culture has seeded its own destruction and unless it proves able to de-Westernize itself, it will join the long list of failed civilizations in the rubbish heap of history.
The starkest example of this is the current rush for Arctic resources exposed by the melting ice. Arctic sea ice has melted an order of magnitude faster than models predicted, and is on course to be ice free in summer by the end of this decade. And our answer to this is squabbling over the mineral resources that are being exposed. The immense stupidity of this is astounding and future historians will wonder what kind of idiots we were to make such a decision when the nature of the problem was so obvious. They will probably compare us to the Mayans, building bigger and bigger temples as an answer to the diminishing fertility of their soil.

I do want to believe that we won’t meet our demise. That those we currently consider nutjobs and environmental wackos will come to the fore and save us from ourselves. But I just don’t see how it could happen.

I’ll see if Existence provides an answer. Make sure it’s available on Kindle UK ;).

Tim H. said...

I do find western civilization worth saving, but one must realize it's a work in progress, and always will be. We're going through a rough patch just now, with elites voting themselves largess from the public treasuries, and we're confronting resource depletion and thinking about it more seriously than past generations. Those difficulties won't be avoided, but engineers will whittle away at them, and enough little bites at the problem can add up to a solution. Progress over generations isn't satisfying like great leaps are, but it's more often the way the world works.

Tacitus2 said...

"Remember the 1990s? When Bill Clinton ran budget surpluses and wanted to spend the black ink buying down public debt, instead of frittering it on short term “largesse”? Nearly all of his support came from the middle class. By huge majorities, those working Americans polled their preference for debt buy-down."

Darn it I am still not able to find plausible polling data to substantiate this rather bold assertion. Anybody?

It seems rather central to David's main point, that being that the Middle Class has better instincts than they are credited.

I can't really discuss the issue without evaluating the data.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

"Remember the 1990s? When Bill Clinton ran budget surpluses and wanted to spend the black ink buying down public debt, instead of frittering it on short term “largesse”? Nearly all of his support came from the middle class. By huge majorities, those working Americans polled their preference for debt buy-down."

Darn it I am still not able to find plausible polling data to substantiate this rather bold assertion. Anybody?


I don't have hard polling data, but my recollection of the period is much as Dr Brin suggests. At the time, I was in favor of paying off the national debt, and figured we'd possibly get lower taxes AFTER that had been accomplished. I don't remember anyone (not even the wealthy at that point) pushing for tax breaks INSTEAD OF deficit reduction.

When W pushed for tax cuts in 2001--and remember he sold it as tax cuts for everybody, not just the top 1%--I remember my own thought being "Why don't we pay down the debt first and THEN do tax cuts? What's the point of putting the cart before the horse?"

Again, I realize this is not hard data, but I'm inclined to believe Dr Brin's assertion until proven wrong rather than the other way around because it jibes with personal memory.

Tim H. said...

Incremental progress, 3D PV installation:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/03/27/3d_photovoltaic_installations/

Paul451 said...

Sousveillance: In 2007, lawyer Simon Glik in Boston who tried to video (phone-cam) police using what he believed was excessive force in arresting a suspect in park, was himself arrested and charged with "unlawful wiretap" and "aiding the escape of a prisoner". In 2008 a Judge dismissed the charges. Glik filed a complaint against the arresting officers through the BPD own internal processes, IAD ruled the officers acted properly in arresting Glik. (And according to Glik, he was "laughed out of the building".)

4 years later, after a Mas. court has ruled that videoing police is legal, IAD suddenly decided that the officers acted improperly and they now face disciplinary action.

http://articles.boston.com/2012-01-10/metro/30607963_1_police-officers-internal-affairs-division-excessive-force

Glik (and ACLU) received a $170,000 settlement over his arrest. However, in return, Glik must drop a complaint against the BPD IAD's treatment of him with the City's Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel.

http://aclum.org/news_3.27.12

Paul451 said...

Five rockets launched from Wallops, one after the other, just 80 seconds apart, to release markers into the upper atmosphere to study... errr, the upper atmosphere.

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=137933911

Oldest planets in the universe (so far discovered) has been doing the rounds of the usual suspects. Nearly 13 billion years old.

news.discovery.com/space/most-ancient-impossible-alien-worlds-discovered-120327.html

Paul451 said...

Here's a video explaining the purpose of the ATREX 5 rocket launch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFkLGe1BYic

locumranch said...

Hypnos is right on three points. First, concept of progress, esp when framed in terms of 'social evolution', is a myth. Second, we assume that government by liberal democracy is the 'greatest' government simply because it is the 'latest' form of government. And, Third, the superiority of liberal democracy, esp claims that liberal democracy represents the penultimate form of government, is in no way proven by its current prevalence.

To Tim H, I say that his faith in the idea of 'incremental progress' is misplaced because the term 'incremental progress' is a misnomer which implies that we have discovered everything left to discover. What you really mean when you use the phrase 'incremental progress' is 'refinement', aka 'the gradual improvement of preexisting ideas or technologies'.

Like evolution, I put it to you that true 'progress' is cataclysmic and episodic. There is nothing incremental or gradual about it. It is the mass extinction of preexisting ideas. It is extermination. The Old is replaced rather than improved. If this was not the case, then it would mean the 'end of history'. We would live in a post-historical society, either pledging our undying fealty to the Crown, labouring for our masters, feasting on roasted Dodo or supervising our slaves, depending entirely on the point we were at when all history ended and all progress became incremental.

Best,
Matt

Tim H. said...

Locumranch, not at all"incremental progress" is also a way of describing the process of getting a concept ready for the real world, which can take decades. Counting on a revolutionary new discovery to happen, and save the future is like basing the family budget on a hoped for lottery win.

David Brin said...

Brin checkin in from a NASA advanced tech conf on the road in Pasadena:


Hypnos did what grownups do. He attempted a paraphrasing: " David argues that the Western model of progress – competition, markets, reciprocal accountability, individual rights, democracy – is the only way forward for humanity, and if it stops, we go back to rule by aristocrats, inequality and grinding poverty."

Not a bad job of paraphrasing, especially the vital phase of letting me crit it! Indeed, I do quibble with one part, where you claim I called western enlightenment the "only way forward." I do think it is the only high-momentum way forward> But since oligarchic pyramidal societies tend to get clogged with high friction, it may be that lower momentum modes of progress are unsustainable.

Look, I am VERY aware of past examples of actual progress. Sequoia's syllabary. Hero's steam engines. The industrial/explorational eras of the Song and Tang dynasties. The brief and anomalous Ming outward phase that launched Cheng He's voyages. "Only way?" maybe not the only. But all of those failed for a common set of reasons. We may yet go high friction or fail... either for those same reasons or for new, dramatic ones.

" different cultures might define liberty in an entirely different way, and find that Western women are enslaved and objectified, forced by peer pressure to wear high heels, a form of body modification that creates permanent damage and deformation in leg tendons."

Sorry. silly-silly alarms! Hypnos, please always pause and see YOURSELF in all this. You are an example of the vast numbers of westerners who are critical of exactly such aberrations. You know damned well that such optional things are criticized internally far more than they are externally and choice trees lead to sensible people eschewing the failure mode as a seriously damaging thing.

Indeed, that self crit leads to an environmentalism that is vastly stronger than any that ever was. (It must be!)

Your other examples are also silly. You say "other cultures perceive things differently!" As if that is cogent. But it is ONLY cogent within the western moral bias that multiple viewpoints are meritorious! Most of the other cultures you extoll would never say that!

Ian Gould said...

I don't have time to catch up with previous comments at the moment but I want to share a very interesting news story about Enceladus as a possible site for extraterrestrial life.

http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-03-microbes-enceladus.html

sociotard said...

Update:

Remember that bit I posted about employers demanding Facebook passwords? A bill was submitted that would ban the practice. Guess what every single Republican in the House did?

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/03/28/house-republicans-vote-against-facebook-privacy/

Paul451 said...

Skynet's R&D division, Boston Dynamics, is at it again. SandFlea, an 11 lb robot that can jump 30 feet straight up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6b4ZZQkcNEo

And RHex, their little robot that could: "And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead." Actually, MER-Spirit could have used a set of those things on Mars.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISznqY3kESI

Paul451 said...

FBI just did a review of the training material used to instruct new agents. What fun guys.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/03/fbi-bend-suspend-law/

Stefan Jones said...

Neat:

A Message from a Republican Meteorologist on Climate Change

'I’m going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real. I am a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative; a fan of small government, accountability, self-empowerment, and sound science. I am not a climate scientist. I’m a meteorologist, and the weather maps I’m staring at are making me uncomfortable. No, you’re not imagining it: we’ve clicked into a new and almost foreign weather pattern. To complicate matters, I’m in a small, frustrated and endangered minority: a Republican deeply concerned about the environmental sacrifices some are asking us to make to keep our economy powered-up, long-term. It’s ironic. The root of the word conservative is “conserve.” A staunch Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, set aside vast swaths of America for our National Parks System, the envy of the world. Another Republican, Richard Nixon, launched the EPA. Now some in my party believe the EPA and all those silly “global warming alarmists” are going to get in the way of drilling and mining our way to prosperity. Well, we have good reason to be alarmed.'

locumranch said...

Tim H says that " 'incremental' progress' is also a way of describing the process of getting a concept ready for the real world, which can take decades". I agree. I also agree that this is the best way to get things done using available technology. However, what he calls progress is also called 'refinement', 'planning', 'application' and 'execution'.

We can spend our lives planning, applying, executing, refining and polishing old technologies to new purpose, but we can't plan or anticipate new technologies because they represent a road less traveled by. We therefore run the pragmatic risk of polishing an old turd when we spend our energy polishing an old technology to new purpose.

That said, I appreciate pragmatism, being more pragmatic that most, but even I recognise the importance of 'flights of fancy' and thinking 'outside the box'. This is where real progress (and sci fi) comes from. Of course, we can slog along and make the pragmatic best out of a losing situation, but sometimes it's laudable to upset the applecart and rethink our entire approach.

Now, back to the Middle Class & democracy.

Assuming that liberal democracy is the best of all possible worlds as argued by Francis Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man, 1992), has anyone else here wondered how liberal democracy came to be? Some argue that the liberal democracy created the Middle Class, but I believe that it was the other way around. The Middle Class was itself created by a series of fortunate occurrences that coincided with industrialisation, but the Middle Class created the liberal democracy in its own image.

"Typical values associated with a middle class lifestyle include several aspects. These aspects include a tendency towards planning for the future which includes retirement, future expenses, and higher education for their children. Additionally, middle class values often include a desire to be in control of their future, respect for and abidance of the law, and a desire for a good education for themselves and their children. Finally middle class values also typically include a goal to move forward in socio-economic status which, is obtained through good education and hard work. These values also include a desire to protect their families from various hardships such as health issues, financial difficulties and crime."

To add injury to insult, the Middle Class (US & European) is being wiped out, all in accordance with our own bourgeois values: We will be pragmatic to the end; we will pay our own way; we will take responsibility for our own actions; and we will play the crooked cards that we were dealt. And, we will lose.

http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/the-u.s.-middle-class-is-being-wiped-out-here%27s-the-stats-to-prove-it-520657.html?tickers=^DJI,^GSPC,SPY,MCD,WMT,XRT,DIA

So ironic and/or funny-sad. It now appears that the 'end of history' is also at its end. Unless, of course, we rethink our entire approach, upset the applecart and demand a new deal. Long live Liberal Democracy and long live the bourgeoisie !

Best,
Matt
___

Q: Why does democracy fail in Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan & the Middle East?

A: They are haves & have-nots without a 'middle' class.

Ian Gould said...

"Next, the interconnectedness of the fifty states through the Internet has allowed the United States to become a united nation, despite efforts from certain groups to split us into opposing factions. A pro-choice and a pro-life American has more in common than two people living in neighboring countries in Africa or Asia."

I assume you realize that Africans and Asians also have access to shared media and the internet.

Ian Gould said...

I think it's be useful to talk about Modernity or the modern world or "the developed world" rather than "The West".

Is Turkey part of "The West"?

Japan?

Chile?

south Africa?

Australia?

I think it'd be useful to take a look at the membership of the OECD
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OECD#Current_members

or at the list of "Very Highly Developed countries" as measured by the Human Development Index:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index#Very_high_human_development

For starters it might stop people conflating "The West" with "The United States" in this discussion.

Tom Crowl said...

Who is insulting the middle class?

Both Parties and the groupthink they share:

Michael Hudson on the Federal Reserve System

This model bodes not only economic disaster... but over time the destruction of a middle class so essential to the survival of democracy.

The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.
--Thomas Jefferson

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
–Thomas Jefferson

P.S. The political micro-transaction is a fundamental of political speech.

Some have suggested that maybe I'm a few hundred years too early...

I suggest otherwise.

I fear I may be a few hundred years too late.

Tacitus2 said...

"Again, I realize this is not hard data, but I'm inclined to believe Dr Brin's assertion until proven wrong rather than the other way around because it jibes with personal memory."

Well LarryH. I think I can be excused for asking (more than once!) for that hard data. Polls are slippery eels and need to be closely scrutinized before you can annoint them as being The Will of The People.

As to recollections on this point I seem to recall Al Gore going on at tedious length about the Social Security "lockbox". I also recall thinking he did not mean a word of it.

But as you have apparenly in the past been of the opinion that debt needs to be addressed before anything else I welcome you to the Fiscal Conservative fold!

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

Remember that bit I posted about employers demanding Facebook passwords? A bill was submitted that would ban the practice. Guess what every single Republican in the House did?


Of course, they'd claim to be simply against heavy-handed intervention in an area not appropriate for government interference in the first place.

They don't FAVOR employers asking for passwords, but the proper response is to simply not take the job. Or, if you need the job so badly, then you make an economic decision that a few privacy intrusions are a fair trade for your family's food and shelter. You and the employer are free and equal trade partners, and government shouldn't be restricting your freedom to engage in such trade.

Was I close?

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

But as you have apparenly in the past been of the opinion that debt needs to be addressed before anything else I welcome you to the Fiscal Conservative fold!


I've been a fiscal conservative all my life, including my college years when I was practically the token conservative of my brother's leftist crowd.

I changed my tune on the deficit during the W years. And it wasn't because I changed my mind about the THEORY that deficit reduction was a good thing. Rather, I came to realize that a surplus was an impossible goal--that if one party holds off on domestic social spending in order to lower the deficit (or build a surplus), the other party will inevitably squander that surplus on tax cuts and crony capitalism. I'm sure you can provide examples of the reverse--my point is that the government will never maintain a surplus no matter who is in charge.

So I'm a deficit hawk if the question is "Deficits, large or small or none?" But that's a fantasy question. In the real world, the question is "Do we squander our surplus on programs that really promote the general welfare, or do we squander our surplus on cronies of the politicians?"

And what's the point of engaging in austerity to save treasury funds if those gains have to be offset by tax cuts, so that the deficit can never be reduced?

It is for such reasons that I no longer sound like the fiscal conservative I would have been 20 or 30 years ago.

Robert said...

The problem is there are very few true conservatives in Congress these days. A true conservative would agree to balance budget cuts with tax increases so to pay down the budget deficit and the national debt, and once the debt is dealt with, then reducing taxes (and perhaps increasing spending a little). Republicans want tax cuts and eliminating programs for "leeches" who "don't pull their fair share." They forget that government is meant to support all the people, not just the few.

Democrats are no better. And the Tea Party is blind in their ignorance, believing that they can have their cake (tax cuts) and eat it too (eliminate all government programs except for the military) and have this solve all our problems.

What I wouldn't give to see a bunch of politicians of both parties elected who are willing to negotiate and compromise to get things done.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Democrats are no better.


If what you meant was "Democrats aren't saints either", you may have a point. But "no better" is false equivelance. Democrats are more likely to negotiate and compromise than the Republicans, the latter being of the opinion that "compromise" itself is a character weakness.


What I wouldn't give to see a bunch of politicians of both parties elected who are willing to negotiate and compromise to get things done.


That would be "Democrats".

Paul451 said...

locumranch,
Re: incremental progress

When you create your own definition of a term someone else is using, don't be shocked when they disagree with it. And when they disagree, it means you misunderstood what they were saying. It doesn't mean you should keep insisting that your definition of their term proves them wrong, somehow.

David Brin said...

Robert you hit on the key element. A willingness to negotiate. That is the principal issue of our time, and not matters of left or right.

And in that issue, democrats are indeed absolutely and diametrically and both qualitatively and quantitatively different, top to bottom and day vs night.

Indeed, Obama's chief flaw is that he is congenitally incapable of recognizing that negotiation has been removed from the table by raving lunatics.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

When I stated "Democrats are no better" I was referring to their ability to effectively work to eliminate the deficit and national debt. Though the Clinton Years DID show some Democrats can work to reduce debt... even if he did so after the Republican Party seized control of the House and Senate. But then, this was before Republicans as a whole went off their meds and went batshit insane. (There are outliers out there, yes. Sadly they're being driven out of the party due to not being "pure" enough. If I was a Republican in Congress, I'd be one of these endangered ones.)

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert,

Democrats and Republicans DID work together to eliminate the deficit in the late 1990s. In fact, we were within reach of retiring the entire national DEBT. That's when Greenspan and company freaked out at the thought of there being no national debt, and W slashed tax revenue so that the deficit WOULDN'T go away.

At least one of those tax cuts, by the way, was passed using "reconciliation" to avoid a Democratic filibuster. Remember how EVIL reconciliation was when the Democrats thought of using it?

Anyway, now we're stuck with Bush-level taxes and Bush-level war expenditures, so no, Democrats can't override Senate filibusters or get Tea Party congressmen to reduce the deficit. But that's hardly a character failing of Democrats.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

When I stated "Democrats are no better" I was referring to their ability to effectively work to eliminate the deficit and national debt.


I give you the People's Budget. Second year in a row, too (just like Paul Ryan). Just because the corporate media doesn't cover it doesn't mean it's not there:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/03/29-9

http://www.commondreams.org/view/
2012/03/29-9


Ryan's budget was never going to be adopted, but its release was widely covered across the corporate media. He was given credit for presenting a plan to reduce government deficits, even though his plan didn't really do much of that.

At the same time, the Congressional Progressive Caucus released its People's Budget, which raised taxes on the wealthy, slashed military spending, enacted a public option in healthcare and a Wall Street speculation tax–and unlike Ryan's plan, actually balanced the budget. It got almost no media attention. The most prominent story may have been the attack by Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank (4/13/11), who mocked the "starry-eyed" progressives for, among other things, being poorly dressed and coming up with a name for their plan that "conveyed an unhelpful association with 'the people's republic' and other socialist undertakings."

A year later, we're seeing the very same thing. Paul Ryan has a new budget proposal that looks similar to his last budget.
...
The corporate media have rushed to cover the garbage. And yesterday the Progressive Caucus released its "Budget for All" plan. And the media reaction so far? According to my search of the Nexis news database, it's exactly one article, by Bay Area News Group reporter Josh Richman (3/26/12).

It's a good one, though–in that it presents the debate in a way that is almost unheard of in the rest of the press: "Two vastly different visions of how the government should spend its money were introduced in Congress this past week."

Jumper said...

Lately I've been thinking about the idea I've seen promulgated for a long time about Milankovitch cycles
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles
and how GW deniers often discover them and then think the climatologists somehow missed it.

Of course climatologists didn't miss it, and likely were the reason they heard about it in the first place. I was reminded of twelve year old boys who find they have invented perpetual motion machines on paper, and believe no one ever thought of it before. I know at some point I was guilty of this.

Reinventing the wheel. It struck me that populist politicians invoke this same train of thought, exciting the naive about some legal issue that's new to them, but is of course long-debated by generations or centuries of legal and social analysts. The press to a lesser extent, and the TV people more so, as their genre is based on immediacy, succumb to this dramatic but stupid dialog and remove wisdom from the possible discourse.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Straw men don't stand a chance around here.

Anonymous said...

I do indeed remember the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich balanced the budget and gave us a surplus, while the Clintons fought him tooth and nail every millimeter of the way, then, when presented with a fait accompli, took credit for it.

I don't recall, though, anyone but Ross Perot talking seriously about paying down the national debt.

But that is a minor point, I think. The larger point, if I understand correctly, is that there is a conflict between two groups of people in any modern democracy, whom we may label "Tax Producers" and "Tax Eaters."

The former group consists of those who work for a living and contribute. These are the people "pulling the wagon," if I may borrow a turn of phrase, while the others are "riding on the wagon."

This latter group includes certain urban "communities" who are led by "community organizers" to sign up for welfare and register to vote the straight Democrat ticket, but it also includes Grandma, whose artificial hip cost the taxpayers a cool half mil, Grandpa, whose ever-growing, COLA-adjusted welfare check says "Social Security" at the top, and high-rolling bankers and manufacturing executives who privatize their profits but then in a bad year run to the sheltering arms of the nanny state to demand, and receive, trillion-dollar bailouts to socialize their liabilities ("the profits are MINE but the debts, everyone shares").

It would seem to be a zero-sum game, and in a democracy it would seem to be a rational choice--from the perspective of games theory--for political parties whose ideology is centered upon giving out "free" stuff to their partisans to increase as rapidly and as widely as possible the number of "tax eaters" and make sure they vote. This is, of course, unsustainable, but we are concerned with winning elections, not so much with what will happen to our children and grandchildren who will get stuck with the bill for it all, once Grandma, Grandpa, and Senator Moneybags are all safely dead. And while certain commentators have spoken with great disdain of populism, we also hope that those of use who work for a living can be forgiven if we are less than enthusiastic about the situation in which we find ourselves. Yes, we know. Salve, sclave.

Robert said...

I'm sorry, but the fact that "Grandma" receives Social Security is NOT a bad thing. Do you honestly think that staying at home and raising a family is any less worthy a career than a 9-5 office job or factory job? When you consider these grandmothers raised the people currently running our businesses, then part of their success is due in fact to the parenting they received. In addition, many were not in the job force because of cultural stigma against women working, which took a long time to overcome, and efforts to prevent women from making as much money as men which keeps them from making as much and thus having a significant level of social security built up.

There is a REASON that there are Surviving Spouse Benefits in Social Security. It is because some people do not put money directly into the pot... but are still essential for this nation as a whole. An unpaid mother works damn hard for her lack of money. She works as hard, if not harder, than many teachers out there, who are ALSO underpaid for the bullshit they put up with.

So back off on the grannies, dude. You won't like the response.

Rob H.

Rollory said...

"Remember the 1990s? When Bill Clinton ran budget surpluses"

That's a lie. Stop lying.

What he did was to make a series of short-term loans from the Social Security trust fund into the general budget. Those loans had to be paid back. In the accounting, the money coming in was marked as an asset, the fact that they had to be paid back was not marked as a liability. So it looked like there was free money coming in that did not in fact exist - and, in fact, did have to get paid back. Once the liability is accounted for, there was no surplus.

My high school AP government teacher walked us through the budget line by line to make it clear what was going on. Not one goddamned journalist in the country could be bothered to do the same, though most of them probably knew.

There was no surplus. Stop lying.

Anonymous said...

I think Plato is more right than wrong..
Both the rich (via influence) and the rest (because of being majority) squeeze the middle class.
The reason they can do that is because there a too many powers given to government which can be bought by the rich and voted by the majority.
Both Dems and Reps are responsible, dont try to make one of them good.. you falling in the same logical trap you are purporting to explain.

Just for the sake of it .. Clinton, Rubin etc.. repealed the laws that allowed for the 2008 crisis.

The biggest threat is the socialist intelligentsia, which teaches the new generation.