Saturday, October 05, 2013

How the government shut-down will likely end

Before I get to my forecast of how the Great Big US Government Shut-Down of 2013 will end... let's start with this surprising commentary. Yipe. The following is from Fox News. It is harsh, factual, on-target... and did I mention it's from Fox, of all places? Could Rupert be asking "what have I done?" and seeking a way out?  --  begin quote:

End-Government-Shutdown"'Compromise,' to these demagogues, is to mandate that Democrats scrap President Obama’s signature domestic legislative accomplishment, which was passed by Congress, signed into law by the president, upheld by the Supreme Court and ratified by voters who returned its architect to the White House last November."

"Senate Democrats, of course, had been begging for a budget compromise for months – ever since the Senate passed its budget last spring. But Republicans rejected this attempt at compromise 18 times, refusing to allow the Senate and House of Representatives to go to a budget conference to hammer out a deal that would have put an end to this cycle of continuing resolutions," writes Julie Roginsky.

To be clear, what this means is that the House-Senate Conference Committee on the budget was invited to meet 18 times since April and it was always the GOP that refused to attend and negotiate. Every single time. And to be clearer, the House Senate conference committee on the budget is exactly where ALL of this was, is, and always should be thrashed out, as budgets have been across the history of the American republic, instead of via loony threats and shut-downs.

Moreover, the deal that was on the table, ready to be hammered out in the conference committee, was clear, bipartisan and probably what Speaker Boehner will ask for, next week.

(1) An end to the sequester and shutdowns and debt limit threats.

(2) A substantial set of reforms to make entitlement programs more efficient and -- in a few ways -- more tight-fisted. The big Democrat concession.

(3) Repealing a set of maybe forty outrageous tax breaks for fat cats and specific profitable industries that never needed subsidies (e.g. oil companies) allowing some revenues to rise without raising tax rates.

(4) Perhaps just a smidge of electoral reform? Reducing the tsunami-plague of money in politics?

It is a deal that the vast majority of moderate Americans would back and we know this from huge responses in past opinion polls.  Economists estimate that it might even bring the budget toward balance, at last. Only Tea Partiers who have signed the Norquist Pledge have been so enraged by the thought of increased revenue that they blocked the deal, declaring they do not want to return to the Clinton Era surpluses... what they want is to strangle government in principle.

Hence my ongoing prediction.  When the heat on Republican shenanigens grows too great, the Speaker will abruptly announce that President Obama has "caved" and Democratic Senators have "allowed" the budget conference committee to meet "at last!" And because of that huge democratic "concession," Boehner will now allow a vote on the continuing resolution on a straight up-down basis instead of under tight party (Tea) discipline, ending the shutdown and the threat of a debt ceiling crash.

And Fox will sigh with relief, then peddle Boehner's message verbatim... though without the well-deserved and apropos finger-quotes.

Sigh.  Like all forecasts, this one has odds against it.  I merely deem it the topmost possibility. Or am I snagged by wishful thinking, alas?

== Oh how we miss the wisdom of Lincoln ==

LincolnQuoteOld Abe may have said it best in February 1860, while initially running for President. Bear in mind: today's Republican Party is largely based (regionally and thematically) in regions that were in those days Democratic, and vice versa.  In a speech to New York's Cooper Union, Abraham Lincoln said:

"Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events. [...] Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this Government unless such a court decision as yours is, shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive and final rule of political action?"

"But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!" [...]

"A few words now to Republicans. It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great Confederacy shall be at peace, and in harmony, one with another. Let us Republicans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill temper. "

Now combine this (as I suggested last time) with Lincoln's later Gettysburg Address, calling on Americans to ensure that "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth."

Roll that over the tongue, and ponder how bitter it must taste to the New Confederates, who recite the Fox Nostrum that "government" is evil in principle, and under all conditions! (Despite having supported it blindly when the blithering incompetents in charge were from their side.)  Men (mostly) who ignore the declining deficit, or the fact that US federal tax rates are at their lowest levels in 70 years. Or that the US Federal government's current portion of GDP is the lowest since 1940. Or the lesson of 60 centuries that most oppression came not from civil servants but owner-oligarchs. Or that our political maps -- made more foul by the vicious crime of gerrymandering -- show at a glance that we are mired in another phase of the American Civil War.

Just as a million poor whites marched foolishly (albeit bravely!) to fight and die for their feudal overlords in 1861, so do millions now obey mantras dished out by Rupert and his petri-prince co-owners, despising any class or cadre (e.g. scientists, teachers, civil servants and so on) who might possibly stand in the way of a new feudal order.

Ever since the fall of the outrageously evil-despicable Soviet Empire, I have seen no greater threat to the republic that I love, and the renaissance it helped engender. We need Lincoln. Or at least shall we gird ourselves to be worthy of him?


Scott said...

How did you forget the "But the Democrats have their loonies too" line at the end?

david.j.mercer said...

The Tea Party has really screwed the pooch on this one. For instance, my Mormon, uber-conservative, Rush L. listening, Fox News watching, Tea Party mother is very, very upset about this. I believe the term is that they have "Lost their Base."

The 2014 elections will be very interesting. The spin on this one when it ends will be very interesting. I expect to see Cruz and friends spinning like tops so fast it will make your head spin, especially if your scenario, which I give good odds of substancially describing what will go down, takes place.

Anonymous said...

Morris Berman has a nice summary of our situation over at Dark Ages America (

Obama turned out to be a war criminal and a shill for the Pentagon, Wall Street, and the corporations. His administration has energetically gone after whistleblowers, and has murdered US citizens or indefinitely detained them under the cover of the fascistic National Defense Authorization Act. Instead of doing anything positive to change the direction of the country, the American people are staring into their iPads and smart phones, totally mesmerized and moronized by the latest electronic gadget. Books documenting their ignorance and stupidity have multiplied rapidly since 2006. Our educational system is a joke, our cities lie in shambles, and our political discourse is totally vapid. Hustling proceeds with incredible vigor and determination, and “Me, myself, and I” is the purpose of life for most Americans (polls reveal that empathy is basically out the window). The president’s absurd failure in Syria, and comeuppance from Vladimir Putin, has left him, and America, with egg on face. Much of the rest of the world perceives us (correctly) as not “exceptional” at all, but rather weak and ineffectual. Nearly 20% of the nation is unemployed, with no prospects of future work—and so on. Our star is fading, and in the pattern of late-phase empires, we are committing suicide by our own hand (denial being a big part of the process). Some call it karma; I call it “history.”

Acacia H. said...

After recently hearing someone on Facebook talk about gerrymandering and the like, someone else commented that we need more House members. This is my response:

When you consider how technology has changed things, I believe the time has come to alter the House of Representatives so that it uses Telecommuting Representatives who attend via a secured webcam and deliver their votes via a system that only connects to a specific legislative intranet using remote computers with no USB drives, no ports, and only a BluTooth output to printers to print out important paperwork.

Then you have all House Seats dependent on a specific population level. This will result in at least 100 additional Seats to the House - all of whom will attend via select seats that will have cameras, microphones, and speakers so these Remote Representatives can attend Congress. They vote remotely via the secured network (and it is secure as there is no way to accidentally download malware and the system doesn't connect to the Internet).

The addition of all these seats will force redistricting. This will destroy the current Gerrymandering system and will likely result in additional seats added to at least 45 U.S. States. And if we add a 51st or 52nd state in the future, that won't force the restructuring of the House districts already existing.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

As I mentioned before, I just recently finished my third reading of "Earth".

This time, what struck me more than anything else was the revelation that during the lead up to the Helvetian war, the real hidden powers made sure that all reasonable leadership was assassinated or blackmailed to insure that the insane were in charge, for the EXPRESS PURPOSE of igniting a confligration.

Torn from today's headlines?

Jumper said...
The entire text

Wikipedia on that speech

Mike Galos said...

Robert, I'd note that the Constitution (Article I, Section 2) says The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand which with a current adult citizen population of roughly 305 million means that if we follow the founders' design we'd have at a minimum 10,167 members of the House of Representatives.

Paul451 said...

"The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand"

The minimum size of a district sets the maximum number of Representatives. ~10,000 Reps (~300m/30,000). But districts can be larger, down to 1 Representative per state.

The problem with expansion is that people don't like "politicians". Even though they'll keep voting for the same incumbent, any suggestion of increasing the number of "politicians" would be met with horror. That makes it easy for those incumbents to block any dilution of their power. (And all without any apparent awareness of the irony.)

So an alternative suggestion, reduce the number of paid "politicians" in DC to 2 per state, but have a network of elected but unpaid volunteers using your secure terminals to vote in their homes. For example, imagine Mike's 10,000 Reps, elected in districts of 30,000 people. But called "Special Volunteer Representatives" or something. (18 in Wyoming, 1241 in Cali.) Those 10,000 then elect their 100 "politicians" to go to Washington to negotiate legislative language, sit on oversight committees, conduct hearings, etc. The key would be that the "politicians" don't vote on legislation; they represent the actual Representatives, the 10,000 "Specials". The two paid politicians would be more like lawyers who aid people in contract negotiations. And while the only official job of the Specials is to vote on actual bills (to "sign the contract"), many would obviously be more involved in voting on smaller issues to guide their two reps.

This would be an easier sell. Now you are taking away power from the "politicians" and giving it back to "the people". You're also reducing the number of "politicians" while forcing those who remain to genuinely "serve the people".

Paul451 said...

"For instance, my [...] Fox News watching, Tea Party mother is very, very upset about this."

How is the counter-blame meme working on your family? The Democrat-shutdown? That "Obama has stated that he won't negotiate with Republicans, but he is happy to negotiate with Syria and Iran!" I've heard rusted-on Republicans (online) regurgitating that as if it was their own thought. (Such as Apollo astronaut Bill Anders just today.)

[The counter-counter meme is "Doesn't that mean the House Republicans are crazier than the mullahs of Iran, more intransigent than the dictator of Syria?"]

Re: 2014
The problem is that all the races are district-level, which are the most gerrymandered, with no winner-takes-the-state Presidential race to serve as a counter-point. Nothing will change in 2014.

"Obama turned out to be..."

What "turn out"? He always was. This was obvious before 2008. His history showed that he was more comfortable working with conservatives, going right back to his University days; whenever he was in a position to do so, he selected conservatives for positions. Any informed liberal said Obama was centre-right at best. The only surprise was how little "centre" there was in his "centre-right", unless you go by the point halfway between the centre-right Democratic Party and the far-right Republican Party.

Abraham Lincoln, (heh)
"In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of "Black Republicanism" as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite - license, so to speak - among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all."

Now it's "liberals", of course. But shibboleths, even then.

David Brin said...

Various replies:

Scott there are lefty loonies and I mention them from time to time. I do not call them "blue" because most of them do not give a flying rat's patoot about the United States of America, only about their own indignant snits and trying to guilt trip/bully everyone around them. (Our Anonymous visitor kindly gave us a shining example!)

But they are indeed, rare and politically of no importance in America's ongoing civil war…

... in which MOST "blues" are liberals and democrats but not all. There are many grownup conservatives and libertarians who know this has to end with Rupert's clutches unclenched from the hearts and souls of our misled red neighbors and fellow citizens and the US rededicated to progress, science and a self-improvement campaign that is open, friendly, freee of rancor, but determined to make the future better.

LarryHart I had forgotten that about EARTH. Eek! What was I channeling!

David Brin said...

Two top republicans clarify the history and confirm that the thing they now oppose was originally their idea. Indeed, Obamacare was cloned from Newt's official GOP Health Care Plan in 1994 which the Republicans offered as their alternative to Hillarycare. It is also the plan that Romney passed in Mass with full GOP support. The differences from Obamacare are minor.

Now it is perfectly okay to declare "we changed our minds." But it is quite another to scream with rage and to call "communist!" those who resurrect your own plan and offered it for negotiation. That is called hypocrisy.

Just to be clear, even after Obamacare is rooted in (and especially if it works, which is the GOP's deepest fear) the U.S. will still have the LEAST socialist system in the developed world.

But never fear. Humans are flexible. If Obamacare works, then the Republicans will declare "it was our idea all along!" and call it Republicare.

Lorraine said...

That is cool?

Larry C. Lyons said...

Scott said...
How did you forget the "But the Democrats have their loonies too" line at the end?

Yes but in the case of the Democratic Party, the inmates are not running the asylum. Correction, its not the inmates, its the really psycho types from the locked back ward now who are running the asylum known as the Republican party.

Alex Tolley said...

But never fear. Humans are flexible. If Obamacare works, then the Republicans will declare "it was our idea all along!" and call it Republicare.

That would be a good outcome. Then it might be easier to introduce the public option.

gregory byshenk said...

I have one recommendation for Americans.

It is true that many of the Tea Party reps are in safe seats, but that doesn't mean that there is no chance of change. People should focus on all the seats that are competitive, including those of the more "moderate" Republicans. Those so-called "moderates" should not get a free pass to run against the crazies in their party when they will fall in line behind them when the election is over.

Unknown said...

"That is cool?"

Lincoln didn't mean "cool" like we do in today's vernacular. He means it more like "cold hearted" or "indifferent".

Hank Roberts said...

So, if all else fails, would some software/politics team please figure out just how many of us retirees need to hook up the trailer and move to which of the thirty-odd carefully Gerrymandered districts that elect the teapots to the House of Representatives? Do the model, make a signup sheet, let's caravan and establish residency before the next election in enough districts to change this dreadlocked situation.

Hank Roberts said...

PS -- watch for the carving out of a "medical devices" loophole in the Afforable Care Act, based on what one of their more loose-lipped Representatives told an NPR interviewer a few days ago. He mentioned that twice, along with the lies they've been telling about that.

The idea of having health care is, those taking money out pay tax on it. The "medical device" industry wants a loophole big enough to drive a hospital through.

Betcha they get it.

After all, who'd want to have a tax imposted on Dick Cheney's artificial heart?

Lorraine said...

What is the business model of the medical device industry anyway? Ever since non-cable TV went digital, 90% of the ad traffic on the channels between the channels has been either for DME (durable medical equipment, specifically for folks with Medicare), or ambulance-chasing law firms trolling the national audience for cases. With a sprinkling of Medicare Advantage vendors, reverse mortgage slingers (with washed-out actors as their celebrity spokescritters) and the other usual suspects.

LarryHart said...

The opening of Chapter 23 of "A Tale of Two Cities" describes the inevitable end of the road that the oligarchists are taking us down:

Far and wide lay a ruined country, yielding nothing but desolation. Every green leaf, every blade of grass, every blade of grain, was as shrivelled and poor as the miserable people. Everything was bowed down, dejected, oppressed, and broken. Habitations, fences, domesticated animals, men, women, children, and the soil that bore them--all worn out.

Monseigneur (often a most worth individual gentleman) was a national blessing, gave a chivalrous tone to things, was a polite example of the luxurious and shining life, and a great deal more to equal purpose; nevertheless, Monseigneur as a class had, somehow or other, brought things to this. Strange that Creation, designed expressly for Monseigneur, should be so soon wrung dry and squeezed out! There must be something short-sighted in the eternal arrangements, surely! Thus it was, however, and the last drop of blood having been extracted from the flints, and the last screw of the rack having been turned so often that its purchase crumbled, and it now turned and turned with nothing to bite, Monseigneur began to run way from a phenomenon so low and unaccountable.

David Brin said...

Hank I will be renewing my gerrymandering idea soon. easier (tho similarly ingenious) to yours.

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, the problem with your Gerrymandering idea is that it would require a Constitutional Amendment that would never pass. After all, Red-Blue and Blue-Red states (ie, states in which Gerrymandering is responsible for one specific party getting a majority of seats in Congress and/or the State Houses despite not winning a majority of the voters) have no incentive to allow such a system that would kill their own power base.

My system, on the other hand, is Constitutionally viable and would increase the political power of a number of states. It would also increase the strength of Republicans in otherwise-Blue states. It would force states to redistrict once more. There is only one real problem with it: paying for an additional 100-500 (or more) Representatives.

Part of this could, in theory, be paid for by the individual States. If they are gaining political power by having additional Representatives, then they should pay for those salaries and insurance programs (though I say put every Congressfolk and the President on Medicare without any plans as having private insurance would be a possible incentive to "help" that industry, and have their pensions eliminated and let them collect Social Security instead).

Furthermore, by using technology to allow more people be Representatives while not adding to the number of people in Washington, you effectively disrupt the current lobbyist system. You won't have lobbyists able to be in the faces of all the Representatives for fairly cheap, as you have an additional 100 or more people who are located in probably 48 other states.

There is even one other benefit: educational. You could have a variant of these secure computers sent to various high schools or colleges so that children and students could "attend" Congress and see exactly what goes on there. It would truly be educational, if possibly mind-numbingly-boring. ;)


Here's a question: What do you see happening if President Obama turns around and after the House refuses to raise the Debt Ceiling, arbitrarily state "Because the House refuses to perform its duty without unConstitutional efforts to hold the nation hostage unless its efforts are met, I am abolishing the Debt Ceiling. The United States will meet its debt requirements despite the refusal of the Republican Party to do its duty."

Undoubtedly the Republican Party will promptly impeach Obama, but the Senate won't work on it so the end result is the Republican Party pulling another Clinton... but this time it's not about sex lies, but rather about a President doing his duty for the nation when Congress refuses to do so. Very likely in 2014 you'll see Republicans lose the House as a result of this, and Obama vindicated.

Rob H.


One clue to the House Republicans' vicious nihilism is their death grip on both the government closedown and the debt ceiling as hostages to a political settlement.

By now, even small children and low-flying birds should know that just threatening default costs money, debits against all taxpayers, and benefits only for our in-country and global creditors.

There are generally accepted balance sheets that document the billions of dollars of wealth transferred from our government (and us) to the very rich in 2011, the last time Boehner's Boys threatened to welsh on the National Debt. Obstinately repeating a previous mistake is not good politics.

Furthermore, a second hostage is redundant, far more dangerous than valuable. Any sane politician would drop the issue and pre-empt the costly "anxieties" of the global marketplace by raising the ceiling. This will allow the GOP or the TP to focus completely on their real agenda: re-budgeting the government that must eventually be re-opened.

Frankly, they should go to Hell on that issue, too, since the Constitution has provided many ways to change legislation, but this isn't one of them.
More on this and like and unlike topics at the blog DAVEMARASHSEZ.


David Brin said...

Robert you have clearly forgotten or never knew my gerrymandering idea. which is related to yours but vastly vastly easier for people to accomplish. Stay tuned...

(tho I did mention it briefly at:

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, from what I recall you wanted to have States have to have each district from the Federal level intersect by a minimum amount with the districts for State level representatives. There are several problems with this. First and foremost is that there are far more State Reps than Federal Reps, so a Federal Representative may represent the same region that, say, five State Reps represent. So how can you minimize overlap?

Second, you're insisting on States having specific rules for enacting both State and Federal level Representatives. That level of control would require a Constitutional Amendment.

And third, by increasing the number of Federal Representatives by just 100, you break a major component of gerrymandering. While it is still possible, in all likelihood you'll have a number of nearly-balanced districts due to the tendency of the ruling party to try and maximize their political power. Currently they have found a "safe" balance. Upsetting that balance would force them to reapportion that power which would likely have more borderline regions where genuine debate would occur.

(Of course, another alternative is for open primaries such as in California and Washington State. Good luck convincing more states to jump on board with that, however. You might get New York State to go for it, and in theory New England itself could... but most regions won't bother due to the efforts of Republican politicians to hold onto power by minority government as long as possible.)

91 ewshotin

David Brin said...

Robert, the minimum overlap rule was just one of my ideas and the least important. It is a METHOD by which a state that decided to end the perversities of gerry mandering could force its politicians to end the robbery, even without choosing "independent commissions.." And from what you describe, it seems pretty clear you don't understand it.

In any event, that is NOT my main recommendation since it requires either action by politicians (almost impossible) or else uprisings of citizens as has happened in California and a few blue states. It will have zero effect in red America, where the real problem lies.

My suggestion... it is there in my main article but I'll be reiterating it more compactly... requires ZERO coordinated action, not any cooperation by politicians and courts and no big-effort ballot campaigns. All it takes is a lot of media exposure to spread a simple, easy to execute meme.

CP said...

It may be largely futile to expect the state legislatures to adopt California/Washington style open primaries. However, 24 states have some form of initiative process (including several red and battleground states). And, if all of them passed comparable initiatives it would free about 48% of the house from having to cater to the most extreme wings of their parties. Enough, perhaps, to create a critical mass that would weaken party control and reduce the likelihood of situations like the current logjam.

Of course, the initiatives couldn't take effect till after 2014, at the earliest. And, all of them probably wouldn't pass on the first go-around. Also, it takes several cycles for the change to become fully operative--incumbency is still a powerful advantage and current office holders often have to reach the end of their careers first... For example, Washington has used its current system for two cycles, now. In 2012, democrats took the Governorship and State House. Meanwhile, two nominal democrats decided to caucus with the republicans giving them control of the State Senate. And, the state government remained reasonably functional. I would argue that that wouldn't have happened under the old system. And, that party control in Washington will continue to weaken in the future.

So, if a "Bill Gates" were willing to put ten or twenty million into a drive to get the initiatives on the ballots in 2014... ;-)


Anonymous said...

According to table 1.2, it is not true that "the US Federal government's current portion of GDP is the lowest since 1940".

Spending as % of GDP is about as high as it has been at any time since 1940, excluding the WW2 years.

Tax receipts as % of GDP over the past few years are near the lowest since 1950 (but higher than most of the 1940-1950 years, excluding WW2 years) but that's likely due to the recession, not any government action that would meet Tea Party approval.

Paul451 said...

10 seconds of trading of a single stock (Blackberry) slowed down by around a factor of 20. That time-stamp at the centre is showing you milliseconds.

This is what the exchanges have to keep up with, if there's ever an overload of an exchange, the HST-algos exploit it for gain.

Paul451 said...

More games bots play:

(So how much of this activity is bots trying to exploit strategies of other bots, and/or microsecond flaws in the exchange hardware?)

Stefan Jones said...


Lorraine noted the prevalence of ads for medical devices and ambulance chasers on "the channels between channels."

Industry worker insight: These are "default" ads . . . as are those for cheap toys ("Flippeez!"), kitchen gadgets, and blankets with sleeves. They are really, really cheap because many of them can be preempted, if the local cable provider can find someone willing to pay, by a local advert . . . like for the car dealership down the highway.

I work for a group that develops advertising insertion systems that splice local ads over the national cable feed.

Which is a round-about way of saying: Those adverts are placed by bottom-feeders taking advantage of really low rates.)))

sociotard said...

Bird sounds captured using a digital audio recorder and fed into a computer to activate particle effects.

Jumper said...

A study on internet trolling and anger:

David Brin said...

Anonymous ignores the elephant in the room, which is that Marginal to p tax rates are at their lowest in 70 years, which impinges on every one of the other factors, from the decline in the middle class to skyrocketing wealth disparities.

Andrew Kieran said...

Billion pound brain project under way

A 10-year, billion pound neuroscience project which aims to revolutionise our understanding of the human brain has begun.

pretty cool, maybe the next human genome project

sociotard said...

Remember back in the early Aughts, when they said how revolutionary mapping the Genome was going to be so scifi revolutionary, and then not much happened? And now we're just trying to widen our sequencing to capture more (Sequencing bugs associated with humans, documenting epigenetic causes and effects), but smart money says we probably still don't even know all the right questions?

Yeah, that's where I see the billion pound brain project going.

David Brin said...

As long as they ONLY focus on neurons they will not understand the brain...

Jumper said...

My gut tells me you're right!

Anonymous said...

"[New Confederates?]...ignore the declining deficit"

Deficits are indeed currently declining from their peak after the 2008 collapse, but are not yet close to the -2% of GDP typical level of recent decades, let alone a more desirable 0% of GDP.

Spending is also at or close to the post WW2 peak and likely to increase (as % of GDP) if nothing changes.

"US federal tax rates are at their lowest levels in 70 years"
"Anonymous ignores the elephant in the room, which is that Marginal top tax rates are at their lowest in 70 years"

The top marginal rate was 35% for about a decade (down from and now back up to 39.6%), but has been as low as 28% (1988/89).

A 44% top rate (on a new, $1M+ bracket) might be OK, if spending also got a cap of 20% of GDP (deep cuts, but about average for recent decades).

LarryHart said...

More evidence that "A Tale of Two Cities" is torn from today's headlines, or at least today's blog posts.

Just a few hours ago, Paul Krugman had this to say in his blog:

If we have a debt-ceiling crisis in a couple of weeks, with dire economic effects, don’t just blame Boehner’s Bunglers; you should also blame the deficit scolds — the Committee for a Responsible Peterson Budget and so on, and all the Very Serious People who have lent them support. For as Jonathan Chait reminds us, these organizations all cheered the Republicans on in 2011, as they made the first-ever use of the debt ceiling to blackmail a sitting president.

If they are now horrified by the prospect of a financial crisis, well, guys, you’re the ones who insisted that extortion was OK as long as you thought it served your goals.

Which is not only spot-on, but also doevtails nicely with the aforementioned Chapter 23 of "A Tale of Two Cities". In that chapter, the Revolution is just starting to get underway. Aristocrats are still nominally in charge, but the downtrodden masses no longer fear nor obey them, and wise military officers know better than to order their men to threaten the populace. Rough men roam the countryside setting fire to the castles of the ruling houses, and when a rider from one such castle beseaches aid from a nearby village, no one cares to provide such assistance.

The rider from the chateau, and the horse in a foam, clattered away through the village, and galloped up the stony steep to the prison on the crag. At the gate, a group of officers were looking at the fire; removed from them, a group of soldiers. "Help, gentlemen-officers! The chateau is on fire; valuable objects may be saved from the flames by timely aid! Help, help!" The officers looked towards the soldiers who looked at the fire, gave no orders; and answered with shrugs and biting of lips, "It must burn."

It occurs to me that that represents the attitute of the American public to cries for the next bailout of the 0.01% when the Tea Party monster they themselves loosed upon us manage to bring down the economy.

David Brin said...

Wow, the French Revolution parallels are hitting the mainstream press.

Jumper said...

0% debt to GDP is not optimal.

LarryHart said...

I'm disappointed, though hardly surprised, that John Boener is attempting to get traction with the counter-meme that PRESIDENT OBAMA is risking default by refusing to negotiate.

Look, "not defaulting on our debt" isn't something the PRESIDNENT and DEMOCRATS want, for which they have to give something in RETURN. As radio host Norman Goldman put it, what if the shoe were on the other foot and a Democratic house insisted that the bill preventing a national default would be held up unless President Romney agreed to a rider proclaiming Medicare For All, or extra EPA regulations, or even free government-paid abortions for all! If the Republicans in that situation didn't go along, would THEY be accused of putting partisan politics ahead of the good of the country? Of course they wouldn't. So whay are the Democrats allowed to be tarred with that brush?

Serious question: Why can't President Obama let Boener pass his un-clean debt ceiling bill--say it also de-funds Obamacare or makes it illegal for Hispanics to vote, or whatever the Tea-baggers are whining for this week--and then pull a "W" and issue a SIGNING STATEMENT proclaiming that he doesn't consider himself bound by the extra demands? I'm ready to see him try something like that. I'm also willing to see him try directing the Treasury to pay the bills no matter WHAT the eff-you-see-kay Congress does.

Jumper said...

I would be surprised but not bowled over if the Supreme Court mandated something forcing payments.

opit said...

Larry Hart

real hidden powers made sure that all reasonable leadership was assassinated or blackmailed to insure that the insane were in charge, for the EXPRESS PURPOSE of igniting a conflagration.

I noted that as soon as Obama was confirmed elected in 2008, media immediately started whipping up fears of such a situation. Today bloggers and journalists are under attack as 'terrorists', SOP for the state that cannot show modern COIN in the USA has in fact accomplished any useful purpose with NSA wholesale spying.

Meanwhile I am reminded of the Existentialist Cowboy articles by Len Hart and notes when corporations became persons - something paradoxical because they are formed to evade personal accountability. Such nonsense forms the basis for a corporate agenda dictating legislative packages to lawmakers. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a pale shade of today's open sewer of corruption.

Acacia H. said...

Going off on a tangent (as is my wont) I thought I'd share this older Cracked article on elements of Science Fiction that I thought Dr. Brin might enjoy. And you know something? It's dead on. Even I used it with my science fiction (the use of the straight man, for example).

Rob H.

locumranch said...

David is spot on to compare the current US government shutdown to the American Civil War because what he describes -- what is occurring -- with the abandonment of civility, the failure of governance & the unceasing talk of secession, represents nothing less than the death throes of US Federalism in a manner that imitates the 'Balkanization' & dissolution of the old USSR.

Like the pre-1980 USSR, the United States & the historical unification thereof, has relied upon the unifying effect of the external threat, a fact which has been frequently exploited by our political leaders who have solidified public sentiment by giving us an ever growing array of either real or imagined enemies:

King George, the Shores of Tripoli pirates, Native Americans, the Irish diasporia, the Spanish presence in Cuba, the Yellow Peril, minority invaders from the Halls of Montezuma and the War on TERROR, including a fearfully diverse collection of alienists, anarchists, communists, unionists, drug runners, Masons, Papists, Jews, Mormons & Islamists.

But, like the citizenry of old USSR, the public eventually tires of the constant litany of external threats, allowing any number of internal discomforts (like economic disparity, tribalism, racism, classism & religious intolerance) gain the limelight, shattering or fracturing an uneasy peace based upon either a common enemy or a common goal.

This type of fracture is inevitable in any diverse political union. It is also long overdue as the populous, progressive, technically savvy & economically prosperous coast-hugging 'blue' states ignore the needs of the centrally-located, provincial, sparsely populated, resource-based & economically retarded 'red' states become increasingly resentful of the politically & numerically correct tyranny of the blue masses.


LarryHart said...


This type of fracture is inevitable in any diverse political union. It is also long overdue as the populous, progressive, technically savvy & economically prosperous coast-hugging 'blue' states ignore the needs of the centrally-located, provincial, sparsely populated, resource-based & economically retarded 'red' states become increasingly resentful of the politically & numerically correct tyranny of the blue masses.

The tyoanny of the who-now?

In what other conceivable governing system could the red states weield such power OVER the agenda of the country, despite numerical inferiority?

Any red state that wants to seceede shoult be told "Don't let the door hit you on the butt on thw way out." My guess is the secesssionist movement wouuld go the way of the Quebec separatists, from whom we hardly hear any more since they recoiled in horror from almost getting their way.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

The Los Angeles Times had a much more accurate article about the secessionist movement in Colorado than the article in the NY Times. See:

The secessionist new-state movement has more to do with authoritarian vs. anti-authoritarian attitudes than traditional left-right politics.

The reason that two prominent Colorado state senators (who were not from any of the secessionist counties) were recently recalled and thrown out of office had more to do with their arrogant authoritarianism than with any particular political position.

John Morse, the former president of the state senate, was especially arrogant and authoritarian. If he had been an arrogant right-wing authoritarian, he would have been thrown out of office even faster.

A major problem with so many politicians is that seek the job because they enjoy telling other people how to run their lives.

Jerry Emanuelson

rewinn said...

The "Faithfully Executed" option remains if the GOP takes the debt ceiling hostage.

When Congress issues contradictory orders - both to spend money (through the appropriations process) and not to spend money (through the debt ceiling) - the President's Duty is to see that that laws are "Faithfully Executed". Since it is logically impossible to follow both commands, he may choose one or the other.

The Tea Party would rail but so what? If they sue the Supreme Court will either beg off on this as a "political question", or its corporatists may join with its liberals to rule 7-2 that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional. If the Tea Party votes to impeach, Gingrich will scream that everyone steals his ideals (first Obamacare, then the shutdown, and finally irrelevance) but nobody loves him.


"...Billion-pound brain..."
I thought it was a monster movie, but it was only software ;-)

Jumper said...

The egregious Frum:
"It’s a tempting shortcut to throw up one’s hands and say, “I’ve seen the best of it. The future holds only darkness.” It’s especially tempting for a party that disproportionately draws its support from older voters. The fact is that for those of us over 50, the future offers us as individuals only decline leading to extinction. It’s natural to believe that what happens to us must happen to the world around us. Who wants to hear that things will become much, much better for humanity shortly after we ourselves shuffle off the scene? Yet of all mental errors, despair is the most dangerous to a democracy. The “politics of cultural despair” lead to authoritarianism and worse, as the German historian Fritz Stern warned..."

Robert said...

This isn't directly on-topic for this post, but addresses themes that you often discuss. In addition to the Murdoch/Saudi oligarchic conspiracy, are even some of the "good" billionaires unintentionally fostering a slide into feudalism?

Bob Pfeiffer

David Brin said...

The trauma is deeper. Every June Redders must watch the top High School kids cry and hug then run as fast as they can to Blue Cities. Gotta sympathize.

sociotard said...

Every June David must avoid talking about why Texas has a growing middle class and California a shrinking one. Gotta sympathize.

matthew said...

More on the TOR / Silk Road takedown. This author seems to believe that the arrest of Dread Pirate Roberts has to do with a vulnerability on the servers hosting a high visibility Dark Net website. I tend to agree. Silk Road's Downfall Killed the Dream of the Dark Net.

I think that the recent arrests of Silk Road dealers / customers can be seen as a major validation of David's stance in The Transparent Society, and here, that strong crypto and anonymity do not define freedom from governmental / elite snooping. The cypherphreaks are dead.

We will hear lots of hand-wringing over this in the years to come, lots of smart people claiming that they have found a better way to protect anonymity on the internet, but remember this moment: This is when that particular dream ended.

Anyone with enough computing power, and access to the right malware can find your ISP. Period.

matthew said...

Salon adopts David's Civil War language. Tea Party’s shutdown lunacy: Avenging the surrender of the South

Anonymous said...

The incredible arrogance demonstrated by blue state intellectuals like Mr. Brin toward "redders" and "teabaggers" is a major reason why this civil war exists. Your kind need to feel visceral fear, to understand that you cannot attack a people's pride, power and way of life forever and not face retaliation.

The bigger picture is that Southerners are beginning to realize that their biggest enemy is not muslims in distant lands, but the arrogant partisans of the Religion of Progress right here in the USA – a fanatical cult that would consign entire cultures, religions and ways of life to the dustbin of history (e.g. the South). As more Americans begin to realize that they have a common enemy with the Islamic world and stop fighting wars for the Zionist-Masonic New World Order (as we saw with the rejection of the attempt to manufacture a Syrian war), America will become increasingly hostile to your agenda and machinations.

I see through you Brin; you’re a nasty propagandist with little talent but a huge ego, who specializes in cultural engineering and the manipulation of minds. Fuck you, and everyone like you, forever! God is great!

matthew said...

This one is worthy too Salon on the Right Wing Coup

And this ought to rile some folks up. Ancient Confession Found: 'We Invented Jesus Christ' Researcher claims to have found 1st century first person account of a Roman psy-ops program to manufacture a false Messiah to pacify Palastine.

matthew said...

Whew! Nice trolling! That's pro-level stuff there anon.
Actually, it is pretty weak sauce. Come back with a little more next time.

David Brin said...

Sociotard-liar... I never avoided it. Name one time I did. Have you read about Red States shoving their poor onto goddam BUSSES with one way tickets to blue states?

Do you have a clue why poor Mexicans emigrate to the US? Um, duh? because there are services and jobs and opportunities. If California had a border patrol with Texas and Nevada, we might have fewer poor.

Fact is Texans can only dream (and urban Texans do) of being as well run as CA. There, is that avoidance enough? fen.

David Brin said...

Anonymous, you might has a sliver of cred if you came here with a name, instead of with a drive-by shooting. In fact, I have gone onto scores of others' sites decrying and despising their use of "tea-baggers" as nasty and counterproductive. I don't think "redders" is anywhere near as derogatory… buit if it wounded, I apologize. It was down in comments and not official. People hurry when typing comments.

In fact, I expressed sympathy for the Red Counties' biggest hurt… watching the best and brightest graduates if the local High School (the center of life in small towns… hurry off to Blue America every single year. Have you seen anyone else, - blue or red - sympathize with that pain? That implied rebuke?

I'd offer you a bet… your home vs mine… that I could come up with more savage attacks on "liberals" by Hannity and Fox and Limbaugh in any one DAY than you'd find against conservatives in an entire year on CBS, NBC, PBS and ABC COMBINED. But I won't bother with a troll.

This culture war (a term coined by the right) was entirely started by the mad FACTION of the right that has hijacked conservatism.

Your final screeech of hysterical-panicked rudeness torched the credibility of a troll.

rewinn said...

An anon who attacks both Zionists AND Muslims may well be a Poe.

Ordinarily I'd guess he (and it's certainly male) might be very, very much an equal-opportunity hater, but the inclusion of Masonists suggests someone is having us all on.

sociotard said...

There, is that avoidance enough?

Yes, that was a whole lot of avoidance. Specifically, addressing a bunch of points that were irrelevant. A bunch of poor people go to California . . . and . . . so what?

In your entire post, you did not address the middle class. That is avoidance.
In 2011, 562,000 people left California, and 468,000 came.

From 2005 to 2011, California lost 158 people with household incomes under $20,000 for every 100 who arrived, and 165 for every 100 people with household incomes between $20,000 and $40,000. In contrast, just slightly more people with household incomes in the $100,000-$200,000 range left than came to California (103 out per 100 in), and California actually gained a hair more people in the $200,000+ range than it lost (99 out per 100 in). The rich aren’t leaving California, but the poor and the middle class are.

183 Californians moved to Texas for every 100 Texans moving to California.

That's a lot of voting with feet, even with the poor bus "ballot stuffing". And a google search tells me those people were sent more for mental health issues than poverty issues, though the two are related.

California still has the country’s third-highest unemployment rate, at 10.7 percent, compared with Texas’s 7.2 percent. That isn't because poor people come to California. I've just given hard numbers to show that the opposite is true. So why?

sociotard said...

oops, fouled the links

Anonymous said...

Fair enough Brin, I was sort of trolling for a reaction. You're a stand up guy. Respect.

David Brin said...

Feh upon the troll's change of heart. SOunds like an entirely different "anonymous" and probably was.

Sociotard are you really going to compare social factors? How about teen sex, pregnancy and abortion rates? STDs? DOmestic violence? Sure there's middle class white flight to a super low tax state. Tx participates in the divide-and-conquer strategy of big business to a horrible degree, when the states should make a compact not to cut each others' throats with giveaways.


David Brin said...


Tony Fisk said...

...and upward ! ;-)

Teri Pettit said...

CP: While open primaries, at least in the form that California recently passed (btw, they currently apply only to state level offices, not Congress or the President), do tend push the two main political parties towards their center, they actually decrease the power of third parties, and give grassroots citizens less influence over who represents them.

The way CA's open primary is defined is that top two vote getters from the primary, regardless of party, move on to the general election. Each party's greatest fear is that one of the other parties gets BOTH of the slots in the general. This is most likely to happen if their own party's voters are more split during the primary. A party that doesn't split its vote up much is far more likely to make it onto the general election ballot. Consequently, while this sort of open primary does create pressure for moderation, it also creates a great deal of pressure to cut deals before the primary so that virtually all of the challengers drop out, and only the "most likely to win" candidate from each party even RUNS in the primary.

If a political party is disciplined, what they do is before the actual primary, pressure nearly every candidate affiliated with their party from running in the primary at all, so as not to split the vote. It decreases the power of fringe elements, but it also increases the power of party machines. Third party candidates don't even make it to the general ballot, so rather than increasing their chances, it just makes their "voice in the wilderness" get drowned out earlier.

Replacing "winner takes all" with form of preferential voting and/or semi-parliamentary represention is a better way of keeping the fringes from dominating a major party, while reducing the power of party machines at the same time.

Instead of increasing the number of legislative districts, reduce them, by combining districts, so that each district is represented by, say, 5 representatives. Require the boundaries to be approximately rectangular, as much as population size allows. Allow each voter to rank the candidates, or distribute multiple votes in some way. People would essentially not only "vote up" the candidates they liked the most, they would also "vote down" the candidates they liked the least. Then let each district be represented by the top 5 vote getters in that district.