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“Occupy Wall Street” Not for Lefties Only

October 8, 2011

Moderates can cheer Occupy Wall Street, but let's make sure the ideologues don't commandeer the ship.

It’s starting to look like 1968 all over again.  For three weeks now, the scruffy rebels have been marching, waving placards, camping out, obstructing traffic, denouncing the capitalists, dressing up as corporate zombies, getting themselves arrested and otherwise raising a good ruckus in Manhattan’s Financial District. And like those much-reviled money-changers of Lower Manhattan, they mean business.

An anti-corporate publication known as Adbusters orchestrated the “occupation,” and its rallying cry seemed reasonable to anyone in favor of clean government:

Beginning from one simple demand – a presidential commission to separate money from politics – we start setting the agenda for a new America.

What honest person could dispute the need to divorce politics from corporate influence? That much is a no-brainer. Of course, there’s the small matter of an obscure publication — and a Canadian one at that — demanding to set America’s agenda for us. I detect a distinct whiff of that old-time leftist penchant for deciding what the people “need” regardless of what they actually want. Still, it was time for somebody, anybody, to call for a radical departure from business as usual. Because the usual business was destroying us.

The Occupy Wall Street movement started modestly enough, with a much-ballyhooed September 17 rally that drew only a thousand or so ragtag believers to the once-obscure Zuccotti Park near Ground Zero. The mainstream media granted the “occupation” a few minutes of condescending attention during that uncertain first week, then tried to ignore it. But they couldn’t stop it. Like a laid-back Western edition of the Arab Spring, this revolution is being tweeted. It refuses to die despite the right-wing wisecracks about fuzzy goals, latte-drinking and bodily hygiene. In fact, the protest has been growing and gathering momentum as it snowballs along.

In “We Are the 99 Percent,”an online appendage of the Occupy Wall Street movement, individual protesters dramatize their woes with handwritten posters attesting to their staggering student debts, uninsurable illnesses, run-ins with banks and creditors, indefinite layoffs, seemingly endless (and fruitless) searches for work, bouts of depression, growing alienation and general fed-upness. It’s easy for some folks to snicker at these statements for their narcissism and bleating self-pity, but it’s impossible to deny that we’re looking at serious personal suffering as a result of a broken economy. These are authentic testimonials to a once-great nation in decline.

One of the melancholy personal testimonials from "We Are the 99 Percent"

Who exactly are the “one percent” that the “99 percent” oppose?

They are the banks, the mortgage industry, the insurance industry. They are the important ones. They need help and get bailed out and are praised as job creators. We need help and get nothing and are called entitled. We live in a society made for them, not for us. It’s their world, not ours. We are the 99 percent. We are everyone else. And we will no longer be silent. It’s time the 1 percent got to know us a little better.

The anger swells and spreads. Now we see legions of sympathizers staging their own anti-corporate rallies in cities from Boston to San Francisco. Trade unions have been joining the troops, eager to regain their macho mojo after decades of ignominious decline. Lefty show-biz tycoon Roseanne Barr appeared before the Wall Street crowd, literally calling for the heads of guilty bankers who refuse to surrender their ill-gotten gains and submit to “re-education camps.” (To one upstart cynic who called her out for her voluminous personal wealth, she angrily tweeted, “Not all rich r guilty including me-u commie.”)

Roseanne makes an important point, as much as I hesitate to agree with her about anything. The “Occupy Wall Street” crowd deserves the chance to vent its anger at the insolent, impenetrable fortress that is Wall Street today. But it needs to distinguish the malevolently rich from the merely rich, or we could be in for a mob-induced bloodbath. (See “French Revolution,” “Russian Revolution” and “Pol Pot” for further edification.)

The struggle shouldn’t be about class; it needs to be about corruption… about a self-entitled financial elite illicitly sucking money and hope away from the American middle and working classes until (as of 2007) the bottom 80 percent of the population controlled just seven percent of the nation’s financial wealth. (By contrast, the top one percent controlled 43 percent of the wealth.) It needs to be about the politicians who collude with that same elite, carrying out its predictably self-serving agenda as a reward for generous campaign donations. This sinister alliance needs to be broken by any means short of violence, it needs to be broken now, and the Occupy Wall Street movement might be just the instrument we need to restore some semblance of representative democracy to our distressed republic.

The movement’s official statement of purpose, while short on specifics, states its goal cleanly and crisply:

“We vow to end the monied corruption of our democracy.”

I’m fine with that, aren’t you? We need bands of righteous rebels to “occupy” K Street, that epicenter of lobbyist activity, and even the great-domed Capitol itself, where our puppet Congress holds sway over the nation’s laws. We can no longer count on our elected representatives to do the right thing; they’ll never vote to outlaw those plush corporate campaign contributions, and as a result they’ll never cut the strings that tie them to the nation’s plutocracy.

The people have to cut those strings for them. But not a mob… no rabid sans-culottes calling for the heads of the aristocrats. A presidential commission on corruption would be a good start. But given the current chief executive’s lack of clout in Congress we’ll also need an army of impassioned, upright, committed enthusiasts for an honest government and a fair society.

If you say you want a revolution, don’t think in terms of Lenin or even Lennon. Think Frank Capra. That’s right: let’s restore genuine representative democracy in the spirit of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington… let’s call for a decent, humane, radically reformed capitalism in the spirit of George Bailey’s Building & Loan.

Can you see why moderates need to get involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement? Most revolutions start with noble intentions and end up with a new (and invariably worse) set of oppressors. We can’t let our American Spring be dominated by left-wing extremists any more than we can allow our national politics to be controlled by right-wing extremists.

Good moderates everywhere need to wake up from their comfortable slumber, demonstrate for fairness in government and finance, and keep the Occupy Wall Street movement honest. We should tolerate no incitement to class warfare, no covert Marxist agenda… just a long-overdue restoration of government of the people, by the people, for the people.

And of course, I don’t mean one percent of the people or even 99 percent of the people. The only fair society is one in which everyone counts — even those infernal Wall Street bankers who gamed the system and drove our economy off the cliff. They just might have to take a seat at the bottom of the cliff with the rest of us.

289 Comments leave one →
  1. Rob Anderson permalink
    October 8, 2011 12:05 pm

    Rick, you’ve been too long out of the workaday world to fully understand what needs doing. The reason Marx is necessary is because Frank Capra FAILED. George Bailey is living in a refrigerator box, and the only way to get him back into a decent life is to tell those who run things that they don’t run things anymore. How violent it gets is entirely dependent on how quickly – not to mention whether – those now in charge relinquish their power and get out of the way. If they refuse…well, lets just say that result will make the sans coulettes look like Monty Python.

    You have beared witness to the shit I’ve been put through by our systems over the last 15 years, and how many times I’ve bounced back. Am I really supposed to be touchy-feely with these motherfuckers?! Please.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 8, 2011 1:27 pm

      I’d be interested in hearing a fairly detailed and plausible plan of how you think a violent marxist answer to income inequality and homeless people is going to come about in the US. Not some vague threat but an actual idea of the details.

      If you cannot write out such a plan that passes the laugh test, remembering that the country does have a military and police forces, then you have chosen the wrong horse and need to pick another.

      I’d love to see income radically but legally redistributed too, but how? Its a fiendishly difficult economic and political question. The Marxism and violence answer is a fantasy. If 1% of that violent path is taken we WILL have Perry as our president. Your rhetoric is not helpful, thats the nicest way I can put it.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        October 8, 2011 1:36 pm

        You want a program, one that works without violence? Ok, you got it:

        1. Repeal Taft-Hartley
        2. Raise the minimum wage to $11 per hour, then to $15 per hour after two years
        3. Revoke corporate personhood.
        4. Make it a felony, punishable by imprisonment, to offer ANY gift to a politician that is greater than $100 in value.

        Simple, isn’t it? But there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of ANY of those getting passed in my lifetime. And so, Uncle Karl must be called in to help. Sorry.

      • October 8, 2011 4:22 pm

        Ian and Rob: We still have a few alternatives before resorting to bloodshed. One is to call a Constitutional convention. I think two-thirds of the state legislatures have to request it, then three-quarters of them have to ratify whatever measures are adopted at the convention. The convention could nullify corporate personhood, outlaw large campaign contributions and so on.

        If the states can’t get their act together, there’s a brilliantly simple plan for breaking the link between politicians and big-money interests: all donations would go into a blind trust so that the politicians would have no idea who’s contributing to their campaigns. It means that corporations would simply contribute to the candidate they favor and hope for the best. They would have no leverage to influence policy.

        The big question is whether we could ever get a provision like this through Congress, which of course benefits from big-money contributions. We might have to find a way to force the issue, like starting a campaign to oust all representatives who refuse to give up their sugar-daddies.

        It would help if Obama had another term and could appoint a few liberal Supreme Court justices to balance the conservatives. Then the Court could decide against big-money contributions.

      • October 9, 2011 9:46 pm


        I will be happy to support the repeal of most laws, lets get rid of the Wagner act at the same time.

        If you want to increase unemployment – increase the minimum wage.
        Since you are so certain that is not true – why stop at $15/hour. Lets just raise it to $100/hour right now. Most of us grasp that would be a disaster.
        The minimum wage does absolutely nothing beyond set the minimum productivity and employee must meet in order to be worth employing.
        The higher that value is the fewer people will be employed and the greater the impetus to automate or outsource those jobs.

        Revoking Corporate personhood is complex. It is possible for me to support it, but it is not likely that it would have the outcome you desire.
        First the concept was essentially a progressive one – the law can only hold persons responsible for their acts.
        Further as I have mentioned before, you still trip over problems of free association. Any group – labor union, charitble organization, as well as business, has no less rights to speech than those of the individuals it is composed of. Restricting the speech rights of corporations means reducing the speech rights for every group of people. Even absent corporate personhood Citizen’s United would likely have been decided the same way.

        The left is always in a hurry to restrict what other people do with their own money. Why $100 Why not $1 or $100000 ? What is magical about one number that makes it legitmate and another that makes it a crime ?

        What is the harm you are looking to prevent ? If I contribute $10 to a politician I do so because in my judgement their values on issues important to me are similar to mine. Why does increasing the contribution to $100, $1000 change that into a crime ? What if I even go so far as to openly admit I am contributing $100000 to a politician specifically in the beleif that it will gain me access, and shape their views. Once the politican has cashed the check they are still free to do as they please.

        Corporations contribute far more to democrats than republicans – 92% of donations over $1 million go to Democrats. “The only group favoring Democrats, in fact, were contributors giving more than $100,000 … 64% of donations under $200 go to Republicans. Average annual donation to the RNC is somewhere in the <$100 range.

        I am not particularly in favor of Republicans, but limiting political donations to $100 would decimate the democratic party – not what I think you had in mind.

    • October 8, 2011 5:01 pm

      Marx failed

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        October 8, 2011 5:14 pm

        Did he? I guess that’s why Cuba is a capitalist paradise, and why New Zealand, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Holland, and Japan are all failed societies, right? You people make me laugh, using the sort of debating techniques that would have gotten you thrown off of my speech and debate team at SFSU back in the 80s. For example, only citing failed examples of Marxism rather than trying to account for the many successes. Sorry, doesn’t work.

      • October 9, 2011 9:16 pm


        Please cite successful examples of Marxism. Most of the world grasps there aren’t any.

        Whether it is Cuba, Sweden or the US. The standard of living of a nations people, including and most specifically the the lowest quintile, directly corresponds to the extent of freedom within the country – that is the conclusion of the World Bank, not particularly noted for libertarian stances.

        I will be happy to debate you from now until the end of the earth if Cuba is going to be your definition of the ideal society. I can’t lose.

        The socialist democracies are trickier. They have succeeded thus far – even actually improved the conditions for their people. But most of them suffer from demographic and fiscal problems moving into the future that dwarf ours – they are unsustainable. Direct comparisons to the US are difficult, we are a far more diverse population. We do not have their cultural homogeneity – as they become more diverse this is fracturing too creating other problems.
        Further whatever economic growth they have had over both the long and short run has been about 1/3 (1%) less than ours. That may not sound like much but over the course of decades that has resulted in substantial differences in standard of living – particularly for those on the bottom.

        Household Wealth is between 2.09 and 2.41 times greater in the US than in Europe. Household Debt as a percent of income is 50% lower in the US. US Housing costs as a percentage of income are half that of Europe, and their sizes are about twice that of Europe. All from “Household Wealth in
        the National Accounts of Europe, the United States and
        Japan”, OECD Statistics Working Papers.

      • October 9, 2011 9:24 pm

        I suspect there are myriads of other reasons I could not survive on the SFSU debating team. I will take that as a compliment.

        I beleive you are the one claiming Marx was successful, the burden of proving that is on you. I think I have adequately demonstrated that he failed.

      • Kent permalink
        October 10, 2011 2:20 pm


        On the contrary, Marx succeeded. He envisioned a utopian society. Something new to the world that no one could of imagined. A society where everything was equal and everyone got along.

        I saw this on an old “Star Trek” show. We must remember that in the “Star Trek” world everyone worked to better society and that money was not needed. Everyone used “Credits”.

        Well, Dhlii…you were right to some degree also. With money you can’t have a socialist society. Money is too easy to make and manipulate. The system has to move toward “Credits”. Something that can’t be manipulated by anyone….not even high ranking politicians or CEO’s.

        You put in 8 hours…you get 8 credits for the day. The excess… well it goes to support the less fortunate…whatever that entails.

        Marx had a vision…it’s good, but doesn’t work in today’s world. As long as money is around…his vision is DOA.

        As far as those socialist nations….you can only provide to the citizens what is available. Everyone their still gets paid different wages. Therefore, equality isn’t perfect. Corruption still available, and not true Socialism. It is only a idea put into action as an experiment. Only when they make everyone get only 1 Credit per hour of work will people know they are moving to a true Utopian Socialist society.

        At this point all people will want to do what is necessary to get by (collect credits) till they acquire enough credits to make themselves happy to enjoy the life they want to live. “Discipline”

        You could have this now under Capitalism (money bartering), but you have to accept those that are disciplined to be corrupt.

        It is all about “Discipline” to save like most honest people do to get something they want. Poor people not so much, but this can be many factors: No job, too low pay, debt, etc…

  2. thedrpete permalink
    October 8, 2011 12:50 pm

    The population of New York City is 8,175,133. Half of the city’s annual budget is paid for by 41,282 taxpayers. So 99.5% of New Yorkers pay half and 00.5% pay half. So, this is even-more-extreme than to 99%/1% demagogic rant.

    Occupy Wall Street is protesting whom? They oughta run those evil-rich-mean (Sorry for the redundancy) folks outa town. Do these punks know that almost none of NYC parks — including the huge Central Park — is operated or cleaned or maintained or policed by the City of New York? They are funded and maintained and operated for all by groups of civic-minded New Yorkers, oh and also part of the five-one-thousandths of one percenters.

    Does none of these punks and the union thugs propping them up know that Wall Street could shut down and move in a weekend, opening for business Monday morning in White Plains (New York) or Knoxville (Tennessee) or Panama City (Panama) or Singapore or Hong Kong?

    Does none of these moochers and gimmees know that if they are successful with what they seek, the 41,282 will move and do again what has made them successful while leaving them to the truism, “Be careful what you ask for. You might just get it.”

    Moderates will surely weigh in with something . . . after standing on the sidelines with whetted finger held aloft to assess wind direction. They’re so nuanced.

    • October 8, 2011 4:35 pm

      Dr. Pete: New York is too convenient an example to cite, since some of the world’s richest people live there and essentially fund the local government. I’d be curious to know what percent of the U.S. population pays 50% of the federal taxes. I’m sure the nation’s elite pay a hefty share… that’s not really the issue, though.

      The elephant in the room is the withering of the American middle class as a result of corporate outsourcing, prohibitive housing prices and college tuitions, and high-level financial finagling that wiped out half their assets. All three of these conditions were beyond the control of anyone in the middle class, and they have a right to be angry at the elite that orchestrated this multi-dimensional catastrophe.

      The solution isn’t to eat the rich, but to prevent the financial and corporate elite from gaming the system in their own favor (and against the middle class). The key is to stop the perpetual flow of money from lobbyists to representatives. In fact, I’d criminalize it.

      • October 8, 2011 5:07 pm

        Rick I have given you the numbers for federal taxes before.
        Top 1% – everyone with an Adjusted Gross Income over 385,000 pay 38% of federal income tax
        Top 5% – everyone with an AGI over 160,000 pay 60%
        Top 10% – AGI 115K 70%
        Top 25% – AGI 67K 86%
        Top 50% – AGI 33K 97.3%

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        October 8, 2011 5:17 pm

        Really, why should I care? Why should anyone? If Bill Gates “loses” half his wealth to taxes he still has FOURTEEN BILLION DOLLARS.

        Your argument is made of straw. Find another one.

      • October 9, 2011 9:58 pm


        I have no idea whether Bill Gates or Warren Buffet would care if he lost half his wealth to taxes. But confiscating all the wealth (everything not just income) of the top 1% (that is people earning over $385K/year) – that is $1.6T, would not even cover the deficit for this year. Further almost the entirety of that wealth is held in business investment – confiscating it would be economically disruptive on a catastrophic scale.

        You just do not seem to grasp how huge the federal government is, how much it spends, and how large it is in comparison to the rest of our economy.

        Whether you convince people that taxing anyone more is a good idea, even in the liberal fairy tale world where a increased taxes actually bring increased revenue without tanking the economy, it will not make a dent in any of our problems.

      • Kent permalink
        October 10, 2011 2:28 pm

        You know that if the Federal Government in 1913 hadn’t passed income tax and the Federal Reserve control over our money we wouldn’t be in this mess now?

        We would probably have a National Sales tax that would go up when needed to support our troops, programs or whatever and go down when the American people need more money in our pockets during a recession.

        Manipulation of each persons taxes would be minimal and this conversation on who pays what to whom for what to whom is a mess.

  3. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 8, 2011 12:53 pm

    So many thoughts I have on this one, all in conflict. A far lefty Howard Zinn legion of student radicals, Micheal Moore, a preposterous claim to be not just a majority BUT A 99% MAJORITY, Marxist philosophy, yep, just the kind of thing I have an allergy to. The thing is that in a vague way they have a valid target.

    I continue to believe that it is possible to take the best ideas of both libs and cons and synthesize them, yes the regulate, raise tax revenue and use government to solve problems answer seems to be the polar opposite of the deregulate, cut taxes and private sector answer to economic problems. These warring philosophies cannot be applied to one and the same problem or sector of the economy. No. But they both are based on ideas that cannot be ignored or utterly disproven. More on that later.

    Rick, you are a big believer in the income redistribution argument and I am with you on that. For one thing, its horribly difficult to stimulate our present economy and create jobs because far too many people have insufficient resources to buy large items. BUT, there is no answer to that problem around the next bend, if redistribution by tax policy has been ineffective to date, it ain’t gonna get better now when the economy and our political system is in a straight jacket.

    People argue about economics and each often seem to say that their one favorite target is the whole ball game and curing it will cure the disease. For example, income inequality or regulation,/deregulation. Watching rather intelligent and economically literate people on Walter Russel Mead’s blog argue about what ended the great depression this week I came to the conclusion that it is simply not possible to understand the answer to big economic questions, although there are many answers that are flat-out wrong, the right answer is complex beyond human comprehension. Economics is chaos. everyone sees what they want to see and wants a simple answer of one or two culprits and solutions.

    I’m already Way off your topic and way too long, the protests. I can only hope that the actual part of their deeper message that transcends the far lefty hate-capitalism rhetoric will overshadow the visual images of the protest. Most of these people are very young, quite sincere, absolutely naive, and are willing to Act. Lets praise them for being willing to act, a thing moderates lack. We Are at a turning point, as God is my witness, I have No Idea, rebirth or catastrophe.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      October 8, 2011 1:39 pm

      Economics is chaos? Tell that to the Scandinavians, because while their societies are not perfect, they have managed to keep the worst aspects of capitalism under strict control while fully utilizing its creative energies.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 8, 2011 1:55 pm

        I might be very happy in such a place, but my kids and parents live in this country, and my friends and my little blues funk band and my house is here…..

        So I won’t be moving there.

        Any plan to turn our politics into theirs is very long term and requires immense patience. Your invocation of violence and Marx is a 180 turn in the wrong direction.

        Do you think the bankers and the WSJ types fear your ideas? They hope those ideas will be published in every newspaper in America. They are delighted to have such rhetoric in the mix in an election season.

        If I were a REAL cynic I’d suspect that you write these Marxist missiles exactly from some corporate office somewhere, because that is who you are serving best.

        OK gorgeous fall day, I’m outta here for now.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        October 8, 2011 2:02 pm

        It didn’t take the New Dealers all that long a time to pass their program into law. As for me “serving” the interests of Wall Street, only a fool who believes in the invincibility of the system under which we currently live would think that way.

      • October 8, 2011 5:14 pm

        Over the past 4 decades Sweden’s (and most of europe’s) GDP has doubled. During the same period of time the US GDP has trippled. That directly translates into a substantially greater standard of living – even for the poor.

        The cost of a highly managed highly regulated state with a broad social safety net is substantially less wealth for everyone.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        October 8, 2011 5:40 pm

        And during that same 40 year period the United States has systematically dismantled its middle class, both white collar and blue. So GDP has gone up on the backs of larger and larger numbers of people being immiserated, to achieve just slightly more GDP than Europe did in the same period while achieving a markedly greater quality of life. One of the reasons Europeans are generally so much happier than we are is that they do not have an unofficial propaganda system feeding them socio-cultural twaddle like being a millionaire is the end-all and be-all of existence.

        And speaking of society and culture, there are far fewer restaurants in France per capita than here, and yet the quality of the food in France is really quite astonishing (full disclosure: I’ve heard this second hand, but have never heard it contradicted). The reason is that the French understand that meals are to be enjoyed as an opportunity to relax with friends and/or family. This has the tendency to produce contentment, whereas here in the U.S. meals are mainly a way to conduct business, including the “business” of terrorizing our family members to keep them in line, authoritarianism having been built into the familial structures of our lives. We have no time for each other unless there is something in it for us, and then try and flatter ourselves with the notion that this horrendously nasty and mean type of social intercourse is “human nature.” Well, it’s not. Humans are amongst the most social creatures on earth, so I’m afraid it’s those “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” who’ve got it right, not us, and about just about everything.

      • October 9, 2011 10:08 pm


        The median income in the US is higher than every other nation in the world except Luxemborg. Since the US ranks lower in average income and GDP/PPP per person that both refutes the proposition that the US has destroyed its middle class, as well as the proposition that income inequality in the US is worse than Europe.

        I am sure the restaurants in France are excellent. I am sure that every single nation in the EU exceeds the US in atleast one way.

  4. thedrpete permalink
    October 8, 2011 1:59 pm

    Okay, so the protesters assert, “We vow to end the monied corruption of our democracy.” And Mr. Bayan is fine with that, he says.

    Obviously, both the protesters and Mr. Bayan are of the mistaken impression that our country is a democracy. There goes any credibility.

    As to “monied corruption”, there are two types, both wrong, and both quid pro quo. There is individual welfare which is the government taking by force as necessary the property of producers and redistributing it to non-producers. The quid pro quo is that the non-producers then vote for the politicos who vote for the welfare.

    The other is “corporate welfare”. The two current most-shining examples are ADM (Archer-Daniels Midland), who hugely profits on the ethanol scam and GE (General Electric) who profits on the ban-the-incandescent-lightbulb-and-mandate-the-little-squiggly-you’ll-need-a-hazmat-suit bulb. The quid pro quo is campaign contributions, big time. Also in this category is government unions. Democrats vote for pay and benefit raises for, say, NEA teachers, who then pay dues to the NEA, who than sends campaign contributions to the Democrats. All neat and tidy . . . unless you are a Republican or a taxpayer.

    Meanwhile, the likes of Dodd and Frank, and Waters and Schumer and Cuomo legislate and regulate to distort the markets, and plunder banks; and then Bank of America and Wall Street are demagogued as the bad guys and perps. “Occupy Wall Street”, on the one hand, loves one kind of “monied corruption”, and on the other hand, doesn’t know to whom to vent their anger.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      October 8, 2011 2:17 pm

      You’re a piece of work, you know that? So giving food stamps to people who otherwise starve is the same as guaranteeing markets to billionaires or lobbying that is essentially legalized bribery? It is people like you who put the lie to Rick’s claims that this is “moderation”, and the reason why I invoke Karl Marx (who, by the way, never wrote that violence was an answer). You are yourself corrupt, morally and ethically, do a degree that is irreversible save a slot in some kind of re-education facility or a bullet.

      • October 8, 2011 4:54 pm

        Well, Rob… that’s the problem I have with the far left: anyone who doesn’t get with the program gets the axe (or the bullet, or brainwashing). Let’s not go all Bolshevik here. But I share your frustration with the status quo, which will never enact the legislation we need to reform the system. And the system DOES need to be reformed.

        I think the most insidious problem in our current political landscape is the Kool-Aid being served to lower-middle class Americans by conservative media pundits who woo them by appealing to patriotism, religion and a desire for low taxes and small government. The pundits have successfully turned these people into apologists for a system that works against their interests.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        October 8, 2011 5:11 pm

        My apologies, Rick, but few things rub the rhubarb of my inner-Stalinist as much as smug, bourgoie self-satisfaction. I guess what folks such as yourself need to remember is that if your middling ways fail, people like ME will take over the “reform” efforts, and no one wants that, now do they? When I’ve sat down and contemplated what I’d do if America becomes Thunderdome, it is sobering, because there’s a list of people who would be deader than Lincoln in very short order. But I have limits, Rick. I’m not interested in Stalinist-style paranoia or mass murder. I don’t want to see my country turned into a charnel house. But there are those who do, and if they are the only ones who can get the job done, then so be it.

        Of course, I’m not a fool. The emphasis above should be on the word “if”, as in “IF the country turns into Thunderdome.” I don’t see that happening any time soon, so no worries.

      • October 8, 2011 5:18 pm

        Who is starving in the US ?

        Marx did write, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”.

        Marx failed, Socialism has failed. At is very best it is dramatically outperformed by free markets.

      • October 8, 2011 5:26 pm


        The problem is that you are willing to threaten to take over and impose your ideology by force that makes you both wrong and dangerous.

        Assuming for the sake of argument that the mess we have now is representative of the best of capitolism – an extremely false presumption.
        It has outperformed – both in good times and bad, for the poor as well as the rich, the socialist or Marxist systems you argue for.

        There is a valid unexplored argument regarding whether less government would be an improvement. The argument for more government has been tried, and it has failed abysmally.

        I can not fathom how any rational person today could possibly argue for Marxism, or even socialism. Socialism across the world is collapsing. Very few people even attempt to make a claim for it. The battle ground today is against the kind of light socialist/statist government we have today. And the trend is against that.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 8, 2011 5:37 pm

        Dats OK Dhlii, there have been a large chorus of those here who could not understand how any rational person could argue for free market absolutism, especially in the aftermath of the financial crisis, but while you have been proven to be absolutely wrong over and over, you persevere. Annoying, isn’t it?

    • October 8, 2011 4:46 pm

      Dr. Pete: I’ve never said that liberal lobbies are any better than conservative or corporate lobbies. ALL direct contributions from special interests to representatives must be stopped if we’re going to be a representative democracy (yes, I still like to use the small-d word). What’s happened in recent decades is that Congress has been representing the people who paid for their elections instead of the people who actually elected them. This is wrong and it should be illegal unless you believe in corporatocracy.

      • October 8, 2011 5:37 pm

        How do we decide ?
        These issues are not simple. Absent a totally publicly financed political process – what the heck why not draw the corruption right to the roots of the system, you are left chosing who can and who can not contribute and how much.

        Can George Sorros or the Koch’s contribute ? AT&T or UAW ? NOW or the Pro-Life Action League ?
        Must donations be individual or can groups contribute ?
        What is the difference between a group of people organized arround a common cause such as the World Wild Life Fund and a group of people – the share holders in a for profit business ?

        The left is certain that Citizen’s united was wrongly decided – Corporations are not people. But that issue was actually decided more than 150 years ago. People do not lose their rights when they gather in groups – free association is a constitutional right to. The right to petition the government as an individual, does not go away when we do so in groups. A corporation is an group of people – shareholders. Virtually every organization in existance today from charities to labor unions are corporations.

        The only error the supreme court made was in allowing any restrictions on campaign contributions.

        If you wish to regulate money in politics – regulate the politicians, not the contributors.

  5. thedrpete permalink
    October 8, 2011 2:21 pm

    Wow, so I stumble into a blogsite called the “New Moderate”. And encounter this drivel? What a waste. Bye.

    • October 8, 2011 5:00 pm

      Sorry, Dr. Pete. We welcome all opinions here — left, right and center. Otherwise, what’s the point of arguing about politics? Oh well… adios.

      • October 8, 2011 5:39 pm

        I do not know where “thedrpete” stands, but I have noted before that this site is not “moderate” by any rational definition. It is at best in the middle of the left.

      • Jesse C permalink
        October 8, 2011 5:56 pm

        Just out of curiosity, Rob, not sure how long you’ve been reading TNM, but would you describe this blog as “at best in the middle of the right”?

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        October 8, 2011 6:22 pm

        No, though the range of opinion here is far more right-wing than Rick imagines. The political center is, by definition, central: those who hold it would argue that some policies of the left are correct, and some policies of the right are correct. The problem nowadays is that the frame of reference for the entire debate has been shifted so far to the right in general that the center is right-wing by definition. Then there are the right-wing proclivities of our founder, although these are cultural and not economic (for the most part).

      • October 9, 2011 10:16 pm


        The political center is not the the point midway between the views of the left and those of the right – what you are describing is essentially the bisection of the extremes. I am not sure that has a demographic analogue. It is more geometrical than statistical.

        I would offer that the political center is the point where an equal number of people are on opposite sides of the same issue – the median.
        I will be happy to consider another possible definition, but by that definition TNM is pretty left of center, and the average libertarian is closer.

        I will accept – particularly on a linear rather than two dimensional scale that libertarians are slightly to the right of center – we do not like the right, but the left is positively evil.

  6. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 8, 2011 5:08 pm

    No place to put the answer to Ricks comment so it goes to the bottom.

    Rick, I think you misunderstood my conversation with Rob, that was sarcasm when I said I was interested in seeing the details of his violent Marxist plan, the point is there is no such plan that will work, so give it up.

    “You say you want a revolutiooon, well you know, you’d better free your mind instead.

    But when you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow!

    And when your talkin bout people with minds that hate…”

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      October 8, 2011 5:25 pm

      Quoting Lennon to discount Lenin is clever but isn’t going to work, Ian. John could sing that song back in the day because, at the time, it really did make sense. After all, both the United States and the Commonwealth of Nations enjoyed unparalleled prosperity, so what, exactly, were all the longhairs getting up in arms about? Mao’s revolution was only necessary in China becuase a 4,000 year old system had become so sclerotic as to have been rendered useless to the vast majority of people, the vast majority of whom lived in poverty you and I can scarcely imagine. Similar conditions obtained in pre-revolutionary Russia and France.

      But now things are a bit different, aren’t they? Now the United States is in the middle of a program of erasing its own middle class. Frankly, the stupidity of this is almost literally beyond belief, and further proof that they who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Wasn’t someone awake when their high-priced [rofessors at their Ivy League shcools was explaining what led to the revolutions I’ve mentioned, or did they even bother? Oh I know, all of the revolutionaries were just “immature” and “uppity”, right?

      Just keeping telling yourself that. Meanwhile, I will continue to sharpen the long knives. Not out of hatred, but righteous indignation at a system that would strip people of their dignity and then hire the likes of Dennis Fucking Miller to laugh at them.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        October 8, 2011 5:28 pm

        Sorry about all the typos. When I type too fast my fingers trip over themselves.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 8, 2011 5:48 pm

        Define “work.” It works for me and most people we accept that:

        “If you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out.”

        Lennon’s times was as turbulent as any, the Ohio river caught fire, the great lakes were biologically dead, the Mai Lai massacre occurred and we tried to defoliate most of vietnam. “Be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in a box.”

        Am I a fool who thinks our system is invincible? No, It could possibly be vinced in the near future, from the right. If there is any vincing to be done in the near future I’m afraid that its folks like yourself who will get vinced, and the whole society will suffer from such a civil war. Just don’t start it. OK? The left lacks the numbers, you may vince back in 50 years under different demographic conditions. A nice little future, vincing back and forth, the whites vs. the reds then the reformers then Putin… and on and on. The American genius has been to AVOID that.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        October 8, 2011 6:14 pm

        Social and political upheaval and environmental degradation are very easy to ignore when you’ve got a good job or career that brings home the bacon. Read Rick Perlstein’s “Nixonland” for an outstanding distillation of how general prosperity undermines revolutionary zeal. But we don’t have general prosperity now, do we? Of course, SOME people are quite prosperous, and there are large numbers of people who are holding on to the middle class by their fingernails. But there is simply no arguing that it is the policy of this government, this system, to ensure that most people have an entree into the middle class, or that those who are lower class can survive decently and with a modicum of dignity. Slowly but with increasing speed, tens of millions are being cast into abject poverty in this country. I know, because I’m one of them, and if you think the anger of an outraged paesentry is bad, then wait until you get a load of the pure, blood-curdling rage of people who have had their standard of living yanked out from underneath them. That’s the point you don’t seem to get, Ian.

        And how does that yanking translate into the every day? Well, let me use my own life as an example. As Rick can tell you, I have spent most of my life alone, bereft of female company. This past June I met a good woman named Ramona. She and I were and are perfect for one another, but there was a slight problem. Both of us were in dire straits owing to the economy. She was sleeping on a friend’s couch, and I was in a homeless shelter that I had to leave because my six months were up. The subsequent pressures of me being completely broke all the time while neither of us could find any privacy undermined and ultimately destroyed what would be, for me anyway, the first real relationship I had enjoyed in FIFTEEN YEARS. Now I have another woman in my life, Teresa, and the process is starting all over again, despite my attempts to prevent to try and make it work. So not only am I a revolutionary, I’m a sexually and emotionally frustrated revolutionary. When Prince William and his wife got married earlier this year I honestly hoped that something terrible would happen to both of them, and I wasn’t fucking kidding either, because that is the natural human reaction to misery – you want lots and LOTS of company. You can label that however you want, but it is a truth as immutable as the truth that starving people will do whatever is necessary to feed themselves and their families.

  7. October 8, 2011 5:45 pm

    It is the regulation and statism that destroy the middle class. These are absolutely the result of government being manipulated by corporate interests – but exactly the samething happened in every socialist society – some interest will always co-opt whatever power you grant government – whatever the form of the government, and it will use that power to protect itself from everyone else – most specificially the middle class. Communist China (not the weird thing we have today), the USSR, North Korean, Cuba, …. evolved into essentially two classes – party elite, and everyone else – no middle, lots of poverty.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      October 8, 2011 6:00 pm

      Ok genius, so I suppose it was a gaggle of power-mad socialists who negotiated NAFTA and, later, GATT, right? Because one of the central goals of socialism is exploiting emerging markets for cheap labor.

      *rolls eyes*

      Jesus CHRIST is this like shooting fish in a barrel!

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 8, 2011 6:08 pm

        Heh, Rob, we agree on something. Any modestly intelligent econ 101 student could easily write A papers refuting free market absolutism, a few grains of truth surrounded by a thick layer of nonsense.

        The far left thing gives me a rash, but I certainly have a lot more sympathy with many of your basic values than I do with those of the lassaiz-faire (which I can’t spell and won’t look up) crowd. Let them eat cake.

        The problem is that its a fiendishly difficult problem. Much of it comes from huge dispassionate forces like population growth. No one is trying to destroy the middle class, that would be insane. They are happy to Ignore it though or try to explain that it is not happening or that its Beneficial, to have widening income disparity.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        October 8, 2011 6:32 pm


        Nobody is “trying to destroy the middle class”? Dude, you need to read Barrons and Business Week a little more often, especially Barrons. That is PRECISELY what they are trying to do, because they see paying all of those salaries and benefits are a drag on their bottom lines. Cook up the middle class, and you’ve got yourself a whole lot of excess grease (i.e., CASH) to sop up. MMmmmm…good eatin’!

      • October 9, 2011 10:23 pm

        The short answer is yes.

        Free Trade is so compelling it does not need multi-national agreements.
        It is compelling for developed nations, it is compelling for undeveloped nations.
        Most of the undeveloped world has been roiling at the fact that the developed world still wants restricted trade and has manipulated the negotiation process to accomplish that. Much of the developing world was disappointed as lunatic protesters disrupted negotiations in which they hoped and expect to get greater access to developed world markets.

  8. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 8, 2011 6:24 pm

    Rob, As nearly always occurs I cannot put a reply where it belongs. But I am sorry to hear that story Rob, its has some strong similarities that of a very close relative of mine. Believe me, I don’t discount it. In the case of my relative the problem is that he has a million explanations why he does not make forceful changes in his life. Yeah, he wants a lady friend. But does not have a car or a license or much if any ambition. Lives with another similar male friend, in a pigsty. Does have the money to fix that but never channels it in that direction. Reads left wing stuff all the time and complains about society. Needs to drop that and fix his own life. It hurts to watch.

    Good luck. I mean it.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      October 8, 2011 6:49 pm

      Wow, it never fails. The *instant* I start to think someone like you is actually a salvageable human being, you prove otherwise.

      Listen asshole, I don’t live in a pig-sty, I LIVE NOWHERE. I’M HOMELESS. Do you get that now? And I am not a drunk, or a drug addict, or a gambler, or a moron. I once worked on billion dollar projects for Cadence Design Systems, until they decided to off-shore my job along with those of my 137 colleagues. Since then (2001) I have tried with ever-increasing diligence to get work, and build a new career. But it is somewhat difficult to do that (<—note the sarcasm) in the middle of a collapsing economy controlled by a cabal of traitorous fucks who not only want to off-shore every damn job there is, but import H1B and L-5s to take what jobs remain, then use their gigantic profits to agitate for the destruction of public education which is, ironically, the only other venue for someone with my native intelligence, skill set and education.

      In February of 2008 I was all set to finish up the requirements I needed to enter San Francisco State University in the fall as a grad student of the Cinema Department. I had already paid my $500 non-refundable deposit on my student apartment and had signed up for the two classes I needed to bring myself up to speed on curricular requirements for the graduate program. I knew that by August I would have saved up all the money I needed to get through both years of grad school, no problem.

      And then the New Paradigm reasserted itself, with Governor Swastikapekker cutting $300 million from the California State University budget. As a result, the provost did what you would expect – eliminated students. How? By back-dating the due dates for applications, to October for undergrads, and to December for grad students. Suddenly, I was too late with an application that was originally due at the end of March.

      Then, in July of that year, I was laid off from my job (for the fourth time in 11 years) and my current adventures in poverty began.

      So you'll excuse me if I don't feel solidarity with this male relative to whom you refer, although, judging from your smug comments, I would happily hold you down while he administered a coup de grace.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 9, 2011 9:18 am

      OK That was very clumsy, I screwed that up and lost my main message. Damn.

    • October 9, 2011 10:40 pm

      I do not want to belittle Rob’s circumstances – I do not know them and I do not know the real causes for them. I too know plenty of intelligent people who fail because of their own problems, I am not presuming Rob is one of them.

      I do actually grasp that the free market can be extremely cruel at times. That “undeserved” failure happens. That it is not a true meritocracy.

      I also understand that no matter how “unfair” it is, it is less “unfair” than every alternative.

      Of the richest 1% of this country inheritance accounts for only 9% according to the Federal Reserve.

      Most of us rise to whatever level we reach on our own – though not entirely, we lean on friends family and even depend on government for the rule of law.
      Nor do we all aspire to be Bill Gates – even if a little bit more wealth would be nice.

      Entrepreneurs typically fail repeatedly before eventually succeeding.

      To Rob – the flaw in Marxism is the presumption that we are each entitled to succeed.
      We are not. Go out into nature and you will quickly grasp that mere survival is something we must fight for – it is not a right. We have no right to food, to shelter, to health, to love. We must work for all these things – and yes sometimes even that is not enough.

      Grasp that nature endows us with few actual rights, but that those few rights are inviolable, and you are a libertarian.

  9. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 8, 2011 7:02 pm

    Hmm, see how could could have interpreted it that way, but its not how I meant it. I have no idea how you live, I just say how my relative lives. Some similarities I said. The biggest one is that he has a crappy life, would like a relationship but instead of focusing on that like a laser beam he gets distracted with politics, which make him angry and depressed, not a helpful mindset.

    I recall you saying that you were holding down the only suitable job in the area or words to that effect. I thought that unlikely. You are capable of both physical and mental efforts and yet only one suitable job? You have backed yourself into a logical corner, nothing is possible. Back out of it, more is possible than you think.

    The lousy world will still need you to worry about it after you have gotten out of you situation.

    Again, good luck, I mean it.

  10. October 8, 2011 7:41 pm

    I have seen no real reason to care about the “Occupy ….” protests. I support anyone’s right to protest anything.

    From what I have seen these groups are less cohessive than the Tea Party. What binds them is anger and a sense that things are screwed up. But when solutions are discussed they are all over the map. They do not really know what they want, and that is not a basis for anything.
    They are not the 99% there not even 1% unless I have missed something they are not legions. When interviewed they produce a tossed salad of radical left, radical right, ideology. Mostly they seem pretty sad.

    Except that I do not see the “Occupy …” groups as consequential, I otherwise sort of agree with much of Rick’s remarks.

    Corporate Welfare is wrong – though I would just say all welfare is wrong.
    If you have actually made your money dishonestly, you are not entitled to it – of course we have a criminal justice system for that – as well as for rooting out political corruption. If our justice department is unable – why is a presidential commission going to be effective ? If what we have in place already is impotent why is it that more is the cure ?

    Political Corruptions is wrong. I only part with Rick on what I beleive is a naive view that the government can be both powerful and in-corrupt. Essentially we agree on the problem, not the solution.

    “We can no longer count on our elected representatives to do the right thing”.
    The more power we give them the more certain we can be that they will be corrupted.
    “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” Madison.
    If your model for government requires the best, the brightest the most incorruptible as public servants, failure is certain. It constantly amazes me that so many people see government fail and demand more government as the solution.

    I appreciate Rick’s “Its a Wonderful Life” allusion. I would note that George Bailey was a banker, and Bailey savings and loan profited as did its customers in the free market. Potter was always an anachronism – there is little profit in the failure of others. In a free Market the rich have more when everyone has more, being King of the Ghetto seems a low aspiration.

    My constant argument here is that everyone – counts. Injustice to one is injustice to all. The least rights of the worst of use are the least rights of any of us.
    John Thune, Roseanne Barr, and the homeless joining the Occupy Wall Street protest posses exactly the same rights. Neither wealth nor poverty invest government with greater ability to infringe on your rights.

    No one here, Not Rob, Ian, Rick, …. can be obligated to surrender a single one of their rights to live in a society governed in accord with my wishes. Nor should I be forced to give up the least of my rights under a government conforming to their views.

    The only just society is one where everyone counts.

  11. October 8, 2011 7:53 pm

    I do get annoyed by the constant meme about Wall Street driving the economy over the cliff.
    Your too intelligent for that. Wall Street made plenty of mistakes and deserved the consequences we stupidly saved them from. But they did not cause this mess.
    First even if somehow Wall Street were entirely responsible for the “financial collapse”. There is no relationship between stock market prices and unemployment. The stock Market has collapsed many times, some far worse than the current mess, and most without direct consequence to the economy as a whole. Wall Street is at best a measure of the state of our economy, not a driver of it. Banks and Brokers exhaust themselves trying to devine exactly what is happening in the real economy. They are driven by it, they do not drive it, and they never have. Wall Street is incapable of destroying real wealth. They can not burn houses, take away our cars, flat screens and cell phones. What we see in the mirror is an image of reality, not reality itself. Wall Street is the image in the mirror. Trillions of dollars of illusory wealth vanished when we recognised that wealth was not real. That false wealth was in houses that were overvalued, and loans on poor credit for homes that lost value. We saw the emperor had no clothes, and we were the emperor. We found ourselves naked embarrassed and living beyond our means. We lash out at others to absolve ourselves of blame. Too many of us financed a lifestyle on a Keynesian debt binge, and now suffer the hangover. Too much bad debt – as individuals and as a nation. Its the bar tenders fault, he should not have poured the drinks.

    We can argue about what caused the housing bubble, but nearly every rational person grasps what we are suffering from is the collapse of a bubble.

    And once you accept that economic bubbles exist and that their collapse is at the root of economic failure – you have rejected Keynesian demand side economics and you are well on your way to adopting Austrian economics.

  12. Priscilla permalink
    October 8, 2011 9:50 pm

    It would make a hell of a lot more sense for these folks to set up tents in Washington than in Zuccotti Park. Because that is where the crony capitalism that has brought us to the brink originated.

    But this protest is already being co-opted by self-serving public employee unions and establishment liberal forces – not for the purpose of redressing the excesses of Wall Street, or for trying to address the growing gap between rich and poor, or for assisting the declining middle class…..but for the purpose of creating partisan civil unrest. What may have begun as a grass roots protest is rapidly being orchestrated and exploited by a political class that wishes to distract all of us from high unemployment, financial industry abuse, corruption of public officials and lack of leadership, and to re-direct our focus toward hatred of……each other.

    Rob and his friends may be sharpening the long knives, but most Americans are not on board for the Marxist revolution. And, Ian’s bloviations to the contrary, they’re not on board with income redistribution either. The average American wants a thriving, free economy, with good jobs available for all, fair taxes, and the rule of law applied to everyone equally. And they’re not seeing any of that and they’re pissed.

    That may look like “”conservatism” from the fever swamps where you guys reside….but unless OWS distinguishes itself both from institutional forces and the lunatic fringe, it will not achieve anything positive, nor will it unite the millions of disaffected Americans who are suffering. I think that is what Rick was trying to say in his post. But, I’m probably wrong about that. I can’t really figure you moderates out anymore.

    • October 9, 2011 8:16 pm

      More people attended Glenn Beck’s Rally than all of these occupy XXX added together by several orders of magnitude. Aside from an irrational amount of media coverage, these protests so far are meaningless. They have no real direction.

      I am not endorsing Glenn Beck.

      Hmm, there appears to be a parallel between Occupy Wall Street and “The New Moderate”.
      Both rage against how things are, pose lots of self contradictory or
      irrational vague solutions, and have no real cohesive unifying theme beyond anger.

      • AMAC permalink
        October 10, 2011 9:44 pm

        I suppose you didn’t mean that to be condescending either, huh? You are so smug with your comments. When you do make good points, it is so hard to agree because of your attitude. You are the stereotypical IT guy at every company with no social skills and little tact. You could probably make a real contribution here if you were not so socially ackward.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 10, 2011 9:49 pm

        Ah, you are at THAT stage of dhlii-itus. I was there for several weeks myself what seems like a lifetime ago. Yes he does have talents, but until he gives up on fundamentalist denialism…, well, a blind man can’t describe a rainbow.

      • October 21, 2011 7:43 pm


        I am not an IT guy. I did do IT work for some time. I would never do it again. It is the worst work I have ever had to do.

        IT guys are asses, because everyone blames them for everything, expects them to drop everything to cater to their problems.

        There is not enough money to get me to do IT ever again.

        Today I am stuck fixing my wifes, and kids computers. I am slowly weaning my kids. My wife I am stuck with forever – but then she does do the cooking and is quite good at it.

      • October 21, 2011 8:05 pm

        No I did not mean to be condescending or smug. I meant to be accurate.

        I have put myself way out there. I have been very specific, both about what I beleive and about the compromises I am willing to make. Though you are occasionally wrong, and often overload it with hyperbole, most posters here no where I stand.

        I can not say the same for almost any other commentors.

        Yes, if you stick you neck out – I am going to take a whack at it. My neck has already been macheted many times.

        This is Rick’s blog and he regularly sticks his neck out and when I see problems I go at them with my machette. I respect that Rick is willing to put himself out and I hope that he has benefited one way or another from my criticism.

        At the same time I have really never heard an exposition of what it means to be a moderate that:

        Was close to the political center of this country.
        That espoused any real set of beliefs beyond “why can’t we all just get allong – radically”, and it is more the rights fault than the left. Even if true, blame is not a creed, or a set of values.

        Rick was atleast willing to try to define moderate using fairness. Again I will congratulate him for putting himself out there, but I was still disappointed.
        Fairness is wishy washy. It means whatever whoever is speaking at the moment says it means.

        I do not thing TNM is as extreme as OWS, but yes, I think it is true that OWS is not really sure what it wants and neither is TNM.

        Yes, I am strong and confident in my views. I test them here and other places that are far more challenging. When I find them lacking I adjust. When they hold up under a strong and able assault I feel even more confident about them.

        If you are not confident in your own beliefs, if you are not sure they will hold up to a rigorous challenge – then I would suggest that you look at them carefully.

      • October 21, 2011 8:14 pm


        I am not looking to be snarky, but I suspect I have far more intimate exposure to real fundamentalists.

        What annoys me the most about AGW proponents, and leftists, is exactly what annoys me about Christian Fundamentalists, The absolute certainty that they are right regardless of the facts. Christian fundamentalists at-least have the excuse that placing faith about facts is the cornerstone of their beliefs.

        I will be happy to revise my views on anything – where I see or am shown that they are wrong or some other way is better. That is the route that lead me to my current views. I have held views close to almost everyone here at on time or another. I changed my mind when they failed.

        Are you prepared to do the same ?

  13. AMAC permalink
    October 8, 2011 10:35 pm

    There is not a lot of moderate discussion on this topic. Looks like the extremists have taken over. Rob, it is sad what has happened to you. I am not going to insult you by giving you advice or trying to empathize, but your condition does not show the need for marxism. The free market works, but does need to be properly regulated. He who shall go nameless is up to his old tricks on this conversation as well. I will give my take on the occupy crowd, which I think is a moderate outlook, as I am a moderate.

    I sympathize with frustration about wall street. Money is wealth in this society, regardless of what some would say. If it were not, how would curreny speculators make a living? How would fund managers be so wealthy? These people make money, on money. I think that wall street has gotten away with what we have let them get away with. I admit that I am not much of a radical, which may be what is needed. I think that the wall street gang deserves credit for our situation, but I don’t know what protesting them is supposed to accomplish. I suppose it could bring attention to the distaste for wall street and put it on a national stage. I think protesting is something that most moderates, who don’t overly involve themselves in politics as it stands, would stand back from organizations who organize such events. The real work needing to be done is organizing and getting attention to the moderate platform. The internet is the future of politics. Millions of voters can access information on a candidate, costing that candidate a fraction of the price of one regional commercial. Moderates won’t show up in legions to protest, they will access a web site.

    • AMAC permalink
      October 8, 2011 10:36 pm

      Note to all, comment fit in one screen shot.

      • Jesse C permalink
        October 9, 2011 11:02 pm

        Like 🙂

    • Priscilla permalink
      October 9, 2011 10:27 am

      AMAC, I think you are right on the money (ironic figure of speech intended) with a lot of what you say here. As far as frustration with Wall St. goes, I would say that, for many, frustration has given way to desperation. And desperation does not generally produce rational action. When people are afraid and feel that they have no control, i.e. when they’re drowning in debt and have no jobs, or even any job prospects, a simplistic idea like “it’s all Wall St.’s fault” can gain a great deal of traction.

      And this is where competent government and real leadership would make a huge difference. Allowing – hell, encouraging – people to marinate in anger and resentment, without giving them any hope or realistic prospects for economic improvement may be a good way to keep them emotionally stirred up, but it’s not a solution. Claiming that we can get out of this fiscal mess with more borrowing and higher taxes is simply not true, but as long as people believe it, they won’t blame the politicians that are peddling the lie.

      We can certainly go the route of many fewer corporations (or none at all) and much more government monopoly power. It would almost certainly be a world of far less freedom and innovation…but also one with more job security and welfare. Less risk, less reward. If that is what Americans choose, than so be it. I am just not sure that I believe that most of these people understand all the ramifications of that choice.

    • October 9, 2011 8:30 pm

      Money is the means by which we transform the wealth we create into the wealth we want.

      The process of transforming wealth from one form to another adds value. This is central to free markets. It is why most exchanges are win-win, and why it is economically advantageous for each of us to specialise rather than build our own homes, grow our own food, ….
      Therefore managing money can create wealth.

      Money has value only so long as you can rationally beleive that you can transform those green slips of paper into bread, or homes or whatever it is that you want.

      Real wealth is still what you produce and what you want.
      If we fail to produce those green slips of paper will have no value.

    • October 9, 2011 8:40 pm

      The internet is the future of most everything.

      We increasingly have at our finger tips, the raw data on the workings of absolutely everything.
      Just like the traditional media, it is rife with opinion both good and bad. But unlike 40 years ago, everything can be verified.

      Fax and copy machines toppled the USSR while the internet was in its infancy.

      If I disagree with you or you disagree with me the internet is there to supply the facts.

      I would also point out that the Internet is a pretty good example of a bottom up relatively unregulated marketplace. It is chaotic, there is good and bad, and you have to sort things out on your own, but its value is pretty much indisputable. Each year references material like traditional encyclopaedias becomes less and less valuable. Data and information have mostly escaped the grasp of top-down central planners.

  14. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 9, 2011 8:59 am

    Priscilla: “And, Ian’s bloviations to the contrary, they’re not on board with income redistribution either.”

    A 2007 poll claims otherwise:

    Americans overwhelmingly say the growing gap between rich and poor has become a serious national concern, a sentiment that may bolster Democrats’ plans to narrow the income divide when they take control of Congress.

    Almost three-quarters of Americans believe inequality is a major issue, versus 24 percent who don’t think so, according to a new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll. Most of the concern is among Democrats and independent voters, though a majority of Republicans – 55 percent – also called the situation serious.

    “Income inequality is widening quite rapidly,” said Alice Rivlin, a former vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve who’s now a public policy professor at Georgetown University in Washington. “It does matter to people that there are such unequal chances to get ahead.”

    Now, I’ll be fair and note that the redistribution question was not asked, just inequality.

    Priscilla: “The average American wants a thriving, free economy, with good jobs available for all, fair taxes, and the rule of law applied to everyone equally.”

    Well, how do they feel about apple pie and motherhood?

    But seriously, Priscilla, speaking of fever swamps, that great genius, that modern P.T Barnam, El Rushbo, from whom you distanced yourself with the stunning denouncement that you don’t agree with Everything he says, has he and his fellow ultra-conservative bloviators created a fever swamp do you think? Cause most moderates think so, I’ll bet on it.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 9, 2011 9:03 am

      Oops, poll in 2006, Before the meltdown. I think the results will be stronger today. Will search.

      The poll above can be found at:

    • October 9, 2011 8:09 pm

      I will concede to you that people with a rational understanding of economics have lost the spin war on income inequality.

      The fact that people have been persuaded there is a problem does not make it so.
      The US is 7th in the world in GDP/capita based on purchasing power.
      Lead only by Qatar,Luxemborg, Singapore, Norway, Brunei, and the UAE. Most of Europe has 30% less per person.

      Eliminating almost 12M illegal Aliens (I am not sugesting we actually do that), would dramatically skew our standing – and wreck the claims that US income inequality has increased.

      I previously provided you data from NBER demonstrating that the purchasing power of the poorest quintile is dramatically higher than it was 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.

      I have demonstrated that money and wealth are not the same and as our incomes increase we slowly shift from accumulating wealth to accumulating money. The unequal distribution of money is a consequence of the fact that real wealth resides primarily in the bottom of the pyramid.

      Income inequality is a fictitious problem.

  15. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 9, 2011 9:12 am

    From Bruce Bartlett’s blog June 29, 2011: (sorry for the length but its gold. Bruce Bartlett by the way is NOT a liberal commentator he is an economist who worked for Reagan and Kemp among others.

    “Contrary to Republican dogma, polls show that the American people strongly support higher taxes to reduce the deficit and improve income inequality. Following are 19 different polls since the first of the year that say so.

    A June 9 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 61 percent of people believe higher taxes will be necessary to reduce the deficit.

    A June 7 Pew poll found strong support for tax increases to reduce the deficit; 67 percent of people favor raising the wage cap for Social Security taxes, 66 percent raising income tax rates on those making more than $250,000, and 62 percent favor limiting tax deductions for large corporations. A plurality of people would also limit the mortgage interest deduction.

    A May 26 Lake Research poll of Colorado voters found that they support higher taxes on the rich to shore-up Social Security’s finances by a 44 percent to 25 percent margin.

    A May 13 Bloomberg poll found that only one third of people believe it is possible to substantially reduce the budget deficit without higher taxes; two thirds do not.

    A May 12 Ipsos/Reuters poll found that three-fifths of people would support higher taxes to reduce the deficit.

    A May 4 Quinnipiac poll found that people favor raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 to reduce the deficit by a 69 percent to 28 percent margin.

    An April 29 Gallup poll found that only 20 percent of people believe the budget deficit should be reduced only by cutting spending; 76 percent say that higher taxes must play a role.

    An April 25 USC/Los Angeles Times poll of Californians found that by about a 2-to-1 margin voters favor raising taxes to deal with the state’s budget problems over cutting spending alone.

    An April 22 New York Times/CBS News poll found that 72 percent of people favor raising taxes on the rich to reduce the deficit. It also found that 66 percent of people believe tax increases will be necessary to reduce the deficit versus 19 percent who believe spending cuts alone are sufficient.

    An April 20 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that by a 2-to-1 margin people favor a combination of higher taxes and spending cuts over spending cuts alone to reduce the deficit. It also found that 72 percent of people favor raising taxes on the rich to reduce the deficit and it is far and away the most popular deficit reduction measure.

    An April 20 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that by a 2-to-1 margin, people believe that the wealthy should pay more taxes than the poor or middle class. Also, 62 percent of people believe that growing inequality of wealth is a serious problem.

    An April 18 McClatchy-Marist poll found that voters support higher taxes on the rich to reduce the deficit by a 2-to-1 margin, including 45 percent of self-identified Tea Party members.

    An April 18 Gallup poll found that 67 percent of people do not believe that corporations pay their fair share of taxes, and 59 percent believe that the rich do not pay their fair share.

    On April 1, Tulchin Research released a poll showing that voters in California overwhelmingly support higher taxes on the rich to deal with the state’s budgetary problems.

    A March 15 ABC News/Washington Post poll found that only 31 percent of voters support the Republican policy of only cutting spending to reduce the deficit; 64 percent believe higher taxes will also be necessary.

    A March 2 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 81 percent of people would support a surtax on millionaires to help reduce the budget deficit, and 68 percent would support eliminating the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000.

    A February 15 CBS News poll found that only 49 percent of people believe that reducing the deficit will require cuts in programs that benefit them; 41 percent do not. Also, only 37 percent of people believe that reducing the deficit will require higher taxes on them; 59 percent do not.

    A January 20 CBS News/New York Times poll found that close to two-thirds of people would rather raise taxes than cut benefits for Social Security or Medicare in order to stabilize their finances. The poll also found that if taxes must be raised, 33 percent would favor a national sales tax, 32 percent would support restricting the mortgage interest deduction, 12 percent would raise the gasoline taxes, and 10 percent would tax health care benefits.

    On January 3, a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll found that 61 percent of people would rather raise taxes on the rich to balance the budget than cut defense, Social Security or Medicare.”

    • AMAC permalink
      October 9, 2011 6:35 pm

      From the polls you quoted Ian, it sounds like most of the general public has a better idea of what to do than congress!!! I completely agree taxes must be raised (temporarily at least) and expenses cut. I also will add again that for every three dollars saved from the budget, 1 of those dollars should be invested in job growth. It is what most responsible corporations would do. Increase revenue, cut expenses, invest in market growth. Sounds right to me. There are many expenses that I would cut which would reduce jobs, but that cannot be on the table right now. These cuts should be made in better times, which is when congress seems to be blind to financial prudence. I come from a farming community, and have a bad taste in my mouth from farming subsidies, but we need to get through the downturn in jobs berfore we start with that. I am all for cutting military spending more into reasonable levels, but maybe we should just redistribute a large amount of that money from our conflicts into civilian contracts. This would keep the military budget at current levels, but more of that money would be invested into jobs. I am a commuter living in the suburbs, but I also support the gasoline tax hike. It would financially impact my family, but we can take it and need to do our part as well. Again, I would like to at least see these tax hikes on a temporary basis, up for renewal in say 4 years. We have to generat some revenue.

      • October 9, 2011 7:52 pm

        Aside from increasing the number of people directly employed by government – what do you think it is that government can successfully do to increase jobs ?
        An example of some instance in the past where government has been spent money to boost employment and succeeded would be nice.

        You propose government acting in a variety of ways – with the assumption that taking action and solving the problem are the same thing.

        Conversely you claim that reducing spending would cost jobs and harm the economy – yet we have historic examples where in response to economic downturns government reduced spending, reduced taxes and recovery was quick and dramatic – including gains in employment. We have examples where government increased taxes and/or increased spending and either made the situation worse or at best such as now substantially delayed recovery. We have no instances where government increased taxes and/or increased spending as a response to an economic downturn with positive economic results.

        I would be happy to see an end to all kinds of welfare – farm subsidies, ethanol subsidies, corporate bailouts, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Amtrak, The Post Office, as well as rational reductions in safety net programs.
        I am prepared to agree with you to do any or all of these now.
        Whether you agree with me on the causes of the housing crisis, I think there are very few people who think that government encouragement and backing of loans that should never have been written was a good idea. Yet we are actively trying to continue those same bad policies.

        I would be happy to see reduced military spending by:
        Getting out of nation building and foreign entanglements. It was wrong when Clinton did it, wrong when Bush did it, and it is wrong now.
        Significant cuts to the rest of defence spending.
        Increasing the private military outsourcing you suggest. The Bush administration successfullly and cost effectively increased the nations reliance on private contractors to perform logistical and support tasks for the military.
        There are problems – all private-public partnerships suffer from corruption. It is essential that we police it, but we must also accept that if we have such arrangements – which do prove significantly more cost effective, we are going to have some political corruption. The way to limit the corruption is to limit the role and size of the military.

        I am adamantly opposed to getting more revenue – no matter where you get it from. The total cost of government (local, state, federal) exceeds 50% in some areas. Most of the real benefits of government are delivered (often badly) by local government. The federal government has become incredibly expensive – 1/4 of our entire economy. Regardless of how expansive a government you support, there is no measure by which the value of the federal government is equal to 25% of the entire economy. In the midst of the Civil War Government spending did not reach 10% of the economy.
        I will oppose increased taxes on capitol – because they are economically destructive. But I will oppose them and all other tax increases because the federal government do not come close to delivering sufficient value for its costs. The solution is not to give it more money.

    • October 9, 2011 7:07 pm

      I am libertarian rather than republican.

      Polls tell you what people think rather that what is right or wrong.
      What a poll says about what people think about taxes tells us nothing about whether tax increases will work or not.

      If you asked me whether I would support increased taxes on somebody else to solve the problem of the deficit – in some magical world where this might actually work. I might say yes.
      But we do not live in a magical world.

      There are at least as many polls – often from the same organisations supporting spending cuts as the means of solving the same problem.

      It is pretty to get “forgotten man” poll results – A agrees with B to help C so long as D pays for it.

      Ask how many people would support raising taxes on the rich to avoid cuts in social security, if doing so would increase unemployment, decrease wages, and our standard of living ?

      The entirety of Europe is facing this problem – to a greater extent than we are. Their demographics are even worse. Further they already have economically destructive taxes and atleast a full percentage lower growth than we do.

      Reagan was famous for ignoring the advice of his economists.

      Republican’s and democrats will play lots of political games with the tax issue, each seeking political advantage, but I strongly doubt we will see a tax increase of consequence, even on the rich, any time soon. It is an abysmal economic idea. It is so bad an idea that I think if the President is proposing it, that the GOP should call his bluff or let him go through with it.

      Even if taxing the crap out of the rich did not tank the economy, there is just not enough money there to matter.

      You keep ducking both these issues as if polls or editorials will change them.
      This is another frustrating aspect of dealing with the left – the refusal to confront reality.

      If I am wrong that increasing taxes on capitol will tank the economy – make the case. Find a study that says otherwise – there are a few – very few and they are seriously flawed.
      Regardless, take an actual stand. Not Bruce Bartlet, or Paul Krugman or a bunch of polls say.
      What do you say and why ? An idea or policy either works or it does not. We have some understanding of human behave as well as history to help us predict. Both predict that taxes on capitol are an abysmal idea. Pres. Obama had two years to repeal the Bush tax cuts. He did not, in fact he added tax cuts of his own – ones I have personally benefited from, but the economy has not.

      If I am wrong that taxes on the rich can raise enough money to solve our problem – show me how.

      The fact is these policies will fail. We can know that in advance. Poll’s do not change that.
      Further the fact that these policies will know-ably fail is in itself a refutation of liberalism.
      An ideology dependent on premises that are demonstrably false is itself false.

      The fallacy that the world can be made to conform to the policies of the left – basically that politicians can alter the laws of human behaviour or nature by fiat is one of the central failings of statistic.

  16. AMAC permalink
    October 9, 2011 6:53 pm

    Also, for whatever it is worth, I wonder if the problem with wall street is the people attracted to that kind of work. They take huge risks often and, as now, sometimes we all lose. I have only had a couple of friends who have gone on to work in those fields, and they were not the most responsible people I knew. I don’t want to offend anyone in that field, and I am in no way an expert. It is very frustrating what has happened. As the tea party was a movement forged in anger and frustration for the right, this ocuupying crowd seems to be the same for the left. One side is saying too much government is the cause, one side is saying that not enough is the problem, the moderates want just the right amount. Most of us agree that some regulation is wasteful and counter-productive, but there is need for regulation. How much and to what extent is tricky and complicated. We moderates don’t have the advantage to pick one extreme and have an easy government stay out or government take control answer to every solution. It would be easy to say government should regulate nothing, and just as easy to say government should regulate everything. We are the voice of reason that have to come up with the reasonable answers. My wife and I do the same job my parents did, and we are living in the same general area. We are not as well off as my parents were, and we have one less child. The middle class is what makes this country great. If it were shrinking because we were transferring up a class, there would be a need to worry. The opposite is happening and it is a problem.

    • October 9, 2011 11:39 pm

      The only problem with Wall Street is that we bailed them out.
      All the bailouts are a mistake of potentially catastrophic proportions.
      Under what circumstances now will we chose not to bailout a large corporation ?
      If you are a large corporation what reason do you have to weigh your risks ?
      Take a flyer – if you fail government will bail you out. If you succeed you get to keep the profits.

      Different people say different things about the causes of this mess.
      Many views are mutually exclusive.
      The correct answer is almost never the mid point between those views.

      I am constantly shocked that when government fails we all support rushing in with more government.

      Even somehow accepting the hypothesis that Wall Street was somehow responsible for this. None of the new regulation that resulted had anything to do with the supposed causes that the advocates of that regulation espoused. Though why am I surprised – liberalism never makes logical sense.

      I do not understand the claim that “moderates want the right amount”.
      What I see is that the moderates here want more government – just more slowly than the extreme left.

      What is the right amount and why is that amount right ?
      Why is the so called moderate answer to everything to split the difference (with a left shift) ?

      You claim that regulation is necessary – why ?
      Even if I were to agree, there still must be a why.
      Again a problem. Rob atleast has a marxist justification for his choice of actions.
      Doing something just to do something, solves nothing.

      You say regulation is tricky and complicated – you are absolutely correct.
      One argument against it is that it is so tricky and complicated that you not only can not get it correct, but you can not even get it net positive most of the time.

      Humans are tricky and complicated, life is tricky and complicated. Each of us are different. There is no one size fits all solution. It is not even possible to construct rules of thumb for many things. APACA ran thousands of pages – not a single legislator actually read it. Most still have not. How is it possible for anyone to know it will do more good than harm when no one really knows what is in it. Even the most clean and clear regulation is rife with unintended consequences – regulation is tricky and complicated. Complex regulation is even trickier and even more complicated. And this just gets worse all the time.

      You say that atleast some regulation is wasteful and counter productive.
      Yet there is no mechanism to address that.
      Before we produce even more wasteful and counter productive regulation shouldn’t we atleast get rid of some of what we have got ?

      Getting people to admit that regulation does not always work as expected is easy.
      Getting them to do something about it is not.
      Almost everyone here is ready to charge in an regulate the crap out of something new.
      Who is prepared to eliminate a single wasteful and counter productive regulation ?

      I have no idea what job you or your parents did, or even whether you are really better or worse off. It is very hard to make comparisons across time.
      Further if you do exactly the same job as someone 20-30 years ago, with exactly the same productivity – then you will pretty much by definition be worse off.
      If you wish to be as well off as your parents you must be more productive than they were.
      Fortunately that is not as hard as it sounds.

      I am less successful than my father was at the same age. I probably have less money.
      But I have far more wealth. I have a 10 year old car that is better than any he owned until he was 70 – and I paid less for it. I do not have as much wealth as he has today – I might not have as much as he had at my age – though it is probably close. But I have been far less successful than he was. He ran a professional business with 55 people at its peak. I started over at 45 and my business has 1 person – me. Even if I was only a tenth as successful as he was, that would not demonstrate that conditions were worse.

      At the same time I will absolutely agree that it is far far harder to start a business today than 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. Kids can’t even sell Lemonade in some places without a business license (and commercial kitchen).

      • AMAC permalink
        October 10, 2011 9:03 pm

        You claim government never has created private jobs, yet you site instances in your posts. Your father, having done a different job from you, means nothing comparing your quality of life. I sited myself as a source, having done the same job as my father. Your example is completely void of logic, which I understand (from you) is the cornerstone of libertaianism.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 10, 2011 9:56 pm

        And, (yes, I’m obsessive) the idea that we should have let the banking system crash based on some kind of free market principles, well, I feel rage at the bank’s behavior and their bonuses and all of that, but I am not ready to sacrifice the American economy to punish them, they are evil, yes, but we need banks.

        I doubt if there was a single respectable economist (well, there is always one who will say anything) who supported just walking away and letting the American economy collapse to prove free market principles.

        This is just one more economically radical opinion.

  17. October 10, 2011 1:41 am

    “The death of Steve Jobs is a useful reminder of the fact that much wealth is not winner-take-all but winner makes everybody better off. Steve Jobs’s estate is estimated to be something between $6 billion and $7 billion. This is clearly a fraction, maybe a small fraction of the wealth Jobs created for the rest of us. Yes, he made a lot of money. But he made it by making the rest of us better off. He didn’t take it from us. He shared it with us.”

    • October 10, 2011 1:48 am


    • October 10, 2011 10:32 am

      But there are lots more investment bankers, hedge fund managers, lawyers and other top-tier professionals who create wealth only for a handful of privileged clients. I have nothing against visionary entrepreneurial CEOs who actually make worthwhile products.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 10, 2011 10:45 am

        A week or so ago dhlii stated something to the effect of if there is a rich person he must have made something that was of value to society!

        Also not existing in the Libertarian universe are middlemen, speculators, traders, etc.

        What percentage of our gas price increases have nothing to do with the production and refinement of oil? Speculators, useless middlemen tax us all and become rich.

        In this economically disfunctional libertarian view we are all richer, notwithstanding the fact that the poor can’t afford health care, education or a house. But they can buy ipods and computer games, these are a better buy every year. So, they should not complain about being left behind by the costs of trivial things like health care and education or about the fact that they will be renting from the likes of dhlii for the rest of their lives and thus accumulate no wealth in the form of equity for their retirement.

        Let them eat ipods!

      • October 10, 2011 6:39 pm

        It is close to if not completely impossible to create wealth for just a privileged few. Investment bankers – invest. We should hope they do it well – because regardless of who their “clients” are the investments are for the most part in the rest of us. Even the “evil” mortgaged back securities – were investments in our mortgages. The entire financial industry is about directing capitol where it will create the most wealth.

        Harry Winston can get wealthy selling diamonds to the affluent. But you can not get into Buffet, Gates, Jobs, Oprah, Walton, territory without making things the masses value. Even Harry Winston sells jewelry mostly to people who made their money creating wealth for the rest of us.

        It is all tied together. When you “eat the rich”, you canabalise yourself. When you artificially redistribute wealth – whether by subsidy, corporatism, or welfare, you take money that is likely to be productively engaged to the benefit of all of us.

  18. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 10, 2011 10:05 am


    Didn’t read a word of Dhlii’s last 15 posts, and yet, somehow, I know what they say!

    Sort of a fillibuster in reaction to Bartlett’s reality check!

    Won’t work.

  19. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 10, 2011 1:04 pm

    More insight into moderate patterns at present:

    Obama’s New Populism Isn’t Alienating Moderates

    During Obama’s pivot toward deficit reduction after the 2010 election, culminating in the vain attempt to fashion a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans during the debt limit negotiations, pundits repeatedly asserted that his approach might tick off his base but would yield dividends with independents and swing voters. Instead, the strategy turned out to be a flop on both levels. His support did decline among base voters but even more among independent voters. That’s because, as the economy continued to deteriorate, Obama only succeeded in making himself look

    Now Obama has taken a very different tack. He is relentlessly pushing a $450 billion jobs plan that, according to independent economists like Mark Zandi, would add 1.9 million jobs, cut unemployment by a point and raise GDP by 2 points. He proposes to pay for the program by raising taxes on the wealthy. And, instead of backing down under GOP intransigence, he is calling them out for refusing to act on jobs and coddling the rich. This switch has elicited a predictable round of tut-tutting from sections of the punditocracy who assert that, while this approach might yield dividends from Obama’s demoralized base, he will lose as much or more from independents, moderates, and swing voters who will be appalled by its big price tag and confrontational nature.

    There is, however, no law that says this has to happen. Just as a strategy can fail among both base and swing voters, so too can one succeed among both groups. Obama’s current strategy is a good candidate for doing so. As I noted in my recent TNR piece on independents, independents are really three groups of voters: Republican-leaning independents, pure independents, and Democratic-leaning independents. Only the latter two groups are really accessible to Obama; Republican-leaning independents are an extraordinarily conservative group of voters whose ranks have been swelled by ex-Republican identifiers who believe the party has not been conservative enough. But both Democratic-leaning independents and pure independents have regularly reported far higher levels of concern with jobs than with the deficit, and they represent two-thirds of independents.

    Recent polling data confirm that Obama’s strategy is paying off with both base and swing voters. In the most recent Washington Post/ABC poll, Democrats say they trust Obama over the Republicans in Congress to create jobs by 79-8, up from 69-11 in September. And Independents, too, now favor Obama on jobs, by 44-31, a big shift from 37-42 in September. And not only do Democrats support Obama’s jobs plan and believe it will improve the jobs situation, but so too do independents, by margins of 47-38 and 52-44, respectively. Moderates, meanwhile, are even more enthusiastic—support figures among this group are 5-9 points higher than among Independents on all these questions. As for raising taxes on the rich: Bring it on! By 65-28, Independents favor raising taxes on households with over a million dollars in income.

    • Kent permalink
      October 10, 2011 2:48 pm

      A wolf in sheep clothing for the Moderates, Independents, Centrists and Libertarians.

      He’s no moderate! He’s a left-winger trying to get “brownie-points”.

      He can say all he wants. It’s Congress that will let Obama know what will happen.

      He should just go to Congress and give his speech and then get the vote up or down than waste our time trying to brainwash the naive and ignorant who don’t pay attention to this stuff.

      If it makes sense then good…the politicians will vote for it. If not, they won’t.. Why go around talking about it? Wasting precious time!

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 10, 2011 7:41 pm

        Exactly, Kent. The AP did brutal fact-check on Obama’s jobs bill rhetoric which basically says that he is full of it.

        Not to mention the fact that our current president has received far more money from Wall Street ( much of it from Goldman-Sachs) than any other president or candidate in the last 20 years, accounting for 20% of his total 2008 campaign haul, and continuing on to this day…..although the financial sector is now starting to defect to Romney, as Obama’s poll numbers go down.

        So, when the president launches into his class warrior rhetoric, it is aimed at those same naive and ignorant people who don’t understand that Obama talks the talk, but does not walk the walk. No Wall Street investment bankers or hedge fund managers have been hurt by his administration’s policies….well, maybe their feelings are hurt when he calls them “fat cats,” but that’s about it.

        He is no moderate.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 10, 2011 8:26 pm

        I’m not a wild fan of Obama at present, my point, which I probably did not make clear, was not about promoting Obama or the jobs bill, its what polls say about the opinions of moderates and independents. As well, I was tickled that they were distinguished from each other, as they should be, independents are not necessarily moderates and visa-versa.

        I was thinking before I did my little research into what moderates think on economic issues that I may have lapsed further left of center than I imagined, something I’l not be so happy to learn. Now I am reassured a bit, my thoughts on income disparity and other issues are right in the mainstream.

        BTW, I would not call Obama a moderate either.

  20. Kent permalink
    October 10, 2011 2:51 pm

    Rick, how about putting a political quiz that is fair on your site to help tag our comments as say: coming from a person tagged as left, right centered, middle, Centrist, libertarian?

    There are many ways to import a political quiz and have it tag the members that sign in.

    I think it would help knowing from what direction/background we think or come from.

    • October 10, 2011 8:00 pm

      This one if from Pew. I would be interested to know how many people here who answered it honestly fell into a “centrist” group.

    • AMAC permalink
      October 10, 2011 9:14 pm

      I don’t like that people are being called ignorant for supporting a candidate for president. I am not planning on voting Obama for president. I have friends and family that do, and they are far from ignorant. We need to check the name calling and rhetoric ourselves. I also think that labeling posters will just allow some logical points to be ignored because they come from the left, right, etc. Why else would we label people? That is the same thinking of people who blindly vote democrat, republican, independant based solely on a label without diving into the issues. Though few, I have agreed with points even from our resident libertarian. I will say, that knowing he is a libertarian makes it easier to discount some of his points. Labels do not help. Candidates switch parties to win elections. Labels are dangerous.

      • AMAC permalink
        October 10, 2011 9:16 pm

        Why don’t we also label each other based on race, socio-economic status, and religion as well? Because it’s not a good idea.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 10, 2011 9:25 pm

        On one level you have an excellent point, on another level I respectfully disagree. I have been guilty, ask Priscilla, of a moderate purity campaign. Its based on the fact that I don’t want ideas mislabeled, if you call Ryan’s plan moderate, or rants about the government regulating anything moderate, then what is left of moderate? It disappears, nothing left to defend or try to bring about, Everything is moderate. Many things are very definitely NOT moderate, and I protest like a crazed hippo when highly conservative ideas are sold as moderate. I probably am unwilling to stop that.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 10, 2011 9:52 pm

        You’re overreacting, AMAC. No one said that people who support Obama are ignorant. Certainly, some are, just as there are ignorant people who support any candidate, people who base their support on other factors…looks, race, religion, etc. Of course it is not a good idea, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some people who do it.

        What I said (and I won’t speak for anyone else) was that there are those who are “lacking in knowledge, information, or awareness” (the dictionary definition of ignorant) about the actual relationship between Obama and Wall Street. It is a relationship that has been extremely cozy, even by Paul Krugman’s standards . Therefore, I think it is fair to say that people who base their support forObama solely on his anti-Wall Street rhetoric, rather than on his policies and behavior, are likely ignorant of the facts.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 10, 2011 10:06 pm

        By the way, apropos of nothing, here is an article for you Rick. “Crazy People make better Bloggers” Whaddya think?

      • October 11, 2011 5:49 am

        AMAC: I think labeling tends to reinforce ideological tendencies, so that’s why I won’t do it here.

        Priscilla: Alas, it looks as if I’ve got this blogging thing all wrong. I should have been trotting out my inner crazy person all this time instead of appealing to reason. Well, it’s never too late. Maybe I should change the name of the blog to “The Mad Moderate” (though I think that one might already be taken). And I can always start ranting again at The Cynic’s Sanctuary, which is still more popular than The New Moderate despite the fact that I haven’t written anything new there in at least five years. But traffic here at The New Moderate has been rising steadily; I’m just wondering if half of it comes from dhlii.

    • October 11, 2011 5:54 am

      Kent: Interesting idea, but I’ll let our readers’ ideas speak for themselves. I think it’s easy enough to tell that dhlii is a libertarian and Rob is a leftist, for example. The rest of us might be more nuanced and hard to pin down, but that’s part of what makes moderates interesting. After all, we’re supposed to be relatively free of ideological baggage.

  21. October 10, 2011 7:15 pm


    “middlemen” add value. If they did not they would not exist.

    The typical value that middlemen add is connecting the buyer and seller together.

    We could all buy CFL’s cheaper if we just went to the factory in china that makes them.
    But that is inconvenient – so we go to WalMart – which is just a giant middleman.

    Your grocery store is a middleman for the farmer.

    As the number of people grow, and we become more interconnected, often we find alternative ways to aquire the products we want without middlemen. We buy directly over the web.
    The entertainment industry is suffering as the internet devalues the contribution of middlemen.
    We pretend this is about “piracy” but it is actually about distribution. If no one is paid for producing entertainment – at the very least we will have less. So a means of paying producers will always exist – though again there will also always be downward forces on prices.
    But the companies that distribute, market and sell entertainment only provide a service that has value if there is not a cheaper way to distribute market and sell.

    In the modern marketplace almost all of us are value added middlemen rather than direct producers of goods.

    If you wish I can provide a similar defence of speculators – but first I would like to know what you beleive is wrong with speculating.

    The relative prices of different things – absent government interference are primarily driven by our choice of values. I do not personally value superstar athletes – therefore I contribute nothing to the market that drives their wages – but lots of people do, and as a result the guy who can throw a fastball consistently a tenth of a MPH faster than anyone else is rewarded imensely.

    ipods and what have you are cheaper every year specifically because we demand them.
    An ipod is an unbelievably complex piece of equipment. No human is capable of producing one from scratch in their lifetime. Yet we can all buy them at the cost of a few hours work.

    The free market will deliver to us whatever we want – that is more than its job it is what it is – the system by which we all trade the wealth we have created for the wealth we want.
    We chose what we want. When you decide something is wrong with the choices and prices of the market – you are saying there is something wrong with our values. Even if I were to agree with you – say both of us do not value professional sports – what right have you or I to dictate other peoples values, just because we do not share them. Whenever you try to use force (government) to manipulate (or regulate) the market, you are asserting a right to dictate to others what their values ought to be.

  22. October 10, 2011 7:34 pm

    I really get tired of this “the poor can’t afford healthcare” crap. The poor in this country have essentially had free healthcare in one form or another for more than a century.
    There are two principle objectives of healthcare reform:
    Reducing the cost of healthcare – particularly medicare because otherwise the government goes bankrupt. Unfortunately the politicians have not grasped that they are the driving force behind healhtcare costs.
    Providing free healthcare for members of the middle class who gambled and lost.
    No one in this country is denied healthcare. Those of us that have insurance or wealth must pay for it. If you do not have insurance, but do have atleast a modicum of wealth, you are probably about to drop a quintile or two because you lost your gamble.
    Many of us insured or otherwise are denied unlimited healthcare regardless of cost.
    Healthcare reform does not alter that in the slightest. Healthcare like every other resource will be rationed in some way. If it is rationed by the marketplace, the price system will insure that if the specific care has value, the price will eventually drop, the more we value it and the more of us who value it the greater the effort to supply it, the greater the competition and the greater the impetus to lower its price. The alternative is rationing by government – which always drives prices up and creates artificial scarcity.

    The following article is from the New York Times. It has a decidedly left tilt and is filled with all kinds of “oughts” as well as speculation as to why. Regardless, it still refutes both the claim that people are unable to get helthcare, and the claim that the vast majority of these are poor – though NYT seems to think that 44K/year (above the mean and median incomes in this country) is poor.
    It is fairly trivial to go to the web and find lots of high deductible health insurance that is available anywhere in this country to anyone – except where your state government prohibits it
    for a family of four for about $300/month. The exact same policy – with a low or no deductible – costs more – by a little bit more than the cost of the deductible. I have no problem with people paying $12,000 extra a year for health insurance to avoid the risk that they might have to pay $10,000 out of pocket. But that does not make it a good decision.

    If there was any possibility at all to gain my support for healthcare as a social safety net proposition, it would be to provide for those who find themselves unexpectedly facing serious and expensive healthcare problems, not providing basic day to day care. And 3/4 of the cost is in the basic day to day care. When we subsidise that we remove market forces, we drive the costs and waste up.

    Health Care is not a right. It is something that will be rationed one way or another.
    You can chose your own form of rationing – but please do not chose for me.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 10, 2011 8:07 pm

      Dhlii, You are wrong, as usual, denialism, its your whole life. Well, its written by actual scientists so you will have some denial based on first principles, no doubt.

      Access to Care Is the Centerpiece in the Elimination of Socioeconomic Disparities in Health
      Dennis P. Andrulis, PhD, MPH

      From the New York Academy of Medicine, New York, New York. For the current author address, see end of text. Requests for Reprints: Dennis Andrulis, PhD, MPH, New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10029.

      Abstract:Many health care professionals have sustained an almost single-minded conviction that disparities in access to health care across socioeconomic groups are the key reason for the major discrepancies in health status between wealthy persons and poor persons. Others, however, have argued that a host of factors work to create major impediments and that reducing or eliminating financial barriers to health care in particular will do little to reduce discrepancies in health status. This paper, while acknowledging the spectrum of contributing factors, argues that the elimination of financially based differences in access is central to any effort to create equity in outcomes across socioeconomic groups. Through selected review of the many studies on health insurance, access, outcomes, and socioeconomic status, it establishes that a core links affected populations, their difficulty in financing health care, and the threat to their well-being. In so doing, it cites findings that strongly associate lack of insurance (especially for persons who live in poverty), inability to obtain services, and adverse health outcomes. It also uses the example of Medicaid and other coverage for HIV-infected persons in particular as an important positive instance in which leveling the discrepancies in health care across socioeconomic groups can move toward creating quality in access and outcomes. The competitive pressures in today’s health care environment threaten to drive socioeconomic groups further apart, especially insured and uninsured persons. However, the recent enactment of state actions, especially the State Child Health Insurance Program, represent powerful examples of health insurance expansion that have lessons for policymakers at all levels for the monitoring and reduction of socioeconomic disparities.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 10, 2011 8:38 pm

        BTW, the article was from from Annuls of Internal Medicine

      • October 10, 2011 9:29 pm

        You synopsis makes a policy argument, and in fact is just a giant logical fallacy. Essentially it says there are many views here is ours and it is right. If you do things our way it will work. This is essentially the standard argument from the left – people need X if we just give them X they will be better off isn’t that obvious. Essentially the article is an editorial.

        Regardless, it does not actually address anything that I wrote.

        Further there are recent studies strongly suggesting there are no differences in medical outcome based on wealth in the US. That the primary determining factors in the quality of care are education and particularly medical knowledge. That if you adjust for those, all race, and class distinctions disappear.

        It is however true that the wealthy and better insured are more likely to receive bleeding edge treatment. But as with most everything else early adopters do not generally get the best results. APACA will not change that in the slightest. Care particularly bleeding edge care with low or unknown success rates will be prohibited – unless you are wealthy enough to go somewhere else and get it.

        Further, you already have SCHIP and medicare. Everyone up to the poverty level is entitled to government paid for medical care. All families up to twice the poverty level are entitled to government paid medical care. In many if not most states families up to 4 times the poverty level are entitled to government paid medical care. Hospitals can not get people to signup up for SCHIP or Medicare. Eligible patients will receive care regardless of whether they join a government program, and it is just too much trouble to fill out the paperwork.

        The objectives of government efforts to “reform” healthcare have never been getting coverage for the impoverished. It is unlikely – even in the face of fines, that hospitals and government will have any greater success getting the poor to signup for programs so long as they have nothing of consequence to lose, and will receive care regardless.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 10, 2011 9:45 pm

        I’m sorry, dhlii, “We examined the data from many studies and found…” is NOT a giant logical fallacy. In your world anything that contradicts your fundamentalist beliefs can be dismissed as a logical fallacy or some other excuse. The authors views are more moderate than those of the average such review, as they acknowledge other influences than poverty. The data that they reviewed came from other studies.

        “In so doing, it cites findings that strongly associate lack of insurance (especially for persons who live in poverty), inability to obtain services, and adverse health outcomes.”

        The other papers, which you do not by the way pride references to, that allegedly have another opinion, are not possible to evaluate. My guess, if you provide them, they will be either political hack jobs or papers you have mischaracterized or misunderstood.

        The data they analyze include data on inability to obtain service, a thing you claim, drum roll, does not exist.

        You’ve lost another argument, but the earth will cease to spin for a moment if you man up.

      • October 10, 2011 11:58 pm


        Read your own synopsis. It is editorialising. It does not even pretend it is not.
        It is end to end policy recommendations. Maybe their right, maybe wrong, but there is little in the article to judge that by.

        I read the information strongly correlating outcome to education when my mother was dying from colon cancer. She was fairly well off. While she was treated with a great deal of respect by Doctor’s and Nurses, she got abysmal medical care – though her insurance was excellent so they did spend alot of money. It did not matter much because by the time they discovered her cancer, the best they could do was prolong her life alittle.

        This is not some dirty little secret, or right wing tripe. Beyond that:
        “Correlation is not causation”
        That is true about the correlations I am pointing out with respect to knowledge and healthcare. It is also true about every correlation in your “study” above.
        In different posts you have argued causation both ways – poverty causes bad healthcare, bad healthcare causes poverty. I have no doubt specific instances of both exist, but that is far different from a rigorous assertion of two way causation. Much less even a one way one – though I am not sure which way you are actually trying to go.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 11, 2011 7:25 am

        Policy recommendations based on data that says that poverty and INABILITY TO OBTAIN SERVICE, are linked to bad health.

        It exists.

        You don’t exist. Hows that?

        In any case, you have no legs. The Black Knight is invincible.

        And your conclusion does not follow, life is unfair, get over it. It just your economic religion, which you have utterly failed to make a convincing case for, Grinch. Not mine, not many others.

      • October 12, 2011 2:06 pm

        There is no “inability to obtain service” – see SCHIP, Medicaid, Hospital and doctor provided and often mandated free care to those without the means to afford it….. It may be true that th poor obtain healthcare through more expensive and less desireable channels – but they do so by choice. The fact that they do not have every choice you wish they had not withstanding. They do actually have real choices that would allow them to receive medical care in the much the same way as the rest of us. Again many of them choose not to.
        Those choices may not seem rational to the rest of us. But they were still free choices – signup for SCHIP, or Medicaid or don’t. A majority chose no.

        Ultimately you are making the same argument that you make with social security – many people, particularly the poor. Make bad choices when they are free to make their own – therefore no one should be free to make their own choices.

        I did not read this paper thoroughly – I thought it was pretty badly written it was obviously policy recommendations and I am perfectly capable of thinking for myself given actual information, more important I did not read the papers that it chose to claim as support for its policy recommendations. But in what I did read I did not see any data purporting to support the proposition that there was an “inability to obtain service”. Somebody does a study that claims a correlation between being financially poor and having poor health – I suspect that is true and there are myriads of reasons for that. People are likely fiscally poor for the same reasons the are in poor health. They care for their health the same way they care for their finances.
        Regardless, from the correlation between poor health and poverty – one paper presumes “inadequate access” and another paper bases policy recommendations on that. So we have taken correlation, speculated to causation, and arrived at policy recommendations.

  23. October 10, 2011 8:40 pm


    I am hard on the President, but I do not think he is especially far on the left. But he absolutely is a statist. He honestly believes that everything is political, that government can do as it pleases and that the solutions dictated will work because government says they will.

    He has not lived up to promises of more open government – despite the fact that those are not hard. He has expanded out military involvement everywhere rather than end it.
    Despite explicit promises to the contrary he has actually escallated the war on drugs, in particular he is making access to controlled substances more difficult – both absolutely legal access as well as the quasi-legal access where state and federal law differ.
    There are any number of issues that I actually would have supported him on, many of which he could have accomplished unilaterally.
    And on and on.

    He is not liberal, he is not libertarian, he is not moderate, he is just a statist.

    After Solyndra he is still defending government investment in energy – despite the fact that the administration was on the cusp of loaning solyndra $436M more when the GOP took over, and despite the fact that we have more similar profile failures coming. Solyndra is not the exception it is the norm. Nor is it about green energy. I personally beleive there is a bright future for so call “green” energy in the future – particularly Solar electric. But government investment in almost anything makes things worse not better.

  24. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 10, 2011 9:17 pm

    Further on health care and poverty from a different angle. Here’s the first article I pulled down with the query poverty and health care. It by a scholar from Duke on the Census figures that show the link between illness and becoming poor. BTW, It may come as a shock, but poor people don’t have $300 a month = $3600/year in extra money lying around.

    “Health care’s link to poverty

    By Anirudh Krishna

    The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on poverty in the United States provides clear evidence that more Americans are falling upon hard times. In what is still seen by many abroad as the land of plenty, 46 million people — 14.6 percent of the population — are living in poverty. Hundreds of thousands of these people formerly were counted among the middle class.

    Compared with other rich countries, the United States has one of the greatest numbers of people living in poverty, as well as a high risk of becoming poor. Why is that? Countries that do not have affordable health care have high rates of poverty, no matter how high their rate of economic growth or their level of wealth. By contrast, those richer countries that have the lowest poverty rates also have universal health care coverage. There is no exception.

    Not coincidentally, the new census report also shows that 16.7 percent of Americans have no health insurance. The number of covered Americans dropped for the first time since record-keeping began in 1987. If we are serious about reducing poverty in the U.S., we will need to deepen and widen health care reform, rather than flee from continuing this challenging task as many politicians are now doing.

    Investigations that I conducted with a total of 35,000 households in five countries, including several in rural counties of North Carolina, show how many formerly middle-class people have become persistently poor. They remain poor not from lack of effort or initiative. The vast majority is working hard to break out of poverty, but these efforts are frequently set back by adverse events, principally health shocks of different kinds.

    The patterns of falling into poverty that we observed are illustrated by the example of Martin Rhysman, a resident of Beaufort County, N.C. He lost his job and with it his family’s medical insurance. When his wife fell seriously ill a year later, a required surgery proved to be very expensive and they had to find the money for hospital expenses.

    To make ends meet in such situations, people such as Rhysman sell precious assets. Unable to deal otherwise with ruinous hospital costs, they also take out high-interest private debts. In the long run, these strategies lead to bankruptcy for many. High health care costs are the primary reason behind the growing wave of personal bankruptcies in the United States.

    Unless this high rate of descent into poverty is controlled, poverty will simply continue to grow. Yes, job creation will help lift some people out of poverty, but it is not the panacea that many make it out to be.

    Rather, job creation health care reform and a suite of other cures are required simultaneously. One possible cure could be to provide health care vouchers, alongside other assistance like food stamps.

    Let us, therefore, pause in our unending bickering about how the health care system should be truly reformed. The new census numbers provide a clear wake-up call: Will we simply sit by while poverty grows year after year in the United States? Or will we do something more to make our health care system function better for ordinary folks?

    Anirudh Krishna is an associate professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and author of a new book, “One Illness Away: Why People Become Poor and How They Escape Poverty.”

    • October 10, 2011 11:35 pm


      The US has by far the most diverse population in the world. Why would it then surprise you that there is also diversity in income ?

      The united states has nearly 12M illegal aliens. While I for one have no problem with that, that is 4% of the population right there – and the overwhelming majority of them are in the lower quintile. Any study that does not adjust for that is distorted.

      Separately because I support open immigration I do not care if the US has a diverse population that includes a large number of poor people.

      I don’t have 3600/year for healthcare either. But I find a way to get it.
      Regardless, as I keep poijnting out and you keep ignoring the poor are not the problem. One way or another they are covered. Pretty much everyone that is uninsured and does not have enough wealth to be worth forcing into bankruptcy is covered by the system as it is.
      Virtually everyone in that category could have government provided insurance for the mere cost of filling out the paperwork.

      My point with respect to 300/month catastrophic insurance is why are we paying for comprehensive coverage for everyone, when if you need to salve your conscious it is far more cost effective to pay for catastrophic coverage for the poor.

      Beyond that cross country comparisions have lots of issues.
      Poverty in the US is not the same as elsewhere. Though I strongly suspect that the very bottom of the pyramid in the US is worse off than in Europe. It is much harder to get into Europe.

      If it is possible to climb up the economic ladder it will be possible to slip down. Further more will do so in hard times. Some people will even go bankrupt, some through no fault of their own. I did not read in the article you cited that these people did not get healthcare, only that they dropped from the middle class to poverty. Life is not fair. They have my sympathy, but I am not prepared to spend more than $1T to guarantee that no matter what happens a few people will not slip backwards into poverty. Nor does your article examine what happens in the future. Sometimes we slip a few rungs on the economic ladder. Even Bankruptcy is not the end of the world. I know many people who have endured it and are middle to upper middle class today. It is a setback. It is not the end of the world.

      If your objective is to avoid any possibility that anyone will ever slip a rung or two on the economic ladder – that is easy – impoverish us all. And that is what you are intent on doing.

      Life is not fair – get over it. Attempting to make it so are like holding back a hurricane. Foolish and harmful to everyone.

      • October 11, 2011 5:41 am

        Dave: Here is what I don’t understand about your world-view: If life is unfair, and we recognize it as unfair, why not do everything in our power to make it LESS unfair? We won’t be able to make it totally fair, but if we can tweak it to reduce suffering, I think it’s callous not to try.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 11, 2011 11:23 pm

        Rick, Your question was to Dave, but I want to weigh in here….I don’t think that government can make life fair, with one notable exception: it can apply the rule of law to all, equally. Lobbyists, politicians, favored minorities, unions, bankers, immigrants, etc. should all be subject to the same rules.

        Small example from current events: OWS never applied for a permit to assemble in Zuccotti Park. As a result, there are no porta-potties and the private park is now a fetid stinkhole ( I know, my youngest son, resides in the financial district). Local businesses are suffering and residents are not able to enjoy their neighborhood. But, the mayor of NYC has said that no action will be taken to remove the illegal protest group. Now, I do agree with Bloomberg in this case, because it is obvious that many of these protesters would like nothing more than to play victim to the NYPD…..but what does this say about the rule of law? Would a tea party protest be afforded this leniency? Will the Occupy protests set a new precedent for groups that want to take over public or private property without permission, as long as the sitting president expresses support? And how would people feel if the sitting president were a Republican?

        Fairness is always subjective.

      • October 12, 2011 1:42 pm


        Because the “unfairness” is uncorrectable. My rant at the start of your prior post was about the flaws in unfairness as a standard. It is still an absolutely impossible measure. It will always mean radically different things to different people. Fairness is more than just subjective. It is really non-existent.

        You think the distribution of money is unfair. I think it is unfair to take a larger percentage of income from one group than another. Our founders thought that each persons contribution to support government had to be exactly the same regardless of income. I can go on and on and start another fairness rant. But the real point is that fairness has no definition – there is not even a consensus on its meaning.

        APACA should demonstrate the problems getting the support of an informed majority. I beleive every poll in recent memory has shown overwhelming majority support for healthcare reform. Yet 56% of us want APACA repealed.

        There is a big difference between broad support for a general principle and majority support for any specific implementation of that principle.
        This is just another manifestation of the “information problem”

        Principles are easy. Details are hard. It is not just that one size does not fit all, but that one size can not fit all. It is the reason rights and law are usually expressed negatively. Limits work, entitlements fail.

        If you really and truly want to make life better – for everyone, focus on what is possible. Assuring each individual their rights is difficult, probably even unachievable, but it is a process that converges on a better world. Attempting to insure fairness converges on a worse world.
        The fight for liberty enhances everyone at a very small. Most people win, but everyone does not.
        The fight for “fairness” helps few and at the very best creates the risk of harm to most. In the real world while we usually step back before the totalitarian breach, it always leads to more statism, more central planning. In both practice and theory these always prove net negative.

        I can grasp that real left radicals, can attempt to argue that past failure is irrelevant as we have never really tried “pure” socialism – just as anarcho-capitolist can argue we have never tried stateless society. Not that I think either is right.

        But if you are unwilling to argue for the most extreme socialist/communist position, I do not understand why you do not grasp that all the real world attempts as socialism lite, statism and central planning, have failed. They have failed in proportion to the amount of power given to government. The failures are not just theoretically predictable, but they are documented by history.

        The best argument for shifting the balance away from state power and towards individual liberty is states have demonstrably failed in direct proportion to the extent of their power.

        I can justify liberty using theoretical arguments about natural rights, or human behavior or ….. But in the real world things mostly get worse in the direction of state power and improve as we move away from it.

        Any argument that you make regardless of your underlying principle that requires more state power will find me in opposition.

        If you want my support on “fairness” or whatever, find a way to accomplish your means with less rather than more state power.

      • October 12, 2011 2:20 pm

        Priscilla and Dave: No, government can’t make life fair… but it can make it a little less unfair by supplying safety nets (which we already have, to the government’s credit, though our safety nets should be even stronger) and by creating a level playing field (which we don’t have). Anyone who tries to convince me that the rich haven’t rigged the system for their benefit will be running up against an unyielding moderate moderator!

        Let me submit just a few examples of the inequities of our current playing field: Big-business lobbies that buy elected representatives, exorbitant bonuses and golden parachutes awarded by corporate boards to individuals who have helped wreck the economy and taken taxpayer bailouts, banks that offer 0.5% interest on savings deposits but can charge 25% interest (or more) on credit, the endless maze of tax shelters and loopholes that favor corporations and the rich, unrestricted outsourcing of jobs that Americans desperately need (so corporations can beat Wall Street expectations), reckless investments by federally-backed banks… These outrages all need to come under tighter scrutiny by the government.

        It’s not just that I hate to see these people game the system for their own gain (though I do, believe me I do!)… it’s that their actions have crippled the American middle class, possibly beyond repair. Worst of all, they’re bluntly unapologetic about it. Natural law and all that, you know. They need to be taken down a peg — not because they’re rich, but because they’re weasels stealing from the henhouse. They’ve shown nothing but contempt for ordinary Americans while they pile their ill-gotten riches behind the walls of their gated communities and cry bloody murder when we have the audacity to protest.

        To summarize: I don’t have a problem with the merely rich, just the malevolently rich… the rich who have bought influence and tilted the playing field in their favor. The government needs to intervene, set up new ground rules, then pull back and let the modified system work.

        I hope it happens.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 12, 2011 5:08 pm

        Here is where I lose you, Rick……you say that “big business lobbies buy elected representatives,” but then turn around and expect those bought- and-paid-for elected representatives to put big business under tighter scrutiny and level the playing field? These elected representatives are the people voting for the bailouts, and deciding who gets them! It makes no sense to me. The fact that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd were the co-sponsors of a financial regulation bill, given their connections with Fannie and Freddie, Countrywide Financial, Goldman-Sachs and other big Wall Street lobbies is beyond outrageous. And, when they were in power, GOP politicians showed themselves to be equally corruptible.

        I say demand accountability and transparency from the government first, because they are the ones who are allowing the weasels to steal from the henhouse, and allowing their wealthy patrons to evade and escape the rule of law that the rest of us have to follow.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 12, 2011 5:22 pm

        And to be clear….by that I mean, prosecute corrupt politicians and/or vote them out of office. Vote for politicians who are not bought and paid for and who promise to enact legislation that is fair and ethical.

        Parading around David Koch’s mansion may get a lot of media attention, but it’s not going to do anything to help the middle class.

      • October 12, 2011 10:13 pm

        Priscilla: Oh, don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect those paid-for representatives to break their ties with big money; they benefit from the system too much to have any motivation for change. And I don’t blame the Republicans exclusively; I’m all too familiar with Barney Frank’s role in precipitating our national mortgage fiasco.

        It would be nice if we could just vote the corrupt politicians out of office. Unfortunately their constituents tend to vote reflexively for familiar names (something like 87% of incumbents get reelected). And it’s hard to know, in a less-than-transparent system, who is actually taking money from which lobbying groups. I once saw a really funny political sign that said something like “I wish our politicians would wear uniforms like Nascar drivers so we can tell who’s sponsoring them.”

        We have other ways of keeping them honest. We’ll need one or two more Democrats on the Supreme Court… just enough to tilt the balance so that the Court can overturn Citizens United (the “corporations are people” decision) and institute a law criminalizing direct corporate sponsorship of elected representatives. If that fails, there’s the option of calling a Constitutional convention (difficult, because two-thirds of the state legislatures would have to request it). And if that fails, there’s Occupy Wall Street and the spectre of revolution, which of course is the option we’d want to avoid. But the system has to change so that big money can no longer rig politics in its favor.

        At least we agree that the current political patronage system is intolerable. That’s a start!

  25. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 10, 2011 10:22 pm

    I was gonna alter this parody of the dead parrot sketch to make it fit free market absolutism but I’ll let anyone who is interested in this humor make the change mentally themselves. As it is its the marxist extreme that gets it.

    Revolutionary: ‘Ello, I wish to register a complaint
    (the SWP does not respond) (SWP socialist worker party)
    R: ‘Ello, Stalinist?
    SWP: What do you mean ‘Stalinist’?
    R: I’m sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
    SWP: We don’t have time for your contribution, sorry.
    R: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this ideology what I embraced not half an hour ago at this very conference.
    SWP: Oh yes, the, uh, the Russian Bolshevik… What’s, uh… wrong with it?
    R: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad. Its dead, that’s what’s wrong with it!
    SWP: No, no, its, uh, . . . its resting.
    R: Look, matey, I know a dead ideology when I see one, I’m looking at one right now.
    SWP: No no, its not dead, its resting! Remarkable ideology the Russian Bolshevik, idn’it, ay? Beautiful rhetoric.
    R: The rhetoric don’t enter into it. It’s stone dead.
    SWP: Nononononono, no, no, its resting!
    R: All right then, if its resting, I’ll wake it up!
    (shouting at the meeting)
    ‘Ello Mister Bolshevik! Do you know that Lenin and Trotsky advocated party dictatorship….
    (SWP ignores point)
    SWP: There, we replied to you.
    R: No you didn’t, that was you ignoring what I said.
    SWP: We never!
    R: Yes, you did!
    SWP: We never, ever ignore anything…
    R: (making the same point repeatedly)
    Lenin and Trotsky eliminated workers democracy in the army and in the workplace. The Bolsheviks disbanded soviets with non-Bolshevik majorities. All before the start of the Civil War. Lenin and Trotsky both advocated party dictatorship. Moreover, they explicitly argued for it and against the idea of class dictatorship. This is your nine o’clock alarm call!
    (raises points at meeting and watches them get ignored).
    R: Now that’s what I call a dead ideology.
    SWP: No, no…. No, it was stunned by the counter-revolution!
    R: STUNNED?!?
    SWP: Yeah, counter-revolution stunned it, just as it was about to implement socialism, workers’ power and democracy! The Russian Bolshevik stuns easily, comrade.
    R: Um . . . now look … now look mate, I’ve definitely ‘ad enough of this. This ideology is definitely deceased and when I embraced it not ‘alf an hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of freedom and democracy in 1921 was due to it being tired and shagged out following a prolonged civil war, yet these events occurred before it started.
    SWP: Well, its… its, ah … probably pining for 1917.
    R: PININ’ for 1917!?!?!?! What kind of talk is that? Look, why did it overthrow soviet democracy the moment it got rejected in the soviet elections in spring 1918? Why did it abolish by decree elected soldier committees in March 1918? Why did it reject workers’ self-management by factory committees and advocate one-man management with dictatorial powers in the spring of 1918?
    SWP: The Russian Bolshevik prefers centralised power! Only that is true democracy-local elections, soldier councils and factory committees don’t matter when you have a central government elected by the soviets. Remarkable ideology, id’nit, squire? Lovely rhetoric!
    R: Look, I took the liberty of examining that ideology when I got home, and I discovered that the only reason that it was still in power in 1921 was that it had imposed a one party dictatorship, repressed all worker dissent, crushed waves of strikes and protests and, finally, suppressed the Kronstadt revolt (which was demanding free soviet elections). Moreover, it justified party dictatorship and claimed it had to be used in every revolution.
    SWP: Well, o’course it had to do that! If it hadn’t crushed those popular movements then the Whites would have won and no more soviet power. Give it another chance and VOOM! Socialism!
    R: VOOM!?! Mate, this ideology wouldn’t go “voom” if you put four million volts through it! Soviet Power without soviet elections? Socialism without workers management of production? Secret Police? It is “childish nonsense” to draw a distinction between dictatorship by the party and by the class? (Lenin) The “dictatorship of the proletariat is at the same time the dictatorship of the Communist Party.”? (Zinoviev) The “revolutionary dictatorship of a proletarian party” is “an objective necessity”? (Trotsky) Its bleeding demised!
    SWP: No no, its pining!
    R: Its not pining! Its passed on! This ideology is dead! It has long ceased to be revolutionary (if it ever was)! Its expired and become a dictatorship! It’s a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! Its analytical processes are now history! It shuffled away from the socialist movement, imposed party dictatorship, and justified it time and time again! This is an ex-socialist theory!
    SWP: Well, I had better ignore what you are saying and keep repeating the dogma.
    (he takes a quick peek to the Central Committee)
    SWP: Sorry comrade, I’ve checked and your three minutes are up and we’re right out of time.
    R: I see. I see, I get the picture.
    SWP: Fancy a copy of Socialist Worker?
    R: Pray, does it talk about anarchism, the real socialism from below?
    SWP: Nnnnot really.

    • October 11, 2011 5:34 am

      Nice, Ian. “Just resting,” indeed. Now all we need is my political rendition of the Lumberjack Song.

      “I’m a moderate and I’m OK,
      I sleep all night and I blog all day…
      I put on preppy clothing, but I don’t have a job…
      I want to be a lefty, just like my old friend Rob.”

      Well, on second thought, maybe we shouldn’t go there.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 11, 2011 7:29 am

        No, Its great continue. Laughed out loud.

        I’m off to Boston for a mini vacation for a couple days. Not bringing a computer.

        Don’t let anyone think my addiction is cured.

  26. October 11, 2011 12:35 am

    We know that when you make something people want cheaper, they buy more. When you make it more expensive they buy less. This is essentially the demand portion of the law of supply and demand.

    It is a law, not a correlation, not a policy, not an idea, or thesis, or ….
    there is a robust repeatable understandable cause and effect relationship.

    There are not alot of things involving human behavior that are sufficiently rigorous to call a law of human behavior – but the law of supply and demand is one. It is first day economics 101. Under other names it is certainly covered in introductory psychology and sociology.

    We have myriads of correlations – some of which are even robust and statistically significant enough to suggest causation. The relationship between taxes on investment and economic growth or decline falls into that category. It is not a law. Despite former Obama Economic Council Chief Romer’s paper’s we do not know for a fact that a $1 increase in taxes will result in a $3 decrease in GDP. The overwhelming majority(but not all) of studies over the past several decades make a compelling case for a strong relationship. But they do not create certainty. It is unlikely that the real relationship is linear – it is probably a curve. Nor do we know whether it is rigorously robust under all circumstances. Is the effect the same in an economic downturn ? What about during a boom ?
    Regardless, the relationship between taxes on capitol and economic growth is a strong correlation, not a law. Likely but not certainly a causal relationship.

    Other robust correlations are the positive relationship between freedom and economic strength and the weaker negative relationship between social safety nets and economic strength.

    We can compare the GDP per person of different countries – those relationships are facts, though what they mean may be subjective. Further we have differences in the way GDP is measured as well as other adjustments – as an example US citizens somehow have more personal wealth at every strata then strict GDP/per capita comparisons would suggest.
    We know these things, they are facts not correlations, but the explanations may or may not be facts.

    We know – again as a fact, that western socialist democracies have economically underperformed less socialist western democracies by something close to 1% a year over much of the past 4 decades. The assertion that is it because they are less free – is the correlation above – but that is not a fact – it is probably true, but not certainly. Nor is it an economic law.

    The distinctions between opinion, varying degrees of correlation, causation, law and fact are important.

    Arguing that reducing the cost to the patient of healthcare will not increase demand is ludicrous. It is arguing that the LAW of supply and demand is not robust, flawed or has exceptions.

    Arguing that you can increase taxes on capitol without economic cost, is not ludicrous – the relationship is not a law, it is just a strong correlation. But it is a very risky argument. If in the interests of your definition of fairness you wish to gamble your economic well being I have no right to stop you – though I question why your willingness to take that risk – or the willingness of a majority forces me to take that risk along with you.

    It is barely more than an opinion, that healthcare outcomes correlate to:
    Wealth, Poverty, Knowledge, or any of a myriad of other factors.
    I may weigh my correlation more heavily than yours, but I can not prove mine is right nor that yours is wrong – or visa versa.

    It is an opinion that immigration or free trade, are net harmful or that the minimum wage is net beneficial. There is little (but not no) evidence for any of these assertions, and there is alot of evidence – strong correlations to the contrary.

  27. AMAC permalink
    October 11, 2011 12:50 am

    In a previous reply, I was incorrectly misquoted that spending should never be cut which would result in a loss of jobs. I think that there are many government jobs which should be cut, but not now. When unemployment is rising, why add to it and do further harm to the economy. Yes, those jobs would reduce spending one way, but add in benefits and take away from revenue (taxes). When the market is favorable for employment, incentives can be offered to reduce jobs by attrition which would also eliminate these former employees from collection benefits in exchange for incentives (just as it is done in the private sector). Specific regulatory bodies could be eliminate, with updated legislation to require independant oversight (third party) and reporting practices. This would eliminate jobs in areas of OSHA, EPA, and other Labor Practice areas of government. This would also increase employment in areas where this third party oversight already exists and is in wide spread use. Having run multiple operations dealing with OSHA, FAA, TSA, Homeland Security (aside from the TSA brach), EPA, and others, I can tell you that physical inspection is not a regularly occuring act. In 12 years I recieved 2 FAA, 1 EPA, and 1 OSHA physical inspection. These are examples of governing bodies that could be eliminated, or more so transfered to the public sector. These third party inspectors and the companies they oversee could still be held to the same standards as current legislation requires, while lowering costs for companies. Outdated hard copy duplicate forms and ineffective practices cost companies large amounts of money without the proven results. The third party companies do seem to do a better job in this aspect that the government inspectors. Also, companies could save money on private auditors, spending that money on the required private oversight. EPA, OSHA, and all other regulations are very important to me and I believe our country. I in no way advocate the destruction or even reduction of the standards, only changes in ways they are applied. Just for the record, I recieve 31 random independant physical audits from our privately secured third party oversight compared to the 4 government audits. The third party auditors were more thourough and very unfriendly I might add!!! I support the advancement in security, workplace safety, and ecological responsibility in business. I just think that we can work together to find a more effecient way to apply the rules that will save companies, the government, and the taxpayer money. This will create jobs (private), reduce expenditures, and if the information is properly reported to already existent enforcement agencies, will result in imporved conditions for all. If you look at any fortune 500 companies, private oversight is already in place.

    Sorry so long, but I felt a strong need to assert my actual opinion, not allow my percieved opinions voiced for me. I can go on and on where I would like to reduce government and improve conditions for the middle and lower classes. I agree the government size can and should be reduced, but in no way believe in an absence of regulation. I think business should be allowed to suceed and we should promote an environment where they can suceed. But I also believe we need to regulate business to act responsibly when many do not. Yes some will pay for mistakes they did not make, but I want fairness for all. Help for those down on their luck is our moral obligation. “Don’t make me pay for it” is not an option. As I said before, we have to work together.

    • October 12, 2011 2:37 am

      What are the valuable regulatory functions that the FAA, OSHA, TSA, EPA perform ?

      Airlines have a vested interest in safe and secure operations. Killing your customers is extremely bad business. Myriads of studies reports etc. have observed that nothing the TSA’s do enhances security. Three changes occured immediately after 9/11 that improved our security:

      The terrorists broke the unwritten agreement that this was between them and the government, that so long as their demands were met by government everyone would be safe.
      Every airline passenger now knows that in the event of a terrorist attack on an airplane the survival of the passengers is only controlled by those on the airplane. Their lives are in their own hands not government.

      The pilots compartment was secured.

      The crew grasps that the safety of the passengers now depends on NOT complying with the demands of terrorists.

      Everything else is security theatre.

      The best way to ensure safety – whether it is air traffic control, workplace safety, the safety of planes, as well as the quality of the air, is to ensure that when there is a failure their will be a steep price for it. Neither the FAA, EPA, OSHA, TSA, or any other government agency can fully grasp how to balance safety against productivity – we could all drive 15 MPH and there would be almost no traffic deaths. What constitutes safety and how to best achieve are not something third party elitist experts can work out in a one size fits all fashion.
      Rather than punishing businesses and employers for technical violations of regulations, eliminate the regulations and punish them for any real harm they do. Further allow the compensation for the harm to go to those harmed rather than government.

      Workplace safety throughout this country has improved dramatically over the years. Regulation is been at best a minor factor. Businesses work hard to reduce all the reasons for employees to be absent from work such as sickness and injury. The costs associated with an employee who is not available when needed can be significant. One of the problems with government efforts to create jobbs is the presumption that jobs are fungible. Most are not. The workplace knowledge of an unskilled worker is important. It is even worse for skilled workers. Meeting deadlines and deliveries when the one worker with knowledge of a critical process is missing is expensive. Insurance companies also encourage workplace safety with better rates. Further contrary to the assertions of the leftists among us, no employer wants to feel responsible for harm to an employee. In a previous life I managed a 55 person professional firm. An employee on the way to a job site lost control of a business vehicle on an icy road. He was nearly killed in the accident. Further his arm got trapped between the vehicle and the road and was severely damaged. He called 911 from his cell, called us and passed out. We sent another employee immediately to follow him through all the emergency services, to get his wife, to assure that he got whatever he needed quickly both immediately and over the next several days. His recovery took more than a year. Though he received workers compensation benefits we paid him his full salary through the entire recovery. But there was nothing that we could do that would have been better than preventing the accident in the first place. We did what we did because it was the right thing to do. At the same time we were conscious throughout the entire process that the rest of our staff was paying attention. It is not always possible to match the salary an employee can get elsewhere. But it is possible to create a workplace that has intangible values that make jumping ship for a small increase less likely.

      • AMAC permalink
        October 12, 2011 1:32 pm

        As you alluded to, prevention is important. Regulatory processes and reporting are about processes that are in place. Their are also steep penalties for “real” harm done in addition. Having had experience in this field from the company standpoint, I can say that the regulated process is key to prevention. Upon implementation due to government and private involvement, we had huge imporvements to safety and productivity (outside normal increasing projections). Had the government not got involved, would we have implemmented these processes? Doubtfull, as we hadn’t until our agreement. Now the security does tend to lessen productivity, but is a process most all of us accept is necessary. The increased security from the formation of Homeland Security and TSA (as a branch) were necessary and have had success. I am not speaking from the airline prospective as I have no experience other than as a passenger.

      • October 14, 2011 5:17 pm


        Though I beleive that government fails far more often than not, that is not the same as universal.

        It will always be possible to find instances where are regulation appears to have had a net positive result – particularly if you assume that those changes never would have happened otherwise.

        But there are two other factors that drive businesses to change – competition, and being held accountable.

        I would also note that regulation often permits businesses particularly big business to overcome the objections of say labor, and implement what they wanted anyway.

        There is a false presumption on the left and among moderates, that big business favors free markets. Virtually all regulations impose barriers to entry. They are anti-competitive. There is virtually no business that would not freely chose to be a public monopoly – competition can result in failure. A public monopoly is assured of never failing no matter how badly it does its job.

        There are myriads of reasons regulators are and will always be owned by the powerful forces within the industries they regulate.

        It was not the insurance companies that were opposed to APACA, once they got their deal it was not even the drug companies. Much of the HealthCare industry would love to be publicly owned and run. The job security is incredible, the cost of failure is always paid for by the public.

        I will absolutely agree that post 9/11 we all wanted greater airline security. But what we got was theatre. The incidence of terrorism inside the US was extremely low prior to 9/11, and has not changed. It took Al Queda decades and alot of luck to succeed on US soil. If they are weaker today it is because we are fighting and killing them thousands of miles away – not because grandma had her adult diaper searched.

        The 9/11 commision concluded that the Federal government had sufficient – if anything more than sufficient data prior to 9/11, but was unable to find the needle in the haystack. We have done little but make the haystack much bigger. We have spent a decade tracking down the Anthrax terrorist. We have ruined one man’s life and driven another to suicide – and it is highly unlikely we are any nearer to knowing who did it or even how.

        Homeland Security is a bloated failure. The TSA is a failure. If you want effective airport security look to Israel. They have little interest in our egalitarian technological methods. They search for terrorists, not weapons or bombs. If you are fighting on a technological front you will eventually lose – there is always some way to MacGiver destruction from innocent materials.
        The Techniques for uncovering potentially dangerous people does not change with technology and improve with time.

  28. October 12, 2011 3:41 pm

    There has been a running debate here over medical care reflective of the national debate.
    FDR posited the “freedom from want” among his four freedoms. Defined as the right to food, shelter and clothing, the right to a job, education and social security. Essentially the healthcare debate is an extension of these, and the arguments for and against are fundamentally the same. Rather than confront fringe issues such as why the health of the poor is inferior to that of the rest of us, I am choosing to confront the more relevant issue of whether there is a human right to “freedom from want”.

    The other rights that humans generally recognise have a foundation in nature. As an example we have the right to free speech. Nature does not restrict that right. Occaisonally the caccaphony of others expressing the same right drowns us out, but the right remains. It is only lost when other humans bring force to bear. The same is true of all the rest of what is generally accepted as natural rights.

    Nature does not provide us food, shelter, clothing, health for free. We must work for them. Even having done so, nature may throw, droughts, blights, huricanes, and disease at us taking these away. The Christian bible recognises these not as rights “By the sweat of thy brow, you shall earn your daily bread”… but something we must earn. Or as Stephen Crane put it
    A man said to the universe:
    “Sir I exist!”
    “However,” replied the universe,
    “The fact has not created in me
    A sense of obligation.”

    One of the problems with “fairness” is that it confuses rights with needs, wants and desires.

    The distinction is important. Far too many moderates presume “greed” is the engine of the markets. Libertarians use the term “self interest”

    “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
    Adam Smith

    What some label greed is the survival instinct within all of us to secure our needs, wants and desires.

    It is what we can not obtain but for our own effort that is the engine of not just or success but our survival.

    “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what is a heaven for” Robert Browning.

    An important distinction between libertarians and progressives is the source of rights. Libertarians like our founders see rights as a natural consequence of the order of the universe. They are inalienable, and the purpose of government is to secure them – to protect them from loss through force. The left see rights as a consequence of the social contract and the creation of government. Libertarians do not create rights, they find them in nature, they are intrinsic, and immutable. The rights of Social Contract are fungible as broad and deep or narrow and shallow as society deems appropriate for the moment. New rights can be created and old ones tossed aside.

    Converting a need, want or desire into a right can not occur in nature.

    The argument for a universal right to healthcare is indistinguishable from the argument for a right to food, clothing, shelter, or any other need, want or desire.

    There is inequity – unfairness, in the attractiveness of the spouses of the rich in comparison to the poor. Government should remedy this. An attractive spouse should be a right. Or adequate intelligence. Anything one groups desired and achieved can eventually become the need of another.

    We have determined mistakenly as a society that there is some minimal right to food and shelter. FDR’s “Four Freedoms” sets the freedom from want at the subsistence level and alternately to an adequate standard of living. What subsistence and adequate standard of living are, is an exercise left to the imagination. Today subsistence and adequate standard of living in the US are far above what 3/4 of the worlds population can expect. The right to healthcare apparently includes the right to the best healthcare available to anyone, and no one seems to grasp this is an impossible standard – though honestly a guarantee of subsistence and adequate standard of living are not somehow more rational or sustainable.

    Creating a right to have our needs met undermines the survival drive that enables us to not only meet our needs, but also our desires. Attempts to guarantee freedom from want, diminish the effort expended in achieving not only our needs and wants, but also our desires.

    Much of the unmet fundamental needs of the poor in the US today were the unmet desires of the rich a few decades ago. Subsistence and adequate standard of living are sufficiently fungible to eventually encompass anything.

    Gordon Gecko left prison with a mobile phone that no longer worked nearly the size of a concrete block and stepped into a world where everyone has a cell phone that fits into a tee shirt pocket. Neither the rich nor the poor have a right to flat screens, Cell phones, …. yet they are ubiquitous, while those wants, needs and desires government has endeavoured to convert to rights are increasingly expensive and unavailable.

  29. Pat Riot permalink
    October 12, 2011 10:49 pm

    Hello NM commenters and debaters. I was out of town for a spell but just finished reading Rick’s take on the “Occupy…” protesters, and then all of the 121 comments that ensued (more REAL in my opinion than much of the “sponsored commentary” on TV…)

    Is it realistic to expect the protesters to have a cohesive message in this fragmented, complex, “day and age,” other than “we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more”? I think most people would agree the protesters would likely be more powerful if they could organize better, but It’s quite a mix of fed-up folks hitting the streets.It seems the dozen or so regular participants on this blog can barely move eachother’s position or come to concensus, and y’all are communicative /intelligent folks!

    Anyway, you may scoff at my take on the protests: no matter where you consider yourself to be along the political spectrum, it wouldn’t hurt, really, to stock up on some canned goods and water, etc, so that you can stay indoors for when TSHTF. It is POSSIBLE that it won’t, but I’m convinced that it will. So, half of me stays engaged in a dynamic, optimistic life–helping my daughter with her wedding preparations, hiking and philosophizing with my new age hippie son, laughing with my wife through our 27th year of marriage (our Anniversary is tomorrow, Oct 13th !) but the other half of me is stocking up and getting ready for chaos. It can’t hurt to put extra cans of soup in the pantry, batteries for the flashllights, hit the main breaker off and practice being without electricity for a whole day–try it; it can’t hurt….

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 13, 2011 11:29 am

      Well, I’m an optimist, i just think its 1968 all over again, like Rick said. But I do worry about our kids and grand kids, their world will be very different.

      If society collapses it will be due to AGH and take a good long period to do it. So…

      Enjoy your anniversary and daughter’s wedding!

      • Pat Riot permalink
        October 14, 2011 5:47 pm

        Ian – thanks for your well wishes. Are you saying that if society collapses it will be due to Allegheny General Hospital (in Pittsburgh), or Aggregate Global Humidity–it’s not the warming; it’s the humidity! What is AGH? (Google didn’t help me on that acronym.)

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 14, 2011 5:53 pm

        Sorry Pat, a lousy typist am I, that was supposed to be AGW, anthropowhatisis global warming. Everyone needs one puzzle in their day, right?

  30. October 13, 2011 12:05 pm


    Contrary to the left Spin, the Citizen’s United decision did not boil down to “Corporations are People”. The issue of corporate personhood was decided more than a century ago.
    There may be a legitimate debate over corporate personhood – but there are alot of complexities – depriving corporations of “rights” has far boarder implications than just politics, and most of those implications are likely net negative from the perspective of the left.

    Regardless, I have made this argument before, but if individuals have a right, then groups of individuals have that right too. You can entirely dismiss the corperate personhood argument and you still reach the same conclusion in Citizens united.

    The entire debate pivots and an issue I raised above – “What is the source of rights ?”

    If you accept that rights are intrinsic, that they are more fundimental than society itself, that they are unalienable, then you are stuck with the logical consequences. You can not claim an individual has a right while depriving the same right to groups of two or more.

    If you beleive that rights are fungible grants from government to its citizens – you are free to decide who gets what rights on whatever basis you wish – rational or otherwise. But you are stuck with the consequence that whatever rights you think you have are only as secure as governments desire to permit them to you.

    If moderates think there is some kind of middle ground here – I would be happy to here it. Though I can not see how – atleast not without ignoring entirely the issue of where rights come from.

    It is exactly that kind of thinking that bothers me about moderates. Principles are important. You can not just say there are two arguments, lets just split the difference and sit in the middle, without considering the merits of either argument.

    At their core, libertarianism, conservatism, and liberalism represent entirely different world views – though conservatism is not an ideology.

    Moderate as it is expressed here, seems to be “in all things favour the left slightly” – without any consideration of the merits of the argument.

    The money in politics is offensive to you – yet you ignore the fact that the money is and will always be there so long as there is power in government.
    Because it is offensive, you want it removed. If there impediments to that, then remove those impediments. The thing you desire to do is obviously good in and of itself, therefore the impediments must be evil. But sometimes – often the impediments are our rights and liberties. Moderates seem always and everywhere to be ready to sacrifice individual rights for the greater good. If that is the case you have accepted the liberal argument that rights are fungible, they are a grant from government to be defined, awarded and taken away at whim.

    I would be happy to here any inviolable principle that underpins moderates views.
    Aside from my own criticisms, “fairness” did not work in your own exposition, your description of fairness left it amorphous an undefined, a hint not a measure or standard, in immeasurable aspiration.

    Ian is constantly bandying the phrase “economic fundimentalist” as if both that accurately describes my views, and also absolutely refutes them.

    My views on markets derive both from practical experience and the value I place in individual freedom. So when Ian sniggers than I am an “economic fundimentalist” he is saying look at that idiot – he believes in liberty.

    Beyond that the claim fails as criticism as it presumes “economic fundimentalism” can be derided and ignored because he sees it as an extreme view – not because it is right or wrong.

    The “Moderates” here seem to wish to completely duck the any consideration of the merits of one side of an argument vs. another. That two people hold opposing views seems sufficient to accept that both views are equally plausible – or equally wrong.

    the moderates here conclude that a view is wrong by virtue of being extreme.

    “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

    • Priscilla permalink
      October 13, 2011 1:50 pm

      Dave, no doubt, there are many times when I think that this site should be re-named “When Moderates Attack” (maybe, if “The Mad Moderate” is taken, Rick, that could work as your next blog). It does strike me that labeling the tea party “extreme” for organizing to elect like-minded representatives, while touting OWS as a movement in which all moderates should be involved is, well……confusing. Because, I don’t know what the hell OWS is even about, other than anger and envy. (Yes, I know they want some stuff, but that list of stuff is still pretty vague) If moderates are about finding common ground, it would seem to me that there should be common ground to find between two groups that both claim to want to “end the monied corruption of our democracy.” Simply hurling charges of extremism at those with whom we disagree does not make us moderate.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 13, 2011 3:47 pm

        I have thought all along that the tea party is a bad deal for the GOP in the long run. I think the Occupy movement is even worse for the Dems. Its a far left wing movement, and the numbers of left votes they may gain is dwarfed by the centrists they will lose.

        This could be the golden age of moderates/centrists, if everything played out perfectly.

        If Romney is going to be the GOP candidate, instead of some tea-party nutjob like Perry I will be even freer to support a middle alternative, should one get organized.

      • October 13, 2011 9:21 pm


        While the Tea Party is by no means libertarian, I find it very hard to defend anything that Sherrif Joe Arpaio likes, they are just plain wrong on immigration, still contrary to the perception of the left the Tea Party represents a libertarian shift in the GOP. The Tea Party is not about to legalize drugs, support gay marraige, …. but they do argue for more limited government, fiscal responsibility. Even though some Tea Parties members are themselves “Social Conservatives”, the Tea Party represents atleast a de-emphasis of the hot button social conservative issues, as well as a de-emphasis of the militaristic nation building that both of our political parties have been enamored of lately.
        Given a political choice between a democratic party that is solidly statist, fairly liberal and socialist, and Republican Neo-Cons or social conservatives, I have to side with the Tea Party. I will be happy to hold them accountable in every area where they are wrong. At the same time, they still represent a half step towards a more libertarian GOP.

  31. valdobiade permalink
    October 13, 2011 12:26 pm

    “There has been much speculation over who is financing the disparate protest, which has spread to cities across America and lasted nearly four weeks. One name that keeps coming up is investor George Soros, who in September debuted in the top 10 list of wealthiest Americans. Conservative critics contend the movement is a Trojan horse for a secret Soros agenda.”

    It makes sense, doesn’t it?

    • Priscilla permalink
      October 13, 2011 1:14 pm

      It does, valdo. and, so, at last….we agree!

      • valdobiade permalink
        October 13, 2011 2:28 pm

        But do you agree that Soros may be backing the “occupy” movement as a tool against his “Wall Street” fellows? I mean, even big successful rabid dogs are biting each other.

        After all he was very successful in betting against the British Pound thus making a fortune. “Succesfulness” doesn’t hint to good or bad. It is like “opportunity”: in free market we have a lot of opportunities, but everything boils down to the opportunity to get all and to lose all 🙂

        It seems that Reuter agency is saying that Soros is backing up the “occupy” movement. Hmmm, who is backing up the Reuter agency? Another Murdoch?

    • October 13, 2011 9:26 pm

      The fixation on who is financing what is a liberal fascination. It is like the fixation on corporate political contributions. It is irrelevant who is paying. It is important what is being said and done.
      I do not care what Sorros or Koch or …… fund. I do not beleive that any amount of money can make a bad message palatable. John McCain did not lose to Barack Obama because he was outspent, he lost because Wall Street collapsed. I do not care who funds AGW research, or skeptics, or Chris Dodd, or Mitch McConnel. I care what they say and even more what they do.

  32. October 13, 2011 1:32 pm

    I don’t know… I can’t imagine why an evil billionaire financial speculator would get behind a movement to divorce money from politics. He benefits from the current “pay to play” system.

    • October 13, 2011 9:59 pm

      It is likely that I disagree with Sorros on most every political issue. That does not make him evil. Of all his billions I would only deprive him of that he got manipulating government.

      • October 14, 2011 1:42 am

        Dave: His politics aren’t what makes Soros evil. The fact that he made his fortune by shorting the British pound and precipitating a major financial calamity in Britain is what makes him evil. Here’s a perfect example of a rich man who created wealth for himself by sucking it away from others. He created nothing of value yet became one of the world’s richest men. A “vampire squid,” to use Matt Taibbi’s memorable description of Goldman Sachs.

        What I don’t understand is how he stands to gain by pushing a leftist political agenda. You’d think he’d be putting himself out of work… not that he ever needs to work again.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 14, 2011 2:30 am

        Soros was a very vocal critic of the bank bailouts, because he wanted to see the banks nationalized. He is a strong advocate of many leftist causes. He is worth somewhere around $15 billion and counting, although his own avarice never seems to get in the way of his belief that the rest of us need to spread the wealth (just not his). This is a guy who spent his teen years as part of the Judenrat, identifying and helping to round up Jews for the Holocaust and who told 60 minutes that he did not regret or have any guilt over what he did, because if he hadn’t done it someone else would have.

        But I have no idea whether he is involved in any way with OWS. I just agreed that it would make sense for him to support a movement that has attracted virtually every leftist group imaginable…, I wanted to agree with valdo for once!

      • October 14, 2011 5:29 pm


        People who make money through speculation or shorting, do so by discovering the flaws that are going to cause a shortage or failure before everyone else.

        They are not the cause of the carnage. At best they are responsible for collapsing the bubble before it gets larger and causes even more damage.

        One of the worst things we can do is pass laws against shorting and speculation.

        The current mess is as bad as it is because it developed slowly over more than a decade.

        Is there anyone here who would not have wanted the housing bubble to have burst 5, ten years earlier when it was a fraction of the size ?

        It is those you call market preditors, those looking to profit from the destruction of the weak that work towards forcing failures before they become too large.

        The worst mistake we are making is propping up failure. We are guaranteed to see further failure resulting from that.

        Sorros crated wealth for himself by destroying something that was weak before it got larger and weaker and before its collapse took out even more Wealth. I would be ecstatic if someone had made wealth towering above Gates, if they had done so by collapsing the housing bubble earlier.

  33. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 13, 2011 4:30 pm

    My reaction to the Occupy movement is based on my allergy to extremists. I would seem to be more upset by extremists than the general population is. From the below I can see why the dems have decided to approve and embrace this.

    This is from CBS news

    “The conservative criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement is that it is a “growing mob” (House majority leader Eric Cantor) of “shiftless protestors” (The Tea Party Express) engaged in “class warfare” (GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain) whose grievances – whatever they are – are far outside the political mainstream.

    The polls don’t back that up.

    A new survey out from Time Magazine found that 54 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the protests, while just 23 percent have a negative impression. An NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, meanwhile, found that 37 percent of respondents “tend to support” the movement, while only 18 percent “tend to oppose” it.

    The findings suggest that the right’s portrait of the movement as a collection of lazy hippies who need to stop whining – to “take a shower and get a job” (Bill O’Reilly) – isn’t resonating with most Americans.

    That’s because while the protesters’ aims are vague – Bill Clinton said Wednesday that they need to start advocating specific political goals – their frustrations are easily identifiable and widely shared. The Occupy movement may be a big tent (one with room for opposition to fracking, calls for campaign finance reform, and a host of other positions), but nearly everyone involved says they are angry that a small group of wealthy Americans have grown increasingly rich while “the other 99 percent” have been left behind.

    That’s a belief that seems to be shared by Americans across the political spectrum. In 2010, as reported in a story on the income and wealth divide last month, researchers and Harvard and Duke asked Americans how they thought wealth is spread among income groups, as well as how they thought it should be spread. Overwhelmingly, Americans said they wanted a more equitable distribution of wealth; they also underestimated just how large the wealth divide has grown. (See chart below.)

    As the study’s authors noted, “All groups – even the wealthiest respondents – desired a more equal distribution of wealth than what they estimated the current United States level to be.” Republicans, Democrats, independents, as well as rich, middle class and poor all said that wealth shouldn’t be so concentrated among the highest earners.

    That goes a long way toward explaining the Occupy movement’s potential staying power and cultural resonance. While most Americans wouldn’t camp out in the freewheeling quasi-society that has sprung up in Lower Manhattan, the vast majority seem to share the protesters’ sense that the economic deck is stacked. They’ve seen the government bail out the banks that helped create the economic crisis, seen corporate profits hit all-time high after all-time high, seen CEO pay balloon to 350 times that of the average worker. They’ve seen average hourly earnings (adjusted for inflation) stagnate for half a century while CEO pay increased 300 percent since 1990. They’ve seen social mobility decline and friends and neighbors join the ranks of the long-term unemployed while the wealthiest Americans have had their tax burden reduced and have increased their share of the nation’s wealth. (For the details behind these statistics, see the extraordinary valuable graphics put together by Business Insider.)

    There’s no denying that some of the protesters fit critics’ characterization of them – many, though certainly not all, of the most committed demonstrators are the sort of outspoken young leftists that O’Reilly seems to disdain. And there’s no question there is a wide variety of opinions about how to move forward – both within the movement and the public at large. But the polls and the data suggest that the protesters’ underlying concerns resonate widely. Occupy Wall Street may have an uncertain future – demonstrators in New York may be de facto evicted Friday morning – but there’s little question that it has tapped into a widespread sense that the economic system is out of whack. And that makes it far more difficult for critics to blithely dismiss the protesters as outside the American mainstream.”

    • October 13, 2011 9:37 pm

      I honestly think OWS is a pretty meaningless flash in the pan. I do not think they have any staying power. I do not think they are even clear enough about what they are angry about.

      As to Wealth Redistribution – we would all like to like in a utopia where we all had equal abilities, worked equally hard, and benefited equally. In the real world that fails miserably. Polls do not change facts.

      Again, I would be happy to see the left successfully impose a significant tax increase on capitol. The resultant failure might get us past this idiocy once and for all.
      If we do not get serious growth the problems we face will remain and possibly magnify.
      Even with growth we must have “moderate” reductions in spending – the kind that are called draconian here. We can actually afford the brief pain associated with a radically bad solution more than we can afford the sustained discomfort of compromise.

      Regardless of what polls well we need to do what it takes to actually get the economy moving.
      Redistribution of Wealth is just about the most destructive thing we could possibly do.

      • October 13, 2011 9:39 pm

        I have to disagree with myself in one respect. I will be happy to reduce government power, and end the commensurate government redistribution of wealth through statist subsides and welfare corporate or otherwise.

    • Priscilla permalink
      October 14, 2011 9:41 am

      Eh, the polling on this has been a bit sketchy in my opinion. That Time poll for example asked a very wordy question about OWS, probably thinking that they needed to define it for the many people who don’t know much – or anything – about it. The wording of the question basically described it as a movement of people “fed up with the influence of money on our political system”, and then asked the respondents to express a favorable/unfavorable/no opinion on that. Well, duh….who is not in favor of that? The tea party movement has been around for 2 1/2 years, everybody knows about it….it’s been constantly in the news, repeatedly called racist, extremist, etc. Most people have had ample time to develop an opinion on it, as opposed to OWS, on which the jury is still out.

      That said, the exceptionally sympathetic media coverage of it makes me tend to agree that it may have staying power simply due to the news media’s obsession with anything with sensationalism. Why do in depth reporting on tax reform issues when you can cover a bunch of people carrying signs?

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 14, 2011 11:17 am

        Priscilla, See my snipping of parts of the Time poll below. I agree that the way the question was asked has a LOT to do with how people answer, but when I looked at the poll itself I cannot agree with how you say they asked the question. It was a long question but its intention was pretty clear. I think you are in a certain amount of denial about this. As well that poll shows that The tea party seems to be over, they have had their at bats for a good long while and tea party exhaustion seems to have set in. I don’t base that just on the Time poll.

        OWS exhaustion could certainly set in soon too, it would sort of depend on whether they start to behave like the lefties in Seattle. If they stay away from destructive behavior then they may not alienate. If their concerns stay general then it will be harder for people to react against them, if they start asking for very specific things as a group and get more organized and start to gell consistent demands, far-lefty nonsense things that Howard Zinn et al. have always demanded, they will backfire and I won’t be surprised. I’m surprised they have not turned people off more than they have. I guess that people have a sort of wacko filter and are used to protesters being outrageous.

        The coverage of the OWS movement that I have read on conservative sites has not seemed to transcend a series of dirty hippy jokes. Conservatives may need to come to grips with the idea that the income disparity issue has legs, its a strong concern across the political spectrum, which surprises me, but it seems to be so.

  34. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 13, 2011 4:51 pm

    Hmm, as a group Americans are not as lost as I sometimes think on economic realities:

    Washington Post-Bloomberg News Poll
    This poll was conducted for The Washington Post and Bloomberg News by telephone October 6 to 9, 2011, among a random national sample of 1,000 adults, including users of both conventional and cellular phones. The results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. For the sample of 391 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents the error margin is six percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) of Princeton, NJ.

    1. If a Republican were president right now, do you think the economy would be better, worse, or about the same as it is now?

    Better Worse The same No opinion
    All adults 23 25 45 7

    2. Thinking beyond the 2012 presidential election, do you think your own family’s financial situation would be better if (President Obama wins a second term) OR if (a Republican wins the election) or wouldn’t it make much difference either way?

    President Obama Republican wins Not make much (Vol.) No
    wins a second term the election much difference Depends opinion
    All adults 24 24 44 * 7

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 13, 2011 4:54 pm

      Boy, did that get put out of alignment. See the unmashed results:

    • October 13, 2011 9:47 pm

      It is increasingly looking like George Romney will be the GOP nominee. Romney is essentially the Republican Obama. Half the current GOP contenders, are at best statist-lites in comparision to the current statist president.

      In that light the polls are correct. There will be little change of consequence to a Republican President.

      That said, regardless of the party affiliation of the president, If congress remains unable to accomplish anything sufficiently long, things will start to improve slowly.

      No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. – Mark Twain

      Doing nothing is not a substitute for cutting spending and reducing the power of the federal government – but it is better than most of the things we are contemplating doing.

  35. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 14, 2011 10:37 am

    What I have found reading polls recently has surprised me, quite a bit. Its hard to see that 40 conservative, 20 liberal, 40 moderate split as an implication of any poll I have seen recently and yet I tend to believe that breakdown is pretty firmly cast and not likely to change by more than 5% in any category. The Time poll was sure long! It seems to imply a very different split, biased in the liberal direction. What a crazy time we live in, just unstable. I guess many people just don’t know what they are and give confused answers to polls.

    I admit that as of just several months ago I did not give a rats patoot about income disparity, and many have tried to interest me in it over the years. I thought it was just a sort of unavoidable law of human behavior that was not all that destructive. Rick got me interested and then my readiing of economic analysis books and looking up of figures on taxes, income wealth etc got me to the side of realizing this is a problem, and a big one. (Dhlii, lecture away, but you are wasting your time, you are. if anything, changing my opinion Against the direction you wish because your arguments are not persuasive to me and seem so weak). I would have said this was an exclusively liberal concern, I am surprised to find that simply is not true. It does not mean that there is an effective mechanism in sight that is going to change that, but the strong tax the rich sentiment is a sign of some potential.

    Anyhow, it would be pretty hard for a conservative to find any good news in that Time poll and 1000 people, if done correctly gives a pretty damn accurate take. The tea party would seem to be over, sentiment is in the other direction.

    A few selected questions out of the many:


    YES 6%

    NO 93%












    AGREE 86%

    DISAGREE 11%





    AGREE 79%

    DISAGREE 17%





    AGREE 71%

    DISAGREE 23%





    AGREE 68%

    DISAGREE 28%


    Read more:

    • October 14, 2011 4:44 pm


      I do not grasp why you think my arguments are weak – I cite data – often from the government and you cite polls and opinions.

      Data and correlations are not economic facts or laws, but they deserve far more weight than polls and opinions.

      I do not think there is a single economic study that has looked at the real aggregate wealth of different classes in the US rather than just wages, or capitol, that has not concluded that we – and specifically the “poor” are far better off – even in the midst of the mess today, than they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Further, anyone who has been alive that long and still has the ability to remember circumstances in the past knows this.

      The income inequality argument has public traction not because it has merit, but because we are in the midst of a downturn, and we are angry and we want someone to blame.
      I grasp that.

      I will happy to agree with you that a larger percentage of people are concerned about income inequality than in the recent past. But again the success of the left in persuading people that something is a problem does not make it one.

      While GINI indexes do not correlate to anything – the nations with the highest GINI indexes are the nations at both extremes of affluence productivity and poverty, economists are reaching past correlation and increasingly willing to call the negative correlation between taxes on capitol and economic growth causation.

      For the life of me I can not understand why any same person would seek to punish others for their success knowing that doing so would harm everyone. I keep refering to the Romer study as it is a recent study by Obama’s former cheif economist. But there are myriads of studies confirming this. This is past consensus. I find it hard to grasp why you seem to think I am the ideologue.

      I would agree with you that I think we are in the midst of a national inflection point.
      Regardless of whether you grasp it or not the Tea Party represents a titanic shift in the GOP.
      In other areas I am pessimistically optimistic. I have commented previously that regardless of my disagreements with the current administration on issues of economic policy, I am most disappointed because in so many other ways they could have changed the direction of government policy. Where is the open and transparent government Pres. Obama promised ?
      In the end he has proved to be an establishment statist democrat. Not visionary. Not radical in any way. Not even much of a leader. And even his rhetorical brilliance is wearing thin.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 14, 2011 5:25 pm

        Dhlii, I’m sorry but yes, I think your arguments are weak.

        Every so often some kind of Christian group arrives at my door clutching Bibles and trying to persuade me to join them. Since I am not a Christian I do not care about their bible quotes. Its an empty logic to quote the Bible to a non-believer. I also do not care much about your Adam Smith, a man who lived before the birth of modern economics who talked literally about markets, small ones. Since you overlook every piece of data that contradicts your religion and throw wild and unprovable, even disprovable, assertions you cannot come to a modern understanding of economics.

        I only recently grasped that despite your apparent erudition you have not even grasped the meaning of basic monetary policy when you asked me how I thought I would be harmed if we gave all the millionaires twice as much money as they have now. Geez, go to your local college and ask an economic Prof to explain the connection between the money supply and inflation to you. As well it is incompetent economics that is not supported by any economist in an actual responsible position to state that we should have let the banks fail. Your universe is not my universe.

        Lately I have provided polls that show that Americans are quite concerned about income disparity. I haven’t said they show what we should do. where did I say that? In fact I clearly said that there is no obvious remedy to the situation.

        Earlier I did do research into income, wealth, legislation, etc and provided my results, which you pretty much always misinterpreted.

        Nothing about your economic religion is attractive to me. Its archaic, radical, blind.

        Try knocking on someone else’s door.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 14, 2011 5:46 pm

        As well, by engaging in an endless argument with an absolutist/fundamentalist religion, I get pushed into wanting to take the opposite extreme arguments to yours. Its not a healthy force.

        Do I think some regulations are bad, yes, I do, do I think a government program can fail or be counter productive, yes I do. Do I think that Keynsian stimulus can fail when used under the wrong circumstances, yes I do. But when I argue with your obstinate fundamentalism, my own values get twisted.

        I’m not really the anti-dhlii, though it may seem that way. I’m something else, something unrelated to free market absolutism or government absolutism. I seek a balance of influences between a government sector that at least can aim at fairness or morality and a private sector that aims at only profit. Set me free from your absolutist argument, its way past its prime.

      • October 14, 2011 6:12 pm


        You still keep arguing opinion against information.

        Monetary issues are independent of Wealth. If the rich have twice as much because they increased the total wealth in the economy by a factor of ten – which is usually what is necescary to double the wealth of the rich, there are no monetary issue.

        Inflation is always driven by government – as are virtually all monetary failures. If I trip over an economics professor that does not understand that I have found and idiot.

        You seem to be unable to grasp that the creation of wealth and the creation of money are radically different.

        I have never faced an evangelical that argued with data. Fundamentalism requires faith – as does progressivism.

        You say I have misinterpreted you – no, I have forced your own arguments to their logical ends, it is called “Reductio ad absurdum”. If you wish to claim that a little of something is good, either much more of it should be even better or there have to be criteria derivable from the system itself for the limits. You can not argue as an example that doubling the minimum wage would be good and multiplying it by ten would be bad without a justification besides faith for where and why the increase changes from good to bad.

        For the most part I will agree with you on current polls. I think you and the media are over estimating the importance of OWS. But I will not disagree that there is increasing anger and support for wealth redistribution.

        It is also possible that those polls may drive policy.

        But I have little interest in poll driven bad policy.

        I am happy to debate with you whether the OWS is significant, or what polls mean. But whether I am right or wrong does not matter.

        Measuring what we should do is far more important. The consequences of being wrong are horrible. You are worried about what AGW will do to your grandchildren. I am worried what the economic destruction we are facing will do to my children.

        I think the lefts economic ignorance threatens us far more than anything else today. You claim to care for the poor. The consequences of bad government economic policy dwarf any benefits of the social safety net. Even a 1% difference in growth rates is a 25% increase in standard of living in two decades.

        Adam Smith is to modern Economics what Einstein and Bohr are to modern Physics. He wrote two great books – “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” and “the Wealth of Nations”. He did not write how markets work. The objective of WON was to understand how to improve all of our lives our wealth. You still seem to think wealth is about money. You can not redistribute wealth if no one creates it. We all have nothing if no one creates wealth.
        But if Smith is too archaic for you, Hayek and Mises were peers of Keynes. Olstrom won the Nobel Prize in 2009. These are not antiquated relics of the past.

        Arguing against Smith is like arguing against Newton and Einstein. Even Keynes is built on Smith.

        I have no idea what actual data you claim to have thrown at me that I purportedly ignore. Most of your posts are contain little but polls and opinions. I generally look very carefully when you actually bother to provide something concrete to chew on.

    • October 14, 2011 4:46 pm


      If you are preparing to lock people up – what are you planning to lock them up for ?

      If failing economically is now a crime, the USSR has won.

      If we are going to start locking people up – lets start with the legislators responsible.
      Dodd, Frank, Waters, Schumer come to mind – but I will be happy to add any republicans that you can find that were in bed with the Banks, Mortgage companies, Fannie and Freddie, ….

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 14, 2011 5:08 pm


      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 15, 2011 11:33 am

        Er, by now, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve made several hundreds of posts and three or four, maybe five, have been polls. So, wrong again you are.

        Opinion is what you provide dhlii, e.g., “Britain is generally agreed to have the worst health care system in the world” or “India has a 100% private health care system.” My “opinion” has included the data on infant mortality, life expectancy, health care costs as a fraction of GDP, analysis of the Ryan plan by the OMB, changes in income by quintiles over time,etc.

        But it has Not included the scientific opinions on global warming of persons who have a religious belief that it can’t exist because God would not permit it, claims that the banks should not have ben allowed to fail, statements that if we suddenly just give the rich twice as much money it won’t affect me, etc.

        I’ll take the bulk of what I have provided over the bulk of what you have provided, in a heartbeat.

  36. Priscilla permalink
    October 14, 2011 11:20 am

    I still don’t see how that means much. I don’t consider myself a member or follower of the tea party, I am in sympathy with people who want to end bailouts and see those responsible for corruption in the financial meltdown prosecuted (the question presumes that it is solely the “executives of financial institutions” without even mentioning their crony gov’t enablers, btw), so maybe, if i didn’t know much about the protests other than that, I would say I had a favorable view. As it happens, I have been to the neighborhood where the Wall St protesters are (I think I mentioned that one of my sons is living there while he is in school), and seen the earnest but naive young people carrying signs about wanting student loans forgiven, the looney leftist whackos, and yes, i even saw the guy who’s carrying the effigy of Lloyd Blankfein’s severed head on a stake

    So, I think, as time goes on, if this movement does not find a clear focus or mission, then it may just die out or become violent. In any case, I don’t put a whole lot of stock in these polls.

    • Priscilla permalink
      October 15, 2011 9:10 am

      This was a reply to Ian’s post on the Time poll results. It got so separated from that comment that it doesn’t seem to make any sense now, lol. *of course, there is the possibility that is just makes no sense to begin with…..

  37. October 14, 2011 6:28 pm

    The link below is to a study that is a survey of numerous other studies on the conditions for economic growth.

    There are a small number of observations that might be construed to support redistributionist big government moderates – under rare circumstances homogenous countries with a culture conditioned to faith in government and a government with strongly pro market policies, can sustain a large government, broad social safety net and maintain economic growth.
    At the same time this is by far the exception rather than the rule.

    This paper is not about taxes on capitol – but it addresses it and suguest that the evidence goes well past correlation and taxes on captiol can now be taken as causing economic decline.

    But the focus of the paper is the negative correlation between economic growth and the size of government. This paper survey’s myriads of papers over the last several decades.
    There is a strong concensus that each 10% increase in the size of government past an optimal point estimated at a low of 15% of GDP and a high of 25% of GDP has an economic cost of 1% of GDP/year. The total size of US government (federal, state, local) is between 40 and 50 of GDP – smaller than most of Europe.

    The paper references studies contradicting this, as well as criticism’s of those studies.
    Regardless, an overwhelming majority of economic research over the past several decades correlates the size of government negatively to economic growth.

    • October 14, 2011 6:30 pm

      I would also note, unlike the survey paper on healthcare that Ian provided, the authors here, cite and include the data from the studies they are surveying, as well as referencing those studies with weaker or contrary results.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 15, 2011 11:19 am

      Ze link, eet does not vork.

      I’d Would be interested to see that paper.

      By saying that there is some range of govt spending as a percentage of gdp that is optimal you are at last saying something I can agree with in principle. Its a far better statement than the absolutist “government never works, get rid of as much of it as possible.”

      I looked up total govt spending as a fraction of gdp and got figures that match yours, 40–45%. I was surprised.

      I found this:

      It shows the trend over time.

      I’m going to have to agree with you, that is alarming. I would be willing to concede this morning that this trend, LIKE the trends to greater income disparity and greater greenhouse gas emissions, is a threat.

      The rest of your economic philosophy I still consider to be mostly nonsense. Coverage of Adam Smith does not reach 0.01% of the material in a modern economics text. Newtons laws and their implications get at least 25% of the material in a modern physics text. That is a huge difference. Building an entire religion on Adam Smith is a gross distortion/oversimplification of economics.

      • October 15, 2011 11:34 am

        I have not read an actual economic text in some time, but since pretty much the entirety of economics – including Keynes, is little more than an expansion of Smith I would suguest that in one form or another he is 80-90% of all economic texts. Smith covered much of the field of economics. He laid the foundations for almost everything, there are a few areas he was wrong, there are many areas that have been greatly expanded, but the vast majority of Wealth of Nations is still part of modern economics. WON is rarely used as a text – because Smith practically invented the basic concepts of statistics and data analysis, and hundreds of pages are devoted to explanations of how he arrived at certain data and why it is robust and meaningful – today no one cares about the minutea of 18th century data collection. The book was also written prior to the first significant use of graphs – and Smith wastes pages on end explaining what could have been conveyed in a one page graph.

        There is not a single school economics that does not start with 90% of Smith.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 15, 2011 11:47 am

        Ha, see, its comical, its much more important to you that I challenged the primacy your god, Smith, than the fact that I actually agree with you that the size of Govt and its growth are alarming.

        Smith lived long before the laws of supply and demand were discovered and the economies of his times, which were all that were available to him to study, resemble 20th century first-world economies very little, its like basing your opinions on engineering on the study of a model A Ford. You’d think there would be a lot more discussion of Smith in textbooks if his ideas were the basis of everything. Fundamentalist economics.

        Again, the link does not work, but that Would be an interesting paper.

      • October 15, 2011 1:37 pm

        Ian: Amen! Thy fortitude is greater than mine.

        Dave: I admire your devotion to 18th-century scripture, but you’re starting to remind me of the diehard intellectual who would stand his ground during a stampede of woolly mammoths because they’re theoretically extinct. Right now we’re looking at an unprecedented woolly mammoth stampede: millions of Americans are out of work, and the private sector (which isn’t exactly hurting) refuses to hire Americans in sufficient numbers to avoid a national economic catastrophe.

        It isn’t simply a matter of punitive corporate taxes or excessive government regulation (regulation? what regulation?)… the real issue is that companies are outsourcing jobs because Asian wages are a fraction of American wages. So do we wait until Asian wages catch up to American wages? That could take a decade or more… and even then, companies would simply outsource their jobs to Latin America or Africa. The bottom line is that Americans need to work.

        You can continue quoting chapter and verse about natural law, supply and demand, Adam Smith, the intrinsic fairness of globalism, etc., etc. But how are you going to deal with the spectre of permanent mass unemployment in the US? You can quote Scrooge and ask “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” … or just let the unemployed die and “decrease the surplus population.” Life is unfair, after all.

        But I see government intervention as the only remedy at this point. Whether it comes in the form of forcing American companies to hire Americans (even I would balk at that remedy) or New Deal-style public-sector job programs (my preference), it’s the only logical alternative to waiting endlessly for the private sector to cure the unemployment crisis. When our economy is in a death spiral, we can’t afford to be purists.

      • October 15, 2011 3:34 pm

        The paper title is

        “Government Size and Growth: A Survey and Interpretation of the Evidence”

        This is a link to the abstract, you can reach the actual paper from there.

      • October 15, 2011 4:05 pm

        Smith is not my God. I have actually read The Wealth of Nations, as well as myriads of the books generally recognised as the most important books ever written. Here is a version condensed into 90 pages if you do not have the time to read 900 pages much of which is an explantion of how to derive economic statistics long before there was government data, or graphs in verbal form

        Using Rothbard to critique Smith is a hoot. Murray Rothbard make me look like a bleeding heart liberal. And yes as far as Rothbard was concerned Smith did not come close to going far enough. Is that the best critique you have of Smith ?

        It is absolutely true that there is nothing he wrote that someone else had not written previously. But no one else put it all together before hand.

        I would also refered you to Aristotle, Cantillion, Hume, Turgott, Bastiat, Mills, Locke, Say, Ricardo, Mills, Mises, Shumpeter, Hayek, Friedman, Buchanan, Barro, Osltrom, Easterly, Boetke, Boudreaux, ….

        There are atleast 4 modern Nobels in there. I am sure you can find much criticism of Smith amoung them and even occasional disagreement with some of what I have said.

        I quote Smith frequently because he has excellent quotes, and is generally respected.

        If you really want to debate any of Smith’s central contributions I would be happy to defend Smith. Most of his mistakes are in details or failure to see the big picture in narrow areas such as currency or prices that took another 100+ years to get right – and even those he danced really close to the right answers without quite grasping them. Not in Big areas like self interest, the error of government intervention in the economy (and he was a customs commisioner). The distinction between money and wealth, the necessity that free markets will invariably improve the poor the most, the importance of free trade, ….

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 15, 2011 4:28 pm

        “Using Rothbard to critique Smith is a hoot. Murray Rothbard make me look like a bleeding heart liberal.”

        Well, I took the liberty of looking Rothbard up before I posted and the synopsis of his philosophy I found sounded an awful lot like the one you dispense. The distinctions may be subtle. You are welcome to explain them. I’d be interested to hear your bleeding heart liberal side!

        It may or may not be the best I can come up with, its the best I came up with based on a 5 minute search and its pretty good, seems to me.

      • October 15, 2011 4:31 pm

        Rick and Ian;

        No economics did not cease to evolve in the 18th century. There have been myriads of forks from what is generally called Clasical Liberalism which is essentially modern libertatianism. Most of those forks died. No one (except politicains and Paul Krugman who should know better) argues Merchantilism or physiocratic economics. I hope that we (except for Rob) can agree that Marx failed. The great economic giants of the 20th Century were Hayek and Keynes. I am prepared to defend Hayek over Keynes on any issue. Keynes also represented an important split in methodology. Keynes emphasised mathematical study over behavioural. Ultimately both the empiracle and those based on human actions are important. But far too many economists today focus on empirical which is extremely difficult often impossible in the chaos of the real world.

        I do not think there is any modern economic school that is not rooted in the classical liberals. Keynesian economics STARTS with Smith, and the rest of those 18th century economists you want to ignore. Even Marx starts there.
        Further though a dwindling majority of modern economists still branch from Keynes, there are numerous thriving non-keynesian schools.

        Finally the studies and data I have produced are typically being produced by Keynesians such as Romer. The central precepts of progressive economics are being refuted by the scholarly research of the left.

      • October 15, 2011 4:42 pm

        Rothbard is an Anarcho-Capitolist.

        I have already stated that debating the extreme edge of libertarianism is like debating the number of angles on the head of a pin. It has no value, we are never getting there. I will be happy to stop the growth of government infringement on individual liberty.

        Rothbard had no interest in minor fixes to what currently existed.

  38. Pat Riot permalink
    October 15, 2011 12:12 am

    Ian–regarding “AGH”: ok, whew! Glad it was a typo. I was worried that I wasn’t aware of all of the things that would do us humans in. Glad it was just good ‘ole global warming !! Sorry had to post here–no Reply option up there where my worry began.

  39. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 15, 2011 2:30 pm

    Looking for critics of the “Smith is God” school of economic history I found this work by Murrey Rothbard, a noted Austrian school economist from the Mises Institute:

    Here are some excerpts:

    “Adam Smith (1723-90) is a mystery in a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. The mystery is the enormous and unprecedented gap between Smith’s exalted reputation and the reality of his dubious contribution to economic thought.

    Smith’s reputation almost blinds the sun. From shortly after his own day until very recently, he was thought to have created the science of economics virtually de novo. He was universally hailed as the Founding Father. Books on the history of economic thought, after a few well-deserved sneers at the mercantilists and a nod to the physiocrats, would invariably start with Smith as the creator of the discipline of economics. Any errors he made were understandably excused as the inevitable flaws of any great pioneer.”


    “The problem is that he originated nothing that was true, and that whatever he originated was wrong; that, even in an age that had fewer citations or footnotes than our own, Adam Smith was a shameless plagiarist, acknowledging little or nothing and stealing large chunks, for example, from Cantillon. Far worse was Smith’s complete failure to cite or acknowledge his beloved mentor Francis Hutcheson, from whom he derived most of his ideas as well as the organization of his economic and moral philosophy lectures. Smith indeed wrote in a private letter to the University of Glasgow of the ‘never-to-be-forgotten Dr. Hutcheson,’ but apparently amnesia conveniently struck Adam Smith when it came time to writing the Wealth of Nations for the general public.[ii]

    Even though an inveterate plagiarist, Smith had a Columbus complex, accusing close friends incorrectly of plagiarizing him. And even though a plagiarist, he plagiarized badly, adding new fallacies to the truths he lifted. In castigating Adam Smith for errors, therefore, we are not being anachronistic, absurdly punishing past thinkers for not being as wise as we who come later. For Smith not only contributed nothing of value to economic thought; his economics was a grave deterioration from his predecessors: from Cantillon, from Turgot, from his teacher Hutcheson, from the Spanish scholastics, even oddly enough from his own previous works, such as the Lectures on Jurisprudence (unpublished, 1762-63, 1766) and the Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759).”

    Perhaps I’ve been too Kind to Smith!

    • October 15, 2011 4:56 pm


      There is a truism in law

      Hard cases make bad law.
      Defending the free speech rights of Nazi’s, pornographer’s, or even paedophiles is difficult, and often results in very bad decisions. There are myriads of examples.

      The same Truism apples to economics. Often the best course is to do nothing, it may even be to allow things to get worse. No one wishes to here that – not even me.

      The great depression was horrible. Contrary to the grade school progressive meme, there is a growing body of evidence that the policies of Hoover and Roosevelt significantly deepened and prolonged it. The Japanese made essentially the same mistake and are still in the midst of two decades of economic doldrums. We are making much the same mistake right now – with the same result.

      If you want me to agree that people are hurting and angry and are demanding government do something about it – absolutely. But the fact that people want government to fix it for them, does not mean that it can. Beyond the role of securing our inalienable rights, government is fundimentaly powerless. Whatever it does tends to make things worse, rather than better.
      That is true whether it is expansive Republican power or Expansive Democratic power.

      I think it is irrelevant whether I am saying things that are not popular – that people do not wish to hear.

  40. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 15, 2011 4:18 pm

    Dhlii, Thanks got it. It seems to me to be an entirely respectable paper and it clearly contains from my first glance at it, appropriate caution in interpreting its results. I will read it in its entirety tonight.

    It’s implications are not terrifying if you accept its conclusion in its most stringent form, that extra 10-15% of government as a percentage of GDP the US carries slows growth by 1-1.5 %. The authors note that tax policy for the same size of government can have less severe effects on growth depending on which types of taxes are used.

    I’ll repeat, I was surprised that we are at 40-45% and that seems on the face of it like too much government. While I lack appropriate expertise to make my own assessment, Its an absolutely reasonable statement that there is a range of government size that leads to the most efficient growth in an economy. Its also absolutely reasonable concept that the types of taxation used and they ways in which they are spent also have an effect, expenditures that are an investment in the future ought to be more efficient than those that are not.

    This is the abstract and conclusions section, pretty measured stuff:

    “Government Size and Growth: A Survey and Interpretation of the Evidence*
    Andreas Bergh1,2 and Magnus Henrekson1
    January 3, 2011
    Abstract: The literature on the relationship between the size of government and economic growth is full of seemingly contradictory findings. This conflict is largely explained by variations in definitions and the countries studied. An alternative approach—of limiting the focus to studies of the relationship in rich countries, measuring government size as total taxes or total expenditure relative to GDP and relying on panel data estimations with variation over time—reveals a more consistent picture. The most recent studies find a significant negative correlation: An increase in government size by 10 percentage points is associated with a 0.5 to 1 percent lower annual growth rate. We discuss efforts to make sense of this correlation, and note several pitfalls involved in giving it a causal interpretation. Against this background, we discuss two explanations of why several countries with high taxes seem able to enjoy above average growth: (i) that countries with higher social trust levels are able to develop larger government sectors without harming the economy, and (ii) that countries with large governments compensate for high taxes and spending by implementing market-friendly policies in other areas. Both explanations are supported by current research.

    5. Concluding remarks
    We have shown that most recent studies published in scientific journals tend to find a negative relationship between total government size and economic growth in rich countries. This stands in stark contrast to scholars such as Lindert (2004) and Madrick (2009), who have argued in book length treatments that there is no tradeoff between economic growth and government size. Studies that disaggregate taxes and expenditure typically seem to find that if the policy objective is economic growth there are two consequences: First, that direct taxes on income are worse than indirect taxes, and second, that social transfers are worse than public expenditure on investment including human capital, which, if anything, increases growth.
    Hence, our results do not imply that government must shrink for growth to increase. There is potential for increasing growth by restructuring taxes and expenditure so that the negative effects on growth for a given government size are minimized. Furthermore, countries tend to cluster to institutions that go well together. As stressed by many observers (e.g. Freeman 1995), the Swedish welfare state can be seen as an economic model defined by a unique mix of institutions. The specific mix of institutions and the emergent idiosyncratic interactions among them are key determinants of economic performance.
    Both the Scandinavian and the Anglo-Saxon welfare states seem able to deliver high growth rates for very different levels of government size. This does not mean low-tax countries can increase taxes without expecting negative effects on growth, nor that the various mechanisms by which high taxes distort the economy do not apply in Scandinavia. A more incisive interpretation is that there is something omitted from the analysis that explains how Scandinavian countries combine high taxes and high economic growth. We have suggested two such explanations—compensation using growth friendly policies and benefits from high historical trust (lack of apprehension) levels—but these at best remain only speculative, with ambiguous policy implications. Even if the debate regarding the existence of a correlation between growth and aggregate government size in rich countries now seems more or less settled, the research on policy change, institutions and growth is progressing rapidly.

    • October 17, 2011 1:23 pm

      I am happy we can find some common ground in this.

      Much of it is what I have been trying to say since I started here.

      Reduced freedom has an economic cost. Larger government means less freedom, means less or even negative growth. Even the analysis of the exceptions argues that. Larger government can be less damaging if it is more market friendly, and/or where there are higher social trust levels. US government is neither market friendly nor do we have a homogeneous population capable of the higher levels of social trust. Nor does the scandinavian experience have to be anomolous – culture and homgenity may make the Scandanavians more productive overall. No one has addressed whether with less government they would have had more growth. Only that they have growth larger than predicted for countries with government their size.
      Regardless, are we willing to gamble that we fully understand and can replicate the scandanavian experience, when in all other instances larger government has meant lower growth.

      The immediate cost of government seems low, but compound that over a lifetime and it is enormous.

      At the root of my economic arguments – I would favor freedom even if it had economic cost, is that growth makes everything better for everyone – particularly those at the bottom. And that has been the message of the classical liberal tradition from before Smith through to the present day.

      I am going to duck the argument that the social safety net is actually harmful – if that interests you I provided a world bank study some time ago, but at the very best our efforts to help the least of us do no more good than would have happened inevitably in a growing economy.

      I see those policies that harm economic growth – like growing government, or wealth redistribution, as harmful to the poor. I ask whether actually benefiting the poor is more important that being identified with the poor as a cause ?

      “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Mathew 6:2

      I have been very careful in claiming only that taxes on capitol or investment are economically harmful. The issue of the economic cost of various forms of taxation have been thoroughly studied. Different taxes have radically different effects. Like it or not the most regressive taxes have the least negative economic impact.

      US Federal Government spending is currently approx. 25% of GDP. The smallest estimates of state and local government are 16% of GDP. That places the minimum direct burden at 41% of GDP. Many use much higher values. Total government spending in 1900 was about 8% of GDP. Excluding huge spikes during WWI and WWII, there has been a fairly uniformly increasing trend. Spending went above 25% on a permanent basis in 1950. US GDP growth has trended slowly downward over the same time frame.
      Using the low figure of .5% as the cost for each 10% of government and assuming government grows at the rate of 1/3% year that would be an ADDITONAL 200% increase in our standard of living over the past 100 years that has not occurred.

      This is a loss for the poor as well as the rich.

  41. October 15, 2011 4:34 pm

    Here is another interesting short paper by Andrei Shleifer currently the most influential economist in the world according to IDEAS/RePEc.

    Click to access JEL_2009_final.pdf

    “The Age of Milton Friedman”

    • October 15, 2011 4:35 pm

      Is that sufficiently modern for you ?

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 15, 2011 5:38 pm

      The idea of rating economists in some sort of precise ranking system #1 or #4 or whatever is as absurd to me as claiming that someone is the worlds fastest classical violinist. Today’s ranking would certainly look hilarious from the vantage point of 2060. Shliefer got in hot water during a Harvard contract in Russia in the 1990s and lost his honorary Harvard title. He settled out of court at the 100 million magnitude on the actual charges. He is most likely a billionaire judged by the values of funds he and his wife operate in Russia. His wife has also been in hot water and paid settlements in the millions. So, a little grain of salt for his free market bias.

      The paper itself has a strongly international target. The US situation differs, we are at an entirely different stage of economic maturity and complexity than the world on average.

      “The last quarter century has witnessed remarkable progress of mankind. The
      world’s per capita inflation-adjusted income rose from $5,400 in 1980 to $8,500 in 2005.”

      Communism collapsed. Certainly the world tendency towards a more “free market” orientation is true based on that.

      …. “In 1979, Deng
      Xiao Ping started market reforms in China,
      which over the quarter century lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
      In the same year, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister in Britain, and initiated her radical reforms and a long period of growth. A year later, Ronald Reagan was
      elected President of the United States and also embraced free market policies. All three
      of these leaders professed inspiration from the work of Milton Friedman. It is natural,
      then, to refer to the last quarter century as the Age of Milton Friedman.”

      Thatcher undid a great deal of the English post war Socialism, and that was a system that drastically underperformed. Reagan, on the other hand, grew the deficit, the government, and raised taxes. He in essence used exactly a Keynsian approach to the US malaise, government spending.

      I would suspect that it is almost impossible to compare the free market situation in the world as a whole with the US. The world as a whole has many economies that could still today profit from a more free-market approach. There is lots of marxism and authoritarianism left in the world, bring that towards the free market, by all means.

      The US economy is a different ball of wax. My argument with free market absolutism is most especially targeted at the financial sector and the wretched abuses that have happened there.

      Regulations can be silly and stupid. Could we use fewer handicapped parking spaces and a review of many silly regulations? Sure. The Vermont legislature in its nanny state wisdom tried to pass a law that said when it rains you have to turn on your wipers, until people got wind of that and laughed at them so hard they gave that one up. My family lived in Princeton, where you today cannot cut down a tree on your property without approval of the neighbors and a town board. I’ll not deny that some regulations are absurd.

      But, wall street banks and every kind of lending institution tend to have the morals of a goat and you’ll not talk me out of the idea that the more they are watched and frustrated in their worst behaviors, the better. Financial institutions and polluters are my biggest regulatory concerns.

      • October 15, 2011 10:44 pm

        I did not Rank him #1. As I understand the ranking is based on the number of cites by other papers. Further the #1 rank is recent – well after the issues you referenced. Stigliz was #1 before and I beleive is #2 now. Robert Barro is #4 by the same ranking – I am much more familiar with his views. Barro is generally regarded as a New Classical, or Classical Economist i.e.the is the modern representative of those 18th century guys you think are so out of date. I personally prefer Austrian’s – Like Mises and Hayek, though Rothbard is too extreme for my tastes and though he is highly influention in modern austrian economics, few are quite ready to go to his extremes.

        I am not nearly as familiar Shleifer. I really just tripped over him looking for growth vs. government spending cites for you. And I only skimmed his paper – but concluding that Friedman wins and Stiglitz looses sounded like a good start. Later when I discover he advocates cannibalism might chose to distance myself from him. An economist that has put his views into practice and succeeded in th marketplace seems to add rather than detract from his credibility. I read little of the details of the allegations against him – mostly it sounded like the crap related to Sorros. I do not respect Sorros’s politics, but I respect success. I beleive as virtually all economists do that speculation, middle men, shorting, are positive goods rather than evil. I also happen to beleive that particularly in the modern world the demonization of insider trading – we have gotten to the point where we are prosecuting and convicting people of figuring out what other companies are doing completely through public or external sources. The fact is that in the internet era there are no insider secrets, everything gets out very quickly.

        Regardless, I would be hard pressed to think of a way Shleifer could have miss behaved inside of a Free market that I would have had trouble with.

        I personally do not care if he is #1 or #50,000 if what he is writing makes sense. But I have been deliberately trying to cite people papers etc. from sources that have sufficient authority than you might find them paletable.

        As to Wall Street and Bankers as a whole. The government has guaranteed everybodies checking and savings accounts for atleast the first $250,000.00.
        So who exactly is getting harmed when they misbehave ?
        I have already been through the Wall Street vs. Housing Bubble argument myriads of times. Regardless, you seem to beleive Wall Street can not create wealth. that nothing is added by trading or speculating. If that is so, then they can not destroy it either. For the most part they do not create wealth – they move it around. The market collapsed – because wealth disappeared. I am reluctant to say was destroyed – because the truth is it never really existed in the first place, and that was the problem. And in fact is the problem in virtually every economic collapse. Wealth that we thought was real proves false.
        As to how that occured in this instance i would refer you to

        I will happily agree that Bankers made bad loans – ones they were (and still are) required to make by law. I will concede that so long as they had Fannie and Freddie to buy them, they really needed very little government prodding.
        I will agree that the ratings companies misstated the risk. Of course no aspect of WallStreet is more highly regulated than ratings, and there is plenty of evidence of government pressure to sustain the ratings. And of course in cutting the US rating they have gotten revenge.
        Further almost every politician on the planet had been telling us for almost 15 years that everything that was happening was all fine and safe. Barney Frank was happy to “roll the dice”. There is no secret information that banks, wall street, …. hid from the government that reveals far greater risk.
        There is no smoking gun. The entire housing bubble was completely transparent. While neither you, nor I, nor Barney Frank, nor …. saw it, there is no secret that has been revealed that was not well know at the time we were feeding the bubble. Very few people saw this coming. Peter Schiff, Schiller, Burry, Baker, Jones, Roubini and Ron Paul come to mind.
        Still no secret knowledge.

        I live in a state where when it rains you not only have to turn on your wipers but your headlights too.

        Historic data on tax rates.

        Click to access fed_individual_rate_history_nominal&adjusted-20110909.pdf

        In 1981 there were something like 17 tax brackets for a family.
        In 1988 there were 2. My guess is that someone experienced a tax increase as a result.
        Reagan increased taxes 11 times. Of those only 3 were of consequence and none cost more than the current extensions of unemployment benefits.
        Reagan cut taxes 4 times Only one was significant and it alone was double all the increases in his entire presidency. Further the “scoring of these is from OMB. I will leave that at that. Further tax revenues increased throughout the entirety of Reagan’s tenure.

        I will be happy to concede that Reagan ran large deficits – though spending as a percent of GDP declined consistently from the begining to the end of his presidency. Increasing briefly under Bush I, and continuing to decline under Clinton. If we can get someone else to run foreign policy and put him in a Chastity belt, I will be happy to take Bill Clinton back.

      • October 15, 2011 11:03 pm

        The air and water are cleaner than the were when I was a child. The largest polluter – particularly of water then and now was/is government. Municipal sources are the largest single source of water pollution.

        Of the 1,623 Superfund cleanup sites, 225 are directly tied to the government or the military.

  42. October 15, 2011 5:19 pm


    The cure for the disease we have is economic growth. The things government can actually do to drive growth are provide stable government that protects our rights, a rule of law that is not constantly subject to change. We are getting an incredibly powerful lesson in the dangers of economic uncertainty right now.

    The worst things we can do right now are:
    Increase economic uncertainty by changing the structure of government and society in major ways such as increased government regulation, radical changes to healthcare with poorly understood consequences. It is not that APACA will fail that matters, is that the winners and losers, the effect on business, and the economy are entirely unpredictable that is most damaging.
    Increase taxes on capitol. Whether you beleive it is fair, moral, or whatever, if you wish to increase taxes without tanking the economy then you need to increase those taxes with the least economic impact – and they are the ones that are the most regressive.
    Whether I am right or wrong on issues such as income inequality and wealth distribution or redistribution. The case against taxes on capitol has gone beyond correlation and is pretty close to a consensus on causation.
    Reduce government spending. The survey on growth i provided – as well as World Bank studies I have provided in the past, as well as atleast 3/4 of the studies on the relationship between government and growth all indicate each 10% increase in government spending comes at the expense 1% of GDP. The highest level of government spending that any study found optimal was 23%, The lowest was 15% – but there are problems there as there are no developed nations that spend less than 15% of GDP on government, there is no way to tell if the optimum is lower.

    Total Government Spending in the US may exceed 50% depending on how it is counted, it is over 40% by all measures. State and Local government spending is approximately 16%. That leaves 7% for the federal government.

    I am sorry if you – or even the majority of americans do not like what I am saying.

    But the critical question is do we want to see the economy recover ? do we want to see more jobs ?

    We have just tried most everything in the political keynesian toolbox – it has failed. The but for …. everything would have been worse, argument is ludicrous. There are no past examples of successful Keynesian economic recovery. Yet we have eventually recovered from every disaster in the past – and will continue to do so in the future. The question is how long will that take, and the answer from an increasing number of economists – and from history, is it will take longer the more government does to fix it.

  43. AMAC permalink
    October 15, 2011 9:41 pm

    You are at 63 comments and counting… The length has not improved… You are now replying to your own posts… Let’s all practive a little moderation! Or excuse me, “moderation”. I want to read your comments, but they are so long and make up half of the blog. Everyone has a pretty good idea of what you are going to say. I have even pre-commented for you in some cases. Limit it. When I look to the right of my screen, it reads Dhlii commented on… all the way down. Start by limitting your posts, and then work on the government!

    • October 15, 2011 11:12 pm

      What is the harm you are trying to correct ?
      What is the cost I am imposing on you ?

    • October 15, 2011 11:14 pm

      Is anything I am posting preventing anyone else from being heard ?

      • AMAC permalink
        October 16, 2011 9:07 pm

        You are not preventing directly. But let’s say you are a moderate looking for an arena to discuss topics. If I had come upon this site, then noticed the majority of the conversation was libertarian, I would have moved on. So yes, in a way, you probably are preventing others that we want to hear from being heard. Some don’t agree, but I believe Priscilla is a moderate and like to hear her side. I think she does lean more right on economics than I, but I do think she is a moderate. I think there are two extremists (you and Rob) that make some valid points but do not represent the moderate view. I think that they are distracting from creating a consensus moderate view point. I would be fine with your comments and occasional good points if they were not so overwhelming. Is my comment more important than yours, no. But in a moderate arena, I could absolutely argue my opinion is more valuable as I am a moderate. Should we worry about the Libertarian outlook of our ideas? I think it can help, but not when it dominates the conversation.

      • October 17, 2011 1:47 pm

        The debate here is fairly polarised. I do not see the poles as moderate vs. libertarian. Despite temporary current popularity wealth redistribution has not historically been a Moderate value.

        I also do not beleive in the “crowding or drowning out” thesis of speech regulation.

        Visit some conservative or liberal blogs. Whatever faults you might find, they are even more polarised,

        I have never said my comments are more important than yours. Nor do I think most people measure the quality of speech by its quantity.

        Even I beleive I would have more impact here if my remarks were much more concise. But reducing 200 words to 50 is extremely difficult and time consuming work.

        I beleive 3/4 of my posts are responses, rather than raising new arguments.

        If a remark is made that I disagree with and beleive I can refute should I sit mute ?

        If I or a value I hold are attacked – should I remain silent ?

        This blog identifies itself as Moderate, absent Priscilla and I, it would be strongly center left.

        Libertarians generally fall politically between the left and the right. They are typically viewed as centrists with an emphasis on liberty.

  44. Priscilla permalink
    October 16, 2011 9:54 am

    I think that evil supply-siders like me understand that demand-side stimulus can potentially play a positive role in crisis situations. But, in order to be helpful, the stimulus must beapplied quickly, be limited in scope and be drawn from deficit, but not debt-driven, spending. And the “stimulus” needs to part of an overall package that includes business growth incentives – those could be, but are not necessarily limited to tax incentives and reduction of regulatory burdens.

    What demand-siders don’t seem to understand is that government spending cannot produce prosperity, it can only be a temporary hedge against worsening decline. You can potentially increase short term demand for existing products (Cash for Clunkers), but you cannot stimulate long term investment or job growth.

    Also, much of demand is supply driven…new products, for example. How much real wealth and employment was created by the i-Pod? Answer: a lot. But to get an innovative product like the i-Pod on the market, you have to provide some incentive, or at least remove the dis-incentives, for people like Steve Jobs to produce it.

    • October 16, 2011 6:40 pm

      Priscilla: Let’s say an overweight man is suffering chest pains and is on the ground gasping for breath. The libertarian would do nothing, expecting the man to get up, dust himself off, drive himself to the hospital and pay for his medical care. (If he dies… hey, nature is unfair.) The supply sider might offer a little first aid, call an ambulance and then leave the scene. The liberal would make sure the man receives lifetime medical benefits equal to or greater than his current income, as long as he quits smoking, loses weight and goes on a supervised exercise regimen. A moderate would offer first aid, then make sure he gets to the hospital ASAP and receives prompt treatment.

      In short, our current economy is like a man suffering a heart attack. As a moderate, I’d like to make sure the patient survives (i.e., emergency job programs), but I’d also trust that, with prompt and proper care, he’ll eventually recover and be able to fend for himself without excessive intervention.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 16, 2011 10:41 pm

        Well, we agree then. (gasp!) That is what I meant when I said that stimulus can play an important role in an economic crisis.

        And I do not mean a little first aid and then off we go. That is what I meant when I said that emergency stimulus must be part of an overall package of jumpstarts and business incentives. And truth be told, your analogy of the man with the heart attack is right on point, except that I would argue that it is the liberal that excels in immediate care and the conservative who stresses that long term health is the ultimate goal. The lifetime medical benefits issue is important, but that is less about survival than it is about logistics.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 16, 2011 10:48 pm

        I would also add that the 2009 stimulus did none of the above and was essentially a gigantic Democratic Party slush fund….which is why it failed. It’s like the overweight guy was suffering chest pains, and the stimulus guy said, “Here! Eat a healthy meal, made with no trans-fats, by union cooks!” and then walked off……..

      • October 17, 2011 12:25 pm

        Priscilla: This is fun… Let’s see if we can fine-tune my analogy for greater accuracy. I think my liberal version should stand pretty much as is (though I like your addition of union cooks), because I was trying to convey how progressives love to impose regulations and meddle in private life “for the good of the people,” of course. And there’s really no incentive for the stricken man to take charge of his health; the government will do that for him.

        But what would a typical supply-side conservative do? Maybe we should have him offer no first aid. He’d simply check the man’s vital signs, assure him that he’s going to recover, and call the hospital to have them reduce the man’s medical bills (the supply-sider is well connected, after all) as long as he agrees to quit smoking, go on a diet and take better care of himself in general. Of course, there’s still a chance that the man could die before he reaches the hospital, but the supply-sider is an optimist.

      • October 17, 2011 2:30 pm

        There is no libertarian prohibition against private charity, insurance, or any other resolution to your scenario that does not involve the use of force.

        Liberals would not demand that he quit smoking, ate properly, they would ban smoking and whatever foods they did not like for everyone.

        Your analogy to the a heart attack is flawed. A better analogy would be heart failure. We (government) can rush the man to the hospital, and prepare to perform a heart transplant, but if there is no suitable heart available for transplant, the patient still dies.
        The government does not create wealth, the government has limited ability to create jobs. The record of past jobs programs is abysmal.

        The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

      • AMAC permalink
        October 18, 2011 12:37 am

        But why is it that the bear should not be aloud to finish eating this person. No one has the right to prevent a bear from what is his natural right. Everytime a human prevents a bear attack, it is decreasing the natural liberties of said bear and all bears alike. If a person does not want to be attacked by bears, they have the right to move where bear attacks are less likely. It is not man’s place to keep a bear from reaching its potential. And why should I be prosecuted for not lending aid to person if he/she should attack? It is my right to watch this person die or even to flee if I don’t feal my help is required. How can it be acceptable to legislate against my natural fight or flight insticts?

  45. October 16, 2011 6:48 pm

    Well, we’ve blown away our previous record for number of comments on one of my blog columns. Probably time for me to start working on my next piece, though it might be nice to reach 200 first.

    • AMAC permalink
      October 16, 2011 9:12 pm

      Stay tuned then. I just rebuttled Dhlii so 200 is a matter of minutes away! I would like to see the word count more so than the post count! By the way, just checked out the Cynics’ Corner. I love C.W. Fields in the hall of fame. My favorite quote of his was in response to being asked if he likes children. He replied, “Yes. Especially if it’s cooked right.” Very entertaining site.

      • AMAC permalink
        October 16, 2011 9:36 pm

        So many typos, so little time. W.C. Fields, Cynics Sanctuary. I will scram now, I’m bothering you!

      • October 16, 2011 10:06 pm

        Ah yes… but no, you’re not bothering me. And the authentic W. C. Fields quote (on being asked if he likes children) is “I do if they’re properly cooked.”

  46. Priscilla permalink
    October 17, 2011 9:47 am

    On the original topic, by the way….yesterday, the Communist Party USA and the American Nazi Party endorsed OWS (Don’t call Godwin on me! It’s true

    Anyway, now that Obama has embraced the movement – his re-election advisors have started using the term 99 percenters – I have to wonder where he is going with this. Watching the guy who has received more money from Wall Street interestests than any other politician cast himself as a populist, representing the working man, should be interesting. Will he start using more overt leftist rhetoric, I wonder, and , if so how will it play on Main Street?

    There was an interesting discussion on one of the Sunday shows (CNN?) about the fact that, when the NYC protesters marched in front of billionaire’s homes, they chose to march on Rupert Murdoch’s, David Koch’s and Jamie Dimon’s NY homes. Just a block or 2 away was George Soros’s home, but they stayed away. Interesting that, of the four, Soros is the only guy who has truly made his billions as a hedge fund manager, currency manipulator etc. – the only true “Wall St.” billionaire. The other 3 are corporate, not financial guys. I think that that may show a pattern that will dovetail nicely with the president’s possible reelection strategy, but I find it hard to believe that it would work in the general election, and has the potential to push the elctorate further to the far right, I am afraid.

    • October 17, 2011 12:36 pm

      Priscilla: I can understand why they’d march in front of Murdoch’s, Koch’s and Dimon’s homes… but to leave Soros out of it seems like a selective political calculation. Of course, Soros is at least nominally in bed with the left, so they cut him a break. But as you suggested, he’s probably most representative of the naked financial greed and immorality that the Occupy Wall Street movement is supposed to revile.

      I still don’t entirely understand how this guy could be a leftist, unless he really fantasizes about bringing down the establishment and controlling the world’s finances himself. His shorting of the British pound is evidence enough that he has no scruples. Strange man: a Jew who helped the Nazis round up Jews… a billionaire leftist… the man who allegedly groomed Obama (who turned out to be an establishment centrist!). Soros is a “puzzlement.” I’ll have to read more about him.

      • October 17, 2011 2:35 pm


        You puzzle me far more than Sorros.
        Moderates for income redistribution ?

      • October 17, 2011 3:56 pm

        Dave: When American CEOs are making 425 times more than the average worker (compared to a ratio of 11:1 in capitalist Japan), this moderate would say YES, it’s time to redistribute income. Would I yank the money out of the hands of the plutocrats? Probably not, though it would give me immense pleasure. Instead, I’d install new rules (such as requiring companies to include rank-and-file employees on their boards) that would make it more difficult for the top players to run away with the loot.

        Even you have to admit that, for example, the severance package awarded to the deposed CEO of HP (what was it, $37 million?) was excessive for less than a year of (ineffective) leadership. I’d also argue that the investment bankers who demanded their customary $10 million bonuses after helping drive the economy off the cliff AND being bailed out by American taxpayers deserved to be picked up by the scruff of the neck and deposited in the nearest homeless shelter to observe first-hand the wreckage they caused.

        And yes, I’m still a moderate. That means I don’t defend the perks and privileges of our plutocracy. Conservatives and libertarians do that.

      • October 17, 2011 8:02 pm

        Japan is experiencing negative growth are you sure they are the example you wish to use.

        Regardless, Japan and Scandanavia and to a lesser extent Europe are significantly different from the US culturally. There is a reason this country had the first successful “libertarian” revolution. There are reasons this is the most diverse nation on the planet. We do not and will not ever have the homogenous cultural values of Japan or Northern Europe – and I am not sure we really wish to. “I beleive” that kind of deeped shared monoculture is necessary for the unanimity of purpose to make the type of social structure you are advancing work.

        Again, why does it matter what CEO’s make so long as you and the rest of us prosper ? If we could double the standard of living of the lowest quintile would you accept increasing that of the top 0.01% by a factor of 10 ? 100 ? 1000 ?

        I am opposed to plutocracy – but not wealth. Plutocracy is government by the wealthy. The only way you will end that is to diminish the power of government. Why are most of the super wealthy democrats ? Why are they nearly universally supportive of expansionist government – because bigger government serves their interests.

        Corporations are owned by their shareholders. If employees want a voice in corporate governance they are free to buy stock. The overwhelming majority of stock in this nation is held by private individuals – usually in their IRA’s and pension plans. When we demand that those investment deliver the best safe return possible, we are dictating the priorities of american business. More and more investment options exist today. You can put your pension or IRA into a Green Fund, or a fund favoring “fair trade” or …..
        Alternately you are a consumer. You voice is expressed in the market by your purchases. If Walmart’s policies, if what they pay their executives, offends you make your purchases elsewhere. There are myriads of examples where that type of civil action has been extremely effective.

        Shareholders – whoever they own business. They chose the board of directors and they do so in a way not fundamentally different from the way we select a president. When they chose a board of directors shareholders are essentially voting for whatever aspects of corporate management or governance matters to them. Further – unlike political elections, if they feel their interests are not being served shareholders can sell their shares and invest elsewhere. However impersonal you beleive corporations are they must be very responsive to the wants and needs of the marketplace they serve, as well as those of their shareholders.

        The financial crisis was an instance of shareholders expressing their wrath on financial institutions.

        On one had you want business to respond to external expressions of displeasure, on the other you want to punish people like Sorros who figure out how to do profit by doing just that.

        Tiger Woods make over $100M/year because he is the best in the world at whacking arround a little white ball. Leonardo DiCapria made $77M last year for entertaining us. Tyler Perry made $130M. James Patterson made $83M.

        Myriads of people whose job creates nothing of tangible value yet we are not protesting them.

        I would be ecstatic to be making 1/425th of what most any of them make.
        I just completed my taxes and I am making 1/2000th of what the least of them make – yet I am not ranting that we should take away their wealth.

        The people who should determine the rewards and punishement of CEO’s are the shareholders in their businesses.

        While I do not personally entirely beleive that some – possibly all are worth what they make, that is only my decision to the extent that I own a part of the companies they run. Otherwise any rights I have are limited to:
        Asking for government punishment for real harm they have caused.
        Voting with my dollars as a consumer.

        How is it that you are certain you know what someone else is worth ?
        You are fixated at the moment on CEO’s – people who are actually employees. But what about Buffet, or Sorros ? If they are able to invest such that they make yearly profits that dwarf those of CEO’s are they entitled to that profit ?

      • October 17, 2011 8:09 pm

        Last night I took my son and a friend to “Field of Screams” this is essentially a Halloween amusement park. The cost was ridiculous – but there were hundreds of people in line, and still would have been had I decided it was not worth it. Obviously it was worth it to alot of people. And when the night was over, I had to agree – though not my cup of tea, my son had an enormous amount of fun, and it was really little different from a night at the theater – except a bit cheaper.

        One thing I noticed while there is there were two lines for everything. The regular line and the VIP line. You could pay $15 extra for a VIP ticket. If you did you went through a separate much shorter line. At every attraction they let the VIP’s in first.

        Is it “fair” to pay to move to the head of the line ?
        Is it “fair” to manage the demand for anything by adjusting the price ?
        Is it “fair” to have to pay more for faster internet access ?
        For more cable TV channels ?
        For better service ?

        If it is fair for anything, then are there some things it is not fair for ?

      • October 17, 2011 8:43 pm

        Dave: I don’t have time to address all your points, but I’ll try for a few.

        As shareholders we really have no power to choose who serves on the corporate board. Yes, we get those proxy forms in the mail, but it’s like a communist election: either you vote for the nominees or you don’t. There are no alternate choices, and we certainly can’t dictate executive pay.

        I tend to go on about CEO pay, but the incomes of sports and entertainment superstars gall me just as much. These people benefit from an enormous (and free) publicity machine that keeps their names in the public eye and artificially boosts demand for their talents. If it weren’t for vehicles like People magazine, Entertainment Tonight and the sports news, the big-name stars wouldn’t command such outlandish salaries. There are no such vehicles to promote the names of the best scientists, poets and bloggers.

        Finally, here’s something we sort of agree on: we have to break the unholy alliance between the plutocrats and the politicians who do their bidding in exchange for lush campaign contributions. The size of government isn’t an issue here; we simply need to make all campaign contributions anonymous and prosecute any politicians who knowingly accept contributions from lobbyists in exchange for favors.

      • October 17, 2011 10:58 pm


        I find your sugestion that all campaign contributions must be anonymous interesting. I would have to think about it alot before accepting it.

        The courts have already accepted anonymity as a right. But I am always uncomfortable with force – and forced anything including anonymity is troubling. We have also tried to run other systems in a blind way and it has usually failed.

        Still the idea is intriguing. Atleast on the surface It seems far batter than constraining who can contribute how much.

        If your limited influence in a shareholder election troubles you – sell your stock. If enough shareholders do that beleive me the company will get the message.
        The primary way you vote as a shareholder is by buying and selling the stock – not by voting in an election. Boards and CEO’s care far more about the current price of the stock than shareholder elections.

        The rest of your remarks essentially argue that we should have different values than we do. I will be happy to agree with you – up to the point you attempt to impose them by force.

        Persuade all you want. But legislation is coercion.

        I find many of the same things you do offensive – but all I have to do is walk down the street to grasp that most people do not share my values.

        Various celebrities have enormous income – because most of us value them.

        You constantly rant over the tremendous power of the rich in society.
        Is People magazine ? or Reality TV a reflection of the values of the rich ?
        Money is made promoting culture I find revolting, but we chose what we buy not those selling it to us. I prefer wine to beer, but I would buy stock in a beer company before a vinyard.

        Whether it is CEO pay, Sports figures or the wages of scientists. Money moves in the marketplace reflect the aggregate value of society – and it is primarily the lower class driving it – because as I have said repeatedly – they are the market. That is where the wealth really is.

      • October 17, 2011 11:10 pm

        HP honored a contract. These things matter alot. I have claimed previously that business on the whole is more moral and ethical than the rest of us. Contracts matter, trust matters. Even if HP could have gotten away with screwing Apotheker it would have impacted the trust of their suppliers, customers and future CEO candidates. Trust is essential to the market. When your actions undermine your trustworthiness the market will reflect that.

        Nearly everyone in business grasps that integrity is their primary commodity.

        As to the brokers bonuses, Check your information, virtually all of these were actually to brokers in either other businesses or in highly profitable divisions of businesses that otherwise lost money. Further London was actively courting these people – and we lost many. Who do you want to keep, the AIG, CitiBank or BoA people who made huge amounts of money during 2008 or those who lost it? Wall Street is incredibly heavily performance driven. Broker salaries are a miniscule portion of their compensation – almost all of which is performance based.

        If we really wanted to teach Wall Street a lesson – we should not have bailed them out.

        Being angry is easy.

    • October 17, 2011 2:36 pm

      Marxists, Nazis, and Obama, Oh My!

    • October 17, 2011 2:37 pm

      Is it time to repeat that the Nazis were SOCIALISTS !

      • AMAC permalink
        October 17, 2011 7:20 pm


        I can’t think of one reason why you would comment that unless you are trying to make the comparison of Obama to the Nazis or the Moderates to the Nazi’s. Either way it is an idiotic comment and you should be embarassed. More of your rediculous methods being exposed.

      • October 17, 2011 8:24 pm

        The Nazis were right-wing socialists, if such a thing makes sense. They were statists, yes… but culturally they were off the chart on the far right. For them, even Christianity was an unwelcome foreign imposition on native Aryan culture.

      • October 17, 2011 11:30 pm


        Thank you. Maybe we are getting somewhere.

        I was not specifically trying to tie Obama with socialists, or Nazi’s.
        Obama is statist, and more socialist than I, but on so many issues I can heardly distinguish him from GWB.

        Nazi’s are pretty much what you would expect of white collar German socialists. The right-left distinct is muddy. Germany lead the world in the creation of the social safety net. Nazi’s were particularly appealing because of their social welfare programs.

        They loathed anything that was a threat to their power regardless of ideology.
        I can not distinguish them from Mao or Stalin on that issue. There is really very little to distinguish them from Mao or Stalin.

        They were very anti free market, anti-capitalist. They would have made Micheal Moore proud.

        As to eugenics and the like, do I have to quote Holmes in Buck vs. Bell, or Wilson, or …. or note that Eugenics persisted in those Scandinavian countries we idolise until the 1970’s, or quote from Paul Erhlich and Obama science czar John Holdren, to establish that eugenics was primarily a fascination of the left ?

        The fundamental distinction between Nazi’s and other socialists other than that they were German is their choice of white collar rather than blue collar as the “workers” they focused on.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 18, 2011 10:49 am

      Priscilla, can you trace your history back and figure out on what precise date you began to obsessively hate Obama? Was it before his election, slightly after it, or more recently? You are going to deny my characterization, I know it, but its obvious that are suffering from the same complete hostility to Obama’s existence that many people I knew felt towards W.

      Unfortunately we are in our 11th year without a suitable president, yes, its bad enough, but implacable opposition to every action of either W Bush or Obama is not part of the rational criticism of a politician, they just reflect ugly fanaticism.

      I tried to respect W more than many of those around me did, he was after all, the elected president, he was not an actually stupid or evil person, reacting violently against every word he uttered was not a productive way to deal with disagreement. I hated W Bush derangement syndrome. He did a lot of serious harm to our country, the good he did may be more obvious with the passage of time.

      Really, I suggest you do the same with Obama, he may not be your choice, but he is the elected POTUS. Yes, he does transparently political things, can you name me a president who did not?

      If you hate Obama more than I hate herring, its gone too far.

      Did Obama “embrace” the OWS movement or did he do something more nuanced? Words are important.

      You put Nazis and Obama in one sentence, what was that rule again? Don’t excuse yourself, it was what it was, extreme, ugly, unproductive..

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 18, 2011 10:56 am

        Er, to be fair, you put Obama and Nazis not in one sentence, but certainly in one thought.

  47. AMAC permalink
    October 17, 2011 7:26 pm

    I do think we are seeing problems in the trickle down method when the money is stopping at the top. I do wonder how we can force, through regulation, coorporations to change. It is difficult but I think it has to be done. I look at some of the very succesful companies, like UPS for example. They have a union workforce, pay a very high salary and a relatively low CEO pay. They are competitive on a global scale, and have not bought in to the “Pay the CEO 13 billion a year” mentality that so many are involved in. It reminds me of the real estate in the late 80’s and early 90’s in parts of California. People were buying houses for rediculous prices that could never be recovered. These CEO’s are over valued. We should call it the CEO Bubble, I guess.

    • October 17, 2011 8:18 pm

      “CEO Bubble” — I never thought of it that way, AMAC, but you’re right. I wonder how we can make it pop.

      • October 17, 2011 10:25 pm

        If CEO pay is a bubble it will pop on its own. All bubbles do. The free market takes care of that.
        The highest paid CEO in the US is John Hammergren at $131M, the next is Ralph Lauren at 1/2 that. Hammergren increased shareholder value by 20% in one year, Ralph Lauren by 50%.

        Both made substantially more off their investments.

        Steve Jobs was famously paid $1 – but does anyone doubt that his investment income still left him in the top income tier ?
        His replacement is making $53M.

        Further most of top CEO’s are (and should be) paid primarily in stock.
        Mr. Cook – Steve Jobs replacement, receives $800,000 in wages. If he tanks Apples stock that $53M could vaporise quickly.

        I see no reason to invest anger in whether CEO’s are overpaid. The responsibility for the benefits and costs of CEO pay rest with those who hired them.

        Monster – as in, lost 67% of its value last year – more than $1B. I am sure its Shareholders would have been happy to pay their CEO $100M+ just to stop the loss.

        AIG is down 60%. I suspect the entire planet would be happy if AIG with Greenberg at its helm, had recognised its exposure in CDO’s in say 2005 and unwound the financial crisis much earlier. Thank You Elliot Spitzer.

        US Steel is down 58%

        Akamai has lost $4B in value.

        Janus Capital Group has lost $1B.

        And Bank of America has lost about $60B.

        Each of these has lost more than 50% of its value. If you were a stockholder in any of these, how much would you have been willing to pay the CEO if they could have averted those losses ?

        One of Smith’s errors, was almost anticipating Marx and proposing a “labor theory of value”.

        Mises eventually noted “Value is not intrinsic. It is not in things and conditions but in the valuing subject.”

        Each and everyone of us determines value differently. That too is an essential aspect of free markets. Some of us value good food more than leasure time. Some value entertainment. Some value learning, or health. Each of us has a different set of relative values. We can each use wealth we have produced, to acquire the wealth we need and want in proportion to our personal value of it. Supply and demand within the market adjust the prices of everything to compensate for our different values and differences in supply.

        It is not my business what the CEO of XYZ corp, makes unless I am a shareholder. There is no such thing as a fair wage or fair price for anything. Anyone’s claim that there is intrinsic value presumes either a source of value outside of humans, or uniformity in the value each of us assign to things.

        If value is not intrinsic, there is no moral or ethical basis for comparing the one persons wage to another. The assertion that one person should not be paid 425 times more than another is an attempt to find intrinsic value where it does not exist. Under the right circumstance one person could be worth infinitely more than another. How much would someone be worth if their life saved that of millions ? Atleast 425 times more than their secretary or janitor ?

  48. AMAC permalink
    October 17, 2011 7:28 pm

    I would disagree that you would fall in the moderate or centrist spectrum. I don’t think far left on social and far right on economic issues is equitable to center overall.

  49. Priscilla permalink
    October 17, 2011 9:14 pm

    AMAC and Rick, I disagree with you on the CEO issue, and I agree with Dave that everyone to the left of the political spectrum is currently fixated on CEO’s. Why doesn’t anyone get upset about Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio getting paid outrageous sums to act in movies…even bad movies and movies that don’t make profits? Both made about $100M in 2011 alone, and I don’t see them offering to share their wealth with the gaffers, sound editors or extras on their movies. Or throwing a couple extra mil to the IRS, for that matter. And how about Roy Halladay (picked your favorite team, Rick ;)) $20M a year is no chump change and he isn’t sharing with the hot dog vendors…nor did the Phillies make it to the Series this year.

    The problem is not income disparity. If it were, why not protest against these actors and athletes, as Dave observes? The problem is the fact that collusion between big business, big banking and big government is killing capitalism and creating a society of elites who help each other make money, stay in power, and create the restrictive laws and regulations that prevent others from ever rising to their level of wealth, power and influence. And as they eliminate their competition, pick “winners and losers” and consolidate the nation’s wealth, they prevent the economy from growing.

    • Priscilla permalink
      October 17, 2011 9:16 pm

      that should read killing the free market, not killing capitalism, btw.

    • October 17, 2011 9:40 pm

      I beleive almost everyone here – regardless of labels is completely opposed to outside interests buying government to their own benefit.

      To the extent that Wall Street, CEO’s, ….. profit through the manipulation of government power I am with everyone here and strongly opposed.

      Where we part is on the remedy. Monied, corporate and other interests are ALWAYS going to attempt to wield the power of government to their own ends. No amount of legislation will correct that. I also find it revealing that in the exchange of money for power, so many want to punish the buyers rather than the sellers. Usually we arrest prostitutes not Johns.

      So long as and in proportion to the power of government, outside interests will seek to bend it to their ends. Even if all corporate political contributes were successfully prohibited, another interest would step into the vacuum. Money is the drug of politics – how is the drug war going ? How about prohibition ?

      • AMAC permalink
        October 17, 2011 10:42 pm

        I think that some of the suggestion to divorce money from politics have been made in a manner that is not punishing the buyer or the seller, just seeking to eliminate the transaction all together. You agree that it is a problem, but don’t think we can do anything about it? Crime continues in this country, should we eliminate police forces? Of all the options available, doing nothing seems the least attractive.

    • AMAC permalink
      October 17, 2011 10:38 pm


      I would agree that the pay to athletes and actors is ridiculous in the case of the stars. I have two ex-pro athlete friends that are far from wealthy (football and baseball). They were not stars, on played 4 years in football and one played 9 years in baseball in minors and mahors combined. The elite do make far more than they are worth (in most cases) when compared to the revenue they bring in. When the owners are making these decision in conjuction with union representation, it seems even more difficult to correct and this effects fewer people than CEOs in general. I don’t know the solution, but everyone knows how the rate of increase for CEO pay is far far out-increasing the labor pay rate. I wish I had the answer on how to correct and I do agree with you that there are many restrictions needing to be removed to help business (especially moderate to small sized business). I have proposed a few earlier in the thread. I don’t think this is the only issue, but it is a glaring issue as the gap from the rich to the poor is increasing so dramatically.

      • October 18, 2011 12:15 am


        I am trying to understand part of your post. Are you suggesting that superstars are over compensated as a result of collusion between owners and unions ?

        Regardless, why do you beleive sports teams would play any player more than they are “worth” ?

        While there is no such thing as intrinsic value, I suspect that owners are highly unlikely to pay tens of millions for a player that will not net them one way or another substantially more. though I suspect in most instances that net is economic, little of what we buy and sell is ultimately about money. If I have a couple of billion dollars, I might be willing to spend tens of Millions to “own” Kobe Bryant.

        I would posit that with few exceptions people do not come to see the 3rd string Center. They come to see the superstars.

        Why do people pay to watch professional wrestling ?

        Many professional athletes are essentially self employed. Tiger Woods makes little of his $110M/year in prize money. I would bet the companies paying for his endorsement are sure they are getting their money’s worth.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 19, 2011 12:16 am

        Actually, AMAC, I think we probably agree more than we disagree. It’s more the framing of the issues on which we differ. I like that you acknowledge the complexity of the problems and the difficulty of crafting solutions, rather than hammering away on who is to blame. It is frustrating to me that people cannot debate in a way that is focused on consensus. You appear to be willing to do that.

  50. October 17, 2011 9:25 pm


    Language matters. Whether it is Ian bandying economic fundimentalism, extreme right, decapitate government, ….. or you claiming my views are on the “far right” and “far left”.
    Hyperbole builds walls and prevents understanding, it also paints a false picture of reality.

    55% of americans think government is wasteful and spending needs cut. 39% disagree.
    More than 50% believe gay people should be able to marry
    50% beleive marijuana should be legalised.

    60% practically want to punish imigrants for existing.
    42% oppose free trade, 36% favor it
    66% currently favor higher taxes on the rich, but in june 51% opposed
    historically americans oppose redistribution with the balance shifting only during difficult times.

    On many issues a majority of americans support libertarian views. On some I am part of a large minority. There are very few issues where libertarian views are best described as far right or far left.

    I make the claim that this blog is far less moderate, and libertarian is far more moderate than people here perceive.

    I do beleive that polls are a reasonable test of what is moderate – or atleast where the political center is.

    Polls do not tell us whether and answer is right or wrong.

    Whether I am right or wrong, whether I am in the majority or not, labeling a position that nearly 40% of americans support or worse one with a majority as extreme says more about you than me.

    • AMAC permalink
      October 17, 2011 10:31 pm


      So you would not say that your economic values are far right, and on social issues, you are far left? Is that really what you are debating? I am suprised that 100% did not agree there is wasteful spending in government. That is not a right or left issue. Where to cut it, is. Agreeing that we need to cut government spending is not logically equivelant to eliminate all government restrictions and limit to defense and and lawful protection. 50% agree with gay marriage. That does not mean that government should not interfer with any personal liberty.

      Dhlii: Marxists, Nazis, and Obama, Oh My!

      Me: I agree with you in that language matters, Dhlii.

      • October 17, 2011 11:58 pm

        more than 50% beleive that government wastes more than .51/$ that is far more than government is wasteful. That is there is more government waste than good.
        You are right that there is a left right issue on where to cut spending.
        The left has little intention of cutting it anywhere and no desire to cut enough to do any good. They win that argument because the public contradicts itself. They want significant spending cuts, but not in any program that can possibly deliver spending cuts.
        And BTW unlike the right I and almost all libertarians will be perfectly happy to significantly cut defence spending.

        What distinguished me from the political center on economic issues, is that I both want spending cuts and am willing to agree to them – virtually anywhere.
        I doubt there is a single facet of the federal government where I would not happily reduce spending. Whatever spending cuts you are willing to propose I will happily endorse.

        Yet not a single moderate here has been willing to offer enough cuts to reduce the rate of growth of government to that of the economy as a whole – that is not cuts, that is profligate spending.

        Pick any issue where you beleive in an individual right or liberty – we agree.

        Regardless, I pointed out issues where my view diverged from the majority. But a few issues where 36% of americans agree with me does not make me an extremist.

        AMAC – have you ever watched “the Wizard of Oz” ?
        maybe this will help.

        If not
        Marxists = Lions
        Nazis = Tigers
        Obama = Bears

        Thinking about Tiger Tanks and Bear markets just makes it better.

        Hopefully most TNM readers grasped the parody. Though apparently you did not.

        Language does matter.

        Did I miss some sarcasm, satire, irony, or parody when you suggested my views as far left and far right ?
        You do grasp that Weird Al does not buy all his stuff on eBay ?

        Lions, and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

  51. AMAC permalink
    October 18, 2011 12:23 am

    You put Obama, Marxist, and Nazi’s in the same sentence together. Don’t try to put this off as a misunderstanding by me. You are trying to in some idiotic way to state that they are all socialists. It was a stupid comment, not a misunderstanding on my part. Yes, Obama leans more towards a socialist than you, but so does 98% of the country.

    • October 18, 2011 1:36 am

      Please read Priscilla’s post that I was replying to.
      I did not put, Obama, Marxists, and Nazis together,
      Even Priscilla did not put them together.
      Essentially, they put themselves together buy endorsing OWS.

      I said nothing about Obama for several posts, and Rick raised the issue of Obama being socialist.

      My literary allusion essentially remarks that OWS was endorsed by three things to be feared on our journey – like lions and tigers and bears.
      I do not think Lions and Tigers and bears are socialists, what they have in common is that they are dangerous.

      Apparently we have entered Germany where all jokes must be explained.

      I guess I should apologise for unintentionally offending you.
      At the same time I think you are trying awfully hard to be offended.
      I presume you grasp that everyone who think Obama is a failure as a president, does not think he is a nazi, communist, socialist. Nor is it because he is black or a Harvard law grad, or community organizer, …
      Is it possible that we can actually like someone – Obama is actually quite likeable, and still beleive they are wrong ?
      Though again the “Theme” was things we are afraid of, not socialist things.

      I did not expect many people would get the direct allusion to “The Wizard of Oz”.
      But I pretty much expected that “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My !” was part of the common culture of most of us.

      Further the remark that Nazi’s were socialists was an independent reply to the same post by Priscilla. Which was to note that the Nazi endorsement of the OWS should not come as any surprise as Nazi’s are socialists.
      Obama’s endorsement does come as a personal surprise. I thought he was politically more savy. Tying himself to OWS is politically dangerous. If they fizzle, and I doubt they have any legs, that will make him look bad now. If they devolve into chaos or violence – again he looks bad. Micheal Moore, Roseanne Barr, … can get away with that. Maybe as a state Senator from Illinois Obama could. But as the President of the United States ?
      But he is free to make his own political mistakes and is unlikely to take advice of anykind from me. Nor will I pretend to be an expect on manipulating and using public opinion.

      Again the extremest hyperbole.
      Would you agree that most conservatives are less socialist than I am ?
      That would mean no more than 80% of the country leans more socialist than I do.
      Pew now groups libertarians in the middle, making up slightly less than 1/3 of the middle.
      67% of libertarians are independent, 5% democrats, and 28% republican.
      We vote more than 4:1 for republicans – which is about right, I have voted for democrats on occasion. I can be reliably counted to vote against Rick Santorum – even for dog catcher. And I probably would vote for Obama if Romney is the GOP nominee.

    • October 18, 2011 1:39 am

      “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.”
      — E. B. White

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 18, 2011 8:52 am

        And yet my little monty python humor was deemed childish and offensive to you.

        Humor,could it be very subjective?

        Its only recently after many, many hundreds of posts that I became aware finally that you actually Have a sense of humor.

        The really funny thing is that I responded to some right winger calling Obama a commie on the WSJ site this year with a similar ripost:

        Obama and liberal elite oh my!
        Obama and liberal elite oh my!

        I told him to repeat it until he felt dizzy and then sit down and take a breath.

  52. October 18, 2011 12:42 am

    The issue of pay whether that of celebrities, athletes, CEO’s or … touches on an area that distinguishes libertarians from most everyone else.

    Most of us hold some things to be sacred or Taboo.

    We boldly proclaim that somethings just can not have prices put on them, or that some things can not be compared in value – or no person is “worth” ten, one hundred, one thousand times. More than another.

    But when presented with a “Sophies Choice” we will use some criteria to place real world values on things that are sacred.

    Further unconsciously we do these things all the time.

    Ford could have prevented the Pinto explosions with a $13 part in each car. The cost could not be justified. We cringe – but each of us understands there is some cost at which it would not. That point varies for each of us but it is there. Would you pay 40K more for a car that was twice as safe ? Mostly left leaning environment loving soccer mom’s buy SUV’s – because they grasp that big expensive gas guzzlers will keep their kids safer – otherwise they would by ford focuses or other rollerskates.

    We beleive (often falsely) that lower speed limits save lives. So why not set all speed limits to 25 ? At 5 we probably would save thousands of lives a year.

    We also like it when government takes the burden of making these judgements off us.
    Bureaucrats and regulators are vested with the power to set speed limits, decide at what level are the hypothetical deaths resulting from some level of something acceptable. But god forbid and individual or corporation weigh costs against human lives.

    We break pricing Taboo’s or price sacred things all the time. We just try to do so indirectly, or without conscious knowledge. We want to preserve our ability to be outraged when confronted with each and every instance where value is placed on something sacred.

    I am outraged that one person is worth 425 times that of another. I know that in some important sense that is just not true. But in the context of the real world, ultimately everything gets valued – either consciously or otherwise, and often others or even society as a whole chooses.

    At the same time I am less offended than most of you when some comparative valuation “outrages” me. There is no such thing as intrinsic value. So comparative values are not reflective of anything intrinsic. Kobe Bryant is not intrinsically worth 1000 times more than I am. He is just worth that much more to Coca Cola and Nike – but there is nothing intrinsic about it.

    The assumption that there is something intrinsic to prices, demands that there is some moral framework for comparing them. But morality is an attribute of rights not prices. Rights are intrinsic. Kobe Bryant has no greater rights than I do. When that proves false – then government has failed. Rights are intrinsic, value is not.

  53. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 18, 2011 9:16 am

    So, not surprisingly I also have about the same impression AMAC has about where libertarians fit, far to the conservative side on economics and AGW and far to the left on war and individual liberty issues.

    Why far to the conservative side ( I avoid the word right deliberately because it has other connotations) on economics?

    Its a matter of extent, not where your views lie on simplified polls that have only two choices. In all the polls you cited if they gave a wide range of responses instead of two,. you dhlii, and any Cato or Reason magazine writer would fall out way way way to the conservative side of the spectrum on economic beliefs if the Extent to which you believe that government needs to be cut/ is harmful is the question asked. You are being disingenuous.

    I believe you realize this! You have put an incredible amount of energy into expressing your intense distrust/dissatisfaction with government as a concept or a reality, so why try to gloss that over by trying to fit in with the sardines in the two choice polls?

    Libertarian presidential candidates have not made it to the single digit level in any election, though they field a candidate each time. People self identifying as Libertarian are in the 5% range.

    Moderates are an entirely different part of the spectrum, its a word that does not precisely mean the middle, but it gets used that way. Moderate implies mild, centrist implies an conscious and maybe artificial attempt to always be in he center, independent implies not following along. So, whatever you call us, imperfectly, we are the 40-50 percent who are not in love with either right or left ideology and in general are quite suspicious of dogma and ideology, we want to think each issue through on its merits rather than joining any crowd with its dogma.

    That simply does NOT describe Libertarians, you adhere to strong economic and other dogmas, you believe in them passionately and with fervor, and not just you Dhlii, but Cato Institute and Reason magazine, who go a long way towards being the mother ship of Libertarianism and defining it.

    I do not understand why you are trying to say otherwise.

    Jeez, I’m a wordy bastid.

    • October 18, 2011 7:49 pm

      It is not surprising that you share many of AMAC’s views. I have remarked repeatedly that this blog leans left – may moderately left, but it is still not near the political center.

      You claim I or libertarians are not moderate despite falling on the majority on a large number of yes no polls.

      The metric is not perfect – but readily available. Regardless, on many of those same yes/no issue, most of the “moderates” here are on the minority side.

      I do not think I have been able to get almost a single person here to actually agree to real spending cuts of any kind. The majority want spending cut.
      I would be shocked if most here would agree that 51% of government spending is waste.

      I am not far to the left on War. I beleive in a strong defence. I think our founders were wrong in opposing a standing army. I do not beleive military nation building or endless war are to our benefit. That may not be centrist, but it certainly is not the far left. I am not a pacifist.

      The “far right” likes to borrow piecemeal from libertarian economics. That makes libertarian economics conservative, it makes conservative economics somewhat libertarian. Different elements of the right diverge on many critical areas – trade, intellectual property, immigration, even limited government is only paid lip service by conservatives. Further on many of the economic issues libertarians part with the right – the left sides with conservatives.

      Part of the problem is you have an incredibly simplistic view of left and right in what is essentially a multi-dimensional space.

      Many issues do not have a middle. Further even those that might do not have a middle merely by assertion. I will be happy to listen to an argument that can posit a rational basis for setting a minimum wage. But an awful lot of issues like minimum wage where “moderates” try to take a “middle” course, the issue appears binary, one pole is right. Splitting the difference without reason is at best a confused effort to be less wrong.
      Sometimes that is workable. Many of our problems today are past solving by being half right.

      I also cited a multifacetted Pew poll that grouped people into something like 11 Groups. Pew places libertarians on the right side of center – not the center side of right. I would guess most commentors here would fall solidly on the left. Regardless, it is not a simple one question poll, and libertarians make up a little less than 1/3 of the center.

      If you have bothered to read anything at Reason or Cato – congratulations.
      They are typically considered near the left side of libertarian.
      Try the bleedingheartlibertarian blog if you wish. Or even what Cass Sunstein says rather than what he has done.
      I have been extremely careful to provide you with sources of information that can not be dismissed as “libertarian”.

      I have not been the slightest disengenuous about my views. The only things you do not seem to have grasped is that I will actually be happy to compromise on myriads of issues.
      I have no real expectation of getting total government spending below 15%, or even 25. I would be ecstatic to see federal government spending back to its past 75 year norms of below 20% of GDP.

      Few if any polls have found a majority of americans trusting government since Watergate.
      Currently only 15% of americans trust government.
      I am not sure anyone on this blog really trusts government. What separates us our solution.
      You beleive it is possible to make big government trustworthy – a view many on the right would share. I don’t.

      I do not see a moderate political party polling even single digits.
      Half of the current republican candidates are atleast marginally libertarian. Two identify as libertarians.

      If you use an expansive definition of moderate, you can get 40-50% of the population.
      But not without being broad enough to include all libertarians and almost half the Tea Party – placing virtually every poster here falling of the left fringe.

      There is no definition of moderate that includes you, is larger than 10%, includes atleast some of the center, and does not include libertarians. Unless you think “moderate” means liberal, you can not make it work.
      Nor does this even have to be about libertarians.
      You can argue that I am somehow on the extreme side of the majority on all these polls, But your views coincide with the majority in less than half of them.

      You want to beleive you are the 40-50%, but most of the commenters on this blog make up a group smaller than libertarians, and further from the center – regardless of how extreme you call my views.

      I will agree that my definition of moderate, and yours, and probably Ricks are distinctly different. I will agree that my views do not represent those of 40-50 percent of americans.
      I know I depart from the majority on issues like trade and immigration.
      But the only things you share with 40-50% of americans are anger and frustration.

      While I grasp that the majority of americans are inconsistent – they know we must cut spending, at the same time when it comes to specifics they do not seem to be able to find the spending the want to cut – even though they want it cut deeply.
      You don’t even seem to grasp the inconsistency. You want to tap into the majority on the rare instances they lean your way, while pretending they are with you on everything else.

      In the end it really does not matter what the majority of americans want – the good news is most of them realise that. Ultimately they know fixing the economy, jobs, social security and medicare is going to be painful – and they are going to be opposed, but it is going to have to be done.

      You seem to beleive I have some religious faith in my views particularly economics. Much of that pragmatic – the empiracle and theoretical are aligned. But more importantly, I am confident the alternative fails. Either we take a small step in my direction economically now – something that works would not take bowing down to Hayek and Mises – though it would require rejecting Keynes, regardless, the alternative is more Keynesian failure. We have seen what we have today before – here and across the world. If we are not blind we know how it plays out.

      The only question is how bad are you going to let things get before you are ready to back away from this keynesian stupidity ?

  54. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 18, 2011 10:25 am

    Now, redistribution. Its not surprising the moderates would be for it, though some may not be for it,or, like the me of several months back, not be paying any attention.

    But the polling, recent and otherwise shows, surprisingly, that this issue concerns Americans across the political spectrum.

    I’ll grant that polls just show what people think, not what is correct or effective, its a fair point.

    So lets ask what economist think.

    Economists as a whole strongly believe that redistribution is an important function of a modern economy, and a majority believe that there should be more of it in the US.

    Dhlii, you read the economics literature, so you know I am not making this up.

    Do I believe in principle that the wealth and income gaps can increase while everyone (statistically speaking) is better off and thus the system is better for “everyone”? Yes in principle that is possible. But its not what is happening in the US today or over the last decades.

    Now, we can produce warring statistics, I’ll produce the ones that show the downside and Dhlii and perhaps Priscilla will produce the testimony of an upside to our trends towards increasing disparities.

    Statistics can lie in many way, one being that while people as a whole can be doing better, large groups can be doing much worse.

    The economy does not just have one metric by which we measure it, say growth, it has hundreds, or arguably, thousands (my thousand gauges in my airplane analogy). According to ones values they chose which metric is most important to them.

    Libertarians and moderates have different values and place a different emphasis on different metrics. On this site at least moderates seem concerned with many issues, including unemployment and poverty rate, the ability for the average person to obtain health care, ability of the average person to buy a house,etc. If all we cared about was gdp, that would not be very moderate.

    Many reputable economists believe that our present skewed distribution of wealth and income is a drag on the economy, as broad sectors of it have little ability to spend and create growth. I agree with that analysis, and it does not rest on a fairness argument, just economic realities.

    • October 18, 2011 11:40 pm

      I am not aware of any economists that are not keynesians, marxists or socialists that support redistribtuion.

      Even socialists eventually had to concede that it was impossible to run an economy without property rights.

      Most economists – including Hayek and Friedman – agree that for NON-Economic reasons a very limited social safety net may be desireable.

      Wealth gaps and income gaps are not necessarily related.
      All money is a matter of belief – Smith.

      Money is extremely important, it is nearly impossible to run an economy without it.
      But money is not wealth. If it were Spain would still be the worlds only super power.
      Income is also not wealth.
      I am being slightly pendantic – because money is a conveyor belt transforming the wealth we create into the wealth we want.
      Regardless, you have to be very careful assuming using money as a measure. GDP is a good approximation for the wealth we have all created and therefore how much wealth we can consume – though there are some known measurement errors – it is virtually impossible to measure GDP directly. We measure many parts of it indirectly.
      Almost everything on income dispartity in the developed world – particularly the US suffers three major fallacies.
      First it completely obscures the fact that there is incredible class mobility – particularly in the US. Essentially the members of the lowest quintile 10 years ago are with few exceptions no longer in the lowest quintile. Expressed differently most of us start with less at age 20 than we have at 40, 50, …
      ignoring the other flaws, that would mean the data that purports to indicate the poor are fairing no better or even slightly worse says no more than after a decade 20year olds start at the same place they did 10 years ago. Beyond that it is saying that at 30, 40, 50 most of us are wealthier than our parents were. Note I am basing this analysis on exactly the same data.
      Second, there is a building argument – nearly a certainty based on government data, such as the NBER links I provided you earlier, that we have completely screwed up the Consumer Price Index. Basically that we have overstated inflation, or to echo my own remarks before that free markets always and everywhere drive prices inexorably down. It is unquestionable that the poor today have far more wealth – measured as goods, than they did 10, 20, 30 years ago. It is specifically because of this that we are seeing new measure of GDP – GDP – purchasing power. I do not argue that many things cost much more than they did 10 years ago – mostly things government is strongly involved in, like healthcare, cars, … But most goods cost less, or provide much more for the same money.
      Finally – contrary to current perceptions, income inequality has declined with this recession – that is typical. There are anomalies. The 3rd are to a lessor extent 4th quintiles have mostly been uneffected. There is virtually no change in unemployment for professionals, or skilled white collar workers. The hardest hit have been the top and the bottom. Young black males – a group with abysmal circumstances when things are good, have more than doubled their unemployment. No one has sympathy for the recent loss of income for the upper quintile. That does not make it unreal.

      GINI indexes do have some meaning. Extreme income disparity means one of two things. Either it means a country is a third world nation, or it means that it sits at the top of the world pyramid. The nations with the highest GINI indexes are either the best or worst places in the world to be poor.

      Pres. Obama ran on this Wealth Redistribution platform in 2008. But for the financial crisis, it would have killed him. It still was costly. Throughout most of our history, the majority of us not only do not care about wealth distribution but we are justifiably unfavorable to it.
      Maybe you do not grasp this but if you accept as valid the myriads of studies that say greater freedom corresponds to higher standards of living and greater government spending and taxes correspond to lower standards of living, You are infact claiming Wealth Redistribution is a bad idea – unless you can figure out how to transfer wealth without impinging on freedom, or increasing taxes and government spending.
      Since the majority of economist accept that taxes on capitol are bad, restrictions of economic freedom are bad, a deeper economic safety net is mildly bad, higher government speding is bad – pretty much by definition that means the majority of economist do not favor wealth redistribution.

      Despite the flaws in GDP, it actually is the one measure of the economy. It is also a reasonable approximation for Gross National Happiness – or more accurately Gross National Want and Desire fulfilment. The purpose of production is consumption – Smith. We create Wealth so we can consume wealth. Each of us makes different choices – but those choices are the best measure of what we value. Your values may be different. You and I may not like that far too many of us value reality TV, or Sports superstars. But the way we spend our income, and the wealth we acquire with it represents our aggregate needs, wants and desires.

      Yes, we have to be careful with statistics. But the root problem is not with the data but the analysis. And that is where you and I part company on the economy – and on AGW.
      A correlation must be robust to be meaningful.
      It is also important we are comparing apples to apples.
      One of the major – though not only AGW problems is that the vast majority of “climate scientists” really suck at statistical analysis. They can not work out an R factor, they have no clue how to smooth data, or how to compare or combine data, worse still they are often willing to engage in mathematical manipulations that would be called fraud if we beleived they understood what they were doing.

      It is possible to deliberately misinterpret most any data. This is one of the reasons for rigorous mathematical discipline in statistics. It is also why one should be highly skeptical of any claim that does not align with perception.

      I have had a crappy past two years. Yet I am inarguably better off than I wias one, two three decades ago. Further I deal with people in the bottom quintile everyday. I have sympathy for most of them and no desire to trade places. Yet it is obvious they are far better off than I was 20 or 30 years ago. In fact in almost every way not having anything to do with government the entire world is better off than it was in the past. And if you are not blind, and deaf you know that. If you accept at face value without very serious skeptical analysis any statistic that says otherwise, you are likely being duped.

      If we are trying to compare the circumstances of young adults entering the market 10 years ago to those of today – little has changed, there may even be a small decline.
      At the same time the very data the income inequality barkers are claiming says the rich are getting rich at the expense of us all is really say that overwhelming majority of us are actually doing better as we age than the generations before us – is that a bad thing that we should be trying to end ?

      My greatest disappointment in this administration is the failure to follow through on the promises of open government. The more we know about our government the easier it will be to realise how little value it delivers, and how much it costs. Solyndra is not an anomally, it is the norm. It does not matter whether it is wasteful republican spending to reward republican cronies or wasteful democratic spending.

      You have made your claims about what “many reputable economists” beleive. Back them up, preferably with a non-keynesian – since keynesians beleive all kinds of things that are not true.

      If you want bonus points get an economist that was predicting the housing bubble to make those claims.

      At the very least, name names. Better yet, links to their papers, even better, Papers based on economic data rather than editorials.

      I make large and sweeping pronouncements. I do not cite everything I say. Still I have provided you with alot of sources, papers you can read for yourself. Papers written by economists that almost certainly share little of the rest of my values.

      My claims on the cost in freedom, and standard of living of government spending and taxes, are being backed up not by Austrians, of even Classical economists, but by mainstream economists.

      I get really ticked when the President says “Most economists tell us”, because he is lying and unless his own people are lying to him, he knows he is lying.
      Gietner, Summers, Romer, Goolsbee, Sunstien, are highly unlikely to agree with me on lots of issues, But they know much of what the president says about economics is crap.
      And the majority of americans do to, which is why his Gallup approval rating is -16.

      He is either ignorant or lying, and he is past the point where eloquence helps.
      I think the GOP could run any of the current seven dwarfs – even the ones I don’t like and win. Their weaknesses are irrelevant. Obama has lost the ability to be believed – as have the high priests of AGW.

  55. Priscilla permalink
    October 18, 2011 11:48 am

    I did not say there was no income disparity. Of course there is, and yes it has gotten worse. I said that income disparity was not the problem. It is a symptom.

    Economic issues are complex, and, to my knowledge, no economy has been been “fixed” by taking wealth from one group and giving it to another. But perhaps I am wrong about that, and the redistributionists here can cite some examples of a successful zero sum, fair and equal society. That has more than 25 people in it…….

    It is to the advantage of every corporatist politician, influence buying lobbyist, and insider trader to keep the public believing that it is eeeevil CEO’s and bankers that are keeping all the money to themselves, while decent and hardworking public servants work to get that money back into the hands of the working man.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 18, 2011 12:12 pm

      Here is an excerpt from David Brooks today, a column I liked quite a bit, not that I would not disagree with a few phrases:

      “….Second, Americans are trying to re-establish the link between effort and reward. This was the link that was severed on Wall Street, where so many made so much for work that served no productive purpose. This was the link that was frayed by the bailouts, when people who broke the rules still got rewarded.

      In sphere after sphere, strong majorities want to see a balance between what you produce and what you get. The bank bailouts worked and barely cost the government anything, but they are ferociously unpopular because the unjust got rewarded…..”

      I don’t think one needs to be a “corporatist politician” to see what is wrong with the rewards certain bankers have obtained, David Brooks, who at one time wrote for the WSJ, would seem to get it.

      As to fixing an economy, when can we say it was “fixed” Economies certainly exist with more egalitarian income distributions, nearly all of them in fact, compared to the US. Redistribution is certainly a part of that. As I have said, growth is one metric of an economy, distribution of wealth is another and I would not make either of these metrics absolute over the other if I ran an economy. Balance is needed, we lack it in the US.

  56. Priscilla permalink
    October 18, 2011 1:14 pm

    “This was the link that was frayed by the bailouts, when people who broke the rules still got rewarded.”

    “The bank bailouts worked and barely cost the government anything, but they are ferociously unpopular because the unjust got rewarded…..”

    David Brooks does get it. Who decided to bail out some banks and not others? Who has decided that some banks, brokerage houses and corporations are too big to fail?

    Redistribution does not fix corporatism nor does it make things fair for all. The only way for the government to redistribute something is to take it away from someone who has it and give it to someone who does not. Sometimes that works out “fairly” and sometimes it works out the way the bank bailouts did – by rewarding people who broke the rules, because they were cronies of the people who made the laws.

    That is what Brooks is talking about.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 18, 2011 1:50 pm

      Built into your argument is the idea that we could have just let the banks fail. A popular idea among many, especially on the right and left sides of the spectrum.

      Morally, I’d have been all for it. Practically, its just posturing, we would be in a depression right now and we would have taken the world with us if we had just let the banking system collapse. The trouble we are in now would be nothing compared to that catastrophe. You are pro business, do you think many can be run with a totally frozen credit system? Really?

      This decision not to let them fail happened BTW under Bush. Obama, in an effort to be moderate and calming kept most of Bush’s economic team while reshuffling their positions. As well he brought in the brilliant idiot Larry Summers who had a Lot to do with creating too big to fail via the deregulation of the banking system he talked Clinton into. For better or for worse he used the same people and economic philosophies that were in place when the collapse happened. Yet he gets the big lefty label, that is hysterical to me.

      Letting the banks just fail would have hurt many people who richly deserved it, but the price tag was too high. Its empty rhetoric.

      • October 18, 2011 3:13 pm

        I have not blamed Obama for the bailing out the banks.

        I am also not in agreement that the alternatives were bailing them out or their failing. Only that government intervention – with only a few possible exceptions.

        Contrary to popular belief the overwhelming majority of the “insolvent” banks were operating with positive cashflow and profitably. There is myriads of information on this fact in the media from the time.

        The primary issue – one that Forbes ranted on in the wilderness, is that NEW Basil II Mark to Market requirements required them to devalue their Mortgage backed Securities holdings to the current market value – about .25/$. Is there anyone on the planet that beleives this crisis ever reached a point where 75% of all mortgages were going to fail ? Actually it would have to be worse than that. You would have to have a 100% failure rate with each foreclosed property being sold for less than .25/$. Aside from being a bad idea TARP failed because the banks refused to sell their MBS holdings to the treasury. They grasped they were worth far more than .25/$.

        Basil II was bad regulation – and we are working on Basil III or IV now.

        We should have suspended Mark To Market when it was clear it was causing a problem in March of 2008.

        There still would have been a fundamental problem. Even if MBS’s were not worth .25/$ there was a real need for banks to write down the value of there mortgage holdings. Some of them would not have survived.
        All Bank Stockholders would have taken a hit, some would have had their holdings wiped out. Much of this essentially happened BEFORE government intervened.

        We beleive TARP “saved the financial system” – really ? How do we know that ?
        A significant percentage of banks actually failed in the early 30’s. People with savings accounts were wiped out – it is nearly impossible for either of those to have happened this time.
        First bank accounts are all insured now. Though I would like to see that done absent FDIC, it is still reality.
        Only a few – some of the largest, banks were irrecoverably insolvent. TARP went to a great deal of trouble to mask that. It essentially put all banks into the ICU to hide that most had the flu, while a few had hemoragic fever.

        We also know alot more about the Great Depression now than we did then.
        The causes of the crisis were very similar but the governments responses were different. The Melon FED actually disasterously tightened the money supply. Dispite the fact that I beleive the FED should be eliminated, and despite the fact that I think Bernanke has gotten us into a dangerous position, his initial easing was exactly the right thing to do. If anything avoided a 1930’s style depression it was that.

        Lets say 20% of the banking system failed – this problem was confined almost exclusively to banks, particularly investment banks, as well as AIG that was insuring them. Most hedge funds, and other investment and financial institutions – even most banks were fine, some were excellent.
        Even some parts of the failing banks were highly profitable.
        Regardless, the market actually works. Presuming people have a need for and demand for the services that banks provide, if every bank in existancce failed tomorow – new ones would immediately spring up to take their place.

        Further Bankruptcy is not the end of the world.
        It does not usually mean sell everything for nothing and move on.
        It typically only means that when there is not sufficient marketplace demand – when the market is over crowed (think cars, or solyndra), and even then it usually just means downsizing.
        The likely end result of the bankruptcy of say BoA or CitiCorp would be the loss of shareholder equity – much of which had already occured. The courts selling off some assets and the bank emerging from bankruptcy, smaller, with less debt and solvent.

        TARP was the first mistake. Avoiding Bankruptcy (and later changing the rules of bankruptcy) was the next.

        The housing boom created mirage wealth, its collapse forced us to confront the fact that several trillion dollars worth of wealth created over 15 years was not real. The essential and only ingredient necessary for recovery and further growth, was to adjust for that. I will not deny that would have been painful – though an awful lot of the pain would have been to the very people OWS is protesting. The bailouts etc. did nothing for ordinary people.
        We lost jobs – and we were going to lose those jobs no matter what.

        Regardless of the fact that government stepped in much of the carnage occurred anyway. Government might have slowed the process but it did nothing to actually prevent it.

        While government action did little or nothing to mitigate the damage, the very same (and subsequent) actions were highly detrimental to recovery.

        TARP introduced too big to fail. Aside from the moral hazard, this also puts every economic institution that is not “Too Big to Fail” at an economic disadvantage. The collapse of insolvent institutions would have created the vaccuum for slightly smaller institutions to step in. Not only have we rewarded failure, but at the same time we are essentially punishing the very institutions that got things right. The ones that otherwise would have been growing and hiring – hiring exactly the people that lost their jobs.

        The Auto Bankruptcies obliterated the rule of law. Centuries old bankruptcy priorities were reversed at political whim. More importantly Bond holders were nearly wiped out. Most of us do not grasp the significance of this.
        GM and Chrysler bondholders were those people willing to lend money when things were going to hell and when there was a chance for them to survive. The loan money to poor risks at high interest with high collateral. For hundreds of years they step in knowing that even if everything goes to hell, they have the right to sell every paperclip if necescary to get paid.
        Bankruptcy normally places them before everyone else.
        It is done this way because the money from bonds allows most businesses to avoid bankruptcy most of the time.
        But this administration – in this instance Obama publicly and personally and said, this bankruptcy will not proceed that way. Other investors and creditors – particularly the unions and government will come first. Bond holders will get wiped out, just like shareholders.

        And you wonder why lending has locked up ?

        After that congress stepped in and we have added more laws and regulations, we have vastly increased government spending.

        In 2007 – the tail end of the profligate spending Bush era, the deficit was 161B – that is 1/10 what it is today. We were actually approaching a balanced budget.

        APACA did absolutely nothing to aide in this crisis.
        Dodd Frank does not address anything even vaguely related to anyones ideas of the causes of this mess – it does nto even address the fallacious left wing fairy tales. The CFPB does nothing related to repairing this. The stimulus provided BOTH parties with something to offer their base – but nothing that was actually helpful. Name a single aspect of the stimulus that really had anything to do with fixing the economy. The tax cuts were targeted – to exactly those places we know have no economic benefit. I am happy for mine, but I would rather my 2008 income back. The spending was not directed at those areas where jobs were lost. Everyone presumes good high paying jobs are fungible. If you were laid off a housing job, you can become an engineer, or teacher, or operate a backhoe. We actually increased demand for jobs in areas where there were no employment problems.

        Extending unemployment benefits infinitely is a well know job killer.
        It is easier to lay people off. People who are laid off typically do little to get another job until the last 6 weeks of their unemployement. more than 90% of those on Unemployment do not get a job until the last two weeks of unemployment.

        We lost multiple trillions of dollars worth of chimeral wealth. The only way to get it back was growth, and that was going to take years.
        In the meantime, the economy must shrink to its real size – not the illusory size with the fake wealth built in.
        Some businesses must fail. Some jobs must be lost or some wages must decline. Propping things up just delays the inevitable. Worse still it dealys the start of real growth.

        Just as Panic drives the market down fast, when things near bottom, those still possessing resources to invest grasp this is the time to build.
        I look arround me and I see houses that will easily go for 3 times what they are selling for right now – once the market recovers.
        I see houses worth 5-600K that I can buy for $150-200K that I could easily rent for 1500-1600/month in the meantime. But despite excellent credit, I can not borrow $150-200K. It is not that the money is not there, it is that the government has choked the financial system.

        Though oddly, at my current income level, I may well qualify for a subprime Fannie, Freddie, FHA.

        We have learned nothing. We are repeating exactly the same mistakes that got us into this mess. While there was a problem with “securitization” that allowed the housing problem to infect the financial system. The root causes of this was mispriced credit (the worst economic crisises always have credit at their root). a 1% increase in the interest rate for a subprime loan would have covered the increased risk. But we fail to grasp that credit is not something you are entitled to, it is something you earn.
        The price we are paying as a nation for extending unearned credit at with mispriced risk, is now even people with excellent credit can not borrow to create new jobs.

        I am not a pessimist. I see myriads of opportunities to profitably improve things. I will be happy to take risks and do the work necessary to make that happen. But government has crushed credit, and worse still prevents me from risking money from my IRA or …, and then when I succeed anyway, the OWS and TNM crowd will demand that in addition to creating wealth, and creating jobs, that I hand over much of what I make to the governemtn that failed us all.

        And you wonder why things are not picking up ?

      • October 18, 2011 4:10 pm

        Linked is a paper on “Creative Destruction”. Though Schumpeter is more focused on the ordinary destruction that is an inherent part of day to day market economies rather than systemic events the principles are the same.

        There is also much additional material on other aspects have commented on – like why we are far batter off today than we think we are – though in this paper the time scales are larger than 40 years.

        It should also be evident from reading this why all large businesses seek out the protection of government. At the start of the 20th century 1.5%/year of the largest corporations failed or fell out of their dominant position. Today more than 10% of the S&P are dropped each year. That is an average 10 year life span for the largest corporations.

        The article only lightly touches issues such as the technological displacement of jobs as well as free trade effects, but the logic and conclusions apply. The proccess of creative destruction inherent in free markets, destroys businesses and jobs – creating more, newer and better ones, and improving all of our standard of living at the same time. If you fixate on the losses, you miss the benefits.

        Click to access schumpevidence06.pdf

    • valdobiade permalink
      October 18, 2011 3:28 pm

      that some businesses “are too big to fail” is actually a theory. What I don’t understand is why a government should help private businesses not to fail and still not nationalize them?

      In Capitalism corporations can actually force the government to help them without being nationalized. The corporations threatens the government that if they are not helped, disaster will ensue… Seems to me that this kind of Capitalism is actually Communist dictatorship in disguise.

      Same “too big to fail” theory was used in my Communist country: “If the Communism will fail, there is nothing after that, just pure chaos”.

      • October 18, 2011 4:26 pm

        One of Hayek’s last chapters in the Road to Serfdom is the danger – both to themselves and to government of business, particularly big business. Contrary to most peoples belief very few big businesses want real free market capitolism. Now that they are Big, they wish to be “Too Big Too Fail” or at the very least they want to buy as much government regulation as they can to strangle competitors and disruptive innovation from below.

        While I would prefer that a business be allowed to fail naturally before it became too big to fail, it seems perfectly natural that
        if we conclude something is “systemically important” or “too big to fail” that we should advance policy that gets us past that. If something is so large that its failure would be catastrophic, and if that thing has failed requiring a government bailout, then the best policy would be to break it up so that its independent components are no longer systemically important or too big to fail.

        Yet we have done absolutely none of that.

        My prefered solution would be to just allow failure to happen.
        But given that government seems unable to do that, rather than compel companies to accept TARP money and bailouts, make bailouts available, but contingent on breakup and restructuring into smaller entities.
        There are serious inherent problems with that approach – but they are less than the problems with what we have done.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 18, 2011 10:21 pm

        valdo, i think we agree again. What is the world coming to!?

    • October 18, 2011 4:37 pm

      I think virtually everyone of whatever political ilk agrees the bailouts were horribly flawed. The only real question is whether a bailout or anything like it was necessary at all.

      Ignoring what I think is the better argument that they were a mistake and we were better off without them.

      There is the separate argument that they have done little but postpone the inevitable.
      If the financial crisis represented a structural problem within banking the problem will not be corrected until that problem is fixed. Whether you support or oppose the reforms that have occured – none have anything to do with what happened and none represent structural reform to the banking industry.

      Essentially we have fixed nothing, we have spent $1T to tread water for 3 years.
      Eventually we must figure out how to swim or we will sink.
      Even if you accept that the bailouts forestalled an immediate catastrophe – as they did nto fix any underlying problem they have only expensively bought time, and we have done nothing with it.
      Worse still we have sown the seeds for future crisis.

      Very few of us would be incredibly resentful of the wall street bailouts – had they actually worked. There would be no OWS. There probably would nto even be a Tea party if banks were lending and growth was 7% – normal on the rising side of a recession.

      The protests and anger regardless of how well informed it is, reflects the failure of our policies.

  57. Priscilla permalink
    October 18, 2011 11:50 pm

    Ian, the point of my comment was that you misinterpreted the Brooks column. He was not advocating redistribution. Seriously – David Brooks, a redistributionist? Come on.

    Nor was I “arguing” whether or not the banking system needed to be stabilized in 2008. That was almost indisputable. Whether TARP was implemented in the most effective way is highly disputable. And the decisions on which firms to bailout (Goldman-yes, Lehman- no) or how to structure the bailouts were extremely dicey. And, of course TARP was passed under the Bush administration- I have always stated that Bush and Obama are both corporatists.

    None of that, however, is particularly relevant to my comment, so I’m not sure why you brought it up. Brooks is saying that Americans are displeased, angry, frustrated, because bailouts have been used to reward the very people who have created the problems…or, at the very least, have done nothing to solve the problems that we have. That those who have been rewarded continue to be rewarded for all the wrong reasons, by a government that is filled with compromised and corrupt politicians of both parties.

    Oh, and I understand that you are supportive of Obama, and I am not. Your puerile insistence that that means that I “hate” the president is idiotic. I wondered whether it was politically wise for the president to support a movement that has been embraced by the American Nazi Party. I was pretty clear about that, and made no connection between Obama and the ANP other than that. If you were a reasonable guy, I’d say to cut the nonsensical crap. Instead, I’ll mostly ignore you.

    • October 20, 2011 6:04 pm

      All of us without progressive credentials that criticise the president are racists filled with hate.

      Of course Louis Faroukan can call the president an Assassin and Murderer (and far worse).

      I have found some common ground with Glenn Greenwald – despite the fact that we likely disagree on most all other issues politically, he has continued has opposition to this endless war, and similar nonsense despite a president otherwise close to his ideals.

      The ideological dishonesty of most of the left is readily apparent in their eloquent defence of the current administration over almost every issue they equally eloquently opposed during the bush administration. During the election John McCain was scathed as Bush’s third term. Yet on most issues Obama is Bush on steriods.

      What has changed ?

      We were fighting two wars. Obama started another. Both of the first two were supposed to be over in 9 months, or 18 or well never really. Whatever you did or said with respect to Bush and the Mideast – you should be doing the same now. If you supported the Bush policies you should support Obama’s. If you opposed them, if you were protesting in the streets, you should be there now. Yet attacks on the war culture have faded and are almost exclusively libertarian today.

      If you were upset with whitehouse and DOJ manipulation of the legal system – what has changed ?

      If you were upset about government secrecy – what was supposed to be the most transparent administration ever, is the most secretive.

      Bush expanded Medicare. Obama has APACA.

      Bush had TARP, Obama had TARP II.

      Bush spent far too much, Obama has increased the deficit more in 3 years than Bush in 8.


      There are some differences – but they are fairly trivial.

      Bush bashing was a national sport, even the mildest criticism of Obama is racist hate speech.

    • October 20, 2011 6:45 pm


      I will readily admit that in Sept. 2008 as the Stock market tumbled that I was scared. That when Bush initially proposed TARP, I tried really hard to convince myself it was a good idea, and even believed in it briefly. As originally framed there was even a vaguely market friendly reasonable germ of an idea. Treasury was originally authorised to use TARP funds to buy Mortgage Backed Securities from distressed banks. The idea being government could buy those securities at essentially firesale prices. The banks would get re-capitolised and eventually government would be able to resell the MBS’s for far more than it paid for them.
      That failed because the banks refused to sell the MBS’s for the price Treasury was willing to pay. That alone should have caused everyone to grasp that something different was wrong, that possibly the crisis had already past, or ….

      Bush, Paulson, Gietner, Bernanke, Obama, and myriads of other politicians claim they prevented financial armagedon. We have all accepted that claim at face value. There has been nearly no consideration of what really would have happened otherwise. There is an implicit presumption that government acting – must have been good, and inaction would have been bad. But there is no evidence. There is actually little evidence that TARP did much of anything. The freefall stopped before any monies were dispursed. The market had mostly stabilised by the election bottoming on Nov. 20. By January there had been a substantial recovery. The total loss for the year was 38% – just barely worse than the 37% loss in 2001.
      There was a second crash in March 2009, but this is more arguably caused by events in 2009.

      Some banks were obliterated – ask anyone who owned Wachovia stock.
      CitiBank had serious problems. BoA would have been in excellent shape but for being strong armed into buying Merrill Lynch. AIG likely would have failed. But it is atleast debateable, that TARP did little or nothing positive for the financial markets.

      It is entirely possible that TARP and a bevy of politicians saved the financial system and the world. But that claim is far from a fact.

      At that same time whether it did or not, Pres. Obama gets neither the credit nor the blame.
      He cast one vote for TARP in the Senate. He did not conceive of, and had little to do with most of the Bailouts. He primarily continued Bush policies as president. The exceptions being, that Gietner was responsible for reorganizing TARP into a loan program after the original plan to purchase MBS’s proved impossible. Bush provided small amounts (relatively) of TARP money to GM and Chrysler, Obama is responsible for using TARP to actually bail out the auto companies, and responsible to rewriting the rules of bankruptcy to screw over bondholders.

      Whatever good any of this may have done, it has also created significant moral hazard laying the seeds for the next crisis – whatever that is.

  58. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 19, 2011 9:56 am

    Priscilla, since I’ve called the Obama administration a failure several times and yesterday noted that we have been 11 years without an appropriate president I would say that the idea that I support Obama is pretty much out the window, eh? I don’t despise him either and he is the POTUS, I respect the office, its puerile of me I know but…

    As to you stringing Obama, Nazis and Communists into the same thought, well, talk about not being reasonable. Oh, innocent little Priscilla, you you didn’t really Mean anything by it. Sorry, that’s laughable, you put them together with a purpose, which was clear. Ignore me, fine, your postings that usually follow the latest conservative or GOP propaganda line make you worthy of ignoring, but your connecting the Nazis, Commies, and Obama (on TNM!) is far worse and not ignorable. Its Utterly Offensive, as are Dave’s apologies for it and his weird previous Nazi comments as well.

    As a glider pilot I’ll say that we look for thermals, air going up, and avoid downdrafts, air going down. Any politician does the same. The public, surprisingly to me, has a positive view of the basic complaints that the OWS makes, which means that they are ignoring the radical theater and seeing just the most basic outlines of the complaint. So, its not surprising that Obama and the dems would try to catch that thermal, they need a thermal. As far as you and other purely partisan types are concerned, Obama should just surrender now, anything he does is offensive and illegitimate to you. You have Obama derangement disorder, your Nazi-Obama post only underlines what was already clear..

    The Nazis, not to put to fine a point on it, are sick F***s, whose disturbed minds are looking for some weird angle in any situation to cause trouble. In their chaotic fashion they decided to get some publicity, not that their reasoning has any connection with reality. Here a far right movement decided to support a far left theater production that happens to be aimed in a fuzzy way at an appropriate target. Obama is not going to stop drinking water because Nazis and Commies drink it.

    I’ll admit your posts often rub me seriously the wrong way, but your Nazis-Commies-Obama association is really beyond the pale. I would not buy an idea from you if it were at a 120% discount.

    • October 20, 2011 7:08 pm

      Priscilla did not force the Nazi’s Comminists and Whitehouse to endorse OWS.
      Each of these groups made their own choices. They are tied together by those choices.

      There certainly were some extremely evil deviants among Nazi’s. Regardless, the Nazi party had the support of the majority of the German People. There were some very evil acts perpetrated not by German Nazi’s but by other fascists in Nazi occupied countries – such as eastern europe and scandanavia, or the Muslim SS Handschar Division.

      Forced sterilizations of Gypsy’s continued until 1989 in Czechoslovakia, sweden had a program of forced sterilization of the mentally ill until 1976, switzerland until 1987, the US until 1981, ….

      The USSR was responsible for the Katyn massacre.

      Most German’s were not sick F***s.

      It is important to remember what happened in Nazi Germany not because it was something unusual perpetrated by a bunch of sick F***s. But because it happened in a civilized western country, and it is possible most anywhere.

  59. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 19, 2011 10:05 am

    Here’s what your Nazi link brought me to Priscilla:

    “Racial Comrades: I am going to address the issue of this “Occupy Wall Street” fervor that has been sweeping the land like a breath of cleansing air!


    This issue is TAYLOR MADE for National Socialists, as well as WN who are serious about DOING SOMETHING – MORE – than shouting “racial slurs” and acting like “poster boys of hate” loons.

    After all – JUST WHO – are the WALL STREET BANKERS? The vast majority are JEWS – and the others are SPIRITUAL JEW materialists, who would sell their own mother’s gold teeth for a PROFIT. And MORE and MORE people are AWARE of this truth, are not only NOT afraid to TALK ABOUT IT – they’re shouting it on WALL STREET!”

    Thanks a lot for that enlightening link Priscilla. Yeah, the Nazis and Obama are just two peas in a pod.

    • October 19, 2011 11:05 pm

      As an otherwise foolish man once said in a moment of brilliant clarity, “Can’t we all just get along?”

      Even when I see hopeful signs of agreement here (e.g., over the David Brooks article) it seems we have to start splitting semantic hairs and finding new excuses for perpetuating the friction. Is Brooks a redistributionist, or does he think Americans are justly furious with a system that rewards chicanery with riches? (Does it matter? The news here is that a reasonable conservative with moderate tendencies is castigating Wall Street honchos for wrecking the American economy with impunity.)

      Do we automatically have to shun Occupy Wall Street because the American Nazis found a reason to endorse it? Do we have to stop drinking beer if the Nazis drink it? In other words, if the Nazis hate Jewish bankers, does it mean that Occupy Wall Street is an anti-Semitic movement? Of course not… but it’s a clue that we have to keep the movement from being commandeered by extremists on either flank. That’s a given with any radical movement that starts out with honorable intentions.

      It’s one thing to split hairs in an attempt to better define one’s own position. But then the hair-splitting turns personal, and before you know it we have an internal war on our hands.

      I’m not blaming any one person for these rifts; I know the give-and-take can spiral out of control until people start hurling stones at each other’s heads and other body parts. I know we each like to entertain our own definition of what a moderate should be. (And believe me, I get tired of having to defend my own moderate bona fides… I just don’t feel the need to take down my naysayers.)

      So let’s try to keep the conversation open and reasonably respectful. Arguing is fine; personal invective isn’t. If James Carville and Mary Matalin can get along, so can we.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 20, 2011 8:52 am

        I’m always willing to apologize, my testicles won’t fall off. So, I apologize.


        Linking the POTUS, any POTUS, whether he is our first African-American President or a rich Texan who was born on home plate, to Nazis or Stalin or any such very free use of the right to free speech is just the road to our American hell.

        I’ve lived in Russia, where there are no newspapers that we would recognize as such sold in the metro, no critics of the president are shown on TV and opposition leaders are arrested. And the Russians are Liberal compared to the Chinese. So, in one case you can’t say boo to the president and journalists may be shot or they unexpectedly commit “suicide.” In our case you can say anything you want anywhere any time about the President or our other politicians. You can call him a liar in Congress even Well, I can recognize that our system is better than the repressive one, but on some days I have to think hard before I say that. It seems that there is no level that one cannot sink below. Crude people do it crudely, intelligent people often do it more slyly.

        As well, my first wife was Jewish, my kids are therefore considered Jewish. Nazis are personal to me. Of nine kids in their family, only my kid’s maternal grandfather survived the Nazis. One day long ago my lab partner back in auto mechanic school and sometime pal, a big German kid, turned to me and said that Hitler messed up, he should have killed ALL the jews. Weren’t we both surprised, me that he said it, him that he found himself on the floor. My present wife’s son is in Israel. He served in the army there and has been in a shooting war. Jewish people and Nazis are not just a historical abstraction to me.

        These American Nazi idiots haven’t the sense of a head of cabbage between them and all their followers together would fit in a high school gym, but they parrot the words of the devil himself.

        They have nothing to do with any American President.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 20, 2011 9:27 am

        Rick, I think you know me well enough to know that I am not hateful towards anyone, and that my political opposition to Obama is not based on, nor does it translate into any sort of personal animosity….which would be ridiculous on its face anyway, since I do not know the man personally. So, for Ian to accuse me, as he did of “obsessively hating” the president is not only stupid, but offensive.

        Additionally, it has been widely reported in the press – mainstream and niche outlets alike – that OWS has attracted the support of practically every left-wing and radical group known to man, including the Communist Party USA, the Iranian governement, all sorts of anti-semitic and anti-Zionist groups and, yes , that organization which cannot be named, because, if I put it in the same comment with the name of Obama, Ian shalll flip out as if I said some sort of crazed right-wing nuttery thing, and somehow tied the two ideologically together.

        If you read my original comment, it is quite obvious that my point was to fret over the fact that the president’s support of a bunch of protests that are becoming increasingly discredited because of their radical ties might push the electorate further to the RIGHT! I was questioning Obama’s political judgment, and I think I made that pretty clear. In my opinion, Ian willfully misinterpreted my intent, so that he could support his narrative that I am a deranged Obama hater.

        Ian’s apology is to you, Rick, and not to me, but I do feel some obligation to explain to you why I would address any comment to another commenter personally, rather than in direct response to an issue or point that s/he made. I enjoy the debate and discussion here, but I believe that Ian crosses the line of civility and reason far too often, and makes personal accusations that, whether or not he feels they are warranted, are inappropriate. Nevertheless, I should not have taken the bait, and I will not do so in the future.

      • October 20, 2011 7:13 pm

        I strongly suspect Bush was connected to Nazi’s far more regularly than Obama has been. Though the media made little about it. Both Obama Nazi and Bush Nazi get about the same number of hits on google. Obama gets a small amount more on youtube.

      • October 20, 2011 7:24 pm


        I do not think either Obama or Bush were Nazi’s, or are anywhere near close.

        At the same time a more powerful federal government, particularly a more powerful executive, with more power in the hands of ANY president, diminishing respect for individual rights, is the route to whatever the American form of totalitarian state is.

        Pres. Obama is a statist. The Nazi’s were statists, as are the communists.

        Nazism is the german expression of socialism. That American Socialism would have a different character, does not make it good.

        Jew’s throughout the world chant – “never again”. I hope that is about more than the narrowest opposition to Hitlerian Nazism.

        If readers here desperately need to beleive Nazi are right wing statists rather than left – that does not matter much, any power you grant the left will eventually get exercised by the right and visa versa.

  60. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 20, 2011 10:05 am

    I knew many very well educated, intelligent and basically decent people at the University who had the Bush Derangement syndrome and none of them of course believed that they were anything but mild-mannered people saying reasonable things. At one department retreat the invited guest speaker started his slide presentation on the link between heart disease and a certain genetic mutation with five minutes of a political hit job on W Bush. He had the slide “Somewhere in Texas a village has lost its idiot.” Everyone thought it was funny except myself and the one conservative in the Department. None of those people of course hated Bush personally, they hated his politics, his background, his words, his facial expressions, but not him.

    Perhaps I should just rationalize this, a person who chooses to link a Nazi website into the discussion gets what they get, I’ve actually tried to pull my punches and I edited words out of my posts that I thought were too strong. A person who can hang with what Limbaugh puts out and think of him as a modern P.T. Barnham has certainly been exposed to a lot worse than anything I have (ever) said. Ah but I’m rationalizing again.

    It seems to me from all you have said here Priscilla that somehow you went on a journey and you changed from a moderate person who moderated web forums to a person who radiates anger when Obama is mentioned and brings Nazi links to TNM. Perhaps I have misjudged or misinterpreted you. The person who knows what you really think is you and that is the person who it matters most to. I fight the political derangement syndrome when I see it, not a person I’ll never meet. If there is no accuracy in my perception, it should have little sting. If it stings, ask why?

    In any case, I apologize, Priscilla, and suggest that apologizing for bringing the Nazi party into the discussion might be in order.

    • Priscilla permalink
      October 20, 2011 10:36 am

      Apology accepted. I fear I must disappoint you on the Nazi thing though.

      I am not afraid of words, and I think that, in the context of my comment, mentioning the Nazi party was appropriate. Ironically, I added that link specifically to prevent you, in particular, from accusing me of making wild and untrue accusations ( not that you ever accuse me of anything ;)). I actually thought that it would be helpful. Lord knows, I do not personally frequent the ANP site. I got the link from Mediaite and added it, innocently enough, thinking that it would back up my statement.

      I will apologize for taking your incorrect assumptions about me personally and for overreacting. This is just an internet web site, after all. You do not know me at all, and I do not know you. If your reading of my opinions leads you to believe that I am an angry fanatic….well, that’s the way it goes. I try to word my opinions carefully and rationally. But I write what I write, and you can read into it whatever you want.

      I am not sure why you think that criticism of Obama = “radiating anger,” because, the fact is I am far from an angry person….about anything. I do not hate Obama. I think that he is a weak and ineffective president. The reason that I did not vote for him was because I did not believe that he had the background or experience to be a good executive, and I believe, unfortunately, that I turned out to be right about that. But hate him? Nah, I don’t waste my energy on hate.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 20, 2011 10:52 am

        oh, and FYI, moderating forums was something I did for a few hours a week, mostly for fun, and a little profit. It was never my career, and, in any case, I moderated mostly sports forums. I’ve had several careers over the course of my life, but I would not consider that to be one. It does give me pause, however, to realize that I probably would have deleted some of my own comments here (as argumentative and personal) back in the day, lol.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 20, 2011 11:05 am

        Nicely done, Priscilla, Thanks.

        I guess we more or less agree about Obama being weak. I thought he would be a Jimmy Carter and he IS a Jimmy Carter. I did vote for him. It really does not matter who I vote for, the Vermont electoral votes go to the Dem. every time. If I want my vote to potentially count I’d need to move to a swing state.

      • October 20, 2011 10:16 pm

        I thought Obama would be a JFK (without the blemishes) and he turned out to be a Jimmy Carter. So much for my ability to pick ’em. Maybe he’ll be a better ex-president (like Jimmy).

        Ian and Priscilla: Glad to see that you’ve declared a truce. It always bothers me when good people (and you’re both good people) resort to verbal fisticuffs. Thanks for having the guts and goodwill to make peace with each other. Now we can start attacking the extremists again!

  61. October 20, 2011 7:33 pm

    While this is a Wall Street Journal editorial its author is a democratic pollster strongly suggesting a democratic embrance of OWS would be a big mistake.

    Almost 1/3 advocate violence, and to the extent they are coherent they are strongly on the far political left.

    • October 20, 2011 10:24 pm

      Dave: This is precisely why it’s important for moderates to get involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement. I don’t think even you take issue with their main goal: to get money out of politics. That should be the primary goal of any populist movement in this country — right, left or center. We have to stop Wall Street and corporations — or any special interest, for that matter — from buying influence over our elected representatives.

      So far, OWS has been a peaceful crew. I know from my experience on Twitter that the movement includes a motley assortment of extremists as well as a solid core of decent middle-class people who are simply fed up with government of the plutocrats, by the plutocrats, for the plutocrats. I’m all in favor of a good cleansing of the system, which is why I cautiously support OWS. But I’m keeping an eye open for the ideologues who would bend the movement to fulfill their agendas.

      • October 21, 2011 1:51 am

        Very often we do not disagree on ends, just means. The most fundamental distinction between libertarians and liberals is means, and the basis of the distinction is rights. For the left rights are merely an impediment to their ends.

        I am fully prepared to take power from government as the means of achieving the ends of reducing the influenced of money. I am willing to investigate and throw politicians in jail when you can prove there was a quid pro quo.
        But I am unwilling to jail politicians that favour unions because the received donations from unions.

        I am not particularly willing to take the media’s views on whether OWS is peaceful. There has been no violence at Tea Party events – yet the media portrays them as violence just waiting to errupt. The Anti-Walker rallies had myriads of unreported violent incidents – yet they were portrayed as peaceful.

        The left has always had a dynamic tension between Ghandi and Marx. Between Martin Luther King and The weather Underground.

        With the exception of the Murrah bombing political violence in the US has been almost the exclusive domain of the left.

        I am not at NYC and see little besides what the media shows. We have a local OWS splinter group where I am. While they are harmless – art school students occupying a park built specifically for them in the first place, that is where they have normally congregated for years, the only thing new being a few tents and some signs – they are also decidedly not middle aged nor middle class.

        I think you and the media have false delusions that OWS represents a significant counter to the Tea Party.

        Whatever you may think about the Tea Party – they are angry middle class middle aged people not normally provoked to political activity. I think the last time you saw something like that was 1776.

        I do not have a dog in some OWS fight. Mostly they disappoint me.
        I am never opposed to free speech.

        But I think you are going to be let down by OWS.

  62. AMAC permalink
    October 20, 2011 10:59 pm

    I look at the movement and don’t see a future in it, but thought the same when I saw grown adults wearing tea bags on their heads and some dresses for a a revolutionary war re-enactment. When you look at how the tea party has grown for the ridiculous public outing they started with, maybe the protests could grow into a more organized movement. I have never been one to protest (maybe just too lazy!), but I do share their anger. I think the political playing field has to be leveled to allow a more diverse, acurately representative government. Rich white lawyers should not make all the decisions! I am not against a white or wealthy representative, but would like to see the country more acurately represented. We see election after election where billions are spent to ensure the status quo continues. Money is not itself evil, but it can make being evil much easier (and profitable).

    • Priscilla permalink
      October 21, 2011 12:55 am

      I do not share their anger. Here’s the thing: I have 3 children, all with considerable student debt. That is despite the fact that my husband and I devoted a majority of our life savings and most of our inheritance from our parents (not rich parents, mind you, but parents of a generation that believed that leaving something behind was more important than spending it on themselves) to giving our kids the best education possible. I don’t know how many of the commenters here have children of college age (I’m thinking that it is not many), but I can attest to the fact that spending $50-60K p/yr for undergraduate and another $50-60K for grad/law/med school, resulting in a total bill of of close to a half million dollars, with no employment opportunities that justify that expenditure, is not an uncommon situation.

      Would we have done things differently if we had known what a sham today’s higher education system was? Absolutely. Do I think that the government owes my kids forgiveness of their debt? No. They are all bright and ambitious and, although they carry a burden of debt that I consider unfair, they accept the obligation that they have taken on.

      • October 21, 2011 1:59 am

        It is a far different thing when adults, with jobs, responsibilities, and children get angry, get politically active, and protest.

        OWS to my eyes seems mostly college kids doing what college kids do. It is a bit surprising because we have seen too little of this type of activism for several decades.

        Further to whatever extent people are blaming Wall Street – they are blaming Washington more. OWS and the left miss that.

      • October 21, 2011 2:16 am

        My children went through 5 years of public school. My daughter was adopted from China at two, she has had developmental issues, and struggled to stay in the top quarter of her class. She have 5 excellent teachers that understood that with a little special attention she would thrive. Then she hit “the team of teachers from hell”. We tried to work with the administration – they were incredibly sympathetic, but left all power with the teachers. We tried to work with the teachers. They made it perfectly clear that they were going to do as they please, and that was discard my daughter. We started cyber-charting her as it was the only legal option we could afford on short notice. We are not “Tiger-parents”, We push our kids hard, but we push them mostly where they want pushed.

        She is now in high school. She is taking honors courses. She is getting a better education that I did 40 years ago, and she just received her scores on statewide standards tests, She is in the top 3% in everything.

        We are older parents. We are trying to make ends meet, save for our impending retirement – in two years the local diner will let me order off the seniors menu – I am not ready to be called a senior yet. We are trying to save for our kids education. And everytime I turn around the government has its hand out for more.

        Having seen several really good teachers, I respect what teachers do. Having had to teach my children and knowing I am not very good at it, I respect it more. Having had to deal with bad teachers, I have little sympathy for a profession that can not deliver and can not police its own.

    • Priscilla permalink
      October 21, 2011 6:48 am

      I should have clarified that I don’t understand their anger at Wall Street…or their anger at rich people. I agree that much of OWS’s energy is fueled by college kids and recent college graduates, heavily in debt and without good job prospects. So, I do understand that they are angry and fearful. They probably should be camping out on college campuses, protesting the outrageous tuitions……or demanding that financial aid regulations be reformed to be more fair to middle class students. Or trying to get jobs on Wall Street so that they can afford their loan repayments.

  63. October 21, 2011 2:19 am

    Harry Reid’s recent comments on employment.

  64. October 21, 2011 2:36 am

    Having just completed my 2010 taxes, I note that our families income dropped 300% last year.

    My father-in-law died in 2010 and I only had one client. I am self-employed so I can not collect unemployment.

    We cut spending – to the bone. I am almost a vegetarian – and not by choice, or beliefs.
    Though we still gave as much both in money and more importantly in time to charity as before.

    I am not looking for sympathy. But I have no sympathy for government that consumes more than 40% of what I create, demands ever more, and claims as a cut a reduction in the rate of spending increases.

    If the federal government cut spending half as much as I have in the past year, the budget would be balanced.

    I am part of three businesses, my has one, and is employed as a public defender. Not one of our businesses mode money last year. But I hope that one day (soon) they will. It may take several years, but eventually I expect that between the two of us, we will have a few years where we manage $250K/year. If I am lucky or unlucky I am not sure which, that will happen just as my kids hit college. I will briefly be one of the despised rich and most here are prepared to take the lions share of those few good years.

  65. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 21, 2011 11:33 am

    I’ve three kids, one still in a fancy art school, one graduated from a fancy private school, one did not quite graduate and will hopefully some day go back to finish. I pay my own student loan bill, a bill for loans taken out for my eldest and send money each month to the fancy art school. When that is done I will try to help the ungraduate finish up.

    After finishing my doctorate in my field its expected to do a post doctorate if you want to get a job. In about my second year of study Science Magazine wrote an editorial stating that people presently entering my field of doctoral study had such poor chances of getting a job when finished that they should just consider the experience as part of one’s life experience, rather than an actual profession. I don’t even want to put down the figure here that I borrowed. The NIH post doc paid, if I remember $32,000, in the first year and rose gradually to $40,000.

    My son in law is finishing a 2 year associates degree in Riadiography. He will make $50,000 or better when he graduates and be in demand, could work anywhere.

    Oh, boy, educational choices matter.

    Had I chosen to complete a 6 year (including undergrad) in pharmacy instead of a doctorate, I’d be worth a nice steady 100,000+ and be in huge demand. Actually just skipping grad shool and becoming a lab tech instead or a Ph.D leads to excellent salaries after a few years, sometime quite a bit better than what the highly educated geeks are getting with all their student debt.

    Yeah, I probably would make a different choice now!

    As to the costs, I have some personal insight from my family. My father was the Commissioner of Higher education for a large midwestern state and then the head of a California system. Education, to put it mildly, is his passion. He is enraged at what has happened to tuition. A large part of the explanation is ….. infrastructure, buildings, athletic fields, etc. Wealthy donors give big bucks and want a building named after them. So buildings sprout like mushrooms. Later, one has to pay to heat, clean, maintain those facilities. I may be muddling this but I believe that dad told me that Princeton pays more just to heat their campus than some other colleges pay for all expenses. Many schools will no longer accept donations for a building without a fund also being set up to pay the maintenance in the future.

    When my eldest, who was captain of her fencing team and an honors student ran out of money in her last year, the school just held us upside down and shook us till we found it, there was no help from them.

    The most popular undergraduate majors last time I checked were Political Science, psychology and biology.

    Did you ever meet an actual “political scientist”? Me neither.

    A big part of the solution in my opinion: Kids should not enter college until they are ready, not at 18, they need time to mature and think a bit about who they are and why they need an education. Try telling that to any of them though at 17-18, the big college party is beckoning, their friends are all off to that party, they are not about to stop and think and the schools sure don’t want them to do that either.

    Its mostly huge impersonal forces at work, (there’s that invisible hand again) but there are some actual villains too, student loan originators being one of the worst. Nor are schools at all forthcoming about the value of their specific degrees, they need warm bodies, they do NOT encourage taking some time to think rationally about an education by the victim.

    I could write about this one all day.

    • Priscilla permalink
      October 21, 2011 6:11 pm

      I agree with you that choices matter, as do obligations. The cost of an undergraduate degree today is way, way out of whack with the opportunities and salaries available to graduates. My older son graduated from a top 50 ranked law school, after graduating from an elite undergraduate school – I clearly remember his law school admission letter stating that 90% of graduates were employed within 6 months of graduation, at an average salary of $85K. Unfortunately for his class, they graduated in 2009, after the economic meltdown, and that 90% at $85K became 40% at $45K. As it happens, after passing the bar in 3 states, he chose not to practice law and is a writer for a well-known web site and has recently become a partner in a start-up marketing firm. So he is pretty happy with his lot. But, many of his law school classmates, many of whom borrowed $50-100K based on assurances of a six-figure income after graduation, are pretty pissed about the job market, and there has been talk at many law schools of class action suits by recent former students about the false claims made to students in order to get those warm bodies (and cold cash). The truth is that there are way too many lawyers in this country right now, but the law schools keep recruiting and churning out young attorneys who are unable to find work in the legal profession.

      Greed and corruption exist everywhere. It’s not just Wall Street and Big Business….I guess that is part of what bothers me most about the demagoguery that singles out just the financial sector.

      • Priscilla permalink
        October 21, 2011 6:53 pm

        Heh, I just realized how obnoxious I may have sounded in describing my son’s schools….my original point was to say that he could have done what he is doing now for a fraction of the cost, had he gone to state schools, where he would have been eligible for full merit scholarships. His experience at his fine liberal arts college was wonderful, but if we knew then what we know now, we would have made different choices.

      • October 21, 2011 7:38 pm

        My wife graduated Suma/Law review/… from a top five law school more than 10 years ago. She had numerous upper 5 figure lower 6 figure offers to start. She was in contention for a clerkship with a Supreme Court feeder judge – you clerk for them before clerking for a justice. She did end up clerking for a federal judge – federal judicial clerk is a prestigious position. Then a local judge, and is now a public defender. After 10 years at the PD’s office, she is making 2/3 of what she was offered by numerous firms right out of law school. We still have significant student loans to pay back. There is actually a loan forgiveness program that applies to public interest lawyers – but she graduated to many years ago to qualify.

        Regardless, she is doing what she loves. It is a very tough job – particularly losing all the time – almost all cases are over charged, and once in a while she gets a client that is actually innocent.

        But what I remember was that very very few of her law school classmates were there because they loved law. The overwhelming majority were there for the money and hated the work. Most working lawyers are unhappy with their jobs.

    • October 21, 2011 7:21 pm

      I have tripped over studies that claim that student loans have driven up the cost of college in much the same way that subsidising housing loans was a factor in the run up of housing prices, and subsidising the cost of medical care has run up the cost of healthcare.

      Here is a NYT article suggesting as much with respect to Pell Grants.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 21, 2011 10:51 pm

        That idea is not unreasonable to me in principle. Doesn’t mean I’d do away with them if I ran the world, but the basic idea seems plausible.

        BTW, one small area of overlap I actually have with libertarians is school choice. Students should not be fit into one prescription, Its harmful to many (Me! My son too!). Yep, I said it, agree with the Libertarians on school choice. Strongly.

    • October 21, 2011 7:28 pm


      Did you pursue a profession because it was what you wanted or because of the money ?

      My resume is excellent. I get calls most every day from people looking to pay me atleast 6 figures – if I will relocate to NYC, Seattle, Texas, California, …

      I live in a home I designed and built – mostly myself.
      I have no boss. I have clients. I work from home. I see my children all the time. I have my dog in my office.

      The tradeoff is much less money.

      Liberty includes the freedom not to pursue money.

      I am constantly reciting the mantra that Money is not Wealth. That wealth is what we need and want. My wealth is working for myself from home, on work I love with my family close by, in my house, …..
      I would not trade that for 3 times the money – and I receive that offer all the time.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 21, 2011 10:53 pm

        Yeah, I admit, we are strangely similar in some ways. I have two dogs in MY office. No one calls from NY though.

  66. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 7, 2011 9:57 am

    From Newsweek, this opinion piece describes the economic situation in the terms that I have come to believe. Didn’t want to post it in the Huntsman thread but i hope it does not get overlooked.

    Budget Fairy Tales, Left and Right
    By Robert Samuelson
    WASHINGTON — Let’s banish the budget fictions of left and right.
    The supercommittee — the 12 members of Congress charged with devising a plan to close mammoth deficits — cannot succeed without public support for its proposals. And public opinion won’t come along if it embraces fairy tales.
    The conservatives’ fiction is: We can reduce deficits and cut taxes by eliminating “wasteful spending.”
    The liberals’ fiction is: We can subdue deficits and raise social spending by taxing “the rich” and shrinking the bloated Pentagon.
    You will notice one similarity. Both suggest that reducing deficits involves little real pain. No one, after all, favors “wasteful spending.” Similarly, taxing “the rich” doesn’t threaten most people who aren’t rich. Liberals and conservatives alike can reconcile all good things: fiscal rectitude (for both), tax cuts (for conservatives) and high social spending (for liberals). I wish it were so.
    It isn’t.
    Before explaining why, here’s a caveat. Liberal and conservative budget experts generally don’t endorse these myths. No one who studies the budget could. Still, politicians and partisan propagandists popularize them.
    Start with conservatives. Where exactly is all the waste?
    True, many government programs deserve the ax. I’ve railed against some for years: farm subsidies (food would be produced without them); Amtrak (it is non-essential transportation); public broadcasting and culture subsidies (these are unaffordable frills); community development block grants (they generally don’t enrich poor communities).
    Entitlements — mainly Social Security and Medicare — should be trimmed. I’ve also made that a crusade. We need higher eligibility ages to reflect longer life expectancies. Wealthier retirees should receive less Social Security and pay more for Medicare.
    But plausible savings don’t match conservative rhetoric. All the suspect “discretionary” programs come to tens of billions, not hundreds of billions. Culture subsidies total about $1 billion annually; community block grants in 2010 were $4 billion. Meanwhile, total federal spending was $3.5 trillion. Do conservatives really want to eliminate the national parks? The FBI? Highways? Food inspections?
    Social Security and Medicare savings could be greater. In 2010, these programs cost $1.2 trillion. But there’s a catch. Savings from lower individual benefits will be offset by more beneficiaries: retiring baby boomers. By 2025, Medicare and Social Security enrollment will rise 50 percent from 2010.
    Next, the liberal fiction. Contrary to liberal dogma, the rich already pay plenty of taxes. Indeed, they pay for government. In 2007, the richest 1 percent of Americans paid 28 percent of all federal taxes; the richest 10 percent (including the 1 percent) paid 55 percent.
    For most millionaires, federal tax rates — the share of income taxed — exceed 30 percent. Some rich have lower rates. Raising these rates is justified but wouldn’t balance the budget. The plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a 5.6 percentage point surtax on incomes exceeding $1 million would raise an estimated $453 billion over 10 years. Deficits over the decade are realistically projected at $8.5 trillion.
    As for the Pentagon, the military was cut sharply after the Cold War. Combat forces are half to two-thirds 1990 levels. Defense spending as a share of national income is headed toward its lowest level since 1940.
    What liberals don’t say is this: Unless Social Security and Medicare benefits — the bulk of the budget — are reduced, we face three dismal choices. Huge, unsustainable deficits. Massive tax increases on the middle class, as high as 50 percent over 10 to 15 years. Or draconian cuts in the discretionary programs that liberals accuse conservatives of wanting to gut.
    Since 1971, federal spending has averaged 21 percent of national income (gross domestic product). Even with aggressive cuts, spending may never again fall this low. The reason: the surge in retirees. Meanwhile, taxes averaged 18 percent of GDP over those years, leaving average annual deficits of 3 percent. The take-away for both liberals and conservatives is repugnant: they need to identify the most justifiable spending cuts — lots of them — and the least damaging tax increases, which will still be sizable.
    They need to come clean with reality. For years, they’ve exuded self-serving platitudes. Conservatives should acknowledge that Big Government is a permanent part of the social fabric and that much of what it does is popular. It needs to be financed. Liberals should concede that Big Government can become so big that its crushing taxes weaken the middle class and economic growth. Government then promotes conflict and degrades social justice.
    The supercommittee cannot solve America’s budget problems with one sweeping plan. It cannot remedy runaway health costs or streamline the complex income tax. These large tasks will be left to the next president and Congress. But it can elevate popular understanding by proposing a plan justified by a vision of government’s collective responsibilities and the public’s reciprocal obligations.

  67. thedrpete permalink
    November 7, 2011 11:26 am

    Re: budget “fairy tales”:

    Try this, Ian. Eliminate the U.S. Departments if Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health & Human Services, Homeland Security (uncluding its FEMA), Housing & Urban Development, Interior (90%), Justice (40%), Labor, State (60%), Transportation (8i0%). What’s eliminated violates Article 1 Section 8. Eliminate thousands of U.S. acronym agencies and their millions of regulations unless they pass the “necessary AND proper” test (99+% are likely to fail).

    Sunset Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and all welfare programs (whether corporate or individual, foreign or domestic). I have formulae for this.

    Withdraw troops from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Western Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan and return them home. Deploy some immediately to our borders and coasts to protect and defend Americans. Replace most over two years, replacing with lasers and drones, with a military contingent to manage.

    This would be a restoration of the rule of law with the Constitution as supreme law of the land to replace what has become an administrative bureaucracy with rule of men, of momentum and inertia, without checks and balances, without representation, without separation of powers, and with obliteration of unalienable individual rights.

    FYI, the top 1% of earners pay 39% of all federal income taxes while the top 25% pay 86%.

  68. March 20, 2012 9:11 am

    When I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there a means you are able to remove me from that service? Thank you!

  69. May 2, 2013 4:06 pm

    Occupy what? The groups involved have no clear agenda and I am saying they where created to help Obama win re-election and it worked brilliantly.

  70. January 23, 2014 6:30 am

    I really blog too and I’m publishing a thing alike to this blog post, “Occupy Wall Street Not for Lefties Only | THE NEW MODERATE”.
    Do you mind in the event Iapply a little of your own suggestions?
    Thanks -Bernice

  71. Antipasties permalink
    October 15, 2016 6:50 am

    Sheesh…I wonder who reads this Wall Street twaddle…right down to the very end, the very very end…?


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