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Jon Huntsman and the Munsters

November 2, 2011

The Munsters: lovable in their vintage sitcom, but a little too much like the current crop of GOP presidential candidates. Guess which one is Huntsman?

Funny how the mind works: I was making preparations for Halloween earlier this week and ended up thinking about GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. Let me try to explain the connection, because I assure you there is a connection.

I was filling a tray of goodies for the local trick-or-treaters when I started reminiscing about The Munsters. No surprise there. Everyone of a certain age remembers that short-lived ’60s sitcom about the endearingly ghoulish family who lived in the decaying mansion at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. There was Herman Munster, the goofball Frankenstein monster lookalike, and his vampirish better half, Lily. Her father, known simply as Grandpa, was a plump Transylvanian count who sounded something like former New York Mayor Ed Koch. The couple’s young son, Eddie, had vaguely pointy ears and a hairline that suggested latent werewolf tendencies.

Then there was Marilyn, a poor relation who happened to be a comely but otherwise conventional blonde of college age. The other Munsters pitied Marilyn. They confided to one another that such an ungainly lass would never land a boyfriend, but they treated her with the delicate respect that well-meaning souls generally reserve for the severely handicapped.

You can safely conclude that Marilyn was the least popular member of the cast. In fact, when the original Marilyn quit midway through the first season and another young blonde actress took her place, hardly anyone noticed. Everyone was so smitten by the more grotesque Munsters that poor Marilyn barely registered on the radar.

Now can you see why I started thinking about Jon Huntsman? It should be obvious: he’s Marilyn Munster. No disrespect to his manly credentials. No disrespect at all, in fact. It’s just that the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls looks increasingly like a collection of monstrosities from the old Universal Studios back lot. Rick Perry, the hirsute Texan who denies evolution and makes George W. Bush look like a Fulbright Scholar. Herman Cain, the singing pizza tycoon with the gimmicky 9-9-9 plan and the badly handled sexual harassment rap. Slick Mitt Romney, the shape-shifting pod-person who never met a prinicple that couldn’t be modified for higher poll ratings. Then we have Ron Paul, the gnomish ideologue, the libertarian Yoda of the bunch. Newt Gingrich, about two-thirds as brilliant as he’d like us to believe, and even more ruthless. Rick Santorum, another fellow who gives us Ricks a bad name. And of course Michele Bachmann, who’s just too scary to contemplate. Excuse me while I pull the nearest blanket over my head.

Huntsman: Is he too normal to win Republican support in today's grotesque political climate?

Then we have good Jon Huntsman. A rational conservative with moderate tendencies… armed with a mindbogglingly impressive resume that includes experience as governor, corporate executive, ambassador and (can you believe it?) rock musician. Not a hyperpartisan. Worked for four presidents (three Republicans and Obama). Speaks Chinese. Not averse to science and evolution. Telegenic, sharp and articulate, with an engaging (if sometimes peculiar) sense of humor. A little too pro-business for my liking… but unquestionably a first-rate man, and exactly the kind of candidate the Republicans should be nominating.

So where do we find Jon Huntsman ranking in the current GOP polls? Dead last, of course, with between one and two percent support. With all those Munsters hogging the screen at the Republican debates, Hunstman looks too sensible, too bland, too Marilyn. He’s obviously out of his element… and, given the comically grotesque qualities of the other GOP candidates, you’d think that would be a good thing. But it’s not. How can he possibly compete with that Munsterish crew?

The Republican faithful are clamoring for someone who will let out a few war whoops and stir up the base. Huntsman is simply too rational, too intelligent, too normal, too genteel to rouse today’s foaming-at-the-mouth conservatives. Yep, he’s Marilyn Munster all right.

Just as Marilyn couldn’t vie for attention with the more outlandish members of her clan, Huntsman can’t seem to make himself heard over the squawking extremists, kooks and slickers who currently dominate the Republican field. And maybe that’s for the best.

After all, a presidential race between Obama and Huntsman would present thinking Americans (and especially moderates) with a real dilemma: the decent, intelligent, benevolent but hopelessly stymied incumbent versus the decent, intelligent, benevolent but relatively untested challenger from Utah. Both are devoted family men, members in good standing of the establishment, unlikely to galvanize us with outside-the-box remedies for our current ills. It would be a choice between two worthy but fundamentally conventional men. As I said, a real dilemma for thinking voters.

But run any of the other Republican hopefuls against Obama, and I’d shudder at the possibility that one of them could take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. (They’d fit in better at 1313 Mockingbird Lane along with Herman, Lily, Grandpa and Eddie.) I’d look past Obama’s rudderless leadership, his dithering, his lack of clout in Congress, his unkept promises, his emotional remoteness, his peculiar amalgam of liberal sensibilities and excessive coziness with Wall Street. Then I’d think about the alternative — a bona fide Munster in the White House — and wouldn’t hesitate for a second to press the button next to the name of our beleaguered president.

160 Comments leave one →
  1. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 3, 2011 8:56 am

    Rick, When the Arizona shootings occurred Obama made a speech. (I didn’t see it, actually I’ve almost never seen him speak unless I was in an airport) but according to a poll I saw, 70% of Republicans polled liked his speech. Which fact I used to argue to GOP haters that most members of the Grand old party are not actually hateful loonies. But they are not the core, the primary voters, the talk radio fans. The primary voters are mostly another breed. Registered republicans make up 30% of the voters. Among the 30% (but not all of them) who were immune to Obama’s Arizona speech are the voters who are, according to me and you, nuts. Do the math, its less than 9% of the voters, the ultraconservatives or downright right wingers who would diss Obama if he balanced the budget and created world peace.

    That group will have the most influence in choosing the GOP candidates. I’d say they have a disproportionate influence on our politics.

    As well, you left out Romney, a big omission. I suppose Romney should be getting 70% of the GOP support based on my logic, this indicates to me that there is a big group of GOP voters out there who are too conservative for Romney, but not so conservative that they dissed Obama’s Arizona speech. So, I break the republican party down into 25% moderate republicans (Romney and Huntsman supporters) 30% very conservative or right wing, and 45% somewhere between those GOP poles.

    In the next year we will hear from the furthest right group of the GOP and hear rhetoric directed at them to a sickening extent, it will appear at times that they are America itself.

    Funny system, eh?

    • November 3, 2011 3:39 pm

      Ian: The wingnuts have an advantage, though they’re small in number: they have a major network (Fox News), the rest of the Murdoch empire, Koch Bros. money and “populist” pundits like Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity all fanning the flames for them. If only Toto would pull the curtain aside and reveal the little man behind it. (Well, OK, there’s more than one man, and they’re not so little.)

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 5, 2011 10:54 am

        See the chapter about Trumans reelection in “Independent Nation” if you want hope for Obama.

      • November 7, 2011 6:55 pm


        You do understand that you can not be both small in number and “populist”.
        Estimates of Limbaugh alone listeners range from 12 to 30Million. That is 1 in 10 americans. Further these people vote.

        Left wing talk radio has been an abysmal failure.

        I think most viewers and listeners of Fox, Talk Radio, as well as MSNBC know what they are getting.

        Disclaimer – I do not watch TV News, very little TV, and little talk radio. To the minimal extent that I do. I find little difference between say Rachel Maddow and Rush Limbaugh. The media as a whole tilts almost universally to the left. Fox is just slightly right of center – both in my own observations and most studies.

        The Koch’s are more libertarian than conservative – though nobody here seems to grasp the difference, they contribute far more to other charities such as healthcare and cancer research than politics, and they are dwarfed by the political contributions of Sorros.

      • November 7, 2011 7:05 pm


        I strongly suspect that Obama may be re-elected. The GOP appears unable to put forward a strong and credible candidate. Romney is just the Republican version of Obama – though I do not think he can win the GOP nomination – there are far too many people who want anyone but Romney – myself included.

        But I suspect Obama will have no coatails. The GOP would do better at all other levels with a strong presidential candidate.

        I expect the GOP to solidify control of the house and strengthen its position in the senate, if not gain control.

        Given that we are not going to get a candidate from other party that is actually appealing (and I find this is the norm), then we will have gridlock.

        Contrary to most here particularly. I think gridlock is a positive state. There is virtually nothing new government needs to do. What does need done should be so compelling that both parties agree. Very little could be better for our economy than a gridlocked federal government. We are currently suffering the hangover from two years of democratic governance.

        For the most part i expect to be voting against incumbents.

      • Jesse C permalink
        November 7, 2011 8:12 pm

        Dave, if Fox News is slightly right of center in your observations, what or who exactly would you consider further or significantly right-wing?

        I ask that question seriously, just trying to better understand your perspective.

    • November 7, 2011 6:39 pm

      You have discovered that those people who vote have a disproportionate influence on government.

      Regardless of which party why is that a problem ?

      I recall some time ago reading that the sign of a mature stable trustworthy democracy is a lack of participation.

      Most of us have a very dim view of government today – but few of us vote. Rick periodically makes the claim that we are more partisan than ever – apparently he is not familiar with the political partisanship of our founders. Yet few of us vote. In young democracies people vote. In unstable countries people vote. The lack of electoral participation is a sign that whatever we think may be wrong with our government – it is not so wrong we beleive it to be an imminent threat to our livelihood.

      Regardless, it you wish to change this country – vote. I read elsewhere that a reliable voting block as small as 10% or voters, is large enough to exert substantial political influence. This is why OWS is meaningless and the Tea Party important. OWS is a small group of non-voters protesting – I am glad that young people are engaged in civic protests – regardless of whether I agree, but Tea Party members vote.

      • Jesse C permalink
        November 7, 2011 8:15 pm

        Dave: “The lack of electoral participation is a sign that whatever we think may be wrong with our government – it is not so wrong we beleive it to be an imminent threat to our livelihood”

        This is a very good point, but I think the reason that greater voter participation is seen in younger and less stable democracies is because those people have not yet been disillusioned of the idea that their vote will matter.

        Maybe I just need to eat something and brighten up. 🙂

  2. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 3, 2011 9:02 am

    OK, you did not leave Romney out, but you just described him as a normal politician and did not hit the reason the GOP base are not with him, he’s too Liberal!

    • November 3, 2011 3:44 pm

      Yeah, he’s too liberal for the party “base.” You’d think I’d prefer a moderate like Romney at the top of the Republican ticket, but he strikes me as more of an insincere opportunist than a principled moderate. Maybe I’ve been judging him too harshly, but he just doesn’t seem like my kind of moderate. To my mind, anyone who runs for president at this point has to be committed to getting money out of politics (i.e., making it illegal for representatives to take money from lobbyists) — and getting the unemployed back to work ASAP.

      • November 7, 2011 7:19 pm

        If representatives can not take money from lobbyists – who can they take money from ?

        What person who contributes to a politician does not expect some quid pro quo ?

        Where is the bright line that says this contribution is tolerable, and that one is not ? Even if you could separate out some specific subset of those making political contributions and label those legitimate – why is it that you beleive that would lead to better government ? At the very best if you somehow implemented a one man, one vote, one dollar of political contribution at best you would achieve something closer to pure democracy – and we already know that fails abysmally.

        You constantly rail about political money. I would honestly like to hear – in detail, how you envision some system of regulated political contributions working and achieving “fairness”. Though I will forewarn you, I am already fully prepared to tear it apart. Asking you for details, is just asking you to provide the the ammunition to do so.

        The problem is not with the money, it is with the power money is intended to buy. So long as that power exists, it will be corrupted – regardless of how you re-arrange the money part of the equation. Ultimately all you are doing is altering who exerts the corrupting influence.

      • November 9, 2011 12:45 pm

        Dave: In a representative government like ours, the representatives are supposed to be representing those who elected them. Right now they’re representing only those who funded them, and that’s the root of all evil in our system. It’s tantamount to legal bribery.

        How to correct the problem? Set up a blind trust system in which anyone (even corporations and rich hedge fund managers) may contribute to a candidate… ANONYMOUSLY. That way, the representatives won’t be beholden to anyone except their constituency. (It’s not my idea, by the way… wish it were. Two guys from Yale came up with it.)

        Would the candidates receive less money as a result? Undoubtedly. But the effect would be felt across both parties. And once we ban political advertising (another item on my agenda), candidates won’t need to raise as much cash.

        You’re asking why I’d ban political advertising? Two reasons: candidates have to raise absurd amounts of money and sell their souls to publicize themselves via advertising; 2) nearly all political advertising is dreck — naked propaganda aimed at the lowest common denominator. We need to change how we gather information about candidates.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 9, 2011 12:49 pm

        Rick, boy is that a clear statement of the sad reality, brilliant.

        (%^$#@ Supreme Court)

    • November 7, 2011 7:08 pm

      Romney strapped an irish setter to the roof of the family station wagon for a 12hr drive.

      That alone should be sufficient to vote against him.

      • AMAC permalink
        November 8, 2011 10:03 pm

        That bastard puppy hater! He’s no better than Chevy Chase in Summer Vacation.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 8, 2011 11:18 pm

        Well, for the record, the dog was in a carrier and he did survive with no apparent problems. Granted, it does make you wonder what he was thinking, lol. Come to think of it, I’ve seen dogs riding in the back of pickup trucks as recently as a few years ago, Didn’t Lassie ride in a pickup truck? 😉

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 9, 2011 12:52 pm

        Dhlii: Romney strapped an irish setter to the roof of the family station wagon for a 12hr drive.
        That alone should be sufficient to vote against him.

        Ah, but isn’t it Libertarian Dogma (pun intended retrospectively) to trust everyone?

  3. Priscilla permalink
    November 3, 2011 11:29 am

    I like Romney, always have. I wanted him to be the nominee in 2008. He plays the game of politics well, is a proven executive, shows strong leadership. I believe that he is a moderate, which causes the conservative base of the GOP to hate him for finding common ground with Democrats. Of course, this is what all moderates say that they want to do, but whenever someone actually does it, it seems he becomes a “shape-shifting pod-person” (it’s certainly not just you, Rick, I have read this criticism of Romney from both sides as well as the middle).

    I think Huntsman is fine, as far as his policies and his positions, but he does not seem to have any charisma or ability to generate excitement on either side of the aisle. If he had any traction, I might support him, but he seems merely to be the whiny guy who keeps saying “Look at me! I speak Chinese!”

    I have been following Herman Cain since he first mentioned that he was possibly thinking of entering the race, over 2 years ago. He is an amazingly likeable guy, tremendous leadership qualities, great personal story. I’m not a fan of 9-9-9, though, and I have been put off by some of his statements on foreign policy.

    I think that Romney would make a good president. It has been a while since we had one.

    • November 3, 2011 4:05 pm

      Priscilla: I’m starving for a good president, too. Romney is more of a noncommittal “No Labels” moderate than I’d like, especially when we drastically need some radical reforms just to keep functioning as a representative democracy. Working across the aisle is an important skill, and I don’t doubt Romney’s skill — just his sincerity. He strikes me as a glib politico straight out of central casting.

      I admit it’s harder for a moderate than for extremists to articulate positions without bending them now and then (I should know), but Romney seems like he’ll say anything for personal gain — sort of like Hillary Clinton when she was running in 2008.

      I also admit that these might be superficial impressions based on sound bites. Time magazine did a cover story on Romney a few weeks ago, and I should probably read it from start to finish.

      Interesting, though, how Huntsman is dismissed for lack of charisma. Granted, he’s not colorful… but there’s more to it than that. For whatever reason, he looks small on the TV screen. (I have no idea how tall or short he is.) Essentially, he doesn’t exude the kind of larger-than-life aura of some of those “Munster” candidates. And these days that’s fatal. Someone like James Madison (5’4″, wispy voice) could never have been elected president in our time. (Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s been dead for 175 years.)

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 4, 2011 6:41 pm

        It’s interesting how being tall makes such a difference. It enables a tall candidate to use very powerful body language. It was very obvious during the Obama-McCain debates…the tall, young Obama looking down on the broken down old McCain (didn’t help that McCain was horrible in the debates, but even so) It’s true in the GOP debates , where Romney is always situated in or near the center, taller than all the rest… Peggy Noonan observed, “Romney is a master of the cutaway shot, when the camera isn’t on him. He keeps his posture and maintains a kindly smile, as if he’s pleased the other candidates are sharing their nice little thoughts.” And when Perry went after him in that one debate, Romney actually reached out and put his hand on Perry’s shoulder, as if to say “Calm down there, little feller,” although Perry is not a smaill man himself.

        I’m guessing the the height differential between Romney and Obama is minimal, so it may not be a factor if Romney is the GOP pick.

      • November 7, 2011 7:30 pm

        It is the skills necessary to get elected to public office that ought to disqualify you from holding office.

        My Grandmother always voted for the most handsome candidate. We do so in many other areas besides politics, Tall, Handsome Males have an excellent record of success in myriads of fields regardless of other qualifications.

        Politics itself is a process almost guaranteed to weed out the very people who are best at actually solving problems.

        More than 30 years ago my state imposed financial disclosure requirements on candidates for local offices – even myriads of what I will call elected voluntary positions. The net result of this was the elimination of moderately successful business people and professionals from political office. There are no corporate VP’s on local school boards anymore. Millions in public funds are being managed by people who have never managed more than a household budget. The cost of public education has skyrocketted, and the quality has gone to hell.

    • November 7, 2011 7:40 pm

      Is Romney really the best we can do ? Are any of these ?
      Would you personally trust any of these to manage your pension ? Your business ?
      Would you select them as your guardian should you be incapacitated ?

      I would also argue – not on ideology but my sense of the country, that Obama, Huntsman, Romney, and even Perry are weak in this election – because we are NOT looking for another quintessential politician.

      Cain has done well recently, because the GOP does not want Romney, and because he is not the politician the rest of them are.

      Pres. Obama was elected as the prototypical politician. Suave, well spoken, plenty of political experience – but no real leadership or management experience.
      I think that has left us with a bad taste and we are after something different.

      9-9-9 would be a fantastic idea – if it was not going to be 10-10-10 in a decade, and 20-20-20 after that. Regardless of myriads of other weaknesses, Caine has some appeal – because he is NOT an experienced politician.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    November 3, 2011 11:55 am

    You know, I suspect Huntsman’s strategy at this point is to allow the rest of the field to implode — a good bet given the circus of the last few weeks… e.g., Cain’s performance art, Perry’s creepy bi-polarism and Romney’s vertigo-inducing “position clarifications.” He’s probably banking on the possibility that the GOP mainstream will smack itself in the forehead with the realization that they might actually lose a winnable election by nominating any of the front-runners.

    The only top-tier candidate with a plausible chance of beating Obama is Romney — a moderate — and most Republicans don’t really like him. So if it becomes apparent that the party is going to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and if Romney is only a first-choice by default, then perhaps Huntsman is postulating that he can be the viable alternative, simply by being one of the last two men standing.

    I suppose wackier things have happened…

    • November 3, 2011 12:01 pm

      Rick… That last “anonymous” post was me. Forgot to log in…

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 3, 2011 12:33 pm

        Well, if Huntsman is waiting for everyone else to implode, he’d better find a new strategy, stat. The first primaries are coming up in less than two months and his poll numbers have fallen off the charts ( I think Gallup and Rasmussen may have him in low single digits)

        It’s not that most Republicans dislike Romney…it’s that movement conservatives dislike him, and they are the base of the GOP, which, in our primary system, has an inordinate influence on the nomination process. Conservatives see Obama’s low numbers and failing economic strategies as a perfect opportunity to elect a “true conservative,” which Romney is not. But, if Romney ends up as the nominee, I think the vast majority of conservatives will gladly vote for him, just as liberals will for Obama, no matter how he has disappointed them. Just my 2 cents…

    • November 3, 2011 4:09 pm

      It’s a kind of Taoist strategy, but it just might work for Huntsman. He’ll definitely have to do something about his poll numbers, though.

    • November 7, 2011 7:43 pm

      How does Romney – the GOP version of Obama, beat Obama ?
      Its a new coke vs. Coke Classic kind of thing.

      Rick is looking for Radical change – though I think he is looking to make the wrong radical changes, a vote for Romney is a vote for no change.

  5. Paul Gallanda permalink
    November 3, 2011 1:32 pm

    Two cents well invested, Priscilla. I think you’re essentially right, though I’m not sure that conservatives will “gladly” vote for Romney. Warranted or not, he’s perceived as “flexible” in the extreme on the issues, particularly those that tend to reflect one’s essential world view (abortion, being the best example). In this sense, he’s a flawed candidate and not the strongest possible standard-bearer for the Republicans.

    I’ll admit to liberal leanings (albeit, pragmatically), and though I’m one of those disappointed by Obama, I’m still willing — at least at this point — to give him another chance. I still see enough promise and potential in him to warrant my vote in 2012. That said, I wouldn’t fear for the Republic if Romney were to win the presidency. I think (hope) he’s a practical person who’d be willing to engage the loyal opposition. Other than Huntsman, I certainly can’t say that of any of the others in the field,

    • November 3, 2011 4:17 pm

      I’m hoping that Obama eventually finds his mojo (maybe he left it at the dry cleaners). He’s in a tough spot with an obstructionist Congress… but he had two years to make his mark before that point. He’s still a puzzle: we thought he’d be a borderline socialist, and yet he really seems beholden to those Wall Street insiders who have been among his closest advisers.

      A Romney presidency probably wouldn’t be a fiasco. I just keep wondering if there’s any THERE there. Is he a flexible but principled statesman… or is he a pod person?

      • November 7, 2011 7:48 pm

        You are confusing corporatism with capitalism – corporatism is just a different form of socialism.

        You are constantly upset about corporate money in politics – yet I beleive more than 60% of it goes to democrats – why ?

  6. Priscilla permalink
    November 3, 2011 11:17 pm

    I actually think that there is plenty of “there” there, but, as I said, once a politician makes it clear that they can understand more than one side of an issue, changes his/her position on an issue or is willing to compromise in order to achieve consensus on an issue, they can be whacked with the accusation that they are doing so merely for political expediency. I don’t believe that either Romney or Obama are without principles. Romney is a moderate conservative who governed the bluest of blue states and had to work within those confines. Obama is a liberal who struggles to moderate his ideology in hopes of holding the center.

    I think that Romney is more skilled as an executive and just sharper and more pragmatic overall than Obama, whose lack of executive talent and experience has really been his downfall. There is no reason that Obama should still be a puzzle or an enigma at this stage of his presidency…I think that he is just flat out incompetent. Romney has laid out a very detailed plan to get the economy moving in a positive direction….it is capable of achieving bipartisan support. And he seems capable of putting that support together. At this point that is more than good enough for me.

    • November 5, 2011 12:00 am

      Priscilla: What puzzles me about Obama isn’t his lack of competence (I think he’s a highly competent person, just not a highly competent executive). No, what I still don’t understand is how someone with his leftist/Liberation Theology/community organizer/friend-of-William-Ayres background could be so tight with Wall Street. He must be beholden to George Soros and whatever other investment bigwigs funded his campaign. There’s no other way that someone with his political leanings would have reimbursed Goldman Sachs for 100% of its bad investments during the 2008 meltdown — and they weren’t even facing bankruptcy.

      I agree that Romney is capable of achieving bipartisan support. The reason Obama can’t achieve it has little to do with his skill or intentions (he’s bent over backwards to be a moderate president)… it’s simply because the Republicans in Congress will do anything in their power to see him fail. (They have to appease the Tea Party element, after all, or be branded as RINOs.) I don’t think the Democrats would behave so vindictively toward a moderate Republican like Romney. Therefore, he’d be able to push more of his plans through Congress.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 5, 2011 8:14 am

        Rick, I doubt that Romney or any other GOP president would get any different treatment from the Democrats. One would hope, but recent history tells us otherwise. If/when the time comes, I believe the Democrats will do everything in their power to stonewall legislation, will demand steeper cuts to defense (Romney’s plan cuts and imposes a 20% cap), imply that any tax code changes are sops to the rich etc. Look at how they handled almost every single one of Bush’s judicial nominees, including Alito, which almost led to the GOP eliminating the filibuster. Ironically, although the Republicans chose not to trigger the so-called “nuclear option” while being stonewalled by the minority party, Harry Reid did it about 3 weeks ago, in order to prevent the Senate from voting on the jobs bill, which he knew would fail, embarrassing the President. By changing the Senate rules, Reid went counter to generations of Senate procedure and took away the primary tool of a minority party to affect any legislation.

        And, certainly the healthcare vote, when the Dems had veto proof majorities in both houses, did not indicate any willingness on their part to work with the minority party, if they didn’t have to.

        So, while I agree that the GOP is in no particular mood to help the president at the moment, there are still certain areas of common ground that can gather bipartisan support – the trade agreements, for example, passed easily, without a hitch. Obama does not seem willing or able to find these areas of agreement. Of course, if his policies were more popular, Republicans would have to vote with him, or risk angering their own constituents, but he has not thus far, found a way to present his economic proposals in a way that encourages support even in his own party. This is why I consider him incompetent- maybe he is merely arrogant? But the result is the same.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 5, 2011 11:00 am

        Clinton would have rolled this republican congress. He is a pig, but he knew how to play politics (some relationship there?)

        The model of a decent intelligent liberal centrist, i.e., Obama and Carter seems to be a flop.

        Take it over to the Bush I presidency and a decent intelligent conservative centrist was one term, although it was not a disaster to the country.

        Nixon, Clinton, real jerks, good presidents in many ways, Reagan, senile, simplistic but strong in his beliefs, also a success.

        According to my analysis President Romney gets one term that does no harm to us.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 5, 2011 7:34 pm

        Clinton would have done exactly what he did in 1994 – realize that it was impossible to “roll” the opposition, and co-opt it instead. Clinton had previously vetoed two welfare reform acts, but, after the Republicans crushed the Dems in the mid-term election, he read the writing on the wall, decided that welfare reform was a priority and led the effort, which had previously been a priority only of the GOP. It passed with bipartisan support, it was hugely popular, and Clinton took full credit for being the guy who reformed welfare. THAT’S what a smooth politician with a knack for executive leadership does. I guess you could say that he rolled the GOP, because he took one of their most popular issues, made it his own and got more credit than they did when it was successful. Fine by me. If only Obama could figure that out.

    • November 7, 2011 7:51 pm

      We have had almost a century of compromise that has gotten us to where we are today.

      There must be some times when compromise and consensus seeking are important skills, but they are not the solutions to every problem. Not even most problems.

      When an issue has two diametrically opposite sides – as many do, the one position we can be most certain is wrong – is the one in the middle.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 8, 2011 9:37 am

        Dave, I think we need to make a clearer distinction between compromise and consensus. Politicians compromise all the time, for mostly political and self-serving reasons.

        Consensus, on the other hand, while it often resides in the mushy middle, is not necessarily a position that is arrived at by compromising one’s values. Pretty often the compromise necessary to achieve consensus is to moderate one’s position, not to abandon it.

        For example, yesterday, Senator Tom Coburn, who is generally considered a pretty solid conservative, told reporters that he believed that entitlement reform is the most important thing that we need to accomplish right now, but that he understands that, in order to bring Democrats to the table on that, there will have to be agreement to some tax increases. So that is compromising, for sure, on the hardline conservative position of no tax increases, and yes, I fear that, as often happens, the GOP will agree to tax increases and then the Democrats will renege on entitlement reform. But, I think that Coburn is a statesman, and, hopefully, there are still some statesmen out there on the Democrat side, and if there is general consensus that entitlement reform is a priority, the compromises made to achieve it will be rational.

        Had there been a compromise and consensus process during the debate on the healthcare law, we would have probably gotten something better than what we got. The thing is, there have to be advocates on both sides of an issue in order to bring about real consensus. I think that, for too long, in Congress, both sides have been focused on growing the power of the federal government, i.e. their own power, rather than on reaching consensus on the most important issues of our time, and on crafting legislation out of that consensus.

        I know that I sound impossibly idealistic. And I probably am. But if I am wrong, and there is no way that our legislators will ever act as statesmen, than we are well and thoroughly screwed and this is all pointless anyway.

  7. Pat Riot permalink
    November 4, 2011 4:49 am

    Rick, ha ha HAH!! knee-slapping HAH! As usual I think you’re right on. What a terrific comparison of nice, human Huntsman (and the company he finds himself in) with Marilyn Munster (and the family she moved in with). So true, and so close to Halloween! A real treat! Finding a way for Marilyn Munster to be relevant in 2011 is quite an accomplishment in itself!

    If you stare at Lily Munster long enough you can begin to see Michele Bachman. I’m not kidding–try it! Round-faced Gingrich could almost be Grandpa–cooking up all sorts of Internet money-making schemes in the basement (like running for president), but I guess Newt isn’t quirky enough for a real match there. Rick Perry IS Herman Munster–the height, stiff neck and head, and, if you’ve seen the recent loosey-goosey clip of Perry, the mentality.

    As for Mitt Romney, he is the son of a governor, went to all the best schools–graduated with a law degree and an MBA from Harvard…it’s not that certain factions of Republicans don’t like him, it’s more that most Americans can’t connect with him, feel he’s not “one of us” because he’s too clean cut, too measured, too prepped–and therefore untrustworthy in many people’s eyes. He comes across as “one of them.” He’s like the Ken doll from Matel. (Though Mitt can be adapted to many imaginary situations, we wonder if Mitt’s limbs only really bend a few ways…) Mitt doesn’t seem to have the ability to break out of his “insulated upper-crusty world” to be a regular guy who shares our struggles and concerns. Personally I think Mitt’s a praiseworthy fella, but we can’t really relate to him because we sense he can’t relate to us. Former Kansas Fed Chairman, Herman Cain, has the ability to seem like he’s a straight-shooting “regular guy” and “regular businessman,” and so he gets the poll numbers from a reactive, shallow, uninformed populace, even though Cain is really a regular lying politician.

    It’s one party with two heads anyway–a real Halloween nightmare that makes me sad and angry. Real changes are happening somewhat independent of the broken political system. Keep in mind we didn’t row across the pond and try to revamp British tyranny, we defiantly started our own system. I think we’re slowly starting over now in a million incremental steps.

    . .

    • November 5, 2011 12:10 am

      Good analysis, Pat. I think either Perry or Romney could pass for Herman Munster, by the way. And you’re right about Romney and his inability to connect with ordinary Americans. In fact, he reminds me of a Republican John Kerry. Romney probably has good intentions, but I don’t know if a man who made his fortune in the manner of “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap is the best choice for a nation in a state of borderline depression. You’re probably right about Cain’s appeal, too. We DO need a straight shooter for a change, but the straight shooters in the current crop of candidates (Cain, Paul, Bachmann, Santorum) seem a little too close to the lunatic fringe for comfort.

  8. Jesse C permalink
    November 4, 2011 8:39 am

    Great post Rick, you hit the nail on the head with this one!

    I used to have the same opinions about Romney, even back in 2008: he’s not principled, he’s an opportunist, he’ll say anything that needs to be said at the time, etc…

    But the more cynical I become, with respect to national politics, the less I believe any of that matters. I think Priscilla and I had a short back-and-forth a little while ago in which we discussed just how little of an impact the president has on our daily lives. And it’s with that in mind that I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important quality for a president to have, is to be a good deal-maker and facilitator on the operational side, while being the charismatic, inspirational leader on the public side of things.

    Obama obviously has the latter, but definitely not the former. Given the current state of our nation, the former is priority number 1 right now. I simply don’t care if Romney is an opportunist, if he can get things done, get can get things done.

    Huntsman would be my first choice. I’m super impressed by his resume, intelligence, and his thoughtful moderate approach to issues. However as a NJ resident, I doubt I’ll have a chance to make any true impact on his chances in the primaries, unless he makes a huge splash in NH.

    • November 5, 2011 12:18 am

      Jesse: You’re probably right about the two-sided nature of any effective president. FDR is a good example: shrewd dealmaker behind the scenes, eloquent populist in public.

      You raise an important point about the primaries, which I’m increasingly convinced are a really defective foundation for choosing a president. If all primaries were held the same day, they’d be a more valid indicator of the people’s choices. But the fact that they’re held in sequence gives undue weight to the first few primaries and caucuses. So we’re essentially leaving it up to the people of New Hampshire and Iowa to pick the nominee for their party. Then, of course, there’s the small matter of unaffiliated voters being unable to vote in the primaries in most states. But that’s another story.

  9. AMAC permalink
    November 4, 2011 9:08 am

    I honestly think that Huntsman is the best overall candidate, as I have stated in previous posts. However, I think we are being a little touh on Romney. We have to put his position in context with where we are in the election process (unfortunately). What do we see in every nomination process? We see candidates positioning themselves and augmenting their views (not necessarily changing them) to appear closer to the base of their party. Then what do we see after the nomination process is complete? We see that same candidate trying to position themselves towards the center to appeal to a larger portion of the voters, not the “nominators” any longer. I see that it has been this was since Bill Clinton was so succesful doing the same in his two elections. I thinkg that Bill Clinton played the game as well as anyone ever has and now all try to duplicate his formula. I also will add that I am a big Bill Clinton fan. In todays election landscape, you have to look past what is being said and look more at what has been done. This is what makes it so tough when a candidate is a relatively unknown comodity. We then are forced to pay more attention to what is being said, because we cannot inspect what has been done. If Romney wins the nomination, I fully expect him to then position himself more to the center, where I believe he actually resides.

    • Anonymous permalink
      November 4, 2011 11:31 am

      The idea of running to the extreme in the primary season and to the center in the general election goes back at least to JFK and probably a lot further.

      We fixate on the presidential election as the expression of our existence in a democracy, our binary choice every 4 years. Its not even a choice most of us have in reality as most people live in states that have their electoral college choice already made. It does not matter who I vote for for president, Vermont will cast my vote for the democrat. I don’t even really have that binary choice. Its a democracy?

      So, I am free to at least cast a vote to make a point for some centrist or moderate party as I did for John Anderson.

      I wish a third middle choice would get organized.

      • Anonymous permalink
        November 4, 2011 11:33 am

        That was me Ian. I guess the Vermont reference probably gave that away . Hmm, if I want to be an anonymous trouble maker I can just use my other laptop!

      • AMAC permalink
        November 4, 2011 5:59 pm

        I suppose it does. I am not old enough to have been around then. I am 32. Part of the lazy and entitled generation X! I can remember the Clinton campaign and I suppose this might have been the first time I really noticed the transformation of candidates through the election process. I like the idea of the third party, but if we end up going that route, it will take a great deal of stamina. Third parties run out of gas pretty regularly. Most Americans would hesitate to vote for a third party until they felt it was “established”. I still think we could have a party that endorses candidates, as opposed to nominating them, at least in the beginning. The current system would make winning an election difficult. I think the moderate candidate appeals to the nation, but politics is so regional it would be difficult to carry an entire state.

  10. AMAC permalink
    November 4, 2011 9:12 am

    I would also like to add a thought. What does it say about us when Newt Gingrich is leading Jon Huntsman? That is scarry.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      November 5, 2011 12:07 pm

      Oh, winning an election as a third party is a pipe dream. Better to think of getting something started. With congress in the single digits in popularity, this is the time, if there ever was a time, for a middle party.

      • November 5, 2011 6:54 pm

        Ian: I think the country would be receptive to a third party, but it’s probably too late to crank one up for the 2012 race. We’d need a midterm campaign as a trial balloon first. Besides, I don’t even know of any moderate politicans who would also be radical enough to propose major reforms in Congress and on Wall Street.

  11. November 5, 2011 12:20 am

    Hey, has anyone noticed the absence of our most prolific commentator here? Where’s dhlii?

    • AMAC permalink
      November 5, 2011 3:16 pm

      I did notice. It only took me 15 minutes to read all of the comments!

      • November 5, 2011 6:51 pm

        No wonder my traffic stats have dropped off over the past few days. He probably accounts for a quarter of my page views!

    • November 7, 2011 7:54 pm

      I was away on business for a week.

  12. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 5, 2011 11:28 am

    In reply to Priscilla, since I can’t reply below the comment, no, I think this particular Congress has been something special in the way of obstruction. Its a result of quite a few factors that I can name, bitterness from the Bush II attacks, a real financial crisis that has been divisive instead of bringing us together, the mounting national deficit, the tea party, and the rise of talk radio that created the ditto head army feared by the more reasonable republicans.

    Republicans in congress were bound that if their president had been dragged through the mud to failure and shame, then the democratic president was going to get the same, before he even took the oath.

    As well, while I think the healthcare bill was a mistake, as I have said several times, (it was not the time for it) but at the same time that issue can be turned on its head. Why WAS there no support at all from the opposition for containing health care costs using proposals that mostly resembled things republicans themselves had proposed? I see that republican unity being based at least as much on obstructionism as pragmatic objections to timing. Republicans did not meet Democrats halfway and make something both could have some ownership of.

    Lots of parts of that healthcare bill are still popular with a majority of people (i’d make a parallel to the No Child left behind legislation, people agree with many parts of it despite its place as supposedly ideological hit on education) and many people who dislike like Obamacare actually do so because it did not go FAR ENOUGH, a fact that conservatives usually play down when polls show that Obamacare is not popular.

    In any case lets hope for a divided congress for whoever the next president is, and if its Obama, let him grow a backbone. I’d even be willing to accept an affair with the next Lewinsky if he could fine his cojones. ,<–Joke

    • Priscilla permalink
      November 6, 2011 9:30 am

      Ian, I finally figured out (after 2 years) that to reply to a reply that has no “reply” option, you have to reply to the original comment that started the thread….so that is where my reply to your comment on Clinton is. Often, though, it seems like a better idea to just post a new coment, since then you have the full width window, instead of the narrow column……

      I don’t necessarily disagree with everything you say regarding Congress and the POTUS, but I definitely see things through a different window. For example, regarding the bitterness of Republicans over the Bush attacks, you could say the exact same thing about the Democrats who were livid and humiliated over the Clinton impeachment and the belief that Gore had really won the 2000 election. I would say that, if you don’t believe that the Dems were out to destroy Bush, then you are willfully ignoring reality. 9/11 created some unity for a while, but it did not take long for bitter partisanship to win out over pulling together. So, I don’t agree with you or Rick that the GOP is any worse than the Dems in that regard.

      Secondly, I don’t think that it is the responsibility of the minority party to meet the overwhelming majority party halfway. In fact, it is the other way around. It is the job of the minority party to fight for the view of their constituency and not let a – temporary – majority roll over the rights and beliefs of citizens who they presumably represent. Now, you can say that that is a load of crap and that the GOP was merely being obstructionist, and I would say that obstructionism certainly played a role….but all you need to do is go back again to the Clinton administration and see that the Hillarycare debate nearly destroyed his presidency, until he backed off and decided to play nice with the GOP (granted, only after they became the majority).

      I agree with you that there are parts of the healthcare law that are popular with both sides, but that is even more reason why the president should not have allowed his party to ram it through over the unanimous opposition of the minority. There was room for negotiation, Obama had popular support and high approval ratings, and it was HIS job, the Speaker’s job and the majority leader’s job to get at least nominal support from a handful of Republicans. It could have been done, but they chose to act unilaterally and they paid the price.

      And, as far as Obama and Monica….I don’t see it 😉

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 6, 2011 11:15 am

        Right you are about the bitter Clinton democrats. Yes, the war has gone on forever it seems. Before ideology it was religion, Catholics and Protestants went at each other over religious ideology for centuries, its the history of Europe, bloody wars have been fought about arguments within the same basic church about the proper date to celebrate Easter, Queen Mary lit her victims on fire, then non religious ideology grew up and became the new religion and Senators from Wisconsin the new Bishops, and we go on…

        Moderates are people who are sick of it, “it” being the whole human tendency to engage in fruitless mindless destructive factionalism. To me it seems the american political form of this disease actually gets worse, but perhaps I look at the past through overly rosy glasses. It is certainly not hard to find quotes from 90, 100, or 150 years ago that seem to be describing the same American political mess in nearly modern terms.

        I’m still hoping to see some kind of reflection of the present sickness with ideologues in a rise of the middle of some kind, I’m not expecting a miracle from it but some kind of notice that the middle is becoming disaffected to an unprecedented extent and may desert party politics altogether if things don’t improve.

      • Jesse C permalink
        November 6, 2011 5:58 pm

        Regarding the “Dems attacked Bush” so “GOP is attacking Obama” discussion: I think the biggest reason that people tend to say the GOP is worse with this behavior, is because they are simply better at it. Whether it’s uniting to attack the president or working together to help present a coherent message, Republicans have always been more organized, and generally more effective in executing their strategy.

        So while the bitter sentiment exists equally on both sides, Republicans just appear more extreme because they do a better job at expressing it.

      • November 7, 2011 7:57 pm

        The concept of healthcare reform is popular – we all know healthcare needs reform. I do not think there is anything close to a concensus on actual policies – and this is why APACA is so detested. It is not possible to reform healthcare in a way that will make a majority happy.

  13. Pat Riot permalink
    November 6, 2011 7:58 pm

    A third party within our current corrupt system? Isn’t that like sending one’s responsible child to the drug lord’s expansive villa in the hope that the whole drug cartel will cease their lucrative dealings and “do the right thing” by following your child’s well-meaning ideas?

    Let’s be creative. Brainstorm. What about FIVE parties so that there isn’t one new weak party struggling for credibility? What about making it illegal for U.S. political parties to use the terms Democrat or Republican? Any good marriage counselor will advise accusing spouses to stop the finger-pointing, to stop trying to unravel the past–untying a thousand tangled knots is a waste of time compared to moving forward in healthy ways…healthy communication and healthy actions…

    I wish deep in my heart and mind I could see a way we could rescue our beloved Republic from within the current system.

    Unfortunately, even the most well-meaning super-American genius President with a cult-of-personality leading man or woman persona would get marginalized or eliminated by the powers that be. Rather, I think our current system is going to continue to become more and more irrelevant and something different, alongside it but not able to be strangled by it, is going to gain relevance. Sorry so vague, but don’t want to get verbose here.

    • Priscilla permalink
      November 6, 2011 9:57 pm

      I don’t think we need a third party. I think that, love ’em or hate ’em, the tea party folks have shown all of us the way to electoral success. From the start of their movement, they made electoral politics their priority…sure, there were the requisite demonstrations and such, but the real success of the tea party movement was the recruitment of candidates, mostly Republican (but not all), on every level, local, state and federal. While the Occupy movement spins its wheels, despite getting gobs of publicity, the tea party “idiots” have not only established themselves as forces to be reckoned with in the GOP – where do you think Herman Cain got his start? – but they have taken over statehouses and city halls all over the country. While the media focused on their failures – Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle, etc. – they had far more hits than misses, and took down some pretty big GOP figures: Mike Castle, Bob Bennett, Charlie Crist.

      I don’t know if moderates have it in them to commit to a set of goals and a strategy. But if they do, they need to be pragmatic enough to clarify it, articulate it, and then support candidates who agree to support it. I honestly don’t know if that is possible.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        November 6, 2011 10:56 pm

        Priscilla, you do remind me that “grass roots” / bottom-up movements like the tea “party” can work within the system. Sometimes I get so dismayed with what is going on at the very top (e.g. decisions of where to send our troops, fiscal irresponsibility, federal failures regarding immigration, etc.) that I temporarily forget about local and state politics, and also the impact individuals might have at the federal level. If enough people… could we do it? Yes. Will we do it? I honestly don’t know either.

    • November 7, 2011 7:58 pm

      There are plenty of countries with myriads of political parties. I am not aware of one that works better.

  14. Pat Riot permalink
    November 6, 2011 9:31 pm

    Consider how the world of business switched from typewriters to word processors/computers. Computer salesman didn’t need to go door to door and urge us to give up our typewriters. We didn’t have to have a violent overthrow of typewriter manufacturers. Something new and better was created and improved, and we transitioned into it. I say a similar transition is already underway, socially and politically, and it’s about time! Still vague, I know.

    • November 7, 2011 8:03 pm

      We have had myriads of similar transitions within the free markets.
      Politics and government is more rigid – and probably should be.
      One of the myriads of reasons for smaller less powerful governments is that rigidity, resistance to change, and inefficiency are part of the price we need to pay to avoid more damaging faults – like corruption.

      • AMAC permalink
        November 8, 2011 10:21 am

        So you would argue that rigidity and resistance to change are positive values? Now you sound like the old man yelling at those damn kids to get of your yard. Inability to change with the times is a sure way to fail, in business and politics.

      • November 10, 2011 6:08 pm

        Yes, I would argue that government should be limited, rigid, and resistant to change. The place for dynamicism and experimentation is in the marketplace.

        The only thing government provides that con not be provided better by the free market is “the rule of law”. I am strongly opposed to broad, fluid, constantly changing law.

        If changing times require changes in the law – then the law was bad law to begin with.

  15. Pat Riot permalink
    November 9, 2011 9:15 am

    Huntsman may have an opportunity tonight to grab more serious attention. The Penn State sex scandal is actually adding more weight to the Herman Cain allegations–heard those two negative stories juxtaposed several times last night–crazy how the media and the masses operate. Anyway it would make America look less stupid if our President spoke Chinese and looked like a gentleman. Go Marilyn Munster!!

    • November 9, 2011 12:51 pm

      Pat: I think it’s coming down to Romney vs. Huntsman now. Despite “Marilyn”‘s minuscule numbers, I think Republicans will take a serious look at him after the recent Cain train wreck. They need somebody who can beat Obama, so that eliminates Gingrich, Paul, Bachmann, Perry and Santorum right there. Romney might be too moderate for the party faithful… so it’s looking good for the other Mormon guy.

      • November 10, 2011 6:04 pm

        For the record Huntsman is still in very low single digits in any poll I can find. Further Cain still seems to be leading Romney as of today.

        Even if Cain does manage to implode, I would be shocked to see Huntsman get out of single digits. While I would personally prefer Huntsman to Romney, he does not appear to be a contender.

        The GOP candidate that is moving up at the moment is Gingrich.

  16. November 10, 2011 9:38 am

    Jesse C

    The fact that I (as well as myriads of studies) find Fox just slightly right of center does not make them palatable. But then neither is the rest of the media.u

    I do not really wish to get into defending Fox, I really would not want to defend anyone in the media today. All I am seeking to note is that they are closer to center than the rest of the media.

    Fox exists because virtually all the rest of the media ventured too far from its base. Ratings alone should tell you that.

    Much of Talk Radio is significantly to the right of Fox. Juxtaposing Maddow and Limbaugh was deliberate – they are better representatives of the extremes in the media.

    Beck particularly annoys me – because he is a pretend libertarian.

    The other argument I was making was that Limbaugh and his like are atleast far enough from the fringe to command enormous support. Like them or not they are not inconsequential. Nor are they the stupid hate mongering buffoons the left portrays them as. I find little to distinguish Maddow who undermines the credibility of Rhodes scholars everywhere, from Limbaugh, Steyn, Coulter, …..
    Further these people speak for as much as 30M people who vote. No one in the rest of the media can claim as much.

  17. November 10, 2011 10:07 am


    So we ban political advertising, and put all political contributions into blind trust.

    I put a sign in my yard saying “I support Joe Doe for City Council”
    I write an editorial saying “”
    A letter to the editor,
    I tell my friend ”

    So which of these is now illegal and which are not and why ?

    I would personally prefer to see an absolute right to free speech, but we do not have that – regardless, political speech is the most protected form of speech – and should be. Though our right to free speech has myriads of implications, if it does not mean the right to advocate with respect to government then our form of government can not survive.

    What is advertising ? Speech intended to persuade ! Pettitions against Fracking, Resumes, letters to the editor, virtually all speech is advocacy for one position and an attempt to persuade. Some is of better quality than others, but are you really arguing that we should ban only poorly crafted arguments.

    I would tend to agree that political advertising is offensive and seems ineffective.
    But should I really care whether my favorite TV program is funded by ads for ED treatments or the local gubernatorial candidate ? Assuming you do not beleive I have a right to those things that are paid or by advertising, why is one type of advertising ban-able and another not ? I would rather watch political adds than ones for feminine hygiene products.

    If political advertising is ineffective – why ban it ?

    How do you plan on enforcing your blind trust/anonymity provisions ?

    If I contribute $100 to the trust for candidate X am I legally bound never to disclose that ?
    Are you really prepared to jail people for revealing that they made political contributions ?

    One of the principles libertarians – and many others adhere to is that any right that can be stripped from some of us does not exist for any of us. We normally analyse this in the context of those at the bottom – paedophiles, drug dealers, but it applies to any despised minority group regardless of their power. Whatever rights you are willing to strip from any group, are rights you can not expert to posses yourself.

    The blind trust and anti-advertising schemes place the ends above the means.

    Further how is it you really see this changing politics ? Ultimately you are saying that voters are too stupid to make their own choices in the face of an onslaught of political advertising – in the end it is still votes not dollars that decide elections.

    Presuming you are correct, why are these voters who can not be trusted in the face of a barrage of political advertising suddenly to be trusted in a system that is skewed differently.

    The stakes in elections are significant. The objective of political money is to leverage the power of government. So long as that power continues to exist there will always be a way to attempt to leverage it. I can not predict the consequences of your proposed changes – except that I am certain that new ways to corrupt the system will emerge.

    If you eliminate the means of accomplishing something without

    • November 10, 2011 11:41 am

      Dave: My main motivation for wanting to ban political advertising is the expense. When advertising is so expensive, candidates have no choice but to raise piles of money. When they have to raise piles of money, they tend to establish unsavory alliances with special interests. And when they forge those unsavory alliances, they end up representing their benefactors rather than their constituents. That’s wrong, and we have to break up those alliances if we want anything like true representative government.

      The fact that most political advertising is also pretty stupid is almost beside the point, but it convinces me that we wouldn’t be losing anything valuable by banning it. And don’t worry… people would still be free to post signs on their lawns.

      As for the blind trust contribution plan… it’s not perfect, as you noted. I’m sure big-money interests would try to leak information about their donations to the candidates they support. But it has to be an improvement over our current system of legalized bribery.

      Chances are that big-money interests would donate less under the new system… but candidates would need less because there would be no huge media expenses to eat up their funds.

      • November 10, 2011 5:24 pm

        Regardless of where it came from exploring new ideas is always to be commended and worthwhile.

        Candidates have choices – they are not required to raise tons of funds, nor are they required to spend it on traditional media advertising.

        They do so because they beleive it is effective.

        I have myriads of problems with your “unsavory alliances” assertion.

        I beleive Pres. Obama’s tally for the general election portion of the last election was 480M. Are you saying he would be different as a president but for those contributions ?

        Do you beleive that Labor Unions are influencing republicans to favor them ?That NRA money is being used to persuade democrats to oppose gun control ?

        I would ask you to honestly think through the readily obvious consequences of your proposals.

        Even if you successfully narrow the impact of what you propose only to “moneyed special interests” – whatever they are, and I really do not think it is possible to keep the impact that narrow, you have still singled out a single group and censored them. If you can censor any group – you can sensor every group.

        That is really just the tip of the ice berg of problems.

        I know you and the left rail about the Citizens United Decision, but all you have to do is look at the actual underlying case to grasp that the court was correct. Citizens United was a non-profit group formed specifically to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton.

        Political Speech is deservedly given the highest standard of protection from the courts.

        The decisions that political contributions are political speech are ancient – and your argument implicitly accepts that. If money has no ability to allow candidates to speak to and sway political opinion, then politicians would not pursue contributions. It is specifically because you beleive that it is effective that you wish to ban it.

        The decisions regarding corporate personhood are even older – further they are not essential. We have a right to free association, nor do we lose our other rights when we exercise them as a group rather than as individuals. Corporations are just one particular way in which people associate. An increasingly common one, regardless a group of individuals should not lose their right to free speech because they have exercised their right to free association. What if Citizens United – which was clearly a group of like minded citizens associating for a political purpose had chosen not to incorporate ? What if a single individual chose to spend time money and effort advocating against Hillary Clinton ? What if a middle class person was so incensed they sold everything they had and used that to pursue a single political purpose ?

        I do not see any effective means by which you can single out whatever it is that you think are “moneyed special interests” without substantially interfering in numerous constitutional rights – and not just the rights of the members of that special interests – but of each of us as individuals.

        Your right to paint a sign in your home and march in public for or against some political issue or candidate, is only secure if everyone else is free to use whatever resources they have to advocate politically.

        To put this in a different context. What if we replaced “Moneyed special interests” with Nazi’s or some other politically offensive group.

        Can we deny Nazi’s, Communists, Homophobes, – whatever “hate” group you chose, from participating in the political process ? Can we prevent them from speaking, marching, even contributing money to candidates ?

        How do you exterminate a right for one group – based on a what is essentially a claim that they are exercising that right effectively, when I think we are agreed that you can not infringe on the same right for other individuals and groups regardless of how heinous their views may be.

  18. Priscilla permalink
    November 10, 2011 10:20 am

    A note about obstructionism…read this in National Review this morning, a conservative publication, but it seems pretty legit, given the wire reports that have been coming out about Democrats on the super-committee rejecting proposed tax increases to balance spending cuts:
    “Democrats last night rejected a framework for compromise that would have included significant new revenues. They had sounded amenable to the possible deal, but their position suddenly hardened after going back to their caucus. It is almost surely an indication that they want to do everything they can to validate President Obama’s line of attack on a “do nothing” Congress.”

    Just goes to show that both parties can be obstructionist when it suits their needs, and that their need is to get re-elected at any cost, not to serve the public good.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      November 10, 2011 12:13 pm

      We all see things through our own lenses I guess. What I read two days ago was that the GOP offer was to eliminate certain tax deductions (affects mostly the middle class) and put the savings into giving a rate cut to the highest bracket and some deficit reduction. No, that won’t fly, or at least it shouldn’t. I’d be ripped if the Dems agreed to that, they’d be fools. We need more tax revenue from everyone, and cuts across the board in programs in order to reduce the deficit, NOT a tax increase on the middle more so we can give a break to the highest income group. That would be insane. I cannot understand that perspective at all, not politically, not economically. Just bad in every way.

      • November 10, 2011 5:35 pm

        The net effect of the GOP plan I beleive was about 1/2T in increased revenue (using the bogus assumption that revenue will actually go up).

        Regardless, why do we need more revenue ?
        Though occasionally we make progress, you keep reverting to what is essentially the presumption that the government can grow as large, spend as much and tax as much as it pleases.
        Is there no point at which you are willing to say the government has taken enough of our wealth ?
        Do you grasp how unbeleiveably large (all) government is ? That the Federal Government is approximately 1/2 the cost of all government, and the of everything government does for us – even by the most progressive measure of government good, the federal government contributes the least.

    • November 10, 2011 5:38 pm

      Since I beleive that there is nothing wrong with political obstructionism, I see nothing wrong with the tactics the Democrats are using.

      The problem is not that they are being obstructionist, it is that they are wrong.

      I am heartily in favor of either party throwing monkey wrenches into the machinery of government.

  19. Priscilla permalink
    November 10, 2011 1:23 pm

    True, Ian, that we do. The way I see it, in order to get a deal, you have to start somewhere, and you have to negotiate. This is how the offer was described: “According to multiple sources familiar with the deliberations, Toomey’s framework would have lowered and locked in the top individual rate to 28 percent and lowered other rates commensurately. It would have (the numbers are rough) offset the revenue loss and raised $250 billion in new revenue by limiting the value of deductions, especially on the high end. It would have gotten another $40 billion with an adjustment to the CPI, moving to “chained indexing.” It would have raised another $110 billion through growth effects of the lower rates and another $100 billion through asset sales and the like. That’s about $500 billion in revenue.”

    Not chump change and mostly through increases on high earners and wealth. So why not take the GOP backing down from the “no tax increases” position and say, “this is not good enough, let’s negotiate”? But instead, we get total rejection. That doesn’t rip you?

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      November 10, 2011 1:39 pm

      This may be another offer than I read about, due to some actual negotiation in past days.

      I would have to see the hard numbers behind any proposal, both parties like to claim that actions that are NOT savings are savings under some far fetched scenario. Smoke and mirrors.

      The best shot some poor amatuer like me has of understanding the good and th ebad is to read the analysis of a truly objective moderate non partisan competent analyst. But David Broder is dead. So we read partisan spin and not honest analysis.

      In any case cutting rates on anyone is insane if the idea is to lower the deficit, especially rates on the top.

      If I am going be asked to pay more taxes to pay down the deficit, I’m for it, I’ll do it. If I’m asked to pay more taxes to give the upper bracket a cut, that’s enraging.

      The fastest way to increase revenue, no smoke and mirrors, is to raise rates, not lower them. We’ll cut this rate and balance it be removing this exemption, that sounds like absolute carnival behavior. Never give a sucker an even break. All the suckers are getting tired and wiser.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 10, 2011 5:07 pm

        I understand what you are saying, but the proposal does not ask anyone to pay more taxes to give a tax cut to the rich. Unless you consider lowering tax rates on everyone to be wrong because people who make over $200K are included…..

        The WSJ has this take:”… even when Republicans put $500 billion in statically scored new revenues on the table, at the risk of upsetting their political base, Democrats declare that tax reform without higher tax rates is impossible. So who are the real “ideologues” here?”

        I have to ask the same. It’s not that I want to always be put in the position of defending Republicans, but when people repeatedly claim that it is the Republicans who are refusing to help try and fix the economy, they are simply ignoring the fact that, right now, it is the Democrats who believe that they can gain political advantage by being the “party of no”

        I think that moderates need to be willing to examine the motives of both parties and not just buy into the talking points and strategies of the one they prefer.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 10, 2011 5:32 pm

        Its just spin Priscilla, you can’t recognize that? They WSJ? The National Revue? The plain unvarnished truth is not going to come from those sources. What ever they say, its partisan politics, its conservative ideology. So Its S*** in my eyes.

        Dems SHOULD say no, no matter what their base thinks, because nothing is more transparently phony than claiming to raise federal revenue by cutting rates.

        Two sets or professional liars have been sent to negotiate. One will try to pretend to cut the budget, the other will pretend to raise taxes.

        The Deficit must not actually be that serious when both sides are still same old business as normal.

        I’m willing to pay more to the Federal Government in the future to pay down this mess. That to me looks like a higher tax rate. Some package of utterly confusing trade offs to my suspicious mind is just a ploy. People of means paid good money for their congressmen, now its time for that investment to pay off.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 10, 2011 5:32 pm

        Oh, and, for the record, I am not implying that you do buy into the talking points of the Democrats, just that moderates in general should be skeptical of talking points.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 10, 2011 5:39 pm

        Whoops, Ian, we simulposted. And, come on, Ian….in your mind the Wall Street Journal is not a respectable journalistic outlet?? You have quoted Rolling Stone as a source – I would say that National Review is at least as reliable as that revered journal. And the NYT is known for its liberal bias.

        None of this is a problem…UNLESS we buy into it, and, as moderates, refuse to look at and listen to the rational arguments of both sides.

        And negotiation is a fact of legislating. These guys are not in freaking relationship counseling for heaven’s sake. They are elected congressmen who are charged with making laws for the good of the country. If they are nothing more than professional liars, than we should vote them all out. But we have to vote others in – how do you propose we make those choices, if you say that there is only one way to do things and its your way?

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 10, 2011 6:11 pm

        If the WSJ wrote that the sun rises in the east I’d have to make careful observations for a month before I’d believe it. They are a highly partisan organization, as Rupert Murdoch intends.

        We are at an impasse. In my belief system complicated packages instead of straightforward rate increases are not a believable form of raising revenues. They stink to high heaven of trickery. I doubt you will change my opinion, notwithstanding the fact that I’m an awfully reasonable person, just ask me.

        I’m willing to send more to the Feds. I am highly suspicious that many who are making a lot of fuss about the deficit somehow believe that they will be able to send less money to the Feds AND pay down this mess. Whether they are just thieves by nature or actually believe that I can’t say.

      • November 10, 2011 5:46 pm

        Both parties are heavily engaged in smoke an mirrors. The entire process is rigged for smoke and mirrors. I have no doubt that the GOP proposal is deeply flawed and will neither result in the savings or revenue that it claims. There is no consequential difference between the parties in the credibility of their revenue or expense projections. What is different and real is the difference in their focus.

        The GOP proposal more strongly favors spending cuts, and achieves revenue increases through a combination of tax rate reductions and elimination of deductions in a revenue positive fashion.

      • November 10, 2011 5:56 pm


        I regularly read WSJ. While they are far more objective even on their editorial pages than the New York Times, ultimately they are fairly corporatist. They are not truly advocates for free markets. They are apologists for big business, just as NYT is for the left.

        I doubt the National Revue is as revered as the New York Times. But I would strongly suspect it is more often right.

        With few exceptions though I have deliberately tried to make points here using cites and links from left leaning or credibly objective sources. Not because Fox, WSJ, National Review, or myriads of conservative or libertarian sources are wrong, but because I try to delude myself that moderates and liberals might be more likely to weigh something credibly when it comes from a source inside their “lens”.

  20. Priscilla permalink
    November 10, 2011 6:36 pm

    Haha, you are eminently reasonable, Ian. I read that in The New Moderate. And I understand that you will never accept the fact that tax reform can succeed without raising everyone’s taxes. So, in that sense, we are at impasse.

    And that gets back to my point, ironically. Impasse occurs when one or both sides refuse to negotiate. Now, there may be certain things that are not negotiable for either side – there almost always are. But if you are a US Senator or Congressman on a committee charged with the responsiblity of coming up with a balanced deficit and debt reduction plan, you should damn well be negotiating toward that end, and not stonewalling in order to help or hurt the re-election narrative of your party’s president. Hmmm, I seem to remember you or Rick saying that the GOP was doing just that in the debt ceiling negotiations….and that it was wrong. And it is wrong when the Democrats do it too. The fact that you consider me, or the WSJ, or Milton Friedman, or anyone else wrong and refuse to consider our arguments is fine. But you are a guy writing on a web site, and not determining the future of our economy. I expect those guys to do better.

    And if the GOP is saying that they will back off from their no new taxes stance, and discuss a balanced plan which includes new taxes, I expect the Democrats on the committee to take it seriously and come back with their own proposal. And if they reject it out of hand, solely for political reasons, then they should be as vilified as Republicans were during the debt ceiling debate.

  21. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 10, 2011 6:57 pm

    Priscilla You’ve switched the bait. Tax reform is not the target. Paying down the deficit is.

    Its is just as inappropriate to pursue tax reform during this crisis as it was to pursue Health Insurance reform. Its a tangent and one that is likely destructive to dealing with the deficit.

    In my discussion with dhlii I was willing to accept that government is too large a percentage of GDP. I was willing to make a proposal to cut the fed budget by 2% per year across the board and raise rates, especially on the upper brackets. Dhlii accepted my cut proposals with pleasure but would not budge on taxes. Yes, we Are just folks yakking online, Yes I hope that the negotiators do better than I did, I gave away the farm and got nothing in return.

    You do not balance a budget by cutting revenues. If the GOP were sincere about raising revenues there is a simple reliable way to do it, raise tax rates. They won’t do it. Americans by a large majority last time I looked wanted tax rates, especially those on the upper tiers to increase to deal with the deficit. The GOP refuses. Pardon my cynicism but I smell a huge rat, well, two huge rats. You smell just one and will try to paint me as being unreasonable for not accepting your arguments. I don’t accept them, that’s a fact.

    • Priscilla permalink
      November 10, 2011 7:06 pm

      Wait, a sec, Ian. I started this discussion by bringing up the GOP proposal to RAISE REVENUES THROUGH TAXES. How do you come up with bait and switch?

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 10, 2011 7:11 pm

        Priscilla: And I understand that you will never accept the fact that

        tax reform

        can succeed without raising everyone’s taxes. So, in that sense, we are at impasse.

      • Priscilla permalink
        November 10, 2011 11:17 pm

        Oh, ok. I guess I worded that in a way that was misleading. What I meant was that revenues can be raised through taxes without necessarily raising tax rates. It’s been done before, and it can be done now, if our politicians of both parties were willing to work on it. That is my point.

        Also, my apologies if my joke about you being reasonable fell flat. Internet communication can be tricky. I was just teasing you, based on what you had written about yourself, and it was not intended as a jab (not that you and I ever jab at each other ;))

        But, seriously, do you feel that you are not taxed enough?

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 11, 2011 9:24 am

        I missed my chance to be offended, we are not on the same ideological wavelength so its easy for my blood pressure to rise a bit based on ideas, but jokes are ephemeral, internet or not.

        My point really was that you were just respinning the spin two conservative news outlets spun. I have no idea where to go to get an objective analysis on a regular basis, I suppose the Economist. I’m going to repost something Samuelson wrote in Newsweek that describes the situation as I understand it, although it does not discuss the specifics in negotiations happening now.

        Priscilla I have understood that you believe that the deficit is a serious, serious problem. Taxed enough? What does that mean? Judging by the deficit the US spends too much and makes too little. We are going to have to bite the bullet on both counts.

        Besides, we don’t need money, Dhlii has assured me that wealth is not money ans so I should not get hung up on whether some sizable hunk of the population has none, we all have our ipods and live in the era of modern medicine so we all as wealthy as kings. Lets get rid of that unnecessary cash and do the patriotic thing, pay down the deficit.

  22. Priscilla permalink
    November 10, 2011 7:04 pm

    I do sympathize with your argument about the value of monkey wrenches, Dave. But I guess I’m stuck on the idea that our elected representatives could take their jobs seriously and actually try to clean up their mess.

    If we were not speeding toward fiscal disaster, I might be more amenable to the “gridlock is good” argument. But, I guess I fall more on the side of getting to fiscal disaster more slowly, and hoping that, in the meantime, we will come to our senses. 🙂

  23. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 11, 2011 9:49 am

    I had posted this under the Occupy thread a few days ago, I didn’t want to invade Huntsman. But we are now off topic anyhow and its very relevant to what we are discussing.

    I think this is an excellent statement of reality. Anyone who is really upset with the deficit has to walk the walk and agree to make some sacrifice or its just baloney and complete hypocrisy.

    Some are sick to death of hearing about keynes, and say, well you’ve done that and where is the result?

    Others are sick of hearing about supply side fantasies and say, well, you’ve done that and where is the result? Bush cut taxes, where did it get us?

    Looking at recent history deficits have gone to hell under Republican presidents, Reagan and Bush II and I see little sign that the GOP has changed, their present tactics still avoid the need to raise taxes although they scream about the deficit they have contributed so much to.
    Its time for reality in GOP land on taxes. As well, its time for reality in Dem land on spending and entitlements. Both sides are still in denial as far as I can tell. The longer we wait until responsibility sets in the more drastic the cure will be. Bite the bullet now, Everyone!

    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.

    • Priscilla permalink
      November 11, 2011 11:40 am

      Not sure, Ian, how the Samuelson articles differs from what I have been saying. I have said that there needs to be a coming together of both sides and true negotiations that acknowledge both the reality of the responsibilities that the government has assumed, and the impossibility of growing those responsibilities to the point where fair taxation can no longer sustain them.

      You seem to think that I believe that safety net programs should be cut in order to afford the very rich a tax break. It’s ludicrous really to think that anyone like me would want that, given that I am probably closer to needing safety net status than to being very rich. So, please disabuse yourself of the notion that right leaning moderates are somehow looking for ways to screw the poor. Most are simply looking for liberals and far right conservatives to, as Samuelson says “identify the most justifiable spending cuts — lots of them — and the least damaging tax increases, which will still be sizable.”

      But, and this is is the crux of what I have been saying, the Democrats are not doing that at all. Not at all. The party that got my vote for most of my life has become totally unserious about the economy. The Republicans are not doing much of it either, but at least they have put foward some actual proposals (yes , I know that you reject out of hand anything that does not include rate hikes, but there ARE ways to substantially increase taxes without raising rates) that could be the basis for a plan of the type that Samuelson is calling for.
      All I am saying is that there needs to be a reasonable plan put forth by the super committee that shows that both sides are serious about dealing with these problems. And my observation,at this point in time (and that could change) is that the Democrats are not even interested in pretending that they want a solution.

      Jon Stewart asked Nancy Pelosi the other night why the Democrats never passed a budget during the 2 years that they had total control of the government. She answered that it was because the GOP would have filibustered it. I guess that the former Speaker forgot that budget bills cannot be filibustered and need only a simple majority.

      That is what I mean. I am not trying to be partisan. I am simply fed up with this kind of politics.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 11, 2011 12:38 pm

        You’ve spoken very little about cutting the safety net and a lot about tax rate cuts. My suspicious nature is much more directed towards the tax end, I have little knowledge on how you feel about the safety net.

        Why your big objection to raising rates? Why the GOPs?

        By playing a shell game with tax revenue increases, snip here, add there, cut rates I believe that the GOP plays to people who believe that while taxes will go up somewhere on someone, they personally will pay less due to the lowering of rates. Whereas if the GOP agrees to rate increases, then everyone has no delusions, its clear they will have to pay to reduce the deficit.

        Anyone who believes the Deficit is a monster needs to accept the pain of killing it. We all need to pay more and receive less, no Bulls***

        I think that the committee will not agree and we get the automatic 1.2 trillion across the board. I’m fine with spreading the pain across the board, take the politics out. But that leaves revenue increases out, which I am not fine with, thats idiotic.

    • November 11, 2011 11:42 pm

      Is Europe, Greece, Italy, Spain, …. going to solve their problems through shared sacrifice, compromise and tax increases

      You complain that you are sick of hearing about Keynesian failures – if you do not wish to hear about them then quit proposing to repeat them.
      Essentially you run afoul of the article you cite.

      There are no painless solutions to our problems.

      That does not mean we do not face both good choices and bad ones.

      There are two great fallacies with any proposal to increase taxes on anyone as the solution to this.

      The first fallacy is in the belief that they will work. I have provided you with myriads of studies – even from left leaning sources demonstrating that taxes on capitol are economically net negative.

      The second fallacy is that of government without limits.
      Periodically a moderate here twitches and grasps that government is just not worth 50% of the entire economy, or that no matter how deep and broad a social safety-net you chose to impose – it does not have to cost a fraction of what it actually does. But after a few moments insight fades and the unconsidered leftist tripe starts flowing again

      I have little doubt that the GOP will return to their spendthrift ways once their feet are not being held to the fire.

      When republicans have regained control of government and have lost interest in fiscal restraint – I will still be here shouting about spending.

      One of the reasons you see a political unwillingness to compromise, is past history.

      You rant about Reagan deficits, and tax increases – yet each increase as every tax increase since 1980 was part of a deal that included cutting spending – usually 2:1
      The tax increases were real, the spending cuts never materialised. Regardless, I am not looking to defend either the GOP or Reagan on either count. There is no rational explanation for federal spending above the historic norms of 18-19% of GDP. When economic growth is back to 3-4%, When unemployment is back to 4%, When spending is brought in line, when the overwhelming majority of us no longer feel the federal government wastes 51 cents of every dollar it collects – then, and only then if we are still short we can discuss whether revenue increases are necessary.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 14, 2011 10:05 am

        I’m still argumentive but buried under work.

        I agreed with you previously that the growth in the size of government is in fact disturbing, According to my sources its at over 40% to perhaps 45%. Its astonishing. I agree that this is not healthy, even to one who does not have your horror of government.

        I’m not about to retrogress on this issue, its one of those cancers, such as growth in income disparity, and growth in human CO2 that no one seems to know how to stop. I add it to my list of things I can watch with despair.

        Why exactly are you an optimist again?

  24. November 11, 2011 10:09 am

    Ian will be upset as this is coming from WSJ, but it makes so many of the points I have been trying to make on so many different levels.

    When government attempts to help people, it typically fails. There are many reasons, government is and should be inefficient – inefficiency in government is supposed to be the tradeoff for less corruption. Government assistance mangles the incentives for people to help themselves. Government always proposes one size fits all approaches. Government never trusts people to take balance their own wants and needs. More recently politicians use words like “investment” but they have no clue what they really mean.

    Messr’s Forstman and Walton (yes that Walton) put up 100 Million of their own money for educational scholarships – actually to date that amount with contributions from others has almost reached $500M.

    The scholarships are simple, with an emphasis on need. They can be used by parents in anyway they wish to privately educate their children. They are large enough to help, but not sufficient on their own – all parents somehow have to match the scholarship, and in many instances come up with much more.

    This has quietly attracted support from prominent people on all sides.
    More than 100,000 students have benefited.

    This is an example of the many reasons why private action works and government does not.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      November 11, 2011 10:20 am

      Dhlii, Your example shows that private efforts can be effective, they do nothing to prove your radical argument that government economic efforts are never effective.

      When you provided me with a rational survey article by careful scientists who made a qualified claim in a careful manner about the relationship between the size of Govt relative to the GDP I listened, read and was able to agree. In fact to get me to read that article you first dropped your usual dogma and made a very different statement I consider rational: There is an optimal range in the relationship between the size of all government and the GDP. Its exactly as I would have put it myself.

      But please do not believe that the ultraconservative-libertarian dogma that government is always ineffective and economic regulation is always counterproductive is enticing to me. That’s just red meat for fellow travelers. I just roll my eyes. I come here each day looking for eye rolling exercise and frequently get it.

      • November 12, 2011 1:23 am

        I can not prove to you that in some mythical world government can not effectively improve the economy. But the very set of papers you cite pretty effectively demonstrates that in the real world they have consistently failed to do so. Am I somehow ignorant and the strong negative correlation between the cost of government and the decline of GDP means something different than the obvious – government sucks at managing the economy.

        In a previous thread I backed slightly away from government always and every where fails. At the same time the evidence is pretty compelling that government almost always does more harm than good at whatever it attempts – economic or otherwise.

        Regardless, given the very data you refer to, isn’t the burden actually on you ? The so called dogma you refer to is nothing more than the obvious meaning of the studies you found interesting.

        Let us say for the sake of argument that government actually succeeds at whatever it attempts one third of the time. That is a far greater rate than I think the data from the studies you are refering to would support, but lets accept that highly favorable basis.

        If government efforts to accomplish a purpose cause more harm than good 2 times out of 3 that seems like an unbelievably compelling argument for extremely limited government.

        You piss and moan about the inability of others to face facts and science.
        What you claim as my utlraconservative libertarian dogma is little more than the ability to understand facts.

        I will absolutely concede that I would advocate for limited government – even if government could effectively manage the economy. Ultimately I am unwilling to trade liberty even for a better economy. Fortunately my principles and economic facts align, and individual liberty and a strong economy are interdependent. …

        Unless you can construct some mythical country with large amounts of economic, civil and political freedom AND a large powerful and economically successful government, then I should think the debate should be over.

        Finally I would note that the optimal total size of government according to the papers I provided and you are now citing was between 15% (Hong Kong) and 23% of GDP. The US federal government alone is 23% of GDP. Are you prepared to totally obliterate state and local government ?
        Or are we going to get rid of the Federal government.

        I would also note in the World Bank study above, that entitlements had a negative correlation to GDP.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 14, 2011 10:48 am

        Here we are butting up against your ability to see everything in terms of supporting your economic religion.

        What those papers carefully said was that there is a 0.5 to 1% negative correlation between each addition 10% of government as a fraction of gdp, and that this correlation does not seem to hold for all societies. So, lets say the US really has an excess baggage of 10 to 20% of government as a portion of gdp and lets assume we are not one of those societies that are outliers. Thus, if we accept the very tenuous hypothesis that by reversing the process by cutting government in half, radically remaking society more or less, we’d regain “lost growth” of between 0.5 to 2% growth/year. What other consequences would occur that would work against that growth? Horrific ones, but you won’t admit to them, its a one dimensional look at economics.

        People act in stupid and sometimes evil ways when government has too much power, yes, People also act in stupid and evil ways when corporations or individuals have too much wealth and power. You are terrified of the first and oblivious to the second. There has to be a balance of forces to give the average person some chance. I can accept 0.5% less growth/year, almost all of which would only enrich those who are already wealthy, if society holds off the robber barons and tries to spread the benefits of our wealth to those who were not born on third base.

        I am not arguing here that I don’t accept that our government is too large as a portion of gdp and is set to grow even more. I see that, its scary. Unfortunately, this problem has to get in line with all the other equally scary problems. We are headed to hell in a handbasket and I am not optimistic.

        Perhaps its time for me to start my deluxe Vermont survivalist facility and stock up on ammo and bean with bacon soup.

  25. Priscilla permalink
    November 11, 2011 1:09 pm

    Ian, I haven’t really talked up tax rate cuts that much at all. I have talked about pragmatic solutions that will get bipartisan support and that will bring in needed revenue without imposing the brunt of the pain on the same people who always get shafted…that would the middle class.

    What I have said is that liberals refuse to accept that tax revenue can be increased without raising rates. I personally feel that I pay my fair share of taxes. A hell of a lot, to be honest, when you combine federal, state, property, sales etc. etc….not to mention SS, UI and Medicare. I expect to pay my fair share, but it does bug me that rich people who make way more than me, as well as middle class people who make just slightly less than me, pay not as much in federal taxes. So, unlike you, I am not willing to just go along with a federal tax rate increase, just because some politicians say it is the only way to raise revenues. Because, as you say, they are liars. I say, let’s see a balanced budget first, let’s see some tax money coming in from GE, let’s not invest tax dollars in BS companies like Solyndra, let’s not bail out failing banks and brokerage houses, and then, get back to me. Ok?

    Anyway, we have spent a lot of time being at impasse. We’ll get there again in another thread I’m sure.

    • November 12, 2011 12:52 am

      The rich with very few exception pay far more taxes than the rest of us.
      The top 50% of wage earners pay more than 97% of the cost of government.
      The top 5% pay 59% of all income taxes collected.
      Prior to 2008 the top 1% paid more total taxes than the bottom 95% as wages at the top have dropped precipitously in this recession that is no longer true – but will likely return once the economy recovers.

      Whether the rich pay their fair share depends on the meaning of a meaningless term – fair. Whether they pay far more than most of the rest of us is inarguably true.

      If your household Adjusted Gross income in 2004 was between 35,000 and 55,000 you are middle class if it was between 55K and 88K you are upper middle class. If it was above that you are in the top fifth and you are the rich.

      BTW that is household income, not personal income.

  26. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 11, 2011 1:24 pm

    Well, believe me it is not easy for me to pay my taxes and I double pay my SS, a problem in April each year. So I don’t speak lightly when I say I will agree to pay more.

    Sadly, not meaning to be cruel, I did at last get your position clarified, and as I suspected all along, you don’t want to pay more taxes, which means you want someone else to pay more. That is what the GOP plays to, people who want the deficit cut but don’t feel they should be the ones to feel that pain. That is what they are doing in their negotiations and its complete transparent BS. So, the WSJ and the National Review and Rush and Ann Coulture will churn out their stuff saying the Dems are evil and the GOP pure innocent and responsible. I sure hope they tax these pundits at an appropriate rate and a hot air tax would be great too.

    I’m also happy to have the rich pay more, but I accept that they can’t do it alone.

    Besides, Dhlii has assured me that I am wealthy just by virtue of being alive today and my money is not wealth, so why should I obsess about sending more of my money to pay down the debt?

    • Priscilla permalink
      November 11, 2011 6:04 pm

      Ian, I don’t think that you’re cruel. But I also don’t think you have the foggiest clue about my position. You exhibit the obtuseness of most liberals in assuming that fairness is defined only by them. I pay my fair share of taxes, and I will pay more, if, when all is said and done, it is necessary and fair for people like me, and you, to pay more.

      But right now, there are people making $50,000 a year who pay nothing, there is a multibillion dollar corporation, General Electric, which has shipped thousands of jobs overseas, despite its CEO being head of the president’s jobs council, and which paid $0 in corporate taxes last year, there are mega rich businessmen, politicians etc, who are able to shelter much of their wealth and income from any federal taxes…….need I go on?

      By all means, if you think that this fair, go ahead and send Uncle Sam more of your hard earned income. But don’t get all holier-than-thou on me and tell me that I should pay more than my fair share, while others do not.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 11, 2011 6:28 pm

        Well, I and anyone who is not a politician, a lobbyist, or a beneficiary would close every loophole in a second. If anyone wants to pass a law that says that everyone with an income must pay some income tax you will find me in the long line of public opinion on that one too. As to corporate welfare, I read about GE, they have the best in-house tax law dept. in the country. All for going after them too.

        But I’d bet that when one puts it into perspective those abuses add up to suprisingly little in the bigger scheme, tens of billions more than likely in a budget of trillions. We can all find something to be bitter about and we can all find some justification or rationalization for not wanting to give them our hard earned money. In the end we are going to have to if we are real about paying down the deficit.

        The funny thing is that YOU sound like a liberal here, it sounds like you are starting to get the go after the rich and spoiled corporations fever. And I’m all for that too!

        If your point is close the loopholes first, increase the tax on normal people second I can’t argue with that in principle unless its impossible to do and just impedes actually getting us out of this mess. But I somehow doubt that the GOP proposal is about that. I’ll try to find out what the economist thinks.

        OK, got a gig, gotta run.

      • November 11, 2011 11:51 pm


        Libertarians have been opposed to corporate welfare for two centuries.

        My argument for limited government is an argument to deprive government power to all the special interests that inevitably will succeed in leveraging whatever power is is available.

        I will not disagree that the GOP proposal likely contains a fair amount of smoke and mirrors – do you really beleive the democrats does not ?

        I will be happy to agree to close all loopholes and subsidies and corporate welfare. But I really do me all.

        No exemptions for dependent, no home mortgage deductions, no childcare credits, no energy credits, no …. nothing. Absolutely zero deductions of any kind – in return for lower rates. Let each of us decide what we value whether it is homes or kids, or whatever, and pay for it with our own money.

        I trust people to make their own decisions with their lives. I trust rich people, and poor people. A tiny fraction will fail – but far fewer than the numbers government fails.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 14, 2011 10:08 am

        My biggest problem with making radical changes to the tax code, especially now, is that anyone who believe that they could predict the result revenue wise has been smoking funny tobacco. Its hard enough to predict revenue now with a system more or less rigid.

        Tax reform would have to be a gradual process, we cannot blow up the system and rebuild it from scratch.

      • November 12, 2011 12:18 am


        Ultimately corporate taxes are paid by consumers. They are essentially sales tax one level removed. The liberal meme about corporate taxes is idiotic – corporate taxes are highly regressive – as anything that is a sales tax.

        One of the great idiocies of our government is the myriads of different ways we tax. All taxes are painful, all are economically harmful, but some are worse than others.

        You can fund government entirely by income taxes or entirely by business taxes, or entirely by sales taxes, or entirely by tariffs, or …..
        But combinations inevitably result is allocation, economic distortions, and double and triple taxation.

        In the long run a corporation can do only two things with profits – pay dividends to shareholders – that is us. If you have a pension, an IRA, life insurance, …. you own a stake in US corporations. The alternative is to invest – to grow the business. Regardless the purpose of corporations is to produce profits for shareholders – that is US. The profits of various industries vary primarily as a function of risk, but generally are below 10%. Increasing corporate taxes has no real effect on corporate profits. Taxes are an expense passed on to consumers. A business that does not profit does not continue to exist (absent government subsidies)
        One way or another corporate taxes are taxes on each of us.

        I am not opposed to corporate taxes – but I will rail against the idiocy that taxing business is some how free money. Corporate taxes are likely slightly less harmful than taxes on investment. But pretending they are a tax on someone else is lunacy. Like believing that you do not pay for your own routine healthcare because you do not pay it directly.

        The complexities in our tax code are all attempts to delude us as to who is paying our taxes. WE should not be deluded into believing that a deduction for someone else is not essentially a tax on us, that a tax on business is not ultimately paid by consumers, that taxes on investment are not paid for in lost wealth for everyone.

        Tax the crap out of someone else if you wish, but ultimately the cost will be paid by you.

    • November 12, 2011 12:34 am

      You are not wealthy by virtue of being alive. Most of the world is far less wealthy than the poor in the US. Being alive is insufficient. But if you are american and you are poor you are more wealthy today that if you were american and poor 30 years ago. Further if you are american and you were poor 30 years ago it is highly unlikely that you are poor today.
      The people making up the lower quintile 30 years ago (or ten years ago, or 5 years ago) are not the same people making it up today.

      What is it you need, want desire in life ? Do you really want money ? Or do you want what money can get you ? Few of us have money rather than what it buys as an objective.
      Money is the means of exchanging the wealth we create for the wealth we want – nothing more. Facts about money – such as income, taxes, are at the very best indirect means of measuring wealth. It is like trying to measure the water in a lake by measuring inflows and outflows.

      All of us can pay less taxes if government spends less. When government spends money – think of it is your money. Remember half your productive effort, half the wealth you create is being consumed by government.

      Are you getting your money”s worth. Even when some government spending directly benefits you, government is taking your money from you only to earn your favor by giving some of it back.

  27. Priscilla permalink
    November 12, 2011 1:14 am

    I agree with you, Dave, as I generally do. But one reason that I am not a libertarian is that, ultimately, libertarian arguments do not play well in the electoral politics of our time. And, politics may be a very imperfect way to get things done, but it is what we are stuck with. And, I think that most moderates like me are essentially pragmatists, who want to get things done.

    In a perfect world – a perfect economy, if you will – taxpayers would understand that corporate taxes are simply passed on to the consumer, and that, in reality, no corporation really “pays” their taxes, they simply charge more for their products and pass the tax along to us. Similarly, government regulatory costs are passed on to the taxpayer.

    But then you have the average voter, who sees Jeffrey Immelt raking in his multi-millions in salary and bonus, hob-nobbing with BHO and chairing his jobs council, all the while being a good businessman and CEO and making sure that his corporation – legally – pays not a penny in taxes. That might be palatable, if (and this is a big if) GE were actually creating jobs in America. Now I know, and you know, that it’s hard to create jobs making light bulbs, for example, when the incandescent light bulbs that GE made have been outlawed by the government and the EPA has made it next to impossible to manufacture “legal” bulbs, so the company has to make them offshore.

    Nevertheless, many voters see GE as the enemy, not the government. They are uneducated in economics and deluded by a media that refuses to look beyond simplistic explanations. So, when libertarians defend Immelt and GE, those voters don’t think, “Let’s get all of this government out of the way, so that GE can make profits through the manufacture of lightbulbs, and create more jobs which, in turn will create more taxpayers.” They think, “We are being screwed by GE and it’s not ‘fair’ – libertarians support the corporation that is screwing us.”

    • Jesse C permalink
      November 12, 2011 8:53 am

      Priscilla: “And, I think that most moderates like me are essentially pragmatists, who want to get things done.”

      AMEN! Can we put this statement on a plaque somewhere? Or perhaps on the website navigation bar?

    • November 12, 2011 5:10 pm

      Ultimately I am not a pragmatist. I beleive the value of individual liberty is so great that even if a government that respected it was weaker and less successful – that it would still be the best choice. I would rather be poor and master of my own life than a wealthy slave.

      Fortunately in the real world that is not my choice. In the real world ideology and pragmatism reach the same conclusion. Liberty is a necessary condition for the creation of wealth.

      There are two major flaws in libertarianism.

      The first is that it is the only political ideology that is prohibited by its one first principles from imposing itself by force on others. Persuasion is the only compulsion libertarians are free to use on others.

      The second is more pragmatic. I have debated myriads of issues of economics here. I think the pragmatic results are conclusive. At the same time they are small. The economic benefits of freedom, small government, low taxes, are very real, but easily lost.
      Each 10% increase in government spending results in a 1% decrease in GDP. It requires moving a full class up in economic freedom to gain a 1% increase in GDP.
      Almost every issue I have argued here hinges on small differences.
      Over time the effects of small differences can be enormous.
      There are no populous nations with the wealth or standard of living of the US.
      In 1820 the US GDP was 1/3 that of England. In 1973 it was equal to that of Western Europe. Today it is 20% larger, and equal to that of the entire EU. It is about 1/3 of the world economy. In most every way the average american lives better than people in all but a handful of tiny nations throughout the world – and this despite 12M illegal aliens, and more than 1M legal immigrants per year.

      But the left has always been able to argue that 1% is a small cost to pay for universal healthcare, or whatever today’s favorite program to expiate their guilt.
      Yet 1% growth per year over just a decade or two provides far more benefit to the very people they seek to help then any government program.

      All of us would like to beleive (most of us will not actually do so – the left particularly so) we would willingly give 1% of our income to end world hunger, poverty, ….

      Yet we fail to grasp that keeping that would ultimately create greater benefit.

      I am appalled that men like Gates and Buffet wish to take their Billions and devote them to charity. 80 Billion dollars invested by someone with a proven track record for success would not only make them wealthier – it would make the rest of us wealthier. Does anyone doubt that Gates and Buffett have created untold numbers of jobs ? Further most of these are excellent high paying jobs. And each person with an excellent job the result of Gates and Buffets investment consumes goods and services that demand myriads of lessor jobs.

      I argued above that taxes on corporations essentially constitute double taxation on the rest of us. But taxes on investment and capitol are even worse. Reduced investment is jobs destruction. The economy today has recovered from 2008. The stock market is essentially back where it was, GDP has recovered, in myriads of ways the recession is over. But the strong surge in growth that is nearly inevitable as a recession ends has not occurred. The rush of investment, has not occurred, the increase in hiring has not occurred. We are angry because investors of all flavours are not investing, and real recovery will not occur until they do. Current conditions mirror only one past precedent – the great depression. In both instances government responded by spending money, instituting programs, trying to prop up wages and employment. Passing myriads of new laws and regulations, increasing taxes – particularly on the “rich”. The sole distinction is that in the great depression the Federal Reserve followed an extremely tight money policy while today’s Fed has responded with easing. Everything we are seeing conforms to the patterns of the past.

      When government plays in the market place bad things happen.

  28. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 12, 2011 11:10 am

    Yes Dave there is lots of data that supports Libertarian Ideas. There is also lots of data that supports the idea that W Bush brought down the twin towers with explosives in order to seize control of the US. But there is far more data that shows that this is pure BS. Same with Libertarian arguments. The reason there is not and has never been a Libertarian Government is that human nature is not what you think it is. If Human nature really was as you believe humans would have created a libertairian government just as surely as a soap bubble becomes a sphere as soon as it forms. Humans are never going to form a lIbertarian government and if they somehow did the robber baron would be kings in no time and shortly there after Saddam Hussein or Moamar Khaddafi would appear and eat the robber barons.

    It would be a short disastrous experiment based on naivete.

    We need to get real. Any plan to reduce the deficit without increasing revenue is not serious.

    • November 12, 2011 12:27 pm

      No Ian there is not much credible data that contradicts the claim that economic freedom and economic growth are strongly correlated. Most of the studies I have provided you are not from Cato, Reason, Heritage, or other bastions of libertarianism, conservatism, or heterodox schools of economic though. These results are coming from main stream and even liberal and Keynesian sources.
      I can think of few if any successful governments that conformed perfectly to any ideology. There are no pure democracies, no pure communist governments. Nor do I recall any libertarian seeking to impose a pure libertarian government on everyone else by force. But that is precisely what every other ideology seeks to do.

      You are free to argue resolving our current problems by whatever means you wish. And our problems are far greater than just the deficit.

      But we know from myriads of studies that increases in taxes result in decreases in GDP, and that the cost of those increases is greatest for taxes on investment and capitol.
      If you propose to “solve” our problems by increasing taxes without factoring in the economic harm of those tax increases, then you are just playing with smoke and mirrors.

      We also know – for much the same reason, that tax increases – again particularly on investment and capitol never bring in the revenue they are projected to, and often produce net zero or even negative additional revenue.

      The causes for both of these are easily understood. They are a part of the human nature that you think libertarians ignore. The mathematical details of the precise effect of a given tax rate on return on investment may be beyond most of us – but most of us understand that we are far less inclined to earn money the less we get to keep.

      You are terrified of corporate monopolists – we have had plenty of robber barons in the past, all have been dependent on government. Creative Destruction is an inherent part of the economy. We had a recent lesson in exactly what happens when large enterprises make mistakes. Absent government intervention there would likely be no AIG, no GM, no Chrsyler, no Citi, no BOA, no Fannie, No Freddie …… I will assure you that so long as we need cars, there will be car companies. So long as we need banks, there will be banks.
      We understand there are economies of scale, but larger institutions are less flexible and adaptable, and they require near perfect decision making to survive. Look around you, thousands of businesses are born and die each day. Very very few survive past 25 years. Even those that do are usually shadows of their former selves. At one time GM, AT&T, US Steel, IBM, Westinghouse, GE – these were colossus of American business.

      Your fear of Robber Barons is that they will wield power that does not exist outside of government. It is solely the ability to leverage the power of government that makes the very thing you fear possible. Reduce the power of government and you reduce that risk substantially.

      I will happily agree with you that big business will always seek to exploit the power of government. It is inevitable – regardless of what rules you impose. I will agree that the conjunction of big business and powerful government is one road to totalitarian serfdom. But what you fail to grasp is that big business seeks to corrupt government because it does not posses sufficient power in the marketplace to accomplish its ends. If corporations had sufficient power to impose their will without government they would long ago have done so.

      And yes we do need to get real. We need to quit fearing the impossible. We need to quit pretending that human nature is not what it is. I fully grasp that we are not going to live in libertopia – whatever that is. At the same time, it is pretty much indisputable, that the road of increased taxes, spending, large government, less freedom, more regulation, all lead to economic hell. The solution to our current problems is not taking cyanide. Calling poisoning ourselves compromise or seriousness or … does not make it rational.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 12, 2011 3:32 pm

        Dhlii: We know from myriads of studies that increases in taxes result in decreases in GDP.

        YOU know from myriads of studies, the ones that say what you wish to hear. You have an amazing ability to interpret everything as support for your theories and to completely ignore good evidence to the contrary. In fact there is a full rich argument on this issue that goes back forever and has reached no definitive conclusion. One of G.W. Bushes leading economic advisers wrote an economics textbook a few years back in which he devoted an entire chapter to explaining why tax cuts do not lead to growth. You claim the issue is settled. Pure BS, libertarian dogma. Your one sided interpretation of taxation does provide a smoke screen for those who don’t wish to pay more taxes, they can claim they are just being noble. Rot. I will continue to laugh at anyone who tells me with one breath that they are scared to death about the deficit and tell me with the next that they want tax rates cut.

        I don’t claim the argument is settled, both sides can trot of Nobel prize winners to support their claims. I will work for more money, even though I pay more on my student loans and my property taxes the more money I make because I still come out ahead. By your argument no one should be working much at all.

        Money isn’t wealth until someone asks you to pay some of yours to reduce the deficit, then your money becomes extremely valuable and all your rhetoric goes out the window. Its hilarious. You are simply not serious about the deficit, your target is something else.

        And as to my fears of robber barons, I believe they are well founded. Go try a year in Somalia, they have precious little government there, it should be a utopia I guess.

      • November 12, 2011 6:01 pm


        These are not my studies. They are not libertarian studies People like Christine Romer or The World Bank are not noted for their libertarian leanings. Nor have I claimed the results are universal. But they are the rule not the exception – to use a term you like they are the consensus.

        Yes, if you wish to ignore facts, myriads of studies and human behavior we can go round and this forever. But the fact that you can get people on the left to continue to argue positions that can no longer be accepted as credible does not mean there remains real controversy. Today the real arguments on taxes on investment are over how bad they are not whether they are bad.

        There is a difference between the claim that tax cuts lead to growth and that tax increases lead to economic destruction. In fact all types of taxes are not equal, the really bad news is the the most regressive forms of taxation are the least economically damaging. I am not looking to defend the Bush tax cuts. Just like the cuts that were part of Obama’s stimulus they were a bad idea – the vast majority of both cuts targeted the middle class. While I personally greatly appreciated that, that is very nearly the least stimulative form of tax cut you can have. At the same time the negative impact was far less than predicted. We were teetering on the cusp of a recession and they forestalled that. The loss in revenue was less than predicted by the left and greater than predicted by the right.

        Further the so called “supply side” argument that has purportedly been refuted, is that all tax cuts pay for themselves. That is absurd if it were so we should just have 0% taxes on everything.

        The argument that lower tax rates on X generate sufficient growth that total revenue from taxes on X increase when the rate is lowered is an independent and overly simplistic representation of a different argument.
        It is pretty obvious to most everyone that tax rate of 0% and 100% both fail. It does not take a rocket scientist to grasp that between those two points there is a curve. There are slightly different shaped curves for each different kind of tax based on the extent to which those subject to the tax have the ability to alter their behavior. Actually there are two curves for each type of tax. One is the revenue curve. Increasing tax rates will produce additional tax revenue – but not in a linear fashion. Long before any tax reaches 100% total revenue from that tax will decline. The exact shape of the curve will vary based on the tax. Taxes on investment will peak at very low levels – because investment is optional, and because it takes very low levels of taxation to turn an investment from potentially profitable to not worthwhile. The other curve is the economic impact.

        Every single tax will have rates at which increasing it will bring in more revenue, and points at which increasing it will actually bring in less.

        Every single tax will have points at which the revenue is substantially greater than the damage of the tax, and points at which the economic damage exceeds the revenue produced.

        Anyone who claims that increased taxes produce linear greater revenue is either an idiot or a liar. Just as is anyone who claims all tax decreases produce greater revenue.

        I do not need Christine Romer or some former Bush economist to tell my either of these. And frankly no one should be trusting the economic pontifications of either Bush or Obama economists.

        This is not about my money. Raising taxes on the rich will have no tax impact on me. But all of us will be subject to the economic impact.

        I am very serious about the deficit – but my target is something else – Spending, the cause of the deficit. I want spending reduced – even if the deficit is gone, because government spending comes at the expense of the quality of life and standard of living of all of us.

        If I must go somewhere else to get minimal government I would prefer Hong Kong. regardless, just like taxes, our choices are not zero government or infinite government. And just like taxes the data strongly suggests that any more government than that necessary to enforce the rule of law, to protect one persons rights from being forcefully taken by their neighbour comes at an economic cost greater than any benefit government provides.
        Further your so-called Somalian Robber Barons – are the government such as it exists.

      • November 12, 2011 6:14 pm

        One other issue. I am not even slightly interested in tax increases. We have been through permutations of this debate repeatedly throughout my lifetime. Government does no better a job than it did when I was a child – yet it spends far more than it did then. It spends more regardless of how you measure it. As the economy has grown faster than the number of people, government today should be able to provide exactly the same services as it did 40 years ago, at a cost that is a far smaller portion of the economy. Yet the reverse is true. Government if anything performs worse than it did 40 years ago, and costs far far more.

        We have been through this taxes vs. spending argument through out my life. Taxes have increased, taxes have decreased, but spending has only increased. There have been myriads of political deals trading tax increases for spending cuts. The taxes increased the spending cuts never materialised. After spending has been cut dramatically, if there is still a deficit problem then maybe we can talk about revenue. Though i highly doubt that will be necessary.

        If you are so keen on tax increases – then propose to increase your own taxes – not somebody else’s. When you argue increase someone else’s taxes to pay for something you want that is not fairness it is called theft.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 12, 2011 7:06 pm

        I’m gonna be wrapped up with house guests for a couple days so I will disappear (alert the media).

        I can agree with certain sentences in what you wrote, no time no to explain.

        But I think you must have missed the parts of my recent posts where I said repeatedly that I am willing to be taxed in order to pay down the deficit. In my opinion its those who want the deficit paid down AND a tax decrease who are not playing straight.

  29. November 12, 2011 8:08 pm

    The US is not going to default on its debt – atleast not as a result of partisan bickering.

    This idiocy was constantly being repeated this summer.
    Despite Wikipedia’s assertions to the contrary, not even noted Liberal Constitutional scholar Lawrence Tribe was willing to conclude the 14th amendment allowed the president to borrow without congressional authority. However, the 14th amendment does grant the president the authority to do many other things in order to meet our obligations – including drastically reducing spending, selling assets, and myriads of other choices.
    The treasury department has plans for addressing precisely the problem that would have occurred should congress have failed to raise the debt ceiling. The options are not pleasant, many are fiscally poor choices. But default is prohibited by the constitution and only an idiot thinks the solution to a debt problem is to borrow more.

    Default will only occur because we borrow more than we can pay back. The constitution can not make the impossible possible. We are at risk of precisely that problem. But that risk is not immediate. We are not yet, Greece or Italy. We are not even in the position much of Europe is in. But we are on a road that leads there.

    Contrary to claims otherwise, aside from the natural impact of the recession there is no revenue problem. We have only barely had revenues exceed 20% of GDP once since WWII. I doubt there are many economists that think that is sustainable or wise. The historic revenue of the federal government since WWII has been in a narrow range centered at about 18.2 % of GDP. Altering tax rates does not alter total revenue much – though it does alter who pays the lions share – with the counter intuitive result being the more progressive the tax rates are the greater the portion of the cost of government that falls on the middle class. Put differently – lower taxes on investment really do increase economic growth, the rich do get vastly richer – and pay way more taxes, conditions for everyone improve though the rate of improvement increases as you go up the economic ladder.

    It is irrelevant whether you beleive that is fair or not. The real world – pragmatic choices that exist, are greater wealth for all, with greater income inequality, or less income inequality with everyone less well off than they could be. Tax revenues have declined by almost 4% in this recession. One of the primary causes has been a dramatic decline in the income of the rich. Essentially the high levels of income inequality that the left harps about require a strong, vibrant growing economy.

  30. November 12, 2011 9:30 pm


    I am not aware of anyone proposing a plan to decrease taxes.

    Prior to blowing several trillion on failed Keynesian stimulus I might have supported tax decreases on investment as a form of real stimulus.

    I am not following the super committee very closely. Mostly I think it is pointless.
    Spending needs cut far more than is being contemplated by either party.
    While I have preferences, ultimately I am prepared to tax an axe to pretty much all government spending. I would love to get the parties to compete to see who could cut spending the most.

    Both tax decreases and tax increases are total non-starters.

    There is virtually no republican that can expect to get re-elected right now if they vote for a tax increase. You may not like that but it is the political reality. If you think the current crop of GOP representatives are too fiscally conservative, you will like what you get after they vote for a tax increase even less. I am personally happy about that circumstance and not happy because it will likely dissipate as real recovery actually sets in.

    You are entitled to not like that, but it is the way it is, and wanting it otherwise will not change it. Libertarians have to deal with a political environment where there is little hope that they will ever get much of anything they want – I can not say I have much sympathy for those who wish for a less fiscally conservative crop of republicans.

    As I understand things what is being proposed is tax reform. Basically trading deductions for rate decreases. While that will decrease taxes for some and increase them for others, these changes have little to do with class or income. Personally I support a flat tax, no deductions of any kind, with perhaps an exclusion for the first 15,000 of income. It is unlikely I will see that. But anything to eliminate as many deductions as possible – again I really do not care which ones. I beleive people should make their own choices with regard to spending their money. The concept that the tax implications should impact a decision – with a household or business decision is insane.

    Though there will certainly be some infighting over the details, it is my understanding that there is actually bi-partisan support for tax code simplification – including specifically rate reduction in return for eliminating deductions.

    Business taxes are more complex – if we were sane business income would only be taxed when it becomes personal income. In the real world we are stuck with government deciding what business expenses are tax deductible and which are not, because we have this insane system that essentially imposes a hidden sales tax on all of us, by taxing business. The only business expenses that should not be tax deductible – presuming we are stupid enough to continue to have business taxes, are untaxed transfers to individuals – perks.

    Aside from my personal views, it is my understanding that the GOP has proposed tax simplification with rate reduction that it thinks would be revenue positive to the tune of almost 1/2 Trillion dollars. If you are sceptical – so am I. Though I actually suspect that revenue neutral tax simplification would prove to be revenue positive as the economy started to growth. I do not think you comprehend the extent to which complex tax rules are economically harmful.

    I would note that we have had near universal support to kill the myriads of ethanol subsidies. Democrats had total control of congress for two years and this did not happen. Sugar tariffs are another biggy – frankly lets just get rid of all tariffs.

  31. November 12, 2011 10:21 pm

    Risking Ian’s ire by providing a link to Forbes – despite the fact that one of his favourite Reagan administration economic advisors writes there.

    Here is a pretty good piece on why we are in this mess.

    Critical to grasp is that even when government intends to do good. Even when that effort appears to be working, the risk and potential damage is enormous.

    When mistakes are made in the market – the market adjusts. When governments fingers are on the scales, those adjustments do not occur where or when they ought to. The more effort government puts into tipping the scales the greater the negative market backlash must be to correct the problem.

    Like many significant failures, the housing crisis, the ensuing financial crisis and the resulting recession are not the direct result of a single error. They are the result of many mistakes – some private some public, though all driven by government, over many years.
    Worse still as the failure surfaced other unrelated government mistakes such as mark to market made the problem far worse.

  32. November 13, 2011 10:44 am

    An economists explanation of our current predicament written in Sept. 2008.

  33. Anonymous permalink
    November 14, 2011 1:31 am

    This was written just as the financial crisis was starting, but it directly addresses the claims of wage stagnation. Presumably the Federal Reserve is a credible source of information – not some ultra-conservative organization bought off by the Koch’s.

    Note Mr. Wirtz accepts the argument that wages have been stagnant, but refutes the argument that wealth has been.

    In fact I would note that while”income inequality” has increased significantly up to 2008, that the all quintiles had increased wealth and the disparity between the top quintile and the rest is far less than that in income.

    Once again Money is not wealth.

    Directly confronting Ian. Money is not unimportant. It is the means by which we trade the wealth we create for the wealth we need and desire. It has value – but that value is only the ability to be traded for actual wealth. The distinction is important, because we measure most everything using money – and money is an imperfect measure. The cost of healthcare has gone up, The cost of Cell phones has gone down. The net result is that the same amount of money purchases both more and less concurrently. The fact that wages measured in money have been stagnant provides an incomplete story of our financial health. Worse still the government tells us on one hand that the CPI has gone up – we have had minor inflation over the past three decades, but the BLS tells us that the average family has more significantly wealth than it did thirty years ago. Both things are true – but only because the CPI measure the change in price of a very specific and narrow basket of goods. It is supposed to measure the change in prices of essential goods. Even so something is wrong, because the lowest quintile has significantly more wealth. If income is constant and prices on essential goods have increased and the poor are unable to afford much more than essential goods – that is impossible.

    Ultimately, when looking at anyone’s claim of statistical meaning derived from data where possible one should ask if it makes sense with respect to ones own life.
    As much as we wax nostalgic for “the good old days”, remove the rose colored glasses and few of us can honestly claim that the past was really better then the present – even in the midst of the current “great recession” the overwhelming majority of us are doing better than one, two or three decades ago.

  34. November 14, 2011 1:47 am

    A swedish article on healthcare in sweden

    US Healthcare is ranked 37th in the world by WHO, Sweden is ranked 27th,
    but apparently the swedes are slowly migrating to a private system.

  35. November 14, 2011 2:18 am

    On Steve Jobs and why business contributes more to the improvement of society than philanthropy or government.

  36. Priscilla permalink
    November 14, 2011 6:19 pm

    Ian: “In my opinion its those who want the deficit paid down AND a tax decrease who are not playing straight.”

    According to Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen receive farm subsidies on their NJ properties…Bon Jovi because he raises bees, Springsteen because he leases to an organic farmer. In Bon Jovi’s case, he paid only $100 in property taxes last year. By comparison, my husband and I paid almost $15,000 (and trust me, Bon Jovi’s property is way bigger and more valuable).

    Now, I am pretty certain that the government takes a good chunk of change from both of these guys, and their accountants are simply trying to save them as much as they legally can. But how outrageous and ridiculous is it that multimillionaires receive taxpayer subsidies or grants of any kind?

    So, I think I’m playing pretty straight when I say that I don’t want to see tax increases on anyone until this kind of nonsense is dealt with.

    • Priscilla permalink
      November 14, 2011 6:42 pm

      That should have read “According to a report I read today”** haha, not according to Jon Bon Jovi. Haven’t talked to Jon lately 😉

    • November 14, 2011 7:16 pm

      It is impossible to have a government subsidy – even for a purportedly good purpose without having these kind of effects. Further the beneficiaries are always the better connected and more powerful. It does not matter if the subsidy on its face appears to apply equally to all. Would you add a “farm” use or allow someone to keep bees on your property if it would drastically reduce your taxes – or even allow you to profit from a government subsidy – most of us would – if we have the time and expertise to find these kinds of loopholes.

      Contrary to public perception most do not appear evil. Most appear to be for good purposes, raising bees, farming, some even appear to favour small over large, but usually favour affluent dilettante farmers over actual farmers.

      The left wants to rail that it is really the rich and powerful manipulating the system – certainly they are, but benefit that someone wealthy appears to have taken “unfair” but legal advantage of was put there with a good purpose in mind – though the norm is the good purpose never benefits – but someone does.

      I am not angry at the wealthy for knowing how to play the system. I am angry at our politicians for creating the game in the first place.

      Flat taxes, no deductions – for anything, no loopholes, no subsidies – farm or otherwise, no special preferences for anything, of course when we say no subsidies we must not only eliminate the rich and powerful, but also the politically powerful – no special subsidies for cities, states or local government. Conditions in New York City and nowhere, North Dakota are vastly different – but each should provide for their own basic needs. The unique governmental costs of living – whatever they are in either region should be covered by the people who choose to live in that region.

    • Jesse C permalink
      November 14, 2011 8:28 pm

      Ouch!! 15k! Gotta love NJ property taxes. …

  37. November 15, 2011 12:21 am

    Demographic statistics for each quintile

    We should definitely punish those in the top quintile who unfairly earn so much more than the rest of us. They are far more likely to be two income families, more likely to be full time, more likely to be married, more likely to be well educated, more likely to be in their peak earning years.

    These are the people whose taxes you are intent on raising.

  38. November 15, 2011 12:29 am

    More on the efficiency of government.

  39. November 15, 2011 12:51 am

    Why, and how free markets work.
    Hopefully the US will not respond to our current economic crisis with trade restrictions that will destroy all this.

    Ultimately the best result would be growth in the US and the rest of the world.
    While it is virtually certain that conditions in the US will outpace the world in the next decade, Europe’s (and China’s) problems are sufficiently large to threaten the entire world economy. Our ability to bail out failure has nearly been exhausted. Italy is currently teetering and the resources necessary to save iust just do not exist. An economic default in Europe would likely have repercussions in the US dwarfing the collapse of the housing bubble.

    I would particularly note that though US manufacturing has actually increased in the past decade – those European Social democracies we are supposed to emulate have lost significant portions of their manufacturing base.

  40. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 15, 2011 10:21 am


    I’m going to divide article excerpt this into two parts to make it a bit more readable. Here are some republican voices, including some conservative ones, that strongly disagree with your hilarious ultraconservative spin that the issue of the effects of higher taxes on the economy is a settled question “except for some left wingers who will argue about anything.” I suppose you will say that Stockman, Chafee, Bartlett, Voinevich, and Alan Simpson are all “ranting,” or perhaps they are secretly all lefties at heart:

    “The Republican Party has totally abdicated its job in our democracy, which is to act as the guardian of fiscal discipline and responsibility,” says David Stockman, who served as budget director under Reagan. “They’re on an anti-tax jihad – one that benefits the prosperous classes.”

    The staggering economic inequality that has led Americans across the country to take to the streets in protest is no accident. It has been fueled to a large extent by the GOP’s all-out war on behalf of the rich. Since Republicans rededicated themselves to slashing taxes for the wealthy in 1997, the average annual income of the 400 richest Americans has more than tripled, to $345 million – while their share of the tax burden has plunged by 40 percent. Today, a billionaire in the top 400 pays less than 17 percent of his income in taxes – five percentage points less than a bus driver earning $26,000 a year. “Most Americans got none of the growth of the preceding dozen years,” says Joseph Stiglitz, (Ian note, no, Stiglitz is not a republican or a conservative, I know that!) the Nobel Prize-winning economist. “All the gains went to the top percentage points.”

    The GOP campaign to aid the wealthy has left America unable to raise the money needed to pay its bills. (Ian note I disagree with this part, the rich can’t pay it all) “The Republican Party went on a tax-cutting rampage and a spending spree,” says Rhode Island governor and former GOP senator Lincoln Chafee, pointing to two deficit-financed wars and an unpaid-for prescription-drug entitlement. “It tanked the economy.” Tax receipts as a percent of the total economy have fallen to levels not seen since before the Korean War – nearly 20 percent below the historical average. “Taxes are ridiculously low!” says Bruce Bartlett, an architect of Reagan’s 1981 tax cut. “And yet the mantra of the Republican Party is ‘Tax cuts raise growth.’ So – where’s the f****** growth?”

    • November 15, 2011 10:56 pm


      I have never argued that republicans are intellectual giants. I would not even argue that they are pro-free market, just that they are more amenable to free markets than liberals.

      The Bush administration was only not statist and spendthrift in comparison to the current one. Bush talked free-markets, but he was far less market friendly than Clinton.

      Regardless, I give you economic studies and you give me editorials. I give you economists and you give me politicians ?

      tax receipts are low at the moment because of the recession. They are low specifically because the rich are doing pretty crappy. Taxing the shit out of the rich will not particularly help you right now, because their income has gone down dramatically. They are actually starting to improve, and will certainly return to historic norms as the economy recovers.

      You want to tax the crap out of the rich go ahead. My point – and that of the majority of economic studies over the past 40 years is that the net effect will be economically harmful.
      But if your concept of economic fairness requires us all to live in poverty – fine.

      You see the country far differently than I. In the country that I see OWS is a bunch of radicals and kids – far less than the 1%. The Tea Party is the protest that matters. I am glad that young people have taken an interest in protesting again, but they are as ill informed as ever. As recession has dampened our spirits as a nation we have become more receptive to idiotic and self destructive class warfare arguments, at the same time the overwhelming majority of us are FAR more angry at Washington. Not for partisan bickering but for creating this mess, and for failing to fix it.

      I am not here to defend Republicans as a whole. There are myriads of republican policies I abhor, further the economic fundamentalism you accuse me of, is core to my belief in individual liberty, for most of the GOP it is the current political fad. I have little doubt they will return to their spendthrift ways at the first sign of real recovery.

      Both parties are right about something – you just chose to argue with me over just about the only thing the republicans – atleast for the moment, are right about.

      You wish to fixate on taxes. Taxes are meaningless to this entire problem. History tells us tax increases result in increased spending. I have repeatedly begged you to offer any limit for government, Briefly you seemed amenable to the idea as presented by economic studies that somewhere between 15 and 23% was optimal. Today our federal government alone is atleast 23% of the economy. State and local together are often that much again. Essentially by the most liberal interpretation of the data we have twice the optimal level of government, by a more conservative measure we have three times the necescary government.

      You wish to pretend this is about the rich. It is not, it is about all of us – including particularly the poor. The data does not show that less government benefits only the rich, average wealth grows, median wealth grows, the wealth of the poor grows. You want to fixate on bogus statistics on income inequality and refuse to open your own eyes. You are old enough that you do not need the census, or CBO to tell you how the poor, and the middle class were doing 20, 30 years ago. Yet you chose to beleive idiotic statistical manipulations and misinterpretations. If you were twenty and had no clue what conditions were like thirty years ago that would be excusable – but you are not. If you are so sold on Europe – go there, but please quit trying to break this country.

  41. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 15, 2011 10:41 am

    Article continued, from the Rolling Stone, a lefty publication for sure and yet the article leans heavily on the opinions of people like fiscally conservative “old style” republicans Bob Dole and Alan Simpson and I believe its factually accurate when it is not opining. I don’t agree with every opinion of the author; its a one sided story that makes no mention of the fact that government is growing and growing as a fraction of GDP and that something has to be done to stop that, but there is a lot of truth in this basic narrative about the unholy alliance between today’s ultraconservative GOP base and the rich.

    “Republicans talk about job creation, about preserving family farms and defending small businesses, and reforming Medicare and Social Security. But almost without exception, every proposal put forth by GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates is intended to preserve or expand tax privileges for the wealthiest Americans. And most of their plans, which are presented as common-sense measures that will aid all Americans, would actually result in higher taxes for middle-class taxpayers and the poor. With 14 million Americans out of work, and with one in seven families turning to food stamps simply to feed their children, Republicans have responded to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression by slashing inheritance taxes, extending the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and endorsing a tax amnesty for big corporations that have hidden billions in profits in offshore tax havens. They also wrecked the nation’s credit rating by rejecting a debt-ceiling deal that would have slashed future deficits by $4 trillion – simply because one-quarter of the money would have come from closing tax loopholes on the rich. (Ian: Thats an opinion that is liberal spin, the true situation was more complicated)

    The intransigence over the debt ceiling enraged Republican stalwarts. George Voinovich, the former GOP senator from Ohio, likens his party’s new guard to arsonists whose attitude is: “We’re going to get what we want or the country can go to hell.” Even an architect of the Bush tax cuts, economist Glenn Hubbard, tells Rolling Stone that there should have been a “revenue contribution” to the debt-ceiling deal, “structured to fall mainly on the well-to-do.” Instead, the GOP strong-armed America into sacrificing $1 trillion in vital government services – including education, health care and defense – all to safeguard tax breaks for oil companies, yacht owners and hedge-fund managers. The party’s leaders were triumphant: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell even bragged that America’s creditworthiness had been a “hostage that’s worth ransoming.”

    It’s the kind of thinking that only money can buy. “It’s a vicious circle,” says Stiglitz. “The rich are using their money to secure tax provisions to let them get richer still. Rather than investing in new technology or R&D, the rich get a better return by investing in Washington.”
    It’s difficult to imagine today, but taxing the rich wasn’t always a major flash point of American political life. From the end of World War II to the eve of the Reagan administration, the parties fought over social spending – Democrats pushing for more, Republicans demanding less. But once the budget was fixed, both parties saw taxes as an otherwise uninteresting mechanism to raise the money required to pay the bills. Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford each fought for higher taxes, while the biggest tax cut was secured by John F. Kennedy, whose across-the-board tax reductions were actually opposed by the majority of Republicans in the House. The distribution of the tax burden wasn’t really up for debate: Even after the Kennedy cuts, the top tax rate stood at 70 percent – double its current level. Steeply progressive taxation paid for the postwar investments in infrastructure, science and education that enabled the average American family to get ahead.

    That only changed in the late 1970s, when high inflation drove up wages and pushed the middle class into higher tax brackets. Harnessing the widespread anger, Reagan put it to work on behalf of the rich. In a move that GOP Majority Leader Howard Baker called a “riverboat gamble,” Reagan sold the country on an “across-the-board” tax cut that brought the top rate down to 50 percent. According to supply-side economists, the wealthy would use their tax break to spur investment, and the economy would boom. And if it didn’t – well, to Reagan’s cadre of small-government conservatives, the resulting red ink could be a win-win. “We started talking about just cutting taxes and saying, ‘Screw the deficit,'” Bartlett recalls. “We had this idea that if you lowered revenues, the concern about the deficit would be channeled into spending cuts.”

    It was the birth of what is now known as “Starve the Beast” – a conscious strategy by conservatives to force cuts in federal spending by bankrupting the country. As conceived by the right-wing intellectual Irving Kristol in 1980, the plan called for Republicans to create a “fiscal problem” by slashing taxes – and then foist the pain of reimposing fiscal discipline onto future Democratic administrations who, in Kristol’s words, would be forced to “tidy up afterward.”

    There was only one problem: The Reagan tax cuts spiked the federal deficit to a dangerous level, even as the country remained mired in a deep recession. Republican leaders in Congress immediately moved to reverse themselves and feed the beast. “It was not a Democrat who led the effort in 1982 to undo about a third of the Reagan tax cuts,” recalls Robert Greenstein, president of the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “It was Bob Dole.” Even Reagan embraced the tax hike, Stockman says, “because he believed that, at some point, you have to pay the bills.”

    For the remainder of his time in office, Reagan repeatedly raised taxes to bring down unwieldy deficits. In 1983, he hiked gas and payroll taxes. In 1984, he raised revenue by closing tax loopholes for businesses. The tax reform of 1986 lowered the top rate for the wealthy to just 28 percent – but that cut for high earners was paid for by closing tax loopholes that resulted in the largest corporate tax hike in history. Reagan also raised revenues by abolishing special favors for the investor class: He boosted taxes on capital gains by 40 percent to align them with the taxes paid on wages. Today, Reagan may be lionized as a tax abolitionist, says Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator and friend of the president, but that’s not true to his record. “Reagan raised taxes 11 times in eight years!”
    But Reagan wound up sowing the seed of our current gridlock when he gave his blessing to what Simpson calls a “nefarious organization” – Americans for Tax Reform. Headed by Grover Norquist, a man Stockman blasts as a “fiscal terrorist,” the group originally set out to prevent Congress from backsliding on the 1986 tax reforms. But Norquist’s instrument for enforcement – an anti-tax pledge signed by GOP lawmakers – quickly evolved into a powerful weapon designed to shift the tax burden away from the rich. George H.W. Bush won the GOP presidential nomination in 1988 in large part because he signed Norquist’s “no taxes” pledge. Once in office, however, Bush moved to bring down the soaring federal deficit by hiking the top tax rate to 31 percent and adding surtaxes for yachts, jets and luxury sedans. “He had courage to take action when we needed it,” says Paul O’Neill, who served as Treasury secretary under George W. Bush.

    The tax hike helped the economy – and many credit it with setting up the great economic expansion of the 1990s. But it cost Bush his job in the 1992 election – a defeat that only served to strengthen Norquist’s standing among GOP insurgents. “The story of Bush losing,” Norquist says now, “is a reminder to politicians that this is a pledge you don’t break.” What was once just another campaign promise, rejected by a fiscal conservative like Bob Dole, was transformed into a political blood oath – a litmus test of true Republicanism that few candidates dare refuse.

    • November 15, 2011 11:04 pm

      For reference the overwhelming majority of the super rich are strongly democratic and liberal. They contribute to democrats. The overwhelming majority of corporate political contributions are to democrats. You portray the GOP as the party of the rich and super rich – but the demographics and politics disagree. Most of the corporatist crap and subsidies in our tax code was put their by Democrats.

      Though again I am not here to defend the GOP. While Democrats created and expanded the CRA, the housing bubble was essentially a bipartisan construction. Greenspan bears responsibility for keeping rates too low too long. Sarbox was a joint effort. Even the repeal of Glass-Stegal – which had a small impact in keeping this from being worse – was done by both parties. Our current mess was almost a century in the making. The housing mess almost 30 years, both parties bear responsibility.

  42. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 15, 2011 3:30 pm

    The Minneapolis Fed piece is an interesting article, I’ve a lot to say about it. My read is that Mr. Wirtz paints a rosy picture of people having more stuff from 1979 to 2007. Yes the middle class continued to buy things in this period in spite of falling real wages. So, the fact is they had less money, but they bought more stuff. How do we explain this? Can you spell D-E-B-T class? Mr Wirtz notes this factor near the end of his piece. Just great, McMansions increased the statistical size of new housing in this period and people came to believe that a microwave oven was a necessity of life. So, Credit card debt, second mortgages and skeazy Roland Arnal type mortgages were the rage. Then the bubble burst, did all that credit based spending increase wealth? I think we know the answer and its not the one your rosy Libertarian economics says must be so. We went into debt to purchase the illusion of wealth, meanwhile education and medical costs spiralled out of control. We are NOT more wealthy, ipods included.

    I absolutely and categorically disagree with your rosy picture of life improving in the middle and low income quintiles. Yes, its improving if you are considering electronics, no, its not improving if you are considering the most important things to a family: owning a home so that one acquires equity for retirement, being able to afford health care, and being able to afford to educate ones children, as Priscilla and I have done. Those are areas where the bottom and even most of the middle, including, it seems, Priscilla in the upper middle, have been whacked. Life is NOT getting better its getting harder, that is why even Priscilla in her quintile is angry.

    While, according to your previous example, your tenants enjoy their plasma TVs and possibly invest every extra penny in conspicuous consumption of a huge new motor vehicle, rather than saving a down payment for a mortgage, they probably lack the cultural capital to see where that is going to get them in the long run. But I see it and you can see it if you open your eyes.

    • November 15, 2011 11:41 pm


      The gains in wealth occurred across the spectrum, not just the middle class. They occurred even among the poor – people with little or no credit and absent government regulation unable to borrow heavily.

      I will not disagree that some people built up significant debt in the past decade, and that US private debt was too large. But that debt alone does not explain the gains in wealth. More particularly it does not explain why even those not borrowing heavily increased their wealth ? Further though ordinary investment and savings were down (until recently), most of us have significant savings and investment tied up in retirement accounts and pensions. While these have fluctuated with the stock market, they have still grown substantially at the very same time other debt was growing.

      I really get PO’d when you go wacko about people giving other people what they wanted when you subsequently decide it was a bad idea. That is called buyers remorse, not fraud.
      I do not know Mr. Arnal, I might not like him if I met him, but I have yet to here of any free market participant using force to sell a mortgage, or whatever. I have not even heard of lenders sending out recruiters to poor neighbourhoods to round up marks – though I would have no problems with that. If Mr. Arnal actually engaged in fraud – prove it and send him to jail. Otherwise, voluntary exchanges are not crimes. And please no one has ever been required to buy a house or get a mortgage. Many of us both rich and poor have done so, and faired badly. My elderly father who was reasonably well off in 2006, has had a significant portion of his wealth destroyed in the stock market collapse as well as the collapse of house prices. Nobody forced him into the investments he made either.

      Apparently it is acceptable for the rich to suffer the consequences of bad decisions they make, but if the rest of us make choices that prove to be bad – then it must be someone else’s fault. I have made alot of mistakes in my life. I got my first mortgage in August of 1983. I purchased an apartment building in June of 2008. I have …… these are my mistakes. I own them. I am not blaming somebody else. On many of them someone else profited – well good for them. It is preferable, and the norm for everyone to benefit in any exchange. But it does not happen 100% of the time. Once in a while a transaction has losers. Sometimes the losers are rich, sometimes poor. Sometimes the results are foreseeable, sometimes not. The primary blame for the mess we are currently in resides in Washington. But each of us are personally responsible for our own decisions.

      I have had many mortgages and loans in my life. I have signed millions of dollars of checks. At one point I could walk into my bank and borrow 200,000 just on my signature. My credit was (and still is) excellent. It is that way because whether my decisions have been good, or bad. I pay my debts – on time, no matter what. I have never borrowed money I had no idea how I was going to repay. If my circumstances changed I figured out how to adapt.

      One of the great flaws that resulted in this was the mis-preception that credit is some kind of entitlement. You are never entitled to borrow someone else’s money. You earn the opportunity.

      In the event Mr. Arnal defrauded anyone, it was those who bought the mortgages he wrote, not those he wrote mortgages to.

      During the run up to this I do not recall ACORN protesting in front of Mortgage companies and Bank Presidents homes demanding they not write mortgages to poor people. In fact I seem to recall them protesting in exactly those places demanding the write more mortgages to the very people you think were defrauded.

      And exactly how is it that people with poor credit who obtained a mortgage they never should have been able to, and subsequently defaulted and were foreclosed on lost out ?

      Without the mortgage they would have rented. Their credit was poor to begin with, it is no worse now. Ultimately they lost something they never should have been given. I have a hard time seeing that as theft, or fraud.

      There are plenty of people who have suffered through this for whom I have a great deal of sympathy. I will be happy to support those who wish to punish say Dodd and Frank for their part in this. I am sure we can find a few republicans to go along.

      And I am certainly not interested in sainting Mr. Arnal. But again, if he is a crook, it is not the people he wrote mortgages to he ripped off, but the investors he sold those mortgages to.

    • November 15, 2011 11:48 pm

      I forgot one other thing, the mechanics are complex, but ultimately it is impossible to build wealth through debt – just as deficit financing the country must fail – though that takes longer. If someone borrows, someone must lend. Once again money is not wealth and has no value at all absent the underlying wealth we create. Even if the increase in the wealth of the poor and middle class was created entirely from debt – which is extremely dubious, someone somewhere must have created real wealth in order to finance the debt.

    • November 15, 2011 11:57 pm

      Atleast you seem to have accepted that the price of somethings has declined.

      Now, unless you are saying the the poor are incredibly stupid, the very fact that they own lots of optional wealth such as iPods, electronics, or whatever, means they must have been able to afford their housing, healthcare, food etc.

      Put differently the presence of a large amount of essentially luxury goods in poor households that were not there two or three decades early means that one way or another – either through higher wages, or through overall lower prices, they were able to afford them. It is irrelevant how cheap a cell phone or cell phone service is when you can not afford housing, medicine, food, clothes or heat.

      I am not arguing that ALL prices went down. In fact everything the government had much to do with went up – often dramatically. But on the whole all of our ability to afford more increased.

      Nor do we need the Minneapolis Fed or BLS to tell us this. Open your eyes, remember the past as it really was. they only way you can beleive this leftist crap is if you are young and stupid or old and forgetful.

  43. Priscilla permalink
    November 15, 2011 5:46 pm

    Seriously, Ian, you need to get some new material, and stop relying on that tired old piece by Matt Taibbi (one of the most dishonest, biased lefty writers around) in which he makes hay over the fact that David Stockman, who was forced to resign from Reagan’s OMB and has been an utter failure as a businessman ever since, is willing to criticize Republicans – gasp!
    That is basically what Stockman does for a living now, similar to the way Dick Morris, who worked for Clinton, now makes his living by trashing Democrats. So, yeah, that article does not pass muster.

    And, much as you would like to continue ignoring the facts that I include in my comments, and attribute my positions to me being “angry,” the fact remains that the only party talking about fixing the inequities in the tax code right now is the GOP. I continually make the point, which you consistently ignore, that the Democrats have not even passed a budget in 3 years, driven the debt to astronomical levels, resist even the most no-brainer spending cuts, and stonewall any bipartisan negotiations on entitlement reform, for the specific purpose of demagoguing the GOP as the party of the rich (rich being defined as earning $200K p/year). As far as I am concerned, both parties are the party of the rich, and so I don’t buy into that bull.

    However, if there is no agreement on spending cuts and revenue increases by 1-1-2012, we will all see our taxes go up, as the Bush rates will expire and we’ll revert to the Clinton tax hikes. The lowest rate will go from 10% to 15%, the child exemption will return from $1000 to $500, the “marriage penalty” will come back. Taxes on dividends from all manner of investments will go up and the federal estate tax ceiling will drop back to its Clintonian levels. I read the other day that a family of four, with both spouses working and earning $50,000 each, will see their federal tax bill raised by $4,000 p/year….that’s over $300 p/month. A single taxpayer making $28,000 (seniors, young people) will see a tax increase of about $300-$400.

    And, yeah, Warren Buffet may pay more too, on that cap gains money that he talks about. But he’ll hardly notice it (if he actually pays it!).

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      November 15, 2011 6:48 pm

      Oh, and the writer was not Taibbi (who I have never heard of actually) it was Tim Dickenson.

      So, I guess I already got some new material. If you’d like more, I’ll make a hunt for every quote from a retired GOP conservative who is disgusted with the present tax cut mania of the GOP.

      I should also note that my original target was Dhlii’s comments that only a few far lefties who would debate anything would argue against his tax cut ideas. It just ain’t so.

      • Anonymous permalink
        November 15, 2011 8:44 pm

        Never said I wanted a tax cut ( not that I would mind!). Just not an increase, at least until there has been some needed tax reform.

  44. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 15, 2011 6:37 pm

    Priscilla The bias in the article I recognized and admitted to. But, OMG, its funny, your response is a simple ad hominum attack on the author and Stockman. Thats a dud. If it was just Stockman, you might have a tiny case. But what about all the other republicans/conservatives quoted here? You’ve ignored them! There are an awful lot of them, saying very similar and sensible things. The old guard, Dole, Bush I, Alan Simpson! are appalled by the new GOP tax radicals. With reason! You can attack Stockman but I have read of literally hundreds by now of retired conservative republicans who are saying the same things. Why?

    Why did Simpson say (later in the article)

    “You can look up my record: On conservatism and taxes I was better than Jesse Helms,” says Simpson, the former senator. “But whatever happened to common sense? People are going to look around in five or 10 years and say, ‘Whatever happened to the things that made me comfortable? That made our streets and schools good things?’ And they’ll look, hopefully, at Grover Norquist. I can say to you with deepest sincerity: If this country and this legislature are in thrall to Grover Norquist, we haven’t got a prayer.”

    Grover has been talking the talk you seem to want to hear for many years, he is the god of the tax-cut mania, and that is what Simpson is angry about. Norquist brought down Bush I, who I regard as fiscally responsible and capable man. A great victory.

    Priscilla the Dems have made many constructive proposals, recently they offered 2 trillion, half in cuts, half in taxes, earlier they offered 4 trillion. Please put the GOP talking points away and answer Simpson.

    You are dead set on getting your taxes cut. Me, I hope we get all the tax increases that you described. We need them with the deficit being practically at the point of no return .

    As a moderate I fear the democrats because they are much too slow to come to terms with reality over the need to cut the medical entitlement time bomb and to somehow reverse the growth of government programs. And, as a moderate I also am completely against the “new breed” of radical tax cutters (not to mention deregulators!) in the GOP. Reagan did believe in paying the bills in the end, todays GOP does not seem to.

    I should provide the link. You don’t like the author? Fine! Throw out every word that does not concern the actual opinions of the Republican old guard and you still have a tremendous indictment of the tax cutting policies of today’s GOP to explain.

    God, another dissertation, sorry for the length

    • November 16, 2011 12:06 am

      I have no desire to jump on Stockman, or Simpson, or Bartlett, but you are still fighting economic research papers with opinions. I can find quotes from Krugman saying that income inequality is not a big problem (and ones saying that it is). That proves only two things – Krugman has taken both sides of virtually every issue on the planet, and that he has an opinion.

      Regardless, only the left and politicians are arguing over this.
      Taxes on capitol are economically destructive and often decrease government revenue.
      You are unlikely to find more than a handful of studies contradicting that over the past 40 years.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        November 16, 2011 1:43 pm

        Dhlii, Its not an impressive denial. You made the strong and, as usual, absolutist statement that its just the left who argue against your Libertarian tax opinions; that argument has been demolished, you lost it. On economic studies you will simply define those that disagrees with your Libertarian tax fundamentalism as being leftists. Its the logic proof behavior of a cult member. Bartlett IS an economist with a tremendous conservative and libertarian pedigree, he disagrees and provides insight into the Reagan supply side debacle, as does Stockman. Yes, I do respect the opinions of people like Stockman, Simpson, Bush I, or Dole, they have huge practical experience and detailed knowledge of the nations economy, your economic credentials as an internet philosopher king are not a pimple on their collective backsides.

        You can wave a rhetorical hand and dismiss them as not being “geniuses,” LOL, you are casually dismissing people who are vastly more qualified than you or I to have economic opinions on the US economy. Not that you will agree, but that’s just your tremendous egotism.

        When I have time I will call the Economics Department at our State University and ask to speak to the most qualified person on the tax issue and read whatever he recommends. I’m as certain as I can be of anything that you have utterly mischaracterized the beliefs of economists on this and given me a your personal religious view instead.

    • November 16, 2011 3:42 am

      If democrats are prepared to offer $4T including tax increases, then why not 2T or even just the 1.2T actually required purely in spending cuts ?

      I honestly think it was a political mistake for the GOP to win in 2010. Another two years and no democrat could have gotten elected dog catcher.

      I am not sure the Republicans would not do well to step back, cease the obstruction and let the democrats have what they want, vote “present” from now until the next election.

      I think this whole income inequality/class warfare thing is stupid political gamesmanship. I do not actually beleive that democrats are stupid enough to increase taxes on anybody in the midst of a recession – but if they are they deserve the consequences.

      Another two years of Pelosi, Obama and Reid and there would be no credible liberal left in the country.

      A different form of creative destruction. i am not sure that this si what Schumpeter meant, but I suspect he would approve.

  45. November 15, 2011 6:54 pm

    Not OWS.

    What I find interesting is most of these people are solidly in the middle class now. Most were poor 10,20,30 years ago. This is normal. This is what those arguing about income inequality miss. In this country very few of us stay poor all our lives.

    • Anonymous permalink
      November 15, 2011 9:03 pm

      … and in this country very few stay all their lives solidly in the middle class now…

      …53% is changing places with the rest of 46% to stay in the 99%, while the 1% wants to be the same where they are…

      • November 16, 2011 12:23 am

        Correct, and that is the point. Most of us start off at or near the bottom, and move up as we approach our peak earning years – called peak earning years in recognition of the FACT, that our earnings tend to increase significantly as we age. 80% of us were in a higher quintile in 2005 than we were in 1996 – that alone pretty much trashed the whole income inequality argument. The only thing the claim that income for the lower quintiles is stagnant proves is that most of us still start at the bottom.

  46. November 16, 2011 3:09 am

    The argument for raising taxes – anyone’s taxes, never addresses why.

    Whether we are purchasing a meal, or a house, we expect to get what we pay for. We might pay more for a better house – if we could afford to do so, though we also might be willing to say, no I only really need this. We are not obligated as a nation to buy anything that any politician or constituency might wish for. Even if the government we collectively want, is worth the cost, we still may rationally decide to not to purchase so much. Just as with our household budgets we should say no to what we can not afford, and may say no to what we can afford, but chose not to. Nor should we buy a Cadillac government using other peoples money.

    The above all presumes what government we have is worth what we are paying for it – an argument that an overwhelming percentage of us have already rejected. There is no rational reason to be discussing paying more for something that is already not worth the cost.

    Nor does it follow that spending less means we must get less. We have heard the obverse of this argument in education for decades. We are spending four times as much (in real dollars) on public education as 4 decades ago and by all measures we are getting less. Whatever the answer to the problems of public education, we have spent far less and gotten far more in the past and there is no reason we should not expect that now.
    If the public is correct as I beleive they are and we are getting less than 50cents of value for every dollar we spend, there is no reason that our government can not cost half what it does now, and provide exactly the same value.

    We have more than one deficit that needs addressed. The first is that we are spending more than our income. The second is that we are spending more than the value we are getting. If ordinary americans are correct about the cost of government we could cut taxes by nearly half, provide the same services and eliminate the deficit.

    The argument that part of the solution to our current woes requires increasing taxes on anyone, presumes we are getting what we pay for, or more accurately we are getting what we are demanding others pay for, because the rich already pay most of the cost of our government.

    The argument also presumes that all of what we are getting from government is needed. Rick Perry could not name a third federal government department to eliminate, I would be hard pressed to name five we do need. The mere fact that Government might be able to do something is not reason enough that it must. NASA wants to return to the moon, and then to Mars. I would like to see both of these happen – but not enough to pay for them. The federal government – beyond the pork, and waste and subsidies, is full of programs that someone wants, but are not necessities – at least not to the majority of us.

    Whatever government buys for us, must be paid for. Even if we manage to pay for it with other peoples money, ultimately we can not avoid the cost. Whether that cost is in increased prices for the goods and services that are the trickle down from higher taxes on those others, or that cost is in reduced or even negative growth – the brighter future that we never see, the inventions that never happen – still we will pay. Since we must pay for it no matter where we get the money for it, it would be a good idea to only pay what it is worth and only buy what we actually need.

    This blog is full of demands that the rich pay their fair share – the top 10% of earners, that is EVERYONE earning more than 112,000/year (2009) pays 70% of the cost of government. At the some time the thought of cutting the cost of government is not mentioned – or if mentioned at all, it is equated with decapitation, draconian, inhuman cuts. Solyndra cost almost half a billion. Eliminate half a billion in waste 2000 times and you have saved a trillion dollars. Maybe there are not 2000 places per year where we have just flat our wasted half a billion dollars – though I am not so sure there is not, but we are debating ten year budgets. Saving a trillion dollars in a decade requires saving 100B each year – that is less than 3% of our 3.8T budget. Except really it is not, because the 10 year budget is 46T so really it means reducing the rate of increase from nearly 6%/year to 3%/year.

  47. November 16, 2011 3:28 am

    We enter the world of D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner” – “There must be more money!”, why does not matter, what the money is for does not matter, whether is is wasted or well spent does not matter. Whether it is for something we need, or just something we want does not matter. Resisting the demand for more makes you a defender of privilege, a purveyor of plutocracy. “there must be more money”, and it all ends in death.

    If greed is evil, how much more is the greed of government. The rich must acquire their wealth by creating far more for others, government takes it by force – theft when done by an individual.

    Yet it is fairness to take what others have come by honestly ?

    If we accept at its farcical face value this argument that there is great income inequality – is that a justification for theft ? If you are smarter than I can I demand that you be lobotomised so that we are equal ? The converse of income inequality is income equality – and we have a name for that – it is called communism, and we all know how well that worked.

    “There must be more money! Oh-h-h; there must be more money. Oh, now, now-w! Now-w-w – there must be more money! – more than ever! More than ever!”

  48. valdobiade permalink
    November 16, 2011 2:05 pm


    I wrote the observation: “…53% is changing places with the rest of 46% to stay in the 99%, while the 1% wants to be the same where they are…”

    It applies in the Capitalist and Communist/Religious systems. In the US, there is 1% powerful bulldog class that is helped by 53% favored dogs that bites 46% of the dogs that are trying to get a bigger bone. The 53% dogs from your is manipulated by the 1% to bite any small dog from the 46%, so they can keep their middle bone. The Capitalist “advantage” is that the “dog eat dog” law applies more evidently.

    In Communism/Religious system the percentage of small dogs can reach 80%, but most of them are content because they have an assured small bone to live. The 19% share a bigger bone than the 53% of Capitalist system, so they are more powerful to defend the 1% from the 80%.

    The spectacle is to see the 1% from Capitalists and Communism/Religious systems barking, snarling, smelling or pissing at each other.

    • valdobiade permalink
      November 16, 2011 2:09 pm

      correction: “The 53% dogs from yours is” to be read “The 53% dogs from your link”

  49. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 16, 2011 4:54 pm

    Ouch Ouch Ouch. I should not be taking time for this but I did a search and came up with a good article in the Economist on the subject taxing the rich.

    Depending on how you word the question, I have to admit that Dhlii and Priscilla have a point. We can still tax the rich in the sense of getting more revenue from them, however raising rates is apparently a poor way to go about it.

    Closing Loopholes may be the way to go rather than increasing rates.

    If what we are talking about is not raising rates but raising collection of revenues from the rich then I still say that I have a point, Buffets idea is sound just don’t do that by raising rates. Not going to be an easy idea for many to swallow.

    And yes, Dhlii is correct, taxing capitol is not favored by economists as a group in comparison to other taxes.

    Well, I’m just here to learn.

  50. Ian Robertson permalink
    November 16, 2011 6:46 pm

    Another from the Economist that seems to support Dhlii and Priscilla.

    One thing about these Economist articles, they don’t give an author, I can’t look them up and find their ideological tilt.

    Am I being had by a conservative ideologue at the economist? Probably not but I don’t know.

    • November 17, 2011 8:34 pm

      Why does that matter so much ? If what someone wrote makes sense and is backed up by data is it suddenly false because the author has some other belief you do not like ?

      You are also being held hostage to your own prejudices. You repeatedly group everyone in the right 2/3 of the political spectrum together as ultra-conservative, and discount whatever they say because of that.

      As an example I have no idea where Dr. Spencer sits on most political issues. I have only read him on two subjects – AGW and economics. On the first, he falls into the mild warmist camp – he beleives the earth is warming and Human CO2 is partly responsible, but believes the extent is far less than the IPCC and high priests claim – there are myriads of others with similar views – many of which are counted as part of the “concensus”.
      I was unaware of his religious affiliations until you pointed them out – since he does nto where them on his sleave and has not made an argument using them in his published works or blog, I do not see his religious views as important. I would suspect that he – like myself and Einstein, does not beleive that God plays dice with the universe. The fact that he believes in a god does not discredit his science.
      He writes less on economics, but he has an excellent lightweight primer. Even their while he implicitly rejects Keynes and leans towards classical liberal political economy, He is clearly not libertarian, Austrian, Chicago school, …. basically he is moderate.

      The right 2/3 of the political spectrum is not homogeneous. There is a small minority that has decried deficit spending for as long as I have been alive – for the majority on the right, until recently it has been good enough to be less profligate than the left.
      The “Federalists” have gained influence more recently – I am not a federalist. I have no desire to trade slavery to the federal government for slavery to local or state governments.
      Nor is everyone not part of the left wing, a neo-con, or social conservative or any of the plethora of other political alignments that make up the right 2/3 of the country. In fact there is more diversity of opinion on the right than the left. On the right there is genuine disagreement not only with respect to priorities but also with respect to issues.
      You seem to have decided that Libertarians are somehow part of the political right – prior to FDR they were split between the parties – possibly favouring democrats. Yet I would hope you grasp that my positions on immigration, drugs, sexual orientation, certainly do not line up with those of most of the right. In many cases they go further than the left is willing to.

      On the left there is little disagreement on issues, only on priorities.

      If an economist article is by John B. Taylor, Greg Mankiw, Arnold Kling, Garry Becker, Don Boudreaux, Tom Woods, Lew Rockwell, or Walter Block would that automatically discredit it if otherwise it was rational ? For reference that is a spectrum of non-left economists.

  51. Kent Garshwiler permalink
    November 18, 2011 3:29 am


    Finishing up school for this semester and tinkering with the Day Trading and actually quite successful though what little money I have in my IRA.

    Anyway, Jon Huntsman has always been the guy I viewed as a Centrist in this GOP race. The problem is that he has no “bite”. To get attention you can do a few things. Do something or say something outlandish. Neither is he doing.

    The country is going down the tubes and the people that made it happen are still running for political office and running the Government. It will take radical change. Not just change. There can be many versions of change, but now it requires “radical transformation”. Europe is going in that direction….is the U.S. ready as well? China is and so is India.

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