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Summer Rerun #3: Are Moderates Just Misfits?

August 10, 2012

Here’s the third and last of my summer reruns before we return to live action. I wrote this piece in December 2009, as you might guess from the first sentence below. It still rings true, unfortunately, because it’s tougher than ever to be a moderate in today’s pathologically polarized America. As for the moderate movement I sing about… well, let’s just say I haven’t lost hope.

As we enter the final month of the most demoralizing decade in recent memory, I think we moderates need to ask ourselves some critical questions about our place in the world. Don’t worry about the answers. Right now it’s more important to ask the questions than to answer them (though you’re invited to supply us with any solutions that pop into your head).

If you’ve noticed the title at the top of this page, you already know my first question. Are moderates just misfits? Have we crash-landed in our lonely, uncharted, unregarded territory only because we couldn’t land anywhere else? Are we pariahs on the political scene? Do we really know what we believe, other than the fact that we can’t buy what the right-wingers and left-wingers are peddling?

This past weekend I had dinner at the home of a couple I like and respect. Both the husband and wife fit comfortably in the “NPR liberal” mold: they’re ardent vegetarians and members of the local food co-op… they send their two kids to a progressive private school that refuses to grade its students… they donate books to the poor. They’re good and generous people.

When I told them I had launched a blog for moderates, the wife was incredulous. “Do moderates believe in anything?,” she asked in earnest.

I reached deep into my hat and produced the obligatory white rabbit. We moderates believe in restoring a sense of balance, I told her. When we see the boat tipping to one side, we feel an instinctive need to tip it the other way. I said we support “the greatest good for the greatest number,” employing that hoary utilitarian catchphrase in all its sweeping vagueness. I added that our views are flexible and prone to shift over time; a moderate on race relations half a century ago would sound quaintly conservative (if not downright bigoted) today.

So yes, I supplied my friends with answers… but were they satisfactory answers? Did my impromptu apology for moderation give us a recognizable shape, a brand, a credo on which we could build a movement? I’m not sure. I’m afraid my answers gave the impression that we moderates have no fixed values of our own… that we exist primarily to foil those wicked extremists.

I did a little soul-searching after that dinner. I found it interesting that I’m both a longtime moderate and a longtime cynic (although less of a sneering, hard-boiled cynic than a disgruntled idealist who secretly clings to his ideals). I wondered if the two states of mind could be related. A cynic, after all, is inclined to be skeptical of all human certainties. So is a moderate.

I’ve tried to pry myself into the ideological hiking boots of the left, and I’ve attempted to squeeze into the glossy wingtips preferred by the right. Neither pair fits, so essentially I’ve had to cobble my own footwear. Maybe you’ve had to cobble yours, too.

Until now, we moderates have had no lodestars to light our way… no moderate magazines, or moderate activists, or larger-than-life moderate heroes immortalized in statues, verse or TV miniseries. Nobody knows what we stand for, including most of our own tribe, and until now we’ve been content to be left out of the public debate. We’re misfits, all right.

Then I had a minor revelation: in a society gone berserk, being a misfit is a gleaming, 24-karat badge of honor. We moderates swear allegiance to no rigid ideologies, bow at the feet of no preening potentates, drink no Kool-Aid before its time. In short, we own our souls.

We’ve been marginalized, yes… but we’re also free. Free to oppose special interests, with all their willfully self-serving hidden agendas. Free to speak out against coercion, censorship and chicanery. Free to shout “Humbug!” when we observe humbug in our midst.

Odd, isn’t it, that thoughtful moderates have so much in common with thoughtful cynics. We’re misfits, renegades, knights-errant battling windmills. And we get no respect from the safely entrenched insiders. Milquetoasts, are we? Timid and noncommittal? I don’t think so. We’re in good, robust company.

Give us a little time, and we’ll build a movement. We won’t be marching in lockstep; that’s not our way. But we’ll be moving… moving to the center of American political life where we’ve always belonged. Care to join us?

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199 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2012 2:04 pm

    This is what I have spent my summer working on. I attended the Continental Congress 2.0 on July 4 in Philadelphia, negotiated content, and then helped write the draft of our Petition to the U.S. Government on behalf of the People. The project is an attempt to force all branches of our government to make progress in 14 general areas that will restore our Democracy to a government Of, By, and For the People. I think the resulting document from the CC 2.0 is fairly moderate and I hope you find that you agree with most of it. The document I helped write is called the “Draft Petition” at the link below
    http://www.the99declaration.org/

    • August 10, 2012 5:04 pm

      Can I presume from this that you are rejecting the ideals offered in the actual declaration of independence ?

      The original declaration asserted limited individual rights, that government could not infringe on and established that the purpose of government was to protect those rights.

      Your document has a kitchen sink full of entitlements that government is not only supposed to protect, but to provide you with.

      The addition of “comfort” to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, is both telling and damning. Trying to convert wishes and desires into natural rights is doomed to failure.

      Your document shows an appalling unfamiliarity with history, particularly the history of political thought. Much of what you demand has been tried and failed – though maybe in a slightly different form. Why do you expect the bad ideas of the past to work better today ?

      • August 10, 2012 5:57 pm

        A new declaration does NOT mean a replacement declaration and your lack of specifics and grandiose generalizations about entitlements, wishes, and desires show a lack of logical or careful thought.

      • August 10, 2012 11:09 pm

        kjlowry;

        The US Declaration of independence defined a philosophy of the relationship of the people to government.

        You start by elevating comfort and health to the same level as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and things go downhill very fast from there.

        Your entire program is self contradictory. Many individual items contradict themselves.

        I tried reading through this, but it is so bad I can not finish.

        A significant portion of the things you wish to make illegal – already are.
        How is that working ?

        You plan for corporate taxes is actually less broad than what we already have.

        You have put every bullet point of almost every group in existence – regardless of whether they have any consistency.

        You malign me for grandiose generalizations – this entire thing is a raft of self contradictory “grandiose generalizations, showing a lack of logic or careful thought”

        I will be happy to address any specific item you wish – so long as I am allowed to use the rest of your document to refute it.

        There are a few things in it I might agree with, but even they are badly written and contradicted elsewhere.

        Do you know what double the poverty line is ? Do you know what the median household income is ?

        Do you grasp that you can gerrymander political boundaries to your hearts content, you can make some seats safe – at the expense of the size of your majority, and you can not create a majority where one does not exist, nor can you increase your majority, only diminish it.

  2. August 10, 2012 2:26 pm

    I remember seeing a comment of yours in response to one of my two columns about CC 2.0. I’m all for it, and I think it has the potential to bridge the left-right ideology gap. Still stumped as to why the 99% Declaration received so little media attention. (I guess a document isn’t as telegenic as protesters camping in the streets. You have to wonder if CNN would have covered the FIRST Continental Congress.)

    Anyway, I’m still extremely interested in your Petition for a Redress of Grievances and its progress as you present it to the three branches of the federal government. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.

    • August 10, 2012 6:04 pm

      Thank you! We are just beginning to spread the word and try to build support for our work. Your consideration, input, and word of mouth are very valuable to us and are appreciated.

  3. AMAC permalink
    August 10, 2012 4:05 pm

    To be honest, I don’t like the idea of existing to tip the boat to the center. That makes me visualize a group of people that change values and beliefs to suit the current ideological make-up of the time. I consider myself a moderate, but more so an independant. I don’t completely agree with either party, nor do I completely disagree with either. I do agree that extremism in either the right or left direction would be bad for the country. But, I don’t think that I tailor my beliefs to tilt in either direction. I consider myself a moderate because I don’t typically believe any idea taken to extremes works well. I strongly agree with social safety nets, but would like a more progressive method of execution that would encourage citizens to get back to the workforce. I don’t believe that all government subsidies are bad, but I don’t want government handouts for business as in many farm subsidies. I am not arguining in the “grey” or the lukewarm water, I simply disagree with the degree to which the two parties typically take on execution of policy. I don’t belong to either party because I support neither above the other.

    I suppose that if the current make-up of our political climate changes, there may be a time I am no longer considered a moderate. I am moderate because of the current distance of the two endpoints of the the political spectrum. I don’t expect my stances to change drastically due to where the two extremes exist. Not trying to be critical, just not a big fan of the levelling the boat visual. I think that is what gives moderates a bad rap. I believe just as stongly in my values and ideas as the hardened extremists believe in theirs. As a moderate, and independant, I am in a position to call out either party and not obligated to defend either.

    • AMAC permalink
      August 10, 2012 4:07 pm

      By the way, I want to make clear I am not a natural contrarion. I have and do work within both parties through financial contribution, support, etc. based on candidates I support. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to support a local independent. In Texas, they are hard to come by!

    • August 12, 2012 10:34 am

      AMAC: Tipping the boat one way or the other shouldn’t imply a lack of consistent values. On the contrary, I’m inclined to tip the boat when it tilts too far from my own solid centrist beliefs (e.g., no favoritism toward any class). What makes our job complicated is that the boat has lurched to the right on economic/fiscal/financial matters, while it still veers to the left when it comes to social issues. And of course, we’re split down the middle on guns and religion. Nobody said being a moderate is easy!

  4. August 10, 2012 5:45 pm

    Great commentary–that’s why I like this blog so much. There’s room for brilliant contrarians like Asmith, and smart, logical thinkers like Rick and Pearows. My touchstone for moderate identification is to demand personal freedom and personal responsibility with equal ferocity. Maybe that just makes me a conservative, to some ways of thinking, but I agree too often with libertarians to self identify that way. I look forward to sharing ideas in the coming year. Rick, did you include The Fair Tax Initiative in your light summer reading?

    • August 12, 2012 10:42 am

      RP: Yes, we can accommodate all manner of opinions here. I wish Rob, our resident social democrat, would post more often to balance Asmith’s libertarian tirades, but since Asmith considers me a social democrat, I guess all is well.

      As a moderate, I’d demand a fine balance between personal freedom and social responsibility. And I never did like economics in college, so you won’t catch me reading anything about taxes at the beach. (I wish I had taken a course in macroeconomics, though; it might have been more useful than ancient history, if not nearly as colorful.)

  5. August 10, 2012 5:57 pm

    I am just finishing John B. Taylor’s “First Principles”. I offer it as a more “moderate” appraisal of our current problems and how to address them. Taylor has a perception of the benefits of government that better aligns with “the new moderate”. But he grasp our current course is unsustainable. He served administrations from Kennedy through G.W.Bush, and he is unafraid of criticizing democrats and republicans alike. He clearly identifies the core policies followed by each administration, as well as who were responsible for those policies, what reasoning underpinned those policies and what has worked and what has not and why.

    While I believe that we can and should do better than Taylor proposes – I believe that we can do better than the Reagan/Clinton era. Taylor’s offers solutions to our problems that preserve the entitlements and regulatory systems “moderates” here find so essential, without reducing real benefits to those in need. Equally importantly he explains the policy making principles that lead to trouble and those that get us out.

  6. August 10, 2012 6:02 pm

    Rick;

    I take issue with the assertion that liberals wear hiking boots while conservatives wear wingtips.

    Outside those on the fringe of liberalism who actually try to live according to the values they preach, most liberals I know would not be caught dead, either in hiking boots or real nature. Liberals wear loafers, and crocks.

    I am not sure that even Romney wears wingtips, but certainly those assault rifle toting, bambi killing, raw meating eating conservatives do not. Maybe they wear army boots rather than hiking boots, but boots just the same.

    • AMAC permalink
      August 11, 2012 2:25 am

      Yes, that was clearly the focal point of the story. A very hurtful stereotype, Rick. How dare you reduce the centuries old ideology of our right and left to a simple choice of two pairs of shoes. Good catch Asmith.

    • August 12, 2012 10:48 am

      Yes, I’m guilty of footwear stereotyping. Liberals would more likely wear Birkenstock sandals(there I go stereotyping again, but it might be more accurate, at least for the warmer climates). And only elite conservatives would still wear wingtips. Those “Bambi killing” Middle American conservatives could indeed wear army boots — or maybe just whatever shoes they can still afford at Walmart.

  7. AMAC permalink
    August 11, 2012 2:40 am

    Though it contradicts our so called “moderates” here at TNM, liberals are 32% more likely to wear socks with sandals. Conservatives are more likely to wear tennis shoes with pleated slacks than they were 30 years ago. You are not thirty anymore Rick. You have no excuse to deny this data. You were there when silk shirts were accepted as business formal if worn with a tie. Generation after generation, we have proven that not wearing socks with any closed toe shoe is a bad idea. It is unattractive and unsanitary. There is a direct correlation between foot odor and the nations sock production. If anyone here would like to debate, I will be happy to tell you why you are wrong.

    • Rabbit permalink
      August 11, 2012 12:39 pm

      Brilliant and dead on target.

    • August 11, 2012 3:35 pm

      And we have worked this all out without the sock police, or silk shirt regulations, or nationally provided footwear.

      Government involvement in apparel is near non-existent – and no crisis. There has been no bubble in hair care, no bailouts of the systemically important shoe industry.
      Teens wear their underwear outside their pants and aside from scowls from adults, and personal harm to their job prospects, no crisis arises.

      We are each free to make our own choices in clothing and subject to the consequences.
      We may discriminate against those who wear white after labor day – or not as we chose, without fear of appearing in front of the EEOC.

      We can buy made in the USA, or not. We can express our values though our clothes as we please.

      Clothing has gone from 25% of a family budget in 1919 to 4% today (BLS)

      Clothing manufacture has left the country without economic collapse, and some has returned.

      Liberals can wear wingtips, and conservatives can wear sandals.

      To me it looks like the marketplace worked pretty fine.

      • AMAC permalink
        August 11, 2012 4:36 pm

        So all these good things happened even though our government continued to grow in size and span of regulation? I don’t get it.

      • August 11, 2012 5:36 pm

        I think that is Dave’s point, that the government has not, as of yet, decided that it wants or needs to be in the clothing or shoe industry. While I am not averse to reasonable government regulation, it is clear that regulatory agencies like the EPA have almost unlimited power, a la the IRS, to stop individuals and businesses from using their property in reasonable ways…..and they abuse that power regularly. Just earlier this year, a couple in Idaho had to go all the way to the Supreme Court, after filling in part of a property that they owned, to improve the drainage, before constructing their house. The EPA showed up, determined that the property was wetlands, and ordered the couple to stop all filling and building. Now, it’s one thing to issue a citation, but in this case, as in many EPA orders, the property owners had almost no recourse to challenge the ruling, despite the fact that their property had never been designated as wetlands until they started to fill.

        Anyway, without going into more detail, SCOTUS ruled in favor of the couple. But, at least for me, AMAC, this is the kind of thing that I think of when I hear about “big government,” not the reasonable safety regulations and financial ethics codes that big government advocates always refer to.

      • Anonymous permalink
        August 11, 2012 8:05 pm

        Priscilla
        I agree we do over-regulate in many instances. I think we should constantly review regulations to change, do away with, etc to make sure they are effective. The difference I have with Dave is that I believe regulation can be necessary and effective. However, I am just having a little fun with him. It helps break up the attacks!

    • August 12, 2012 10:51 am

      AMAC: In the summer I usually dispense with socks and wear boat shoes. As David Brooks once pointed out, only liberal men are into “toe nudity.”

  8. August 11, 2012 10:30 am

    “Money can’t buy me Love”

    For several decades there have been growing attacks on the use of PPP/GDP as a measure of gross national happiness. The study below attempted to establish whether any of the alternative measures better reflected our well being.

    There are numerous problems with GDP – the consequential ones being that it does not accurately measure what a nation produces – its adjustments for imports and exports are flawed.

    Despite this the authors found only one alternate index(with caveats) performing as well or better than GDP/PPP. Further the authors found that increases in well being do not appear to taper off as income increases as has been previously accepted.

    http://bibliothek.wzb.eu/pdf/2012/i12-201.pdf

    Essentially they found that Adam Smith was right. Wealth is whatever we need and want.
    To the extent we meet those needs and wants, we feel better off.

    Two centuries ago Adam Smith found that The wealth of a nation and the happiness of its people was in what it produced.

  9. August 11, 2012 1:30 pm

    some time ago another poster asked about my views on “common sense” government rules like “traffic lights”

    Here is an answer. A side by side comparison of a busy intersection on two adjacent weekdays – one with the traffic light working, one without.

    As Elinor Olstrom demonstrated to get her Nobel Prize, people are pretty good at working out all kinds of problems we think they can not manage without government, completely on their own.

    Most of the benefits of modern society that we claim came from government either happened before or independent of government.

    • August 11, 2012 1:35 pm

      Another example

      • August 12, 2012 2:09 pm

        Believe me, I’m no more fond of red lights than you are… I’ve been known to swear at them when they last longer than necessary or when they’re strategically placed so that if you hit one, you hit them all. In some places it would make sense to remove them or make them shorter… but I’ve also seen intersections that are virtually impossible to cross because there’s no light to stop the steady stream of traffic on the main road.

        Again, these videos are prime examples of cherry-picking to make a point. In general, we can’t leave it to individuals to decide where we need to stop and where we don’t… the accident rate would skyrocket.

  10. August 11, 2012 2:14 pm

    What happens when you try to make the market more “fair”

    http://www.economist.com/node/21559937

    • AMAC permalink
      August 11, 2012 4:31 pm

      What happens when you do not.

      • Anonymous permalink
        August 13, 2012 1:08 pm

        Nepal ranks 147th in economic freedom – between the People Republic of China and Cuba.

        It is not a place anyone would describe as a free market.

  11. August 11, 2012 6:44 pm

    What shoes does the Tea Party Wear ?

    http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/PA705.pdf

  12. Rabbit permalink
    August 12, 2012 9:36 am

    Not that it had any connection at all to Rick’s essay (unless it was to provide an example of an extreme point of view) but I’m not a bit surprised that the libertarian attack on government regulations would lead to its logical extension, traffic lights are not necessary and show how foolish it is for government to infringe on our personal freedom. Humans make “pretty good” decisions, so why have traffic lights?

    Who can love a traffic light? Not me, I’m too impatient, a type A driver. But I accept that government interference in the sacred world of personal decisions is necessary when it comes to transportation. Every new traffic light that has come into being in my area in the last 30 years has cramped my style and been a personal irritant. However every one of those lights was installed after numerous serious and fatal accidents occurred at that location. So, as an adult, I accept reality, they are needed. Its not about how the traffic sorts itself out under good conditions, (talk about cherry picking an example to create the illusion of a peaceful controlled environment) its about the accidents and fatalities that result when humans make bad decisions. Despite the libertarian attempt to create the myth that humans can be trusted to make good decisions without third parties getting involved, my auto insurance company sees fit to extract more money from me each year than for my home insurance, and I have a clean record.

    Each accident, death, injury and property loss due to auto accidents is a repudiation of the libertarian myth about the good decisions people can be counted on to make. Does any sane person believe that if we remove governmental meddling, aka traffic lights and regulations, the accident level will decrease? If you said yes, you are a true oblivious Libertarian theoretician and are eligible to receive Rabbit’s “Mind like a steel trap” award.

    Some stats on the “pretty good” decisions we make behind the wheel (Wiki):

    Worldwide it was estimated in 2004 that 1.2 million people were killed (2.2% of all deaths) and 50 million more were injured in motor vehicle collisions.[1][41]

    The global economic cost of MVCs was estimated at $518 billion per year in 2003 with $100 billion of that occurring in developing countries.[41] The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the U.S. cost in 2000 at $230 billion

    • August 12, 2012 2:12 pm

      If there were a “like” button, I’d click it. Well said, “Rabbit.”

    • August 12, 2012 2:19 pm

      Oh, pshaw. Traffic lights enhance law and order. They are not an example of over-regulation.

      • Anonymous permalink
        August 13, 2012 1:45 pm

        How do you reconcile that with the examples above ?

        What does “enhance law and order” mean ? Are people safer ? In those instances where alternatives have been tried the answer is a pretty unequivocal no. Does the installation of a traffic light at a “dangerous” intersection improve safety ? In most instances no – but it makes us feel like we have done something.

        Are traffic lights more efficient – in the majority of instances no.

        So what is the actual benefit ?

        Traffic lights are not actually the hill I wish to die on.

        But they are an excellent example of a growing body of research that is building a compelling case that even the ordinary laws governing everyday life that most of us just accept, work worse than the solutions we come up with on our own.

        Elinor Olstrom’s recent Nobel prize was not on traffic lights, but it was on the effectiveness of “spontaneous order” in circumstances where
        “top down” solutions have been imposed for centuries. And she found that in most instances without much conscious thought people naturally work out solutions that work better.

        It is important that we respect our laws.

        No matter how much perceived merit, laws that are routinely disobeyed – whether prohibition, drug laws or speed limits, erode “Law and Order”.

        The rule of law depends on near universal belief that our laws are effective, necessary and just.

        If they are not, then what you have is not the rule of law, but fascism.

        Of all the issues in our society Traffic laws are among the least consequential. My arguments about regulation do not hinge on whether traffic laws are effective and efficient or not. But the argument for all the new laws and regulations we wish to impose does rest on the claim that traffic laws work.

        If it is even questionable that a obvious and well supported form of regulation such as a traffic light is dubious in its effectiveness, than how are we to have faith in Dodd-Frank or …. ?

    • Anonymous permalink
      August 13, 2012 1:26 pm

      I can make no sense of your entire response.

      In the instances i provided removing traffic controls worked.
      Traffic moved better and there were fewer accidents – in the instances I am familiar with there were 3 times fewer accidents.

      Does exactly the same thing work always and everywhere – almost certainly not – but that includes traffic lights.

      Nor is this a choice between Fascism and chaos. Removal of traffic lights usually improves traffic flow and safety at difficult intersection – in most instances this is followed but with other structural changes to provide visual clues to inform our behavior.

      Traffic controls are often installed as you say after “numerous and fatal accidents”. People demand that government do something, but there is plenty of evidence that they are only effective as a “feel good” measure. There was a problem, we did something about it, the problem remains, and may even be worse, but we can still be self-satisfied because we did something about it.

      You claim to be an impatient “type A” driver. And you seem to believe that somehow people like you need to be reigned in or our highways will be kill zones.

      Yet your statistical odds of being in an accident are the same if you travel 15 mph over the speed limit as if you travel 5mph under it. Despite aggressive driver campaigns, and massive speed limit (revenue enhancement) enforcement campaigns, the real data we have is that slow is more dangerous than fast.

    • Anonymous permalink
      August 13, 2012 1:57 pm

      I asked you to challenge your pre-conceptions on something that both conservatives and liberals are in agreement on, and it appears you are completely unable to do so.

      It has always been so, thus it must always be so. We believe that we are better off therefore we must be better off..

      You do grasp that your argument is the only argument that underpins conservative ideology.

      Traditional solutions keep us safe. This is the same argument that was made for Jim Crow laws, and is being made today for traditional marriage laws.

      You blind yourself to the possibility that a different approach might be better. You are certain that things that are more tradition than common sense, are true.

      I am asking you to open your eyes, and see the world as it really is.

      It does not matter whether the issue is prohibition or alcohol, drugs, or guns. Whether it is opposition to laws rooted in race, gender, or class. If freedom works in those instances why are you unwilling to even consider that it might work in others ?

      If our preconceptions about race, gender, sexual orientation have proven wrong, why not others ?

  13. August 12, 2012 2:16 pm

    I just want to state, for the record here, that the Great Shoe Debate has been very sexist so far, and, other than the mention of Birkenstocks, worn by both genders of liberals, has totally ignored the political shoe choices of women.

    • August 12, 2012 2:51 pm

      PR: Well, that’s probably because I’ve never tried to squeeze into the shoes of liberal OR conservative women. Or even moderate women. I’d imagine that liberal women tend to favor lower heels and greater comfort (at least they do in my neighborhood, which happens to be one of Philly’s liberal-lesbian hot spots)… but it could be that the differences are more income-based than political. Rich liberal women and rich conservative women probably wouldn’t be easily distinguished by their choice of footwear… but I’d still bet on higher average heel height for the conservatives.

      • August 12, 2012 9:09 pm

        A very nice analysis, Rick. 😉 …although I guess, in the case of women, heel height is likely affected by age as much as ideology….

      • AMAC permalink
        August 12, 2012 10:57 pm

        I always tend to wear an open toe with a lower heal!

      • August 13, 2012 8:45 am

        You must certainly be a moderate, AMAC!

  14. August 13, 2012 9:14 am

    Digressing from the important issue of shoewear (hey, it is important!)….

    I am not a libertarian, and I am not in favor of dismantling the government, or even of dismantling any significant cabinet department or agency – although, I do not think the country would be harmed one iota if, say, we drastically cut back on the size and power of the the Departments of Education, Energy, and a few others. Like Agriculture, for example – an agency that pays farmers not to grow crops, in order to keep food prices high, and then issues food stamps to people who can’t afford the inflated prices. We have created a byzantine and damaging structure of governmental agencies and regulations – not intentionally damaging, for the most part, but damaging just the same – and a great deal of it needs to be rolled back.

    You don’t have to be a libertarian,or a tea partier to see this. Why is this idea of reining in the federal government such an anathema to some here? Is it the slippery slope idea that, once we start cutting back on some out-of-control federal programs, we’ll cut them all back? Is it fear that conservatives really do want to push granny over the cliff?

    I’m genuinely curious- why the love for government regulation?

    • Anonymous permalink
      August 13, 2012 2:00 pm

      What if scaling back government a little actually worked ?

  15. Rabbit permalink
    August 13, 2012 11:06 am

    Priscilla,

    An antiwar thinker can make a very similar case to yours for cutting defense spending and reworking our foreign policy. I used to argue with those opposed to US foreign policy by reminding them of that game we had in my childhood, Avalanche. Maybe you remember it, a sort of spring-loaded board with circular pieces of different sizes. Contestants removed them until the one piece that caused the entire framework to collapse was removed. One can only understand our peculiar US foreign policy only by reading a great deal of history and then one may understand how the whole framework of countervailing forces was built up bit by bit into a very illogical and unreasonable seeming structure of entanglements. Would you like to restructure our foreign policy, regardless of how weird our world cop role seems to one who did not read a lot of history? My guess is that you would be very reticent to disturb it radically.

    Its the same with our domestic policy, its a weird structure that has been built up over a long period and its full of illogical seeming parts, but that is how it evolved and many fear that removing a piece will lead to instability and an eventual avalanche (your slippery slope). We like our basic social structure and don’t want it radically reworked, especially by a party dominated at times by religious conservatives who seem pretty primitive in their outlook on the world.

    Plus, we are tribal and we support out tribes.

    Only as a slight non sequiter, here is a link to very nicely written and decent to all sides column on the election and Ryan choice by Walter Russell Meade, a historian whose excellent book of foreign policy I read and own. I often read his blog, he is intelligent and a somewhat conservative leaning moderate who make strong attempt to be objective and not demonize either side.

    http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/08/12/the-shape-of-the-presidential-campaign-part-one/

    • August 13, 2012 11:35 am

      Ian, I am a huge fan of WRM, and I will certainly read that piece.

      A quibble that I have with you regarding equating my opposition to heavy handed government regulation to our complex foreign and defense policy is this: defense of the US as a sovereign nation IS the most important, constitutionally mandated job of the federal government. We can argue over how this is best done, and how much of the federal budget is necessary to do it properly, but there is virtually no argument that it is the role of the US government to conduct foreign policy.

      On the other hand, there are genuine arguments (which Dave makes routinely, but which are also made by conservatives as well as liberals) as to how much regulation is appropriate or ethical in a free market economy, how much legislation of behavior and morality constitutes nanny-statism, what is the proper role of the federal government vs. the states in regulating commerce, education, social welfare, etc…….

      • Anonymous permalink
        August 13, 2012 4:51 pm

        Foreign policy, military spending and real defense are entirely different.
        Our foreign policy has been abysmal. No foreign policy would be an improvement. I would strongly recommend reading George Washington’s farewell address – or Dwight Eisenhower’s.

        I can not see how anyone can argue that much of our entire foreign policy is in any way beneficial.

        If we are policemen to the world – we are a bad one. There is no rational basis by which anyone can ascertain when even the same president will intervene and when they will chose not to. There are no underlying principles that explain our actions. Our armed forces have been complaining for decades that the military is not suited to “police action”.
        The purpose of an army is to kill enemies. It should be used only when we have an enemy that must be obliterated.

        Bush opposed the nation building of Clinton, Obama that of Bush, yet Obama is off pretending that we can bestow on other nations what ultimately they must pay for in blood for themselves.

        Actual mititary defense is a legitimate role of government.
        Projecting power, policing the world, making the world safe for democracy is not.

        The broadest legitimate interpretation of our military would allows us to obliterate the government of any nation that initiated violence against other nations – as we did in Afghanistan in a matter of weeks. The department of defense has estimated that destroying the government of Iran would take approximately 90 days if it ever became necessary.
        Our military is sufficiently powerful to quickly obliterate the government of most any nation in the world – most in short order.
        Having destroy the government of a beligerant nation in response to an actual act of violence, we are NOT obligated to rebuild that nation, or restore government we might like. The people of that nation are not only entitled, but obligated to govern themselves – and ultimately they are the only ones able to govern themselves. So long as they do so without inflicting violence on other nations, our powers of outrage are limited to speech.

    • Anonymous permalink
      August 13, 2012 3:11 pm

      You do grasp that if even a few of the bazillions of systems that make up the universe as we know it had avalanche style tipping points the entire universe would not exist.

      Defense specifically is a distinct case. Though unlike many conservative I believe we can manage even thrive with far less defense spending, defense – the protection from force, is the justification for government.

      Personally I have not found much in history to justify our military of foreign policy – which has been pretty abysmal almost from the start.
      Washington’s unheeded advice on foreign policy seems as appropriate today as ever.

      My views have become more rooted in narrow principles over time. Principles that you see as “extreme”. But I reached that position pragmatically. The more i looked at history, at what has and has not worked, the more obvious it became that in the real world those extreme principles have universally worked better than any alternates when actually tried.

      The traffic signal examples I provided – which have been repeated numerous times, where not created by ideological extremists. In many instances they were created by accident – lights failed. In others they were only tried because traditional solutions were failing so badly that trying something else had little risk.

      If you are willing to actually experiment. If you are willing to try many different solutions, if you are willing to discard those that do not work, eventually you discover that trial and error leads your to the same solutions as my purported extremism.

  16. Rabbit permalink
    August 13, 2012 11:53 am

    I’m just making an analogy but its a good one. Defense has morphed into constant military involvements all over the globe, to understand that this is somehow defense take a lot of stretching. Dave would certainly argue against a lot of it on the exact same Constitutional principles. My point is just that the whole mess seems illogical and wrong viewed piece by piece. Yet reworking either defense or domestic spending are frightening prospects to many. The devil you know…

    The constitutionality of the domestic programs has been contested, those that we have in place have passed this test. So, while conservative often seem to feel that social spending programs (and even taxes) are not Constitutional, well that has been decided to the contrary and its a dead horse.

    • Anonymous permalink
      August 13, 2012 3:57 pm

      Rabbit;
      The constitution was derived from the same world view and principles as libertarian-ism.
      But the constitution is not an end or authority in and of itself.

      My absolutism with respect to speech and those other things that are actual rights, is driven by principles – not the constitution.

      The supreme court has ruled that the constitution did not confer the rights of citizenship on Blacks – that slavery was constitutional. It has ruled that american citizens can be imprisoned solely because of their race. It has ruled that speech opposing war and drafts can be a crime. That women may be prohibited from employment.

      While I am happy when the supreme court gets it right, something is not right just because the current supreme court says it is constitutional.

      Is an issue forever dead because it has been decided by the supreme court ?
      If so then Dred Scott should be the law of the land, as is Lochner.

      Certainly reworking spending will be frightening. But continuing as we are is certain disaster.

      Ordinary people are compelled inside their normal lives to make difficult and scary decisions, to cut back, or to take risks. Making difficult decisions is part of life. It is definitely something we expect out of our congressmen.

    • Anonymous permalink
      August 13, 2012 4:27 pm

      Our positions on defense and foreign policy reflect no underlying principles.

      What thread ties all our military actions through the past two centuries ?

      We promised freedom to insurgents in Vietnam if they would oppose the Japanese. After WWII they used our declaration to proclaim their independence – we chose to support the french colonial power that they were seeking to be free of, and we found it surprising that when we made ourselves their enemy that they found friends in our enemies.

      We promised freedom to Philipinos if they joined us against Spain, and again against Japan. We killed possibly 1million natives in the Phillipine-American war.

      The history of US foreign policy is only tolerable in comparison to that of other European powers. Shining moments of principle are few and hard to find.

      The current defense budget of the US is nearly equal to that of the entire rest of the world combined. Only Saudia Arabia spend more as a percent of GDP. If we reduced Defense spending by a factor of 10 it would equal that of Russia, If we divided it by 5 it would equal that of China. If we reduces it by $200M it would still be the 2nd largest as a percent of GDP. We could reduce it by over 75% or 550B and still spend more than any other country. We could reduce it by 70% and still be larger than the next two largest countries (Russia and China) combined. Some reports of the past decade of fighting in the mideast place that cost alone as above the total defense spending of Russia and china for that time period. The US defense budget is larger than the entire economy all but the worlds 20 largest economies – including most of Europe.

      US yearly spending for Social Security is just large than that on defense. Spending for medicare is $100B greater still.

  17. Rabbit permalink
    August 13, 2012 5:31 pm

    There is no Nobel prize in economics. The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel has been given to recipeints of such diametrically opposing viewpoints that it can be used to prove anything… and nothing.

    Rich rich irony can be found in your trumpeting of Elinor Ostrom. From Wiki on her prize work “Elinor Ostrom succeeded in shifting policy making framework from government focused approach to common man focused approach.She also contributed three valuable concepts to Environmental Economics and Political Economy,Polycentric model,Collective Action and Resolution of ecological problems at the common people level, thus offered decentralised approach for the resolution of local ecological problem.In the words of Vivek Kumar Srivastava, she also asked common men to contribute in the containment of global problems as climate change and global warming by reducing the use of those facilities which increase these problems.”

    How about it, do agree with her noble contribution? Will you contribute to the containment of global problems such as climate change and global warming? Ticklish situation, eh?

    And furthermore…Your supposed 3 fold decrease in accidents without lights comes as an anecdote, not as hard evidence. In any case, whatever is going on in any of those traffic scenarios you favor, traffic lights or no lights (let it be Cato approved roundabouts or four way stop signs) its still government regulation over the traffic put in place by government engineers who studied government traffic data, so the libertarian angle is hard to find there even without the lights.

    The main thing is that we have very different values and priorities, as you have noted many times. I have no idea why you expect me to work to achieve your values when you assure me that I’m a far lefty who “fell off the left edge of the world.” I want to double regulate everything in sight so, why expect that I will make a big effort to bring your anti-regulatory paradise, which I disbelieve in strenuously, into being? You are micturating into the wind my old friend, howling up the wrong tree, bereft of life, your goal of converting me rests in peace, This Is A Dead Parrot!

    • AMAC permalink
      August 14, 2012 12:25 am

      Ian

      Nice to see you back. I am still here adding as little as possible in the way of productive commentary! I may be one of the few not using an alias.

      • Rabbit permalink
        August 15, 2012 9:13 am

        Hi AMAC. How is parenthood going?

        Sadly, I am slow to reply to you because I disagree with so little that you say. Ironic. I am slow to agree but quick to dispute posts and posters.

        I will try to limit myself as you do, its a sort of bad habit that uses precious time but at times its hard to resist.

        One thing that brought me back was that I observed that new voices were springing up and the site did not just seem to revolve around a few regulars bashing old arguments into the ground. I think most readers must get tired of that.

    • August 14, 2012 8:15 am

      Here is the Wikipedia Link to Olstrom.
      in 2009 she received the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, – generally refered to as the economics nobel.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elinor_Ostrom

      People with discordant views do receive the prize, but the prize is generally awarded for specific work, not ones general views, and that work is expected to be ground breaking AND correct. Oltsrom received hers for her work in “economic governance” – basically for her research into our ability to manage resources without government.

      The essence of her work is not that there is or is not some specific climate or ecological problem – but that whatever problems we may have are best determined and solved by individuals at small scale rather than experts at large scale – I will be happy to agree with that.

      Paul Krugman as an example received his for ground breaking work in trade theory.

      You just do not get it. I could care less about traffic lights. the results are empirical not anecdotal – we know how many accidents occurred on average before and after.
      The only question is whether they are broadly applicable.

      All of that is irrelevant to my point – which is let go of your preconceptions that top down solutions are ALWAYS what is needed.

      Even if I actually conceded AGW to you, Olstrom’s work demonstrates that we will all resolve the problem more effectively on our own without government telling us what we must do. If you accept that I do nto care what you believe about AGW.

      This is not about Cato, or libertarian angles.

      The intersections and people driving through them are not pondering deep questions of political ideology, they are not arguing marx vs. mills. They just want to get to where they are going quickly and safely. The point of the traffic lights example was not to advocate for anarchy. It was to get you to challenge your preconceptions that top down solutions are always the best. Does the fact that in atleast a few instances removing traffic controls has improved conditions allow you to atleast entertain the possibility that sometimes problems you think must be solved from the top can be effectively solved by leaving ordinary people alone ?

      I am not asking you to become an anarcho-capitolist.
      I am asking that for whatever problem you believe we face, in addition to considering how government can fix it for us, you atleast entertain the possibility that given the opportunity, people will be able to work it out on their own.

      My claim that you are falling of the left edge of the planet is not because you SOMETIMES or even FREQUENTLY, see problems as requiring top down statist action, but that you ALWAYS see them that way.

      The whole point of the traffic light example was not to start a movement to remove all traffic lights, but to challenge your preconceptions – with real world instances where they have proved wrong. Again, I really do not care much about traffic lights.

      If those here are really and truly moderates, then whether the issue is traffic lights, or the debt, or violence, or healthcare, they should be willing to look at the real world – as it actually is, to look at real world data when we have it. and to consider not just one top down solution to a give problem, but many alternatives – including letting people sort things out on their own. If your answer to every problem is a top down government imposed solution, then you are not a moderate, you are a statist. You may be a left leaning statist or a right leaning one, but you are not the moderate you claim.

      • Rabbit permalink
        August 14, 2012 9:38 am

        Actually, I have compromised with your worldview many times on this site and received nothing in return, not even acknowledgment for the effort to meet you halfway. Like many here I have pounded my head against your absolutism. Government and regulation are always the worst answer, its an immutable law, this is your orthodoxy. That is moderation? In arguing with an absolutist one becomes unreasonable themself, in self defense against repeatedly compromising and receiving nothing in return. Its a good reason to avoid arguing with absolutists.

        I certainly do not believe the top down solution is always correct, show me where I ever said that. Any sane person knows that bureaucratic rules can become ridiculous. I have no love of bureaucracy for its own sake, whats more I worked in a state environmental agency (environmental engineer/hydrogeologist) for several years and saw all that culture first hand. We can cut waste ann nonsense, sure.

        What I do have an issue with is lassaiz faire economics, which to my opinion are a disgraced dinosaur of the past that some deluded libertarian purists wish to resurrect. I suspect that these principles are the ones that you are most interested in and I am agin them, yes, and with excellent reason as they are essentially the law of the jungle, an exercise in destructive naivety by some theoretical purists to accommodate the actual robber barons, who are not themselves at all naive. .

        Essentially what both you and Priscilla want from me is that I make your favorite concerns and pet issues my own. I have my Own concerns, which you and Priscilla do not share, nor do I really expect you to. I can live with the fact that different posters have different fears and concerns.

        Propose meaningful compromise on debt and government and there can be a discussion. Meanwhile I and other members of the “far left” (roughly 50% of the voters in each of the last three presidential elections) are not going to march backwards into the sea while you libertarians dismantle the New Deal and feed the gains to the modern robber barons.

  18. August 13, 2012 11:19 pm

    I think it’s important to stay in the real world….”reality-based,” I think they call it?

    So, while I have already declared my problem with libertarians, based on their resistance to compromise, I am equally disturbed by those who cannot view regulatory overreach from a reasonable perspective. The Endangered Species Act alone, for example, has been responsible for enormous damage….there was a case in Maryland where a family was prevented from keeping eroding soil from causing their home to collapse off a cliff, because it would destroy the habitat of a protected beetle.

    This sort of extremism in the name of government regulation is just as bizarre and ridiculous as any libertarian anti-regulatory paradise. More so, if you ask me…..

    • August 14, 2012 6:34 pm

      The effective means to “regulate” scarce resources, is to create property rights in them.
      That is essentially what Cap & Trade does. It is what copyrights and Patents are, it is the method governments inevitably resort to when managing such things as fishing.

      When you allow scarce things to be owned, the value corresponds with need and scarcity, and owners protect their property. The largest Superfund sites, and the greatest water polluters are government.

  19. AMAC permalink
    August 14, 2012 12:14 am

    Priscilla
    I would argue that there are entire departments that can and should be done away with. The department of homeland security duplicates work and oversight by many other departments in existance. The work they do that is productive could be done much more cost effectively by allocating the original work they do to other departments. I would also argue that the DOE could be seriously lessened. The paying of crops not to be grown is strange. The CRP program is seriously in need of reduction. Being from and in a farming community, I get to see first hand how it becomes a spoils system handed out to friends of whoever is in charge of that specific region. Insurance companies could be involved to insure crops with government funding that would seriously reduce costs to the tax payers. I wouldn’t entirely wipe out DOA, but I would get pretty close. As far as the DOE, I do believe in a lot of their compliance and nuclear
    Management duties, but little of their funding is spent towards these duties. I believe that the DOE should exist primarily for those duties I mentioned.

    • AMAC permalink
      August 14, 2012 12:21 am

      Sorry. The auto correct on my I phone caused a mix up between DOE and DOA in one place. My mind is fried right right now. Getting prepared for the upcoming year at a new high school and still working through grad school! Wish me luck.

      • Anonymous permalink
        August 14, 2012 7:43 am

        Good luck! Auto correct is both a blessing and a curse, that’s for sure….and thanks for bringing up Homeland Security. Again, an agency that seemed a good idea at the time, but one that has morphed into another gigantic bureacracy, complicating and confusing its original purpose……and swallowing up billions of taxpayer dollars, often with nothing of value to show for it.

    • dhlii permalink
      August 14, 2012 6:06 pm

      I will be happy to get behind all of your suggestions.

      • Anonymous permalink
        August 14, 2012 9:40 pm

        Some of the Homeland Security enactments were productive and actually streamlined some commercial auditing. The problem was that the auditing was still being performed by agencies like FAA and other bodies. I don’t want to sound week on defense. I just feel that this was a knee jerk reaction to some actual problems. A council could have done the work needed without the creation of this entire department. By council, I mean a group designed for oversight, planning, and cross-agency communication. Government controlled security at airports did not necessitate the creation of an entire department, either.

  20. Rabbit permalink
    August 14, 2012 8:04 am

    Well, what exactly am I supposed to actually do to be on your good side on this issue, Priscilla? I am not utterly without sympathy to the idea that some regulations can be rethought. Generally I am one of the least bureaucratic people you could meet.

    But my ability to influence this would seem to be just about nil, and there are so many issues that concern me more.

    Any practical suggestions, other than voting republican (which would be futile in any case in my state.)

    Whatever tiny grain of sand on the beach of influence I have would only come bu supporting the GOP and you GOP moderates would have to drastically transform the party first, since I can support so little of what it is presently about.

    • August 14, 2012 7:26 pm

      Ian, if I had any really practical suggestions, I guess I would be trying to get them out there, but the honest truth is that we can only try and make our voices heard through voting and, for me, at least these days, voting against Democrats is the way to go.

      The problem, as I see it, has become that most interest groups that the Democrats are beholden to need bigger and ever-growing government bureaucracies in order to get their best deals, and they need iron-clad control over those bureaucracies, so that only their priorities are served. So, cap-and-trade, for example, becomes the ONLY way to achieve the goal of cleaner air, federally funded contraception and abortion becomes the ONLY way to achieve women’s reproductive rights (whatever the hell that means, lol) and preserving the habitat of the spotted owl can ONLY be achieved through bannng old-growth logging. And so on, and so on…..

      And, there is no balance. Taxes and spending must ONLY go up, never down. We must have ever more regulation, the government must have ever more control and anyone who says otherwise is an extremist….and stupid, to boot. Oh, and evil, too.

      And I don’t say the Republicans are right, just that they’re not always wrong. And we need balance and moderation. Not the wishy washy kind. The grass-roots reform minded kind. I see a flicker of that on the GOP side. So, for now, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

      • AMAC permalink
        August 14, 2012 9:52 pm

        Priscilla

        I try to ignore the label before I decide for whom to vote. I don’t think that either party represents a majority of my values more than the other. I see that both parties preach a lot better than they practice. I am for socially responsible fiscal conservatism. I may have invented that term! My perception is that both parties are moving further away from the center. In my opinion, this started roughly 10 years ago. I hope this is a short lived trend. I honestly look at the individual when voting. I just don’t think voting to vote against democrat is necessarily the answer.

      • August 15, 2012 8:47 am

        AMAC, I mostly agree with what you’re saying here. It has become increasingly difficult to find responsible, reasonable politicians in either party. My own observation, however, is that, what few responsible fiscal conservatives do exist, primarily exist today in the Republican Party. And with strict party line votes becoming more and more the norm in Congress, I guess I figure that, for now, I’ll cast my lot for the party that might possibly do the responsible thing. Maybe.

        By the way, this party-voting thing of mine is a national election thing…when it comes to local and state politics, I tend not to put as much weight on party.

      • Rabbit permalink
        August 15, 2012 9:20 am

        Just out of curiosity Priscilla, Dave has provided his analysis of our foreign policy and “Defense” spending and it is logically quite consistent with his views on domestic affairs (government is again an abject failure), which you seem to be in agreement with very often. How do you feel about the Libertarian view of military spending? Would you be inclined to make deep cuts and changes in a similar manner to the cuts and strong changes you’d like to see in domestic spending and programs?

      • August 15, 2012 11:16 pm

        Is criticizing excessive government bureaucracy the same as saying government is a failure?

        Anyway, to answer your question – I’m a supporter of a strong military. And, no, I would not support “deep cuts” in the military in the way that I would support deep cuts to, say, NPR or the DOA (to commision $1M studies of methane gas emitted from cows, lol).

        Does that mean that I oppose scrutiny of the defense budget, in order to identify areas where there is wasteful spending? No Does that mean that I favor the US military engaging in police actions when our own national security is not threatened? No.

        I do believe that the US plays a unique role in the world by promoting peace through military strength. I appreciate libertarian reluctance to stay out of foreign disputes, but I think that it is isolationist and unrealistic.

  21. August 14, 2012 5:14 pm

    Hello, my name is Wayne T. Ollick, author of “The Overviewer” and owner of TheOverviewer.com website. An Overviewer is a person who can step well back from the world and his/her own biases and see the very big picture. He tries to view life as though he were an alien stepping off of a space ship into a brand new world. My book has an entire chapter on moderation (“All Things in Moderation”) and that should be the credo of everyone who calls himself and American. In years gone by, we had two parties in this country, The Democratic Party and the Republican Party. But anyone who follows politics today will hear the words, Liberal and Conservative, 10 times more than the D. and R. words. Liberals and Conservatives used to be the fringe elements of the respective parties, the Barry Goldwaters for instance. We had more moderates running the country and, as such, congress was able to do mundane things like prepare a budget, set sensible agendas and, above all, compromise between the two parties. Extremes beget extremes so it is no wonder that the heretofore extreme elements of each party are now in control. They cannot get anything accomplished because they are so far apart that they literally cannot or will not see the other side’s position. It has become emotional and irrational, traits that are indigenous to the extreme species. I take exception to the idea that we Moderates are odd balls, misfits or pariahs of the political scene. The mere fact that the L’s and C’s say that ‘we stand for nothing’ says far more about them than it does about us! Think about this. What does it take to run a big corporation? A public one at that? Does it take high emotions, schoolboy ideals and religiosity? Surely not, and such a corporation would go bankrupt very quickly! Then, is not the United States the biggest corporation in the world? It must be since Moody’s and Standard and Poors give it a rating like any other company. So Moderates are not an enigma but they are the norm….just not at this particular time in history. The last time our country was this polarized was just before the Civil War! It is time for Moderates not to be intimidated by the two extreme parties but to be emboldened by the realization that WE ARE the PEOPLE and WE ARE the answer!

    • August 14, 2012 6:28 pm

      welcome

      If the US Government is just a giant corporation then why can’t we have market’s in government ?

      You chose US moderate, and I chose US lite. You get higher taxes, but broader benefits. I get lower taxes, but when things go badly I am on my own.

      We can’t do this because government is NOT like a giant corporation. Government is distinguishable from other forms of truly free association such as corporations, in that it is not voluntary, you can not trade citizenship willy nilly, you can not not be a citizen of someplace. And because government has the sole legitimate right to initiate force.

      Those factors distinguish government from all other forms of voluntary association. Those factors are why you can not run government like a corporation, why democracy fails, and why government must be limited. There are theoretical arguments for limited government, but the most critical practical one is that given the monopoly on the initiation of force that government must have, it must otherwise be as restrained as possible otherwise tyrany is inevitable.

      BTW Government are rated, because all other ratings depend on those of government.
      If the US government is insolvent, then every US based business, and every US citizen is also insolvent – regardless of how well they may have run their affairs.

      Think of what would happen if tomorrow you we were told all US dollars are worthless.
      ultimately we would survive and thrive, but the carnage would be broad and deep.
      Yet US Dollars, and every other currency is worthless. As Adam Smith noted – “all money is a matter of belief”. For those of you who might be gold cranks – what is the use value of gold that is worth $1400/oz ? If the financial system collapses, “A piece of Bread could buy a bag of gold”. If there were some intrinsic value to gold, Spain would rule the world today, and England would be a backwater.

      The credit rating of every business, and every person in this country, rests on the creditworthiness of the country itself. When the government prints or otherwise creates a dollar, its real value is as a promise that the people of this nation will produce a dollars worth of value in exchange. one way or another that $15T of debt the US government has piled up – comes out of our pockets, because if it does not than most everything else we have becomes worthless.

    • Rabbit permalink
      August 16, 2012 8:46 am

      Needless to say I like this, Oliver. Right on.

      • Rabbit permalink
        August 16, 2012 8:47 am

        Er, Wayne.

  22. August 14, 2012 7:47 pm

    Ian;

    I am not looking to fight with you, or drive you away. I am glad you are back.

    That does not change what I think.

    I am glad you think you have “compromised” with me in the past.
    In a few rare instances you have conceded a point – just as I have misspoken on occasion.

    I believe I am far more willing to compromise than you are – despite the fact that I do not think compromise is inherently positive.

    I will be happy to agree to cut any aspect of government spending by any amount at any level. Those few things government does that are absolutely essential are still so overspent, that you are never going to offer paring them too far.

    I will be happy to agree to limit the rate of increase in government spending to anything below the growth rate. i do not see why that is so hard to agree to. You get to spend more every year, but government can not continue to gradually consume the entire economy. But I have had no takers. For reference, the presidents budget does not do that, and neither does the most draconian budget the GOP tired to pass.

    But compromise does not mean agree. compromise should not means surrendering your principles – if it does than you have no principles. Most of us think of compromise as getting as much of what we want as we can. But it does not mean we will not try for more tomorrow.

    Further i have not said all regulation/law is bad. Just that most is.
    We need a few absolute immutable bright line laws with very very few if any exceptions.
    Thou shalt not kill comes immediately to mind.

    I am a minimalist not an absolutist. I believe in a small number of very hard to change laws that are well understood by everyone. That is essentially what “The rule of law” means. What “we are a nation of laws not men” means.

    The more rules you have the more exceptions you must have, the more discretion and waivers you must have. The more discretion you have the more corruption you have the more uncertainty you have and the worse your government is in every way.

    Even corruption is not nearly as bad as uncertainty. I can figure out how to manage my affairs, to succeed and prosper even when corruption is rampant – so long as the rules is well established. If I have to pay a bribe for each widget I produce that bribe just becomes a cost of the product – but if what i have to pay changes on the whim of the official – I am not going to gamble that I can succeed, i will go elsewhere.

    Anyway, you claim to have compromised. in the sense of agreeing to disagree, maybe we have, but I can recall few if any instances where you opposed any regulation, spending or taxes of anykind.

    Often you want to argue with reality not me.
    The traffic lights speak for them selves. Are all traffic lights bad ? Probably not. Are all traffic lights good – obviously not. I try to provide numerous examples of the failure of government. The traffic light example was particularly good because it is something we all assume is ALWAYS a good idea. Something that government pretty much gets right. Yet clearly they don’t.

    Despite my rant on clear absolute laws with little discretion. You can not operate the world without discretion. But the fact that change, adaption the ability to shift gears, are absolutely essential to progress, does not mean they have any business in government.

    Government is supposed to be rooted in timeless values and principles – or atleast those that do not change from minute to minute. Hard and fast rules where absolutely necescary is what government does best. Government has the power to enforce rigid rules. Flexibility and discretion is what markets do best – not perfectly. Mistakes are common, but they are fixed and we move on. Change, the cycle of life are intrinsic to markets. We do not want risk, death, collapse, and destruction in government – ever.

    As to the disgrace of Lassaiz-faire – when did that happen. i missed it.
    BTW markets are just convenient language. It is really just about individual freedom. A market is just a false artificial line around some subset of our values that we pretend have something to do with money. The core is values, and there is no fence that demarks those values we have that are “economic” and those that are not.

    Regardless, when did Lassaiz-faire fail ? since Adam Smith’s time (and for all of human history) the really big failures have all been caused by government.

    “A new USA Today/Gallup Poll reveals that a vast number of American citizens favor small government; in fact, the sentiment is at record levels: 61 percent of those surveyed believe government should step aside and let individuals and businesses fix the economy”

    Does that 61% sound more like you are me ?

    In 2008 Gallup found only 22% of us felt we could trust government. You or me ? .

    I don’t care if I am in the minority. I am not claiming to be “moderate” “centrist”, it is only mildly heartening to find a majority of the population agreeing with me on an issue.

    But this entire moderate meme is inextricable from the mis-perception that your values are shared by a majority of others.

    Get past it. They are not. you specific views are at best slightly more popular than mine.

    The greatest program of the entire New Deal – social security is failing. It will shortly run a 23% shortfall for many decades. I did not create that problem – nor did the extremists or conservatives you malign. Nor can you fix it by class warfare. There are not enough rich to bail you out. It has take more than 70 years to fail – though even FDR knew failure was inevitable. Most of the rest of the New Deal and Great Society programs have failed even faster. Medicare has only been around a bit more than 40 years and it is in worse shape than social security – in fat it costs more.

    I am not dismantling the New Deal. It is doing that to itself. It is not and never was sustainable. And that is probably the biggest problem I have with the supposed moderates here. You do not seem to live in the real world. You do not have to be libertarian to see that at best government fails most of the time, that it has grown huge and bloated and is a drag on all our lives. That it is unsustainable, and at the root of most if not all our problems. And that for all your perceived problems with it that quasi Laissez-faire system you deride has brought all of us great wealth, and better, longer lives.

    You are pissed off about something that at worst fails rarely, and enamored with something that at best works rarely – and that is not some libertarian ideology. It is just the real world as it actually is.

    Arguing with reality gets you nowhere.

  23. Rabbit permalink
    August 15, 2012 8:49 am

    These political and economic arguments are founded on “realities” that are much more subjective than you seem to realize Dave. What is reality to you is made thus by your belief in it. This is fairly obvious, I do not claim to be profound here. I do not share much of your “reality” on everything from lassaiz faire economics to global warming, I have a different set of values and beliefs. Once you grasp that you may stop trying to convert me and others.

    I have the most respect for people who are both learned and wise to realize how little they know and how hard it is to “know” anything.

    • August 16, 2012 6:53 pm

      Poppy cock Ian;

      Economic models, and theories, as well as climate models – are just that – models not reality. But aside from fundamentally objective arguments about objective data collection and analysis, “reality” is what it is. Unless we are all the dream of some grassphopper sitting in a field of dandelions in another galaxy in another universe, were are stuck with the same reality regardless of our ideology.

      And in that reality some ideologies correlate strongly with the facts and data of the world we all live in and some fail.

      If my ideology, my economic model runs at odds with that real world – rigorously demonstrate that and you win. Either i have made an error in my representation of my beliefs or my beliefs are false. One of the strengths and weaknesses of what I believe is that it does not tolerate logical in-congruence. It allows for things outside the scope of logic, but it does not allow for logical error. If something it claims is true proves false or visa versa, then the entire “model” must be discarded or at the very least repaired, and considering that we are talking about a very very simple model that has to work well in a very very complex world, reworking is not much of an option.

      And that reality that tests both my views and yours – unlike our respective views, is not an abstraction, not a model, it is what it is.

      The “reality” I am talking about, is the one we live in, not in our minds, but out there everyday. It is the one that just had a recession, it is the one where the value of the stock market dropped $11T because that was about how much we have inflated the value of our homes. It is the one that had gas lines and stagflation the last time we tried price controls. It is the one where people have iPads and iPhones and Flatscreens today, who did not even have TV’s or phones 30 years ago.

      It is not a liberal reality, nor a conservative reality, it is not even a libertarian reality – though interestingly it behaves pretty much as Classical Liberal thinkers have suggested for more than 200 years.

      I will be happy to consider anything you want inside that reality.

      Conversely if you want to live in the reality where your personal ideology actually works – go for it. But that particular reality seems strongly divergent from the one that contains my local grocery store, and I would greatly appreciate it if you would quit dictating that the rest of us conform the real would to your mis-perceptions – for one thing the place you live by your own description is a pretty crappy place.

      • August 16, 2012 6:57 pm

        For the record testing a model or hypothesis against the real world and rejecting those that do not work is essentially the “scientific method”.

        It is how we separate subjective conceptions of how we wish things were, or even well intention ed but otherwise wrong models from those that work.

      • Rabbit permalink
        August 17, 2012 9:13 am

        The time and place where I was fortunate enough to have been born, the USA of the 20th century, is pretty much the best place and the best time in human history, as far as I can tell. I am absolutely thankful for my incredible good fortune. And my own chosen little corner of the USA, in highly regulated and liberal little Vermont, is even an better place to live than the USA on average.

        The best and most prosperous nation that the world has seen as yet has managed to function in the context of the New Deal for 75 years. Keep waiting for it to fail, since it does not conform to your ideas of correctness and “reality.” You are going to wait a long time. You will have to ignore all the good, categorize and lampoon all the bad, and call whatever happens failure and content yourself with that. Doesn’t sound like fun to me.

        The USA has evolved its economic system as the world at large was evolving its modern economic system for over 200 years of democratic choice. The system that we have got to be what it is via the sacred process of people making free democratic choices (‘pretty good choices”) for this long period.

        Meanwhile the heyday of the economic-philosophical system you consider to be objective reality was over well over a century ago and the choices of the democratic process since then have only moved us further and further away from those ideals, even as we prospered as a nation beyond all belief.

        I am a recent grain of sand on this beach, I did not dictate any of this. The workings of democracy with hundreds of millions of voters led us here to our status as the largest and most prosperous economy in the world. OK, I’ll let go of my one-sided rhetoric for a moment and admit that some part of Adam Smith played its role as well, and that the robber barons of the gilded age made their contributions along with their depredations. Its a complicated messy story and each philosophy can find facts to support a claim of victory. Objective economic reality is hard to find here, but its an objective fact that we prospered and that we have been on a more and more regulatory bent since your favorite golden age of lassaiz faire.

        To me, sitting around griping about almost everything our government does and waiting for the New Deal and the system in general to fail sounds like a sour crappy way to live.

  24. Rabbit permalink
    August 16, 2012 9:24 am

    Hi Priscilla,

    Thanks for the reply, the only place I can reply to you is way down here.

    I’m sure you see where I am going with this.

    Criticizing bureaucracy, or capitalism, or the military budget is all fine and natural. Whether one can do it and remain with in the bounds of what is realistic is the problem. Most important is the matter of the proposed solutions to the issues one criticizes.

    What I have been trying to gently point out is that this Libertarian view as articulated by Dave that almost all government actions are a useless counterproductive failure, whether its traffic lights, our foreign policy, military spending, or domestic programs, along with its ideal solution, cut the US government back to the good old days of 1800, is not a realistic answer to any of our problems. I’m just trying to make the point that the Libertarian lassaiz faire philosophy is no more realistic as an answer to our domestic spending issues than it is as an answer to our military budget and foreign policy.

    There are those who believe the Libertarian Lassaiz faire economic/regulatory ideals provide some sort of intellectual basis for conservative actions today. The reaction of the Lassaiz faire world to the Irish potato famine was that government should keep its hands off and let them die. That world is gone, at least in the first world nations, its not an intellectual basis for anything today. This silly and utterly unrealistic Libertarian philosophy manages to dominate TNM most of the time, its a shame, its a long disgraced dead horse.

    You can look at the DOE as standing for million dollar cow fart studies, but then the opponents of military spending and US foreign policy look at the Defense Department as million dollar hammers and 25 billion fighter planes than don’t perform as advertised. In the real world, both the DOD and the DOE do other more understandable things and its unlikely that either will be eviscerated, no matter who is in power.

    At election time (which seems to be most of the time) the rhetoric gets to be so silly and childish and unrealistic. If we kept ourselves within debating the limits of things that can actually happen, politically and economically, a huge percentage of the election year heated conversation would disappear. And I, as a moderate, would be eternally grateful.

    • August 16, 2012 7:32 pm

      I have argued for Lassaiz Faire but I have not demanded that you adopted it.
      I have not demanded that you go back to the 1800’s.

      What I have asked you to do, is in every problem that you think might need government attention atleast consider the possibility that there are choices beyond a single blindly applied statist solution.

      Two years ago we passed PPACA. Still almost no one really grasps what it is or how it works. Most of what we know is pretty bad even as measured by typical progressive standards. The entire 1935 Social Security Act is 600 lines long, PPACA is 3500 pages long. For good or evil the social security act was likely read and understood by every congressmen, can you honestly say the same for ANY congressmen voting for PPACA ?

      regardless, my point is not opposition to PPACA. It is that first we decided that we had a pressing problem that government must solve – then we decided we had to do it pretty rapidly with very little thought. i believe I could pull pretty much any page at random from the middle and I don not think I could find more than a handful of the congressmen who voted for it that had read those provisions, much less could explain them.

      And honestly PPACA is only “moderately” unusual. Congress passes legislation of all kinds that is typically poorly thought out, and then we are all surprised when it performs abysmally when implimented.

      But it does not stop there. Totally skipping that fact that 3500 pages of legislation inevitably turns into several orders of magnitude more sometimes slightly better thought out regulation, we inevitably get to the real world where it fails.

      The real world is a pretty difficult place – an ordinary new business – no matter how well thought out has about a 40% chance of making it through its second year.

      Why should we assume laws put together by a 600+ person committee are going to fair any better ?

      Why is it that we can not allow bad ideas in government to just fail. Did not work, get rid of it, if the problem is still that important try again.

      But we do not. Unless the our political leaders are far more brilliant than business leaders, 60% of our laws should fail in the first two years.

      Personally I expect the failure rate is far higher, but even accepting 60%. Why do failed laws have to stay on the books nearly forever ?

      Yes, absolutely I am opposed to the vast majority of regulation completely in its entirety. You call that extremist. But honestly in your heart of hearts, you have never seen a law or regulation you are truly willing to part with – much less 60% of them.
      And even if you can honestly claim that his not so, it is still effectively true. You are far to busy arguing constantly for more new laws to be bothered with fixing or disposing of the myriads of broken ones we are already stuck with.

      If wanted few laws is extremism, then how is wanting ever more laws not also extremism ?

      You can paint my views as extremism all you wish. Unless you are not only willing to consider that government must atleast occasionally fail, but also be willing to do something about it, your position is pretty much guaranteed to fail. A society with infinite laws – is essentially lawless.

    • August 18, 2012 6:01 pm

      You want to use as an example of the failure of free markets a system where the citizens a country were prevented from owning land in their own country by foreign landlords dependent on foreign government to deprive citizens of their rights and freedom ?

      And BTW both in Ireland and from England massive unsuccessful public works programs were started to address the problem.

      Misdiagnosis of the causes of the problem lead to the discredited Malthusian idiocy that still afflicts us today.

  25. Rabbit permalink
    August 16, 2012 9:27 am

    er, 25 million dollar fighter planes. Damned gremlins.

    • August 16, 2012 12:12 pm

      Totally agreed on the 365-24-7 election year hyberbolic rhetoric. When it comes to spending cuts, I think that there needs to be an acknowledgement that not all spending is the same. We hear a lot about discretionary spending, but I daresay that most people don’t have a clue as to what that even is….and, when it comes to entitlement reform, or tax code reform, the ranks of the clueless become legion – and the hyperbolic rhetoric goes over the top. I’ve actually begun to think that perhaps the dirtiness of the current presidential campaign (“Romney is a tax-cheating,murdering robber baron who hates the poor!!” “Obama is a Marxist racist liar who hates the rich!!”) might have the effect of mutually-assured-destruction, and both sides will simmer down before they destroy each other. Probably not, but I can dream, can’t I?

      • AMAC permalink
        August 17, 2012 12:09 am

        Unfortunately, that rhetoric is effective. As long as it is effective, I think it will be here to stay. The formula of making unreasonable promises (or at least promises not planned on being kept) and portraying the oponent in an untrue and unfavorable light has proven effective and politicians are more concerned with winning than competing with honor. Both parties are guilty and the media loves it. The media allows them to play the game and we allow the media to get away with it.

      • August 18, 2012 5:27 pm

        Contentious political rhetoric is nothing new.
        Bellow is a video recreating the campaign rhetoric of the election of 1800 – using the actual published words of Jefferson and Adams and their operatives.

      • August 18, 2012 5:42 pm

        All government spending takes money that almost certainly would have been used productively to create even more wealth for all of us.

        When considering anything government does we must first start with the understanding that by taxing, borrowing, or printing money we already have less than we had before.

        No all government spending is alike – even the most effusive expectations of the Pressidents council of economic advisors expected no more than a multiplier of 1.6 for each dollar of government spending. In otherwords, $almost a trillion dollars of stimulus in a perfect world would result in an economy that was only $600B larger. In the real world multipliers of 1.6 have never been reached. Of dozens of studies of spending progressive economists are finding multipliers of 1.1 to 1.3, while the bulk of the studies find multipliers from .3 to .7. Any multiplier below one means the spending made things worse. Even multipliers about one are only net good societal benefit of the government spending was greater than what would have happened without out.

        I am not a big proponent of defense spending, but again we know from studies over the past 50 years, that military spending – particularly for war has the highest multiplier – though still below 1.

        That makes everything else worse.

        The world bank data correlating each dollar of social spending with a 30 cent decline in the standard of living is just a reflection of the fact that below unity multipliers for government spending are robust across the DEVELOPED nations of the world.

  26. asmith permalink
    August 18, 2012 5:16 pm

    Ian;

    So which is it – the best place in the world, and the best time or has everything been going to hell for the past 30 years ? At TNM I hear that life is good for the greedy 1% who own and control everything who have bought our politicians – but for the rest of us life sucks.

    Like I said join the real world. There is no place better to live – no place better to be poor, there is no time better to live in – except tomorrow which will be even better.

    But it did not get that way just over the past 75 years.

    Indentured servants in Jamestown left near certain death in 17th century Britain for conditions we would consider abysmal – but were better than the 99% anywhere in their world could hope for.

    Their descendants, puritans, quakers, catholics, plantation owners and the children of indentured servants, created a nation on an ideological foundation of individual freedom and self determination, that had never been tried before – and it flourished.

    In the 18th century -without social security, or medicare, life expectance nearly doubled, and almost 50 million people from all over the world came here – most with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Again they lived in conditions of squalor – but better than the aristocracy of preceding generations,, and better than their peers anywhere else in the world.

    All this happened absent a single progressive government program.

    The twentieth century brought us even more. Antibiotics turn lethal diseases into speed bumps, Polio was cured, cars and tractors replaced horses, boundless energy has radically improved the quality of life of even the least of us – and on and on.

    Of all that distinguishes your life from that of ordinary people during the previous 300 years what of that was the product of progressive government ?

    Like you I think we live in the greatest nation on earth and the greatest time to be alive. Unlike you I know who and what to thank for all that bounty. If Social Security and Medicare were a success – they would still be dwarfed by a small fraction of those benefits of modern life that have no connection to progressive government.

    Keep looking around, life is good, it is very good. It is very good even for the least of us. Being mentally ill and homeless in the US today is better than just being an ordinary person 300 years ago. It is probably better than being an ordinary person in much of the world today.

    And look at what is failing, and what is succeeding.

    You are berating the engine of the world – our pursuit of our own self-interests, because in the face of government uncertainty, all your regulatory shackles, and the theft of much of what it creates – it is still able to struggle forward and grow. You are angry because that weak growth threatens your ability to shackle it even further.

    Where is it that you expect to get the 23% in increased funding that Social security needs to be sustainable ? And the problems with your vaunted medicare are even worse.

    The very things you applaud over the past 75years – and they are the greatest accomplishments of the new deal and great society, are a millstone around our necks, chocking us, stealing our jobs.

    There is much to celebrate in america – including the that the failure of progressive entitlements is something we are strong enough to overcome and thrive past.

    But it is Not FDR or LBJ or progressiveness in any form that underpins any of that greatness. The great engine created by the freedom to pursue ones one interest, has made each of the last 4 centuries far better than any preceding.

    That freedom has proven such a powerful force that even in chains and dragging the accretions of your progressive regulatory state it is still the root source of everything that you see in this nation and time as good. Even social security and medicare even measured as a great success are not possible without that engine you deride.

    I am sorry, but your reality is a horror that I do not want to live in, because you seek to destroy that which has given you everything that you see as good.

  27. Rabbit permalink
    August 18, 2012 9:48 pm

    “You seek to destroy that which has given you everything that you see as good”

    Heh, I was afraid someone was going to catch on to my evil plans to destroy the world someday.

  28. Rabbit permalink
    August 18, 2012 10:19 pm

    That engine that has made each century better than the last, by the way, is science. Which I certainly have not derided, in fact its how I have spent my life, rather than sitting on the outside of it heckling it as you do when its results are inconvenient to your economic religion.

    Your prose has turned deep purple. Take a day off and go fishing with your kids, it will do you good.

    • August 19, 2012 12:50 pm

      The US has suddenly reduced its CO2 output to the levels in the early 90’s. This did not happen as the result of any government edict – in fact the change came about suddenly and by surprise.

      It happened because the drop in the price of natural gas in the US has made it cost competitive with coal for power generation and power companies shifted from coal to gas practically overnight.

      I will be happy to concede this change required science. But it was not driven by science. As with almost any scientific progress that improved our quality of life science was driven by the markets. We have been aware of natural gas (and oil) locked in shale for decades – that is one reason why world energy reserves are listed as “recoverable reserves”, because there has always been vastly more, known, oil, gas, and goal then we can figure out how to get.

      Science gives us the tools we need to improve our lives in nearly all instances because the market drives and demands it. Even Pasteur patented his discoveries and profited from them. The instances in which science driven solely by altruistic purposes produced something of value to society are rare. Those in which government sponsored altruistic science produced some societal benefit are rarer, Nearly all scientific progress prior to my lifetime was driven exclusively by markets.

      Regardless, science is not the engine. It is merely a tool. An incredibly important tool, but still just a tool. Very few of us engage in science solely for sciences sake, and even when we do it is still in pursuit of what we need and what we want. Again you fall for the fallacy that wealth is about money. Even charity is just an inefficient distorted permutation of a market effort to meet our needs and wants.

      No one engages in science for the hell of it. They do so to meet needs or wants.
      The may want to pay their mortgage, or they may want the recognition of their peers, they may want little more than the happiness that discovery brings them. They still do so motivated by their values, their wants and needs.

      The scientist seeking the recognition of his peers is no different from the business man seeking wealth in other forms.

      It is our desire for wealth – our personal needs and wants, in whatever form, that motivates us to accomplish everything we do.

    • August 19, 2012 1:00 pm

      The extent to which I can do what i want – such as go fishing with my kids is dependent on producing things others value

  29. August 19, 2012 12:01 am

    Eh, Dave, I get your point….but, seriously, being mentally ill and homeless is not good. Whenever.

    I despise the hypocrisy of liberals, but utopias are dangerous things.

    • August 19, 2012 12:19 pm

      The claim with respect to the mentally ill homeless is that they have done better in a libertarian dystopia. One of the most wonderful features of the views I espouse is that a little bit goes a long way. The assorted studies on government spending and economic freedom I have cited essentially say no matter where you are, reduce spending and/or increase economic freedom and everyone in your country will be better off.
      It would take very little to restore the kind of prosperity we had in the 80’s and 90’s.
      Reduce the rate of GROWTH in government spending to 1% below the rate of economic growth, and the economy will explode, and we will be well on our way to reducing our debt and balancing our budget in about two decades.

      But if I offer you a sustainable budget that increases federal spending every year, and requires no cuts to anything become reigning in their runaway growth, that will be labeled utopian and draconian.

      Many of my arguments are Reductio Ad Absurdum – if some policy is good then absent an obvious bright line or tipping point more should be even better. Conversely is something is good even in the most extreme instances – if mentally ill homeless people are better off today than long ago, and the cause of that is the very system progressives deride, then maybe there is a problem with progressives.
      That is partly why Ian sees me as extreme – I demand that both his views and my views work regardless of the scale they are implemented absent a clear limiting principle.
      You can not be for progressivism within limits – if you can not articulate and defend those limits. If you claim to be moderate, and define moderate as progressivism with limits, but can not define limits – you are not moderate.

      Regardless, of what others may claim only a tiny fraction of people are actually entirely opposed to the so called social safety net.
      But today 60% of us are net government beneficiaries – not by our use of roads, and bridges, or defense, but because we receive more in government entitlements than we pay in taxes.

      Being willing to question whether compromising principles over a starving homeless person, is not the same as being willing to pay for food stamps for families earning above the median income, or subsidize school lunches for 85% of all children.

  30. August 19, 2012 1:39 pm

    I am sure this will trigger some knee jerk response that Thomas Sowell is some right wing shill and uncle tom.

    http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell080712.php3

    Regardless, the argument is interesting. Why is it that both individuals and the sports media generally properly understand the interpretation of sports statistics, and grasp that you have to compare apples to apples, and yet the moment we hit economic statistics and the realm of politics we immediately make statistical errors that would be obvious to us if they were sports statistics.

    • Rabbit permalink
      August 20, 2012 11:09 am

      Yes Dave, apples to oranges comparisons ARE bad. Like “…an ordinary new business – no matter how well thought out has about a 40% chance of making it through its second year…. Unless our political leaders are far more brilliant than business leaders, 60% of our laws should fail in the first two years.”

      Sure, Dave, a business is exactly the same thing as a regulation and fails for identical reasons.

      This logical gem cannot be an apples to oranges comparison, because Dave made it and arguing with Dave is arguing with reality.

      Actually Dave, your favorite tool for murdering logic is your If… then statements. There is a comforting symmetry to If…then statements and if the second half seems related to the first half people may swallow then as being logical, even if they are not.

      Here are two of your most recent logical whoppers

      IF some policy is good THEN absent an obvious bright line or tipping point more should be even better.

      Conversely IF something is good even in the most extreme instances – if mentally ill homeless people are better off today than long ago, and the cause of that is the very system progressives deride, THEN maybe there is a problem with progressives.”

      The first part means that if its good to eat a banana for breakfast then it must follow that its better to eat 10,000 bananas.

      Then second part is a combination of two debatable statements with the second one simply being your opinion. (Yes, I know, your opinions are simply statements of objective reality and one can’t dispute them.)

      For your logical IF …Then system to actually work both parts have to be objective facts and there has to be a clear relationship between the IF and the Then parts.

      IF you have trouble understanding this, THEN maybe its time to change your spark plugs.

      • August 21, 2012 11:49 pm

        I was comparing the judgement of those in business with that of those in government. Unless you believe that government service endows one with infallibility, or that legislative or regulatory decisions are much easier than business ones, or that the principles of economics do not apply to government decisions, or that we have different brains we use when making decisions inside of government, the comparison is apples to apples.

        The point o my comparison was that even good ideas – whether in business or government fail – much of the time. Outside of government when you make a mistake – and there is no magical power that makes government less prone to mistakes, you either adapt quickly or you fail.

        I do not believe that free people ALWAYS get things right. I believe that the eventually get things right. There is no incentive in government to correct mistakes. It takes decades to get rid of bad laws and regulations.

      • August 21, 2012 11:52 pm

        “Reductio ad absurdum is a common form of argument in which a proposition is purported to be disproved by reduction to absurdity in reasoning or consequence”

        It is valid logical reason if it meets two criteria:
        The facts are presented accurately – otherwise it is a straw man.
        There is no elucable limiting principle, no clear bright line explaining why more is not better.

        If those criteria are met then it falsifies the argument.

        If you don’t like that take it up with the rules of logic, not me.

      • August 22, 2012 12:21 am

        Your argument about mentally ill homeless is not an accurate rephrase of my remark, nor is it a refutation.

        The success of bastardized liberty with respect to the mentally ill homeless, refutes progressive disparagement.

        The argument is essentially

        an evil tree can not bear good fruit.
        The fruit is good.
        ergo the tree is not evil
        or more accurately those claiming the tree is evil are wrong about the tree.
        If you also want to conclude they are just plain wrong, you are free to do so, and I believe they are, but that was not my argument.

        Your banana argument makes my point – there are limits to banana consumption that are readily apparent. One might be you should stop before you overdose on potassium.

  31. August 19, 2012 3:24 pm

    Income inequality has ballooned since 19?? – opps, not.

    http://politicalcalculations.blogspot.com/2011/10/real-story-behind-rising-us-income.html

    • Rabbit permalink
      August 22, 2012 9:32 am

      Dave: Many of my arguments are Reductio Ad Absurdum – if some policy is good then absent an obvious bright line or tipping point more should be even better.

      Reality: Reductio ad absurdum (Latin: “reduction to absurdity”) is a common form of argument which seeks to demonstrate that a statement is true by showing that a false, untenable, or absurd result follows from its denial.

      Your logically mangled form of the Reductio ad absurdum principle produces mangled conclusions. Even the actual Reductio Ad Absurdum principle only works in a mathematical context or a truly logical one, one in which statements can be proven true or false. It does not work with opinions.

      Your illogical claim that “If something is good …then more should be better” clearly implies that if a huge or infinite amount of some thing is not best of all then the thing itself is bad. This is a truly absurd conclusion.

      You have attempted to prove that moderation does not exist and, needless to say, the result is a complete logical failure. One of your gems.

  32. August 19, 2012 4:51 pm

    To be clear I do not support either Romney nor Obama. But as those on TNM seem to be enamoured by the opinions of experts rather than facts I offer the following comparision of the Romney economic plan with that of Obama and note that so far 400 noted economists including 5 of the living US economics nobel winners, have signed this.

    http://economistsforromney.com/

    I am more interested in the plans than the politicians. I do not expect that either candidate will even try to live up to more than a handful of their campaign promises.

    • August 19, 2012 8:16 pm

      And that is precisely my problem with your position. Dave. You claim to want a plan to reduce the size and scope of government power, but you equate Obama and Romney. There is simply no question in my mind that Obama will vastly expand the welfare and regulatory state if he is re-elected. Romney, while certainly not a libertarian, has at the very least, pledged to repeal the ACA, undoubtedly the biggest “big government” program out there. And Ryan is actually the only Congressman (out of 535?) who has actually proposed an actual plan to reform entitlements.

      But, to you, they are all the same. Just different by degree. If it is not the libertarian ideal, than it is not worth examining.

      • August 21, 2012 11:15 pm

        What is the last politician of either party that kept a fraction of their campaign promises ?

        I agree that Obama will be a worse president than Romney. But I strongly doubt he will be nearly good enough. i have listened to what he has said – and much of it is excellent, but Obama said wonderful things, as Did Bush – they all did. i am not judging Romney on what he has said, but what he has done. Driving off the cliff more slowly is not going to save us.

        What happens if Romney is elected and that results in a stronger economy – something just over 2% growth – but solid ? Even 4.5% growth will not fix our problems. 2% growth might bring unemployment down to 7% eventually – maybe, but it will not bring it down to 4 or 5%.

        Yes Obama will be worse than Romney – just as he is worse than Bush – do you want Bush back ? Romney might be better than Bush, but not alot.

        The improvements we need are small, but they are more than I think either of these two can possibly manage. Growth in government spending must be 1% below growth in GDP for more than a decade to get out of this mess – medicare and Social Security if they are to continue must transition from defined benefits to defined contributions programs. And cost incentives must be restored. Anything less just delays the day of reconning.

        If Obama is re-elected it is highly likely we will slip back into recession – it is probable we will before the election, 2014 will resemble 2010 – only an even larger swing towards fiscal conservatism.

        If Romney is elected, we will get minor improvements over where we are – at best – and we have a series of problems in the pipeline. Europe is back into recession, there is another round of foreclosures coming up, We still have not been hit with the full impact of PPACA or Dodd-Frank, and I do not honestly believe either will truly be repealed. Fannie and Freddie are still insolvent, and we are busy driving the FHA in the same direction. We have a huge credit bubble in education. We have explicitly guaranteed atleast 40% of the banking industry, and implicitly guaranteed much of the rest. GM’s turn arround appears illusory. Too Big To Fail has created an enormous moral hazard. The Fed has pumped ungoddly amounts of money into the system – thus far they have successfully exported the inflation – pissing off the rest of the world, which has no choice but follow us. The Fed is essentially financing our deficit with paper – an approach that has never worked. The littany can go on and on.

        Every bad thing I have listed will not come about. There are even a few bright spots – and some of those are certain. But so long as the economy remains near 2% growth it will be extremely easy to slide back into recession, and even a small crisis will be amplified.

        I do not think either Romney or Obama are even close to likely to take the steps necessary to bring about real recovery. Regardless of which is elected, at best extended malaise is likely.

        So whichever party gains control of government in 2014 and 2026 they will be punished with avengence. How angry do you expect people to be after 4 more years of this ?

  33. August 19, 2012 5:05 pm

    And here is a set of six policies that NPR claims have broad support among economists.

    it is like a flash back to Jack Kemp, or Ross Perot, or Steve Forbes – or almost Herman Cain.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/07/19/157047211/six-policies-economists-love-and-politicians-hate

    Five is stupid. Broad consumption taxes work. targeted taxes – sin taxes, gasoline, tobacco, etc. have always proven an abysmal idea. The objective in taxation is broad, simple and low. Any that increases complexity, user fees, target taxes are economically distortive. The substitute the judgment of politicians for individuals.

    Where some activity is actually proven harmful those engaged in that activity are obligated to compensate those actually harmed – it is governments job to help establishing harm and see that compensation gets to the victims – not steal it for itself as it has done with the tobacco settlements.

    And 4 is dangerous. I can not support a consumption tax absent the repeal of the 16th ammendment, otherwise we will eventually end up as europe with both.

  34. Rabbit permalink
    August 20, 2012 11:53 am

    So, lets try to find some relationship here to anything Rick posted in the first place.

    Moderate opinions have a difficult time competing for attention, even here on the New Moderate. Why oh why is that? Forgive the obviousness of my reply to my own rhetorical question and the fact that I have said most of this before.

    In the first place, we moderates tend to have dull boring opinions that are limited to our actual limited choices in the real world; in the second place, what sells advertising to readers is flashy loud, and extreme opinions that propose answers that cannot actually happen, for political or practical reasons.

    Extremists have those types of “blow up the current system” opinions that catch attention, even if they are absurd, they are exciting and appeal to our sense fo frustration. So, our commetariet has all too many Ann Coultures and Maureen Dowds all too few David Brooks. They out shout us. They have their fire of true belief in a strict dogma that always burns.

    As well, extremists are not actually in the game to win, they are in the game to keep their movement alive. To use a college based example, as long as radical ISO-quoting professors can attract 10 followers each year out of the 10,000 students on a campus then they can go to every political event and shout louder than anyone else. The point of this is not to actually bring about a socialist paradise, its to recruit one or two more members to replace the graduating student radicals and keep the radical professors’ movement alive for another year.

    Here are the characteristics of the true left-wing Marxist extremists I observed for so many years at UVM.

    Incredibly verbose, rigid, dogmatic, given to delivering long sermons on history, utter conviction that their opinions are objective reality, and complete inability to understand any practical argument against their Marxist god. Generally they are intelligent, sometimes quite intelligent, and full of indefatigable energy because they are convinced that anything other than total victory for their ideals represents a horrifying world of repression. I found almost every one of them I knew to be grim, humorless, and unable to enjoy normal pleasures. Shaw’s book, The Unsocial Socialist, describes something of this, these are people who care passionately about society, but who generally suck at getting along with actual people. They are sure it is inevitable their ideals will win in the end and pointing out that their system already had its moment and was a disastrous failure meets a wall of denial based on tirelessly disputing every objective fact with a sea of statistics and illogical statements.

    I’m sure its obvious that I am describing ideological extremists in general, both left and right and that that the Lassaiz faire extreme economic endpoint is just as susceptible as the Marxist economic endpoint.

    Moderates are rarely dogmatic, we tend to lack that fire in the belly and the indefatigable energy of the true believers. But…. we are where the real action is at election time in the modern USA. Choices and positions that fail the moderate test face an uphill struggle. Ha Ha!

    • August 21, 2012 10:43 pm

      But the root problem is that your not moderates – atleast not in any sense that puts your between the extremes. I will be happy to agree that I am not moderate – but my views are closer to those of the majority than yours.

      You keep trying to claim you are somehow part of the real world – but you continue to beat dead horses. I am pretty sure that is not the real world.

      You might have an argument that your left leaning “compromises” have some realistic hope of actually happening. But they have no hope of actually working – in the real world.

      Our problems are solvable – and it does not actually require that much to solve them.
      But it does require more than compromising Ryan’s Plan (which is actually insufficient) against Obama’s.

      You complain that extremists are seeking to burn down the house. That’s bull. I have just resigned my self to the fact that so called moderates are incapable of making difficult choices, and that the house is going to burn down because of that. The good news is we are actually pretty good at rebuilding, and after this squishy progressivism has failed, we will rebuild – fast. But alot of people will be hurt – badly, because so called moderates are blind to reality.

      I did not create this reality – you did. I did not make Social Security or Medicare, or just about every other social safety net program fail. I and many others are seeking to fix your mess. The very people you claim to be helping – the sick, the old, the poor, are the victims of this mess you have created. I am looking to find a way to help them help themselves out of it. You are not only seeking to trap them in ti, but then burn the house down arround them and you.

      Libertarianism is not marxism. Its roots are in the scottish enlightenment – the tradition that informed our founders. It is rooted in freedom not tyranny.

      Marxists and moderates, force everyone to conform to their views like it or not. No matter how loud you think I may be shouting, my own beliefs and values prevent me from compelling you to live according to mine – a right or privilege you refuse to grant.

      You rant about extremism and dogma – yet you are more extremist and dogmatic – you believe things that do not and have not worked. You keep ranting that my beliefs have been discredited – without offering any evidence, yet yours are obviously dying all around you if you would only take note. Faith against evidence is dogmatic extremism – not moderation.

      I have offered you myriads of compromises – not compromises of values, but I am happy to settle for half a loaf, or even just a slice. If you are so moderate rather than charging headlong off the real fiscal cliff propose something that will actually move us in the other direction.

      You claim I am willing to see everything go to hell – how so ? By giving you exactly what you want. By giving you the opportunity to do what you believe in and succeed or fail. If you thing more spending and higher taxes will solve all our problems – go for it.
      Unless you don’t actually believe in your own ideas, there is no down side.

      I have more faith in everyones – even those with different values, ability to robustly recover from the worst mess you can create than you have in your own ideas.

      You do not get to accuse me of being willing to destroy everything in order to rebuild it – unless you are admitting that your own values will result in ruin.

  35. Rabbit permalink
    August 22, 2012 8:57 am

    Whew!

    I have to admit I was a bit worried that I had found such a clear example of your abuse of logic that you would be forced to break your perfect record of denialism and admit to it. As it turned out, I needn’t have been concerned. Dave, admit it you won’t but you compared apples to oranges: a business is not a regulation and they fail for different reasons. You cannot compare them statistically. You were in error.

    Your entire argumentative structure is built on logical bullshit such as

    “You do not get to accuse me of being willing to destroy everything in order to rebuild it – unless you are admitting that your own values will result in ruin.”

    No. Dave, that is a logical error, you, Dave, simply have to BELIEVE that our allegedly progressive values will result in ruin for one to say that you is willing to destroy everything. (I think you may have been responding to Priscilla there, not me,)

    I remember asking you some months ago whether you had ever been wrong about any point you have disputed here and whether I or any or any other person had ever turned out to be correct. Alas, you could not provide any example of a case where a point you disputed with any of us was resolved other than in your favor. So, according to your scoring you are batting 1.000 and we are all collectively batting .000. You claim to merely state objective reality, while we so called moderates fail to live in the real world. Here’s a little platitude for you: A person who cannot be wrong cannot be right.

    You have proven to your own satisfaction that we are not moderates using fractured If…Then logic that merely links two of your opinions with little logical connection between them.

    You are not a moderate but you are perpetually here on the New Moderate to proselytize for your extreme point of view and provide daily examples of how we people who imagine that we are moderates are wrong abut everything. ( If I weren’t such a patient person I might begin to be a bit annoyed.)

    We imaginary moderates on the other hand often think you have a good point and that some of your points make very good sense. I can say the same, by the way about those %^$#@ Marxists, they make some damn good points about the ills of Capitalism; the wheels simply come off when they try to link the atoms of their philosophy together and propose solutions.

    Lassaiz faire Libertarianism is, of course, not communism (your straw man) , but it is extremism, in fact both communism and Libertarianism have anarchist sub groups which says a lot about whee to locate them on the political spectrum.

    To make a long story short (If only I could!) you serve a purpose here, to illustrate the path one takes to become a fervent if well-meaning extremist and the harm that results from extremism.

    Thank you Dave for your daily lesson on why moderates are so necessary to our process and for reminding us of the deep shit we are in when illogical fanatics, ideological or religious get the upper hand, as history clearly shows..

    • August 22, 2012 6:13 pm

      You’ve probably noticed that I sat out most of the preceding debate this time around. I was still in vacation mode and didn’t want to jettison my mellowness so abruptly.

      Thanks, “Rabbit,” for taking my place in the boxing ring… you’re a first-rate moderate pugilist. Now I’d better start thinking about my next piece.

    • August 24, 2012 1:20 am

      Rabbit;

      Still confused about apples and oranges.

      It is not about business vs. regulation. It is about ideas.

      Though I would note that regulation of business is about business.

      Next you have nested so many fallacies inside each other I can not tell where to begin to unravel them.

      Let’s see if I can get this right – I am an extremist because I beleive that allowing you to follow your beliefs will result in failure.

      Do you understand how incredibly pompous that is? You are claim that just disagreeing with you makes one an extremist. I find it hard to beleive you are willing to utter that.

      by the argument you are making it is irrelevant whether I am right or wrong. You are right by definition – even if you are wrong, believing that you are wrong, is extremism.

      The more you continue this line the worse it gets.

      Please dust off your college text on logic.

      My path to what you label as extremism has been pragmatic.
      You on the other hand are so certain that government is always the answer that you are not ever willing to entertain the possibility that there might ever be another solution.

      If you ever accept that in any single instance government might not be the best answer – you risk seeing your entire value system crumble.

      I am purportedly extremist because I ask you to consider alternatives that history demonstrates have worked. You insist on always pursuing those that have failed – so I am the extremist.

      To the extent we have tried Marxism it has failed. To the extent we have tried freedom, it has succeeded. On that basis we should place great weight in marxist critiques ?

      I have very effectively polarized you – which was not my intent. But it does reveal the extremism in your own views.

    • August 24, 2012 1:54 am

      Ian;
      Rick is atleast willing to put himself on the line. To take stands, knowing he will be criticized. Progressives offer their solutions – regardless of how bad they are or how often they have failed.

      But you offer nothing, but unsubstantiated criticism.

      i have expressed my views. I have not only criticized, but backed that criticism up, with facts, history, papers, data, information.

      You respond with “but we all know that failed”, and “your just an extremist”. As if just saying something makes it so. Followed by some of the most convoluted and fallacious logic i have ever encountered. If you start with the assertion that a contradiction is true, you can prove anything.

      You essentially indirectly defend progressive solutions by claiming them as moderate, while trying at the same time to divorce yourself from the values that created those solutions. But you are not actually even willing to directly own the progressive solutions.

      I think the strongest opinion you have expressed consistently, relentlessly, and unequivocally is that I am an extremist.
      But even in that it is because – you say so.

      Rick repeatedly offers his version of what moderate means.
      But at best all you have offered is that anyone critiquing that is extremist.

      Pick a problem, any problem, and actually own it. Be prepared and willing to defend it. I do not think anyone here would say I have not said what I believed and vigorously defended it.

      My perception of your world view is “we would all be better off if we would just give progressives what they want”.

      If I even ask you what distinguishes you from a marxist – i will be accused of extremism. It is easier to engage in ad hominem, than to claim a value or offer a solution.

      Solutions are hard. Most – like businesses and like regulation, fail. Ideas that sounded great don’t work out so good in practice or subject to scrutiny.
      I have offered and I have defended my values, and the solutions they produce. I have defended them on ideological, moral, and pragmatic grounds, I have offered historical support as well as data and studies.
      I have stood in one place.

      Most of what you beleive I have to surmise. I know what you don’t beleive. I frequently find myself attacking what I guess you beleive. but I can not recall your being willing to defend anything – aside from the claim that everyone that is not moderate – whatever that means is extremist.

  36. August 22, 2012 8:05 pm

    Dave, while I very often agree with your arguments, I have to say that your rigidity and insistence that only you and other libertarians know what is best for the country is tiresome and sometimes infuriating. How the heck do you know what would happen in a Romney administration? To a degree, it is fair to extrapolate from Obama’s past behavior as POTUS the actions – or inactions – that he would take, but it is utterly unfair (to use a popular word around here) to make the presumption, as you have, that Romney is lying about his intention to reduce the scope of government abuse. You say you judge him “by what he has done,” but , since he has never actually been the President, I ‘m not sure how you do that. I guess your implication is that governing a blue state with an 85% Democrat legislature is the same as being POTUS in a time of national economic crisis. I disagree. You don’t know what the make-up of the Congress will be, or what will be taking place on the international stage (I realize that, according to you, ideally we should be ignoring that, but that is not likely to happen). You, like most Ron Paul supporters – notably excepting Paul’s own son – seem to believe that salvation will come only when the country is so destitute and demoralized that they will turn to…..libertarianism? It’s not likely, and, if history is to be believed, it is far more likely that that scenario will lead to some form of totalitarianism or revolution.

    • August 22, 2012 10:24 pm

      Lest I come across like a chicken little here, let me clarify that I do NOT think that we are headed for totalitarianism or revolution…… neither do I think that 4 more years of profligate spending, ignoring entitlement reform and expanding government control over the healthcare system will lead to a libertarian utopia. Just sayin’…..

      • August 24, 2012 12:46 am

        No one is actually talking about cutting spending. Even Ryan’s plan is just a reduction in the rate of increase, barring a miracle that means another $4T added to the deficit. At 2% growth that is 20t of debt for a 17T economy. That is not greek yet, but it is on the way.
        Outside of Krugman nearly all economist grasp our debt has already crossed the threshold where it alone is a drag on the economy. The larger the debt gets in proportion to the economy, the worse the economy gets – no matter what, the harder it will be to solve this.

        My crystal ball has Romney getting elected, the economy remaining much as it is now through 2016, when we get Obama II whoever that is.
        While if Romney loses, things get worse – but not alot, and by 2016 real fiscal conservatives totally control the GOP. The neo cons, “moderates”, and social conservatives will have been converted or left.

        That is not a libertarian assesment, it is just my read of the tea leaves.

        If Romney is elected Republicans will actually have to govern. They are not ready yet. What I find most dis heartening about the GOP of the past 4 years, is that Boehner and McConnell are relatively “moderate” as
        Republicans go. Fiscal conservative dominated, not because of power, but because the moderates, neo-cons, and social conservatives had failed.

        A Romney president will diminsh the power of fiscal conservatives. They are not and will not be a majority of republicans soon. Just as democrats voted monolithically behind Obama for the past 4 years – despite broad real differences of oppinion within the democratic party. Exactly the same thing will happen in the GOP. All but a tiny number will vote for anything the president proposes.

        Republicans have not been out of power long enough. Progressives have not yet failed badly enough to turn the people and the party arround.

        .

    • August 24, 2012 12:26 am

      First, though I would take Ron Paul over Mitt Romney, I am not specifically a Ron Paul supporter. I think for and speak for myself.
      Rand Paul appears to be more politically adroit than his father and doing a better job of wearing an image that conservatives can be comfortable with, but he is far closer to his Father than to say Paul Ryan in policy. Rand Paul proposed cutting the federal budget by $1T/year immediately.

      Your joining Rabbit in Watership Down with this utopia thing. We have never had a “libertarian utopia” and we never will.

      As for Romney – again what president in our life times has kept even 50% of his campaign promises ? Why do you expect different from Romney ?

      i do not beleive that Romney has sufficient courage to take the risks nesecary to fix this mess. I hope I am wrong but I doubt it. That is called realism, not utopian.

  37. Rabbit permalink
    August 23, 2012 9:23 am

    “Too long have we been tyranniz’d by the militant dogmatizing of Right and Left. Let the Rebellion of the Middle commence here!” Rick Bayan TNM

    Well, I’m doin my best.

    Priscilla, you may remember that left-wing extremist nut job Ralph Nadar played the same infuriating tune Dave is playing following the 2000 election when democrats complained that he had elected W Bush. His answer was that Bush and Gore were practically identical from his point of view and Bush was necessary to force voters to accept his world view in the long run. Creative destruction of the evil system is a constant mantra among deluded extremists.

    Self righteous extremists are simply a giant pain in the tuckas and do not contribute to solving problems in any kind of mature way.

    If we want to talk abut economic reality, the social programs and entitlements need to be dealt with responsibly; they need to be adjusted, even somewhat severely, to work during the baby boom bubble. We ain’t gonna get rid of those programs, you cannot win an election with that plank. We ain’t gonna solve the baby boom entitlement crisis by saying that sorry, we have no money, figure it out for yourself folks how to retire and have healthcare,; that ain’t gonna happen. Dems and Reps are going to have to act like adults and make a serious negotiation someday, but our political media driven soap opera system sucks at solving problems that are long or mid term, it can deal seriously with things that will happen next week or next month. Perhaps I exaggerate a little but only a little.

    I have zero doubt that the New Deal entitlement programs are here to stay and that they will continue to provide some degree of fairness and stability to American life into the far future. I am sure the GOP leadership actually knows it too, but since a good fraction of their core support comes from those who do not accept modern reality they must go through a charade in which they do all sorts of absurd things (antiabortion and anti-civil unions planks anyone?). During this charade the lassaiz faire nonsense gets a good workout.

    This is the new moderate!, where “Too long have we been tyranniz’d by the militant dogmatizing of Right and Left. Let the Rebellion of the Middle commence here!”. I’d like to talk about moderate solutions to our problems and leave the extreme utopian fantasies behind us and even their less extreme but certainly highly partisan and not moderate forms behind us. Anyone like to join me?

    • Anonymous permalink
      August 23, 2012 4:35 pm

      Rabbit: you say you want to talk about “moderate solutions to our problems”. Perhaps you could enlighten us with some examples. That could be an excellent alternative to the constant drumbeat of critique, sans solutions, so commonly dominating this blog.

    • August 24, 2012 12:12 am

      So medicare and social security need potentially severe adjustment ?

      If you really mean that – and I do not believe that you do, then you owe an apology to everyone right, left, libertarian, … that you have called extremist.

      So what are these moderate solutions to our severe problems ?

      You have ranted and raved about my “extremism”. What are you going to do about a 24% shortfall social Security that will last possibly longer than 4 decades and starts very soon ? What are you going to do about a medicare problem that is already that large ? That ObamaCare was supposed to fix, and that today’s most generous assestment’s say atleast did not make it much worse.

      I am dying to here a solution that is moderate, not extreme, and will solve our admittedly severe problems – leaving the New Deal fundamentally intact. I am waiting for a credible moderate solution to a severe problem that is not extremist.

      There is moderate utopian thinking too. It is where you stick your head in the sand, pretend it will all go away easily and call everyone working to solve the problem extremists.

      I have more respect for the left. They have offered the same old failed statist solutions that brought this mess about in the first place – but at-least they recognize there is a problem and have come to the table with something.

      Where are the moderates ? Ranting about everybody else is dishonest and ducking the problems. Throwing out epitaths without skin in the game is hypocritical.
      Even telling the left and the right to work it out – is disingenuous. The current middle ground, is the status quo – and that is the one solution we know for certain ends badly.

      If you want to cop out and claim your vote does not count – fine, but then shut up. If you do not value your own opinion, if you want to pretend to be a sheep – then actually be a sheep, and get out of the way of the rest o us.

      But if you are going to continue to bleat that all the rest of us are extremists, put some skin in the game.

      • Rabbit permalink
        August 24, 2012 9:17 am

        Dave: If you do not value your own opinion, if you want to pretend to be a sheep – then actually be a sheep, and get out of the way of the rest o us.

        Me: If you cannot control your mental diarrhea, then Vermont’s Duck hunting season needs to be extended by a week.

        This logic makes just as much sense as anything you have said here, although I have only read about 10% of your work today and 20% of it overall recently, so maybe you fell of the wagon and actually said something constructive about moderates. No one here expects that though, so most here long ago stated that they just have a rapid skim or ignore your stuff.

        AMAC wrote something below that was actually worthy of the New Moderate. I found it almost accidentally in the middle of your latest crap.

        Your purpose here is to derail the New Moderate, pure and simple. You cannot stand the very thought of moderation, so much so that you come here nearly daily and take a long loud mental dump.

        This is exactly what the leftist nuts did at every political gathering at UVM. Its what extremists do.

        I’ve tried to do it before, I hope I can pull it off this time, I am no longer going to scratch my itch, I’m going to give your behavior the attention it deserves in the future, None.

  38. AMAC permalink
    August 23, 2012 11:04 pm

    Rabbit

    I am a little cynical, so I don’t think that I can have an impact. I cast my vote for candidates that I believe share my priotities. I try to look past the BS party lines they spit out, and try to find common themes in other comments and promises. I try to look at past performances in politics. I look for independence of thought, primarily. No party has an abundance. The priority alignment is tricky to find and many times I am proven wrong. I think many would probably consider me a fiscal conservative, but maybe not by today’s standards. My current priorities as a moderate are ecenomic and social. I would be happy to discuss these priorities to get us on track a little bit.

    Political Reforms-
    Term limits in congress, limited and transparent contribution to campaigns, etc. As we have fairly recently discussed these, I will not go into much detail. I think most know where I stand on this subject.

    Revenue-
    I think we have to look for a more simple and progressive tax code. I don’t think that the current tax levels are out of the question. I would like to reduce many of the exemptions and deductions. I also think that all citizens should contribute, and so should immigrants working on visa authority. The deduction overhaul would reduce tax shelter for the ultra wealthy. The change to make all pay at least some, would create a little more fairness. Revenue would increase without raising rates. I would also create some tax incentives to hinder the outsourcing of jobs. I think that there should be a substantion tax decrease for companies hiring US workers. I think the very top and the very bottom of the tax bracket have both benefit equally too much.

    Social Entitlements-
    I am currently paying into a defined benefit retirement plan, which in my state is in very good shape (so I know this sounds hypocritical). I just don’t see how we can maintain our social programs in their current form. I will never be for eliminating these programs, and I am all for offering healthcare to those that can’t afford it. That being said, I think we need to look at the defined contribution and also look to create another revenue stream for these programs to keep them solvent. These programs are very important to our country and should be protected responsibly. I don’t want the defined contribution to be based off of straight contribution, however. They should be weighted to ensure the bottom contributers will be able to financially survive in their late years. This may not be fair to me, and some of us who have put more into it, but I think it is the right thing to do. Helping each other out has made this a great country.

    These are my top three priorities. In my opinion, pretty moderate goals. Not too far left, not too far right. Probably where I might differ from many is on the defined benefit vs defined contribution argument. I want to keep my defined benefit, but looking ahead I just don’t feel its responsible.

    • Rabbit permalink
      August 24, 2012 9:32 am

      Bless you AMAC. I nearly missed your reply, since it was buried in the middle of the same old same old.

      All that you say sounds very reasonable, some of it I actually need to think about a bit before commenting, since it is substantive.

      Term limits would be wonderful, I am afraid that they are just a theory. With a 10% approval rating for Congress, nearly all will be re-elected all the same. Very disappointing and wrong. Changing it may take a miracle. See, I’m cynical too. I think most moderates are, as Rick said above.

      Changing the tax code has to be done based on real projections and gradually. We need more revenue to go with real gradual cuts, but its not a simple matter to get it, raise a tax and people change their behaviors to avoid it.

      Why is the share of government so large in the US? We have a huge military, very expensive education at every level and huge uncontained medical costs. Its infuriating to just watch these costs grow beyond the rate of inflation, they causes obviously are complex.

      I proposed at one time that Fed spending should be cut slighlty, 2% in real terms each year across the board and taxes should be raised by 2% until the budget is balanced.

      The Budget WAS balanced under Clinton, 12 years of moderate G.H.W Bush and Clinton presidencies led to sanity. Poor G.H.W. Bush paid for it via the wrath of Norquist and the new GOP but he did the right things. We need more like him.

      • August 25, 2012 4:33 pm

        I have no ideological objections to term limits.
        But I do not believe they will work.

        But I do think we need to address elections.
        it needs to be easier to get onto the ballot. It should not require party support.
        To win an election one must always have 51% of the vote, regardless of the office. Anything less should trigger an automatic runnoff.
        Every ballot for every office should have a “none of the above” choice.
        That puts more teeth into the requirement for 51% of the vote.

        As a practical matter gradual changes do not work.
        Most of the Eastern block successfully transitioned to market economies overnight. Russia failed, because it took too long.
        substantial changes have to be made fairly quickly and based on clear easy to understand principles – bright lines. otherwise those powerful interests you are so worried about co-opt the process and undermine everything.

        Your remarks on revenue sound like Jack Kemp. Is that really what you intended ?

        You do not need a 2% real cut in spending. I am not sure you need a 1% cut in real spending. All you have to do is bring the rate of spending increase to 1% below the rate of growth, and you will eventually balance the budget. It is highly unlikely that tax increase will bring in any revenue. Even using the false assumption that people will not adjust their behavior, the revenue increases will be tiny, and unless you are talking about higher taxes for the middle class and the poor, according to Obama’s CEA chair, each $1 of taxes will reduce GDP by $2.

        What you are missing is that if Social Security and Medicare are subject to any of those limits – without fundamental changes they will fail catastrophically.

        Clinton deserves significant credit, cooperating with Republicans – particularly Newt Gingrich. Most of what he accomplished is precisely what I described above – a less radical version of your own proposal. He reduced the rate of growth of government below the rate of growth of the economy. Doing so helped sustain that growth. But that economic growth was created by the radical reversal of direction by Ronald Reagan. We can debate specific details, but it is inarguable that the nation was on an unsustainable trajectory prior to reagans election, and that that trajectory reversed radically during his presidency. I do not think there has been a similarly abrubt turning point in the entire history of the country. But that is precisely what we need right now.

      • AMAC permalink
        August 25, 2012 5:38 pm

        Asmith,

        I do think term limits would make a difference. More fresh perspective, less complacency. I think that is positive anywhere, including politics.

        And the answer is no. I do not intentionally try to sound like anyone else other than myself. I am not trying to sound like anyone or represent anyones opinions other than my own. But simplifying the tax code and overhauling the deductions are not ideas belonging to any ideology. Both parties and most independents agree that this needs done. The arguments come on how, and who gets the credit for doing it.

  39. August 24, 2012 2:15 am

    Pearows;

    I do not mean to alienate you. It is not like others are coming out of the woodwork to support me here.

    Libertarians are not monolithic. And they have plenty of vehement disagreements.
    If Ian wants real extremism he should try Lew Rockwell or Walter Block.

    If it makes you feel better, there are plenty of things I am not certain of.
    The force of self-interest that drives us to produce and grow is unbeleivably powerful.
    We have shackeled and chained it, and still it moves forward.
    If the benefits of the freedom Ian attacks were not so enormous we would have failed catastrophically long ago. Even the USSR took 70 years to fail and conditions for most Russians were better at its collapse than at its inception.

    Much of our future depends on the scale of the problems we are facing, and how much power is left in the ox of self-interest. We are all guessing at that.

    I do not think the problems with Debt, Social Security and Medicare are going aware until we confront them and solve them. But we can push them forward a bit.

    Romney could be elected, dither around the edges without directly confronting anything and mange two terms of 3% growth and retire to accolades. Ten years ago, that would have been the likely trajectory for a Romney Presidency. Much depends on the size of our problems, those of the world, and the reserves we have left.

    Small changes could unleash a great deal of pent up energy.

    I do not know witch certainty that we can not kick the can down the road a bit farther.

    I do not even know that the problems we face bring inevitable certain failure.
    I beleive that – not because of ideology, but because I see no chance of our solving them. but I could be wrong about that.

    But there are things I know. I know that real failure is not as bad as we think, that recovery will be rapid and dramatic, when ever we get there. That self interest is the engine that powers the world, there is nothing equal, and that break just a few links in the chain and we will roar forward.

  40. August 24, 2012 9:52 am

    You have not alienated me, Dave. I still agree, theoretically, with much of what you say about liberty and the free market. And I am in total agreement with your view that the unrestricted growth of govenment power over the individual endangers both of those things.

    But, I have never been one of those who say that Democrats and Republicans are “just the same”. My position has always been that the way to accomplish reform is through working within one of the 2 major parties. I have frequently acknowledged the political astuteness of the Tea Party movement in choosing to work from within the GOP, as opposed to forming a 3rd party, which would have rendered it a mere spoiler movement, as opposed to a true force to be reckoned with.

    On the other hand, I agree (!!) with Ian that problem-solving, negotiation and compromise by the two major parties is what has to happen in order to effect reform. It is the reason why I have supported Paul Ryan’s plan from the start……not because I agree with everything in the plan, but because it is, in fact, a starting point for negotiation and reform. That is, it addresses the deficit, entitlements and tax reform in very specific ways….ways that can be debated from not only an ideological perspective, but from a pragmatic one. When liberals call the plan too conservative, and conservatives call the plan too timid, I think we’ve got a place to start.

    I’m so sick of the distorted and inaccurate rhetoric that dominates the political stage….and yes, I know that it has been that way forever. But, for most of our political history, once the elections were over, and the business of governing began, there was a tacit acknowledgement that, in order to get things done, each side had to stand down from its electioneering rhetoric and negotiate. Negotiation and compromise have become dirty words in today’s politics. Those who advocate it are called derided as wimps. To use an old-fashioned phrase, “it’s a sad state of affairs.”…..

    • August 24, 2012 12:03 pm

      David Brooks’s column today makes this point in a manner that is highly critical of Paul Ryan. While I don’t agree with Brooks on Ryan (Brooks is basically willing to throw Medicare reform under the bus for the sake of short term debt reduction) I think that his point about “campaign consciousness” and “governing consciousness” is spot on.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/opinion/brooks-ryans-biggest-mistake.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

      • August 25, 2012 3:43 pm

        I would strongly recommend John B. Taylor’s boot “First principles” to you.
        Taylor is not a libertarian, or Austrian. As economists go he is pretty middle of the road – Ian would call that an off the edge of the planet extremist conservative. He has served presidents of both parties starting with Kennedy. He too is a strong proponent of the Ryan Plan. But as he notes the Ryan plan is not a starting point for compromise, it is the minimum we need to start with to prevent our problems from overwhelming us. Ryan’s plan does not bring the budget and deficits under control, it just makes it possible to fix them in the future.

        i would also suggest Taylor to Ian. After he got past having all his sacred ox false perceptions gored, by reality, he would find that Taylor has reasonable well thought out solutions to our problems founded on principles.

        Unlike me, Taylor has not yet lost faith in the social safety net. He proposes some well reasoned ideas that are not often heard. He also argues persuasively that many of the “solutions” of both the left and the right misread the problems and will not work, or will work more poorly than anticipated.

        The point I have been trying to make to Ian – which he completely misses, is that if he really believes in government, in all these purportedly great New Deal and Great Society programs, then he has to make them work, because as they are they will destroy themselves in short order.

        In one small way Ian is correct – I am willing to let HIM burn the house down in order so save us. It is sort of a Gandhian non-resistance to evil approach to fiscal matters. Maybe if progressives are given a free hand and to bring their own policies to fruition and consequent failure, we can finally move past them. But to be clear. In this scenario, the gasoline and matches are all in the hands of progressives.
        To argue that is reckless, you are conceding that progressives are untrustworthy children who will burn the house down.

    • August 25, 2012 3:23 pm

      The parties are not the same. On many issues they are vastly different.

      But on issues regarding the role of government they are not that far apart.
      The first “progressives” were republicans. Hoover, Nixon, nor either Bush are easily distinguishable from most moderately progressive democrats in any way but scale.
      And for all his sexual peccadilloes and foreign policy blunders, I think Bill Clinton could defeat any republican or democratic contender trivially.

      My core point is both parties are parties of big government – with occasional exceptions, and big government has failed us abysmally.

      I would be ecstatic to see Romney elected AND discover I am wrong about him.
      Sometimes people step in and manage to fill shoes that are way to big for them.
      Barak Obama did not.

      Contrary to Ian’s extremist house burning assertions, I would be happy to see even small steps in the right direction. The last two decades of the 20th century were no libertarian utopia, but I would be happy to see a long term return to government of that scale. I would still argue for even less, but bring the federal government spending back to 18% of GDP, with no or very small deficits, and the economy will return to solid growth. We can do much better, and I will fight for better, but I will be happy to leave my children with that.

      But despite the house burning rhetoric, no one is actually talking about that.
      The most draconian plan of either party results in proportionately larger government than we had 15 years ago.

      Real Fiscally responsible politicians are still a minority in both parties.
      Democrats have been actively chasing them out of their party for decades.

      The only political party at the moment that stands any chance of behaving fiscally responsibly is the GOP.

      And Fiscal matters are only a small part of things. Neither party really believes that individuals should be free to make non-violent choices.

      Modern democrats barely talk about freedom. And when they do they are usually talking about entitlement and fake government defined rights, not actual individual freedom.
      Republicans are not really better.

  41. Rabbit permalink
    August 24, 2012 1:30 pm

    Other than the fact that I don’t think that Medicare can be privatized in whole or in part, and it sounds like perhaps Brooks does, I would call this column an expression of my own beliefs. Just Beautiful.

    After the election the House will be solidly republican and the Senate will be split nearly 50/50 with the side that will be in charge not being known as of this time. Even if Romney is elected (I give that a 40% chance) he will have to negotiate with democrats in the Senate, not to mention sustain the approval of the public.

    So the disastrous situation in 2008, complete one party control, (which was a politically artificial reaction to the reality that had set in about the consequences of 8 years of W Bush), will not occur this election, Hurrah. I was dismayed by the veto proof Dem majorities in 2008 and they behaved like the Gremlins in Gremlins the movie. Not that I believe for one moment that the GOP would react any differently to veto proof control. That runaway Dem victory was the worst thing that could have happened to Obama and more importantly, to us

    The reality is that the next election is always 2 years off, the hubris of the winning party ignores reality every time; if they over reach they will be slapped down.

    To talk of Medicare a bit, the mood of the American public on Medicare is not in favor of privatization, not by a long shot.

    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/obama-holds-lead-ohio-slips-florida-wisconsin-poll-104836458.html

    “Voters in all three battleground states give favorable ratings to Paul Ryan, but Ryan’s Medicare plan is opposed by majorities of voters. Obama is viewed as better at handling Medicare than Mitt Romney in all three states, the poll shows…. Medicare ranks as the No. 3 issue for likely voters in all three states, with the economy and health care coming in first and second, according to poll. About 6 in 10 likely voters in each state want Medicare to continue operating as it presently does, and fewer than a third of those polled said Medicare should be changed to a system in which the government provides money for buying health insurance or Medicare insurance, as Romney has proposed.”

    • August 25, 2012 2:12 pm

      We are agreed that the one party rule post 2008 was disastrous.

      But what about it didn’t you like ?

      Were you opposed to the bailouts ?
      To the stimulus ?
      To PPACA ?
      To Dodd-Frank ?

      What is it that ocured when the democrats ruled the world that you are opposed to ?

      Coversely since 2010 we have had divided government.
      If the preceding period of single party rule was bad, are you saying that divided government is good ? What is the purpose of divided government aside from impeding ambitious goals and poorly thought out solutions ?
      Why should we have two parties, if they are to agree all the time on everything ?
      Isn’t the role of the minority power to say NO to everything that is disaggrees with.
      To use whatever power it has to impede what it thinks is wrong, to force compromise, and
      where that is not possible to just grind things to a halt ?

      At the moment you see divided government as good, but for the past two years, you and most everyone else here has been ranting about most everything the minority party does.

      My crystal ball reads different from yours – regardless, it is my hope that whichever party is in power the other exercises their ability to impede to the greatest extent possible.

    • August 25, 2012 2:46 pm

      Rabbit;

      How people poll on issues often depends on how the question is asked.

      Try a poll of:

      Do you favor continuing medicare as it is which will require significant increases in taxes to pay for it, or do you favor revising medicare into a defined contributions with the option of buying insurance privately that would not require tax increases ?

      I would also note that no one – not Romney, not Obama is actually proposing continuing medicare exactly as it is. Whatever the future of medicare is, it will not stay the same.

      Finally, what do you think ? Not what do 6 out of 10 voters, not what does Brooks think, not ….. What do you think ?

      The data I am seeing suggests that the rate of increase in medical costs started to decline prior to the start of the current recession. That is very good news. It is also proof that things that can not continue – don’t.

      But so far that decline is insufficient. The rate of increase is still well above inflation, and well above growth. The problem is just not growing bigger as fast as we had feared.

      Regardless we have an unsustainable problem. There are only a limited number of choices. If you see one I don’t – I would be happy to hear. What choices are there beyond:
      Increased taxes, price controls, or spending controls ?
      i.e. we can chose to spend whatever it costs, and find the money to do so,
      we can chose to regulate the price of services to keep the cost inside what we can afford,
      or we can fix the amount we will pay and let the market adjust.

      I am not asking – initially whether you like those choices or agree with them, only whether you can supply a fourth alternative.

      The specific details of each of these choices are not important – atleast to start.
      There is more than one way to increase taxes, more than one way to impose price controls, more than one way to fix how much will be spent.

      The choice we do not have – the one 6 of 10 of us are chosing, is just leave everything alone.

      Regardless, get off the fence. Saying you like what this person says – with a bunch of caveats, or you disagree with that person, is useless. Unless you are prepared to offer a choice you are willing to stand behind – with whatever warts it has, because there is now utopian solution, then your criticisms of everyone else is meaningless.

      I grasp that the so called “extreme” views I hold will have both negative and positive consequences – some people will be harmed. But every choice we have will result in some harm. Until you are willing to stand behind choices of your own, and willing to defend as worthwhile the harm they cause, you are part of the problem not the solution.

      One of the reasons that I believe we need to allow those like you to impose their Utopian “moderate” solutions, is because until most every truly grasps how intractible the problems we confront are, actually solving them is not possible.

      So long as 6 in 10 of us want the choice that is not possible, and not even being offered, we can not solve these problems.

  42. Ron permalink
    August 25, 2012 3:14 pm

    Could it be that moderates produced a country like no other in the world and in the last few short years, extremist on both sides have begun to derail what was built. Massive debt over two different administrations and a multiple years of congress that can get nothing done to solve the problems.

    • August 25, 2012 3:55 pm

      Was Washington a moderate ? Read his farewell address before deciding ?
      How about Lincoln ? Wilson ? FDR ? Kennedy ? Johnson ? Nixon ? Reagan ?

      Would you really call Bush or Obama Extremists ? Well maybe Ian would but he sees extremists like McCarty saw communists and treats them similarly.

      Debt is a problem – has either party made any effort to address it – aside from trying to make it worse ?

      To the extent our government has made any contribution to this countries greatness, it is by respecting the freedom of individuals more than any other nation in the world.

      It was built on the success big and little of individuals.

      Even most of what we see around us today that we presume to be the work of government such as infrastructure and education were for most our our history accomplished privately.

  43. August 25, 2012 5:35 pm

    Interestingly there appears to be a consensus for tax simplification and reform.

    We all seem to broadly accept that simpler is better, that low taxes with limited deductions are better than high taxes with numerous deductions.

    I would ask if those supporting this grasp that tax deductions are essentially government regulations. They are government trading revenue for some hopefully beneficial behavior.

    Yet so long as we do not get down to specifics most of us grasp that has not worked and is a bad idea. That somehow the breaks often end up going for less than beneficial behavior, and making up the revenue falls on the rest of us.

    I do not understand why it is easy for us to grasp that regulation in the form of tax deductions fails and primarily benefits the few special interests over the many – while we are unable to grasp that regulation is exactly the same.

    The very same people lobby the very same congressmen for tax deductions, subsidies and favorable regulations – even harsh regulations whose cost will be passed on are favorable if they create a barrier to competition.

    The alternatives to tax deductions are either leaving people free to make their own decisions, or real regulations. Government efforts to adjust behavior with a stick rather than a carrot.

    Ultimate if all income is taxed once, without any deductions, the average tax rate (including social security and medicare taxes) should be the same as governments percentage as a percent of GDP. that is about 18.5%.

    A 20% flat tax, that only taxed created wealth once that excluded the poor with no deductions for anything, would be sufficient if spending could be brought back to its historical norm as a percent of GDP.

    We can eliminate the pretense that Social Security and Medicare are benefits taxpayers earn by paying special taxes. The courts have repeatedly ruled that there is no connection between the taxes collected and benefits. That the taxes are manditory, you can not opt out, and that the benefits are obligatory and subject only to the whim of government.

    So lets flush the last vestiges of belief that there is some trust fund, and revert to a single tax rate for everything. Social Security and Medicare become what they always really were – a public benefit paid for by current wage earners.

  44. August 25, 2012 5:35 pm

    • August 25, 2012 8:09 pm

      Asmith: Congrats–you were on a run of fuzzy thinking for a while, but the last couple of days you’ve made a lot of sense. I am fully convinced that the three keys to turning the flagging ship of state around are: term limits, severe restrictions on the influence of money/lobbyists on politicians, and a completely revamped tax system (I personally favor the FairTax Initiative). Note, these are all operational concerns, rather than ideological ones. A system that requires vast amounts of money to elect and reelect the peoples’ representatives assures an unfair advantage for moneyed interests. High taxes encourage people to run lean and avoid taxes. Low taxes encourage hiring and increased production. These are immutable principles, and moderates should concentrate our efforts on building a consensus to recognize and promote them. I’m glad to note that you seem open to a flat tax, which is part of what the Fair Tax represents.

      • August 25, 2012 9:31 pm

        As I said before my opposition to term limits is practical, not philosophical.
        Go ahead and try them. If they work great. There are lots of long serving congressmen I would like to see ousted from both parties. But i do nto see it working.

        I have no serious problems with the “Fair Tax”. But I will not support it absent repeal of the 16th ammendment. The worst thing that can happen to us is a combination of income taxes and sales taxes.

        Whether at the local state or federal level, real taxes (not real user fees), should be raised through a single stream with simple and unchanging rules.

        I would note that the “Fair Tax” is a sales tax, with a base credit to make it less regressive. It is still fundimentally a very regressive tax.

        I do not personally have a problem with that as actual progressive taxes are impossible. All taxes on production eventually become taxes on consumption. Businesses pay taxes out of the money they collect from consumers.

        I am not looking to revive the debate over money in politics. Just going to reiterate one more time. Power corrupts, if you think politics is corrupt, the problem is power not money. Power is what attracts the money. So long as the power exists, great effort will be made to influence politicians.
        And finally the amount of money is not that great. Apple was just awarded $1B in a silly patent suit with Samsung. That is tiny bit less than will be spent on the presidential election this year. it is less than we will spend on Potato chips. It is 1/1000 of the additional debt we will rack up this year. Warren Buffet could chose to fund both sides of all presidential elections for the rest of his life and still die very wealthy. He probably could do it without touching principle.

      • August 25, 2012 9:32 pm

        If you think my thinking on something has been fuzzy – go after it.

        I have thick skin.

      • Ron P permalink
        August 26, 2012 11:47 am

        RP, I am new to the website, so forgive me for interrupting. Just a short comment about term limits. What would your thoughts be on beginning with a one term president for 6 years? Would it eleiminate the politics of the position so it would free them to make decisions that were better for the country and not for their reelection campaign?

      • August 26, 2012 1:49 pm

        Ron P;

        I have no special thoughts about Term limits.
        I have no objections to them, but I doubt they will produce the benefits hoped for. Though I suspect they will not make things worse.

        One of the problems with term limits is that they would require an amendment to the constitution. Those should be reserved for things we have good expectations will work. We do not want to have to repeal another amendment.

        I believe there are states that have tried term limits – how has that worked ?

        That is one of the things states are for, is to conduct experiments in government where the consequences are smaller.

  45. August 25, 2012 9:17 pm

    Oops more from those right wing extremist conservative economists at harvard.

    http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/alesina/files/Output%2BEffect%2BFiscal%2BConsolidations_Aug%2B2012.pdf

    Study says:

    Tax increases are likely to trigger recessions that are long and deep,
    Spending cuts have little to no negative impact, what little negative impact they have is short lived and the positive response afterward may be significant.

    Just to head Ian off. While I think these guys basically got it right, I did not do this study. I did not make it work this way. It is how the real world works.

    You keep trying to pretend I am in some different real world of my own.
    But study after study confirms that the world actually behaves the way my ideology predicts it will, and contrary to the way yours does.

    Living in the real world means accepting how it actually works.

  46. August 25, 2012 10:31 pm

    Don’t eat your dog.

  47. August 25, 2012 10:43 pm

    From the time of Pericles until the end of the 18th century in London—2,300 years, standards of living on Earth increased perhaps 100%. In the U.S. since 1790, by contrast, real per capita gross domestic product has increased nearly 4,000%. Quality of life, in other words, increased 40 times more in 220 years of American history than it had globally over two millennia. In 2012, a typical American in the bottom fifth of the income distribution has a far higher quality of life—and life expectancy—than the average member of the top 1% in 1790.

    Harvard Prof. Lawrence Summers,
    Clinton’s Secretary of Treasury,
    Obama’s Director National Economic Council

    • August 26, 2012 5:41 pm

      Dave: I don’t know why we keep having this discussion when the answer is so simple.

      YES, we live more comfortably today and enjoy more conveniences than our pioneer ancestors and even most of the Founding Fathers (though our homes aren’t nearly as beautiful or gracious).

      NO, we don’t live as well as we did just ten years ago, despite the ubiquitous laptops and iPhones. Real income for the middle class has declined, personal debt has soared (especially for young people), homeowners are struggling to avoid foreclosure, a generation of boys and young men is being lost to video-game addiction and general jackassery, college tuition is out of reach for all but the rich (and the subsidized poor), ditto for medical expenses, jobs have fled overseas, and the stock market is entering its second lost decade. There’s simply no place for middle class people to increase or even maintain their wealth. Yes, our rich folks are living better than ever… bully for them.

      Even though I was a history major, I’m really more concerned about the visible decline over the past decade than I am about the gains made over the past three centuries. I think you should be, too.

      • August 27, 2012 8:45 pm

        Well, I agree Rick, that all of those things may be true. But why are they the fault of rich folks? The fact that one party has chosen to scapegoat the wealthy (easy to do, has a reasonble success rate when tried throughout history, makes the rest of us feel victimized by greedy meanies (except when the greedy meanies pay lip service to that party’s goals) doesn’t make it fact.

        I understand, and frequently sympathize with, your view that money in politics has become a poison to our democratic process. But that is not because rich people exist. That is because we allow politicians to be bought and then believe them when they lie about it.

      • Ron P permalink
        August 28, 2012 11:54 am

        Pearows, may I make a comment concerning your “But why are they the fault of rich folks” as it pertains to conveniences we have today compared to other era’s.

        Could it be politicians providing tax breaks for a small number of “rich” that make all the rich dirty? Or could it be a very small number of rich that stetch the boundries into illegal activites and never pay the price since they are part of an elite society that protects them from legal action.

        I believe the current administration has painted all rich to be bad. I believe that the current Republican leadership is defending most all the rich in the country. We need everyone to understand that being rich is not bad, but those that got rich and stayed rich by illegal means should pay the price. And right now it seems like the current administration is not willing to bring that action to identify the specific individuals doing bad things, so all the rich get lumped together into the 1%ers. And the republicans are not willing to support tax reforms that would eliminate loopholes that only a small number of taxpayers can use.

      • August 30, 2012 12:26 am

        I agree with you, Ron. I never defend lawbreakers. And there are a LOT of rich lawbreakers. Tonight, at the RNC, both Rand Paul and Rob Portman endorsed tax code reform. It is a start…it is probably not enough, but it starts the debate. No Democrat has done that…and there are far too many Democrats who have become very rich through “public service.” Some Republicans, too. But, I am a supporter not only of tax reform, but an opponent of cronyism.

  48. August 25, 2012 10:46 pm

    What do you want to be when you grow up ?

  49. Ron P permalink
    August 26, 2012 11:54 am

    http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/ReportsTrustFunds/Downloads/TR2012.pdf

    This link takes you to the Medicare Actuarial Report for 2012. For anyone paying attention to the political positions on medicare, take a look at the last link on the left side of the page, Statement of Actuarial opinion. Pay close attention to the auditors comments about savings, impact on healthcare, cost reduction and their opinion on achieving the desired results.

    Well worth sharing with anyone when the future of this program comes up in a discussion or the impact of the ACA on this program.

    • August 26, 2012 1:44 pm

      So if everything goes exactly like the the so-called experts in washington forecast, Medicare costs are going to grow approximately 2-3 times faster than everything else.

      And if they are wrong on the purportedly positive effects of almost any of the price controls (and price controls have never worked), or if they are wrong in their forecasting the problem is worse – potentially far worse.

      And this is only medicare.

      And for the record, this is not the projected cost of medicare as it is, as we know it.
      This is the projected cost of medicare after it has been eviscerated by PPACA controls.

      It is a medicare where government will set prices – until people are unwilling to provide services at those prices, and then cut back services.

      And we have not mentioned social security

  50. August 26, 2012 1:56 pm

    Ron P;

    I did a quick check regarding the effects of Term Limits on those sgtates that have implimented them. From what I can see thought they have not produced a sea change the net effects have been positive.

    They have disempowered parties, disempowered party leadership, Diminished the value of seniority, disempowered special interests, and they have resulted in less spending and more limited government.

    Further the predicted negative effects – empowering staff, and the permanent bureaucracy have not occured.

    All that said, the positive benefits though real have been smaller than hoped for.

    Term Limits appear to be a good idea, but not a big idea.

    They are a start.

  51. Rabbit permalink
    August 26, 2012 2:27 pm

    Extremists often make a point of trying to sound superficially reasonable and exploiting reasonable concerns. From the ISO (International Socialist Organization) website:

    “Our members are involved in helping to build a number of struggles: the movement to stop the war on Iraq, fights against racism and anti-immigrant scapegoating, the struggle for women’s rights like the right to choose abortion, opposing anti-gay bigotry, and standing up for workers’ rights.”

    This is the soft sell intro from the ISO home page, they sound like liberal democrats or, actually, like libertarians on most issues.

    Go deeper in the ISO site and reality appears: they champion Leninism and Trotsky’s ideas, scorch the Democratic party as being a rightwing and regressive impediment to true left progress, and look to create a socialist paradise. I’d call their Marxism-Leninism extreme, even if their initial disingenuous self description sounds like they are just normal folks who want understandable things.

    Proponents of every extreme viewpoint try to pull the same chameleon blending in trick, Look everybody, here is a list of things we want and here are mainstream voices that say something that sounds similar to what we are saying, we are just discussing ordinary political issues, there is nothing extreme here.

    Except that there is a whole lot more to these viewpoints than their mild sounding kernal of issues that even mainstream folks agree with.

    Extremists, right, left Libertarian, religious fundamentalists, etc. all make my teeth itch. Its not hard to tell them, this issue is NOT their basic concerns, its the degree of the measures they believe are necessary to prevent disaster, their unwavering belief in their one favorite simple principle, and their inability to understand any other point of view or countervailing principles.

    • August 26, 2012 10:32 pm

      Give it a rest. Marxism did not fail because it was “extremist” but because it just did not work. Much of progressivism fails for precisely the same reasons – and one does not have to be libertarian to grasp that repeating the same mistakes will likely result in the same failures.

      Ranting that everyone that says something you do not like is an extremist – is extremist.

      I have tried to compromise with you on myriads of issues. Compromise does not ceding the issue, it means accepting less than a perfect solution in order to move in the right direction. But that is insufficient for you. Despite the fact that you won’t commit to much of anything, you must be right. Or more importantly, I must be wrong.

      if you can attach a label like “extremism” to an idea – then you can disregard it without having to actually consider it.

      • Rabbit permalink
        August 27, 2012 10:20 am

        Oh, trying not to scratch the itch.

        Marxism is not extreme but I am? Seriously?

        Marxism is one extreme endpoint of the spectrum Govt control personal/business control, government should control nearly everything in theory. Libertarianism is the other extreme endpoint, individuals/businesses should control nearly everything in theory. Lassaiz faire economics is an extreme endpoint in the spectrum of theory on regulation, it wants, if possible no regulation. Those are, objectively, not rhetorical, extremes by definition, not because I say so. This is obvious, obvious stuff here, I cannot believe that you need it explained to you. I can’t believe I am bothering. I am becoming a nut in arguing with one.

        Your idea of compromise is not any compromise at all, as you have made clear. Its a mere rhetorical device. You have said nearly 1000 times “I will accept any increase in freedom no matter how small, but I won’t be satisfied, then I will ask for more.”

        There is no specific compromise I remember you making other than this rhetorical device. In point of fact you have made it clear that your ideal intention is to achieve, bit by bit, a lassaiz faire system if you possibly can and that you expect nothing but failure from government social spending which should all be ended ideally.

        Your constant insistence that government does not work and is always the worst solution is extreme and its the basis behind every post you make and every proposal you have for legislation or political choices. Many, many posters here have broken their heads trying to get you to admit an exclusion to your extreme rule, even those whose describe themselves as Libertarian like Pat Riot have left muttering about your “synapses tightly welded shut.” It ain’t just me, not by a long shot. I’m just weird and argumentative enough and have enough free time to keep pounding my head against your brick wall.

        I long ago ceded that total govt spending being 50% of the GNP in the US is not reasonable or sustainable. Long long ago. I long ago proposed to cut the Fed Budget in real terms by 2% per year until the budget is balanced. I long long ago said that Medicare is not sustainable as it is and needs a strong rework. I long long ago ceded that one can not merely raise tax rates and expect to receive more revenue. For this I am in your eyes an evil progressive who wants to destroy everything. I’m sorry , some think you are brilliant (but wrong) , I just find you idiotic a large part of the time.

        You have no ability whatsoever to process my actual views, or any information that does not agree with your welded shut preconceptions of evil government. Its Booooooooring, and its boring repetitively in millions of words that you seem to expect people to read. Alienated me from your ideals? Yes! long long ago!

        I have found arguing with you interesting at times, sometimes enlightening, but in the long run utterly futile, because you are incapable of being intellectually honest.

        Unfortunately you are a dishonest man who follows the intellectually dishonest process of fanatically supporting an intellectually dishonest economic fundamentalist religion.

        Get an honesty transplant and we can discuss solutions.

  52. Rabbit permalink
    August 26, 2012 2:47 pm

    On Medicare, Dems have a winning issue, a solid majority of people like medicare and they want to receive it. This cuts across party lines. The Dems in congress have made extremely few public concessions to the reality that without some serious restructuring, the program cannot deliver to the baby boomers. I give the GOP credit it here, they are attempting, in a way that seems clumsy and ideological rather than practical, but nevertheless they are trying, to make the viability of Medicare as it is structured now an issue.

    Its actually pretty much the one area in which I have to give conditional credit to the GOP this time around.

    Eventually the politicians, or more accurately, the tiny number of the party-employed economists who understand the program’s inner workings and consequences are going to have to sit down in a non election year, if there is such a thing, and find a compromise.

    I’ve done my required reading on the problem, I could do ten times more and have little more understanding of the required fix. I’m certain the program will continue and just as certain that it faces a restructuring that will make a lot of elders very angry and will affect me in the future as well. Even If I knew “the answer,” received it on a tablet from God or something, I still could not force it upon either party. Watchin and prayin.

    • Ron P permalink
      August 26, 2012 6:16 pm

      Rabbit..You might be interested in this. Once you access the link, click on “Statement of Actuarial Opinion”. Just a couple pages.
      http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/ReportsTrustFunds/Downloads/TR2012.pdf

      This gives a very good idea how the politicians are playing games with the public and not giving the truth when the truth is known.

      At least Ryan has opened the subject for discussion and now other politicians may not be affraid to enter into discussions on really saving the program.

    • August 26, 2012 6:20 pm

      I’m curious, Ian…why do you think that the GOP restructuring plan is “clumsy/” It restores the cuts made by the ACA, which will eliminate Medicare Advantage, leaves the plan virtually unchanged for anyone 55 and under, and, in it’s latest incarnation, gives a choice to 55&unders as far as taking the traditional government insurance or using a voucher to purchase private insurance. And supplement programs would still exist for the group that keeps the traditional plan.

      You might think it’s a bad plan, but it sounds anything but clumsy to me. And recent polling seems to indicate that the GOP is now beginning to win on this issue. I think that most people – seniors and otherwise – realize that, in order to save Medicare, it will have to be restructured in the future. But the way I see it, the GOP retains the current system for people who are retired or near retirement, and the Democrats would dismantle it through Obamacare, replacing it with a model more similar to the UK’s National Health Service’s Care Pathways.

      • August 26, 2012 6:21 pm

        oops, 55 and OVER*

      • August 26, 2012 7:19 pm

        Pearows: Right on about Medicare. It seems moderates on this blog profess to opinions like “Blind Justice”, the blindfolded lady with the scales. Both parties have to be blamed equally for all things that are wrong–blather!! The Demos get absolutely nothing right, and the GOP at least has some plausible ideas, that should be recognized and developed. Moderates need to get behind the only political force with realistic proposals for the future. Otherwise, we’ll just be like a bunch of Asmiths– brilliant, possibly, but criticizing everything and accomplishing/supporting nothing.

      • August 26, 2012 10:43 pm

        Given a choice I would opt out of SS and Medicare in a heartbeat.

        If Ian wants to place his bets on the government – i have no problem with that. What i have the problem with is that he wants to force me to do the same.

        We each have different views of the future. In mine the government systems go bust and those stuck in them get screwed.

        In Ian’s those of us who bet on the markets get screwed.

        Fine with me. I will be happy to agree that whatever choice I make should it fail, no one has to bail me out, but i expect the same from Ian. When the New Deal system he is so sure is not a ponzi scheme fails he is own his own.

    • August 26, 2012 10:36 pm

      Neither the efforts of the GOP or Democrats are sufficient. Actually read the trusties report Ron provided. Even after lacing it with wishful thinking – the system as it stands after the PPACA cutbacks and price controls still fails.
      Democrats are eventually going to be forced to do more. Telling people they can have medicare as it is (not as PPACA is changing it) is called lying.
      Yes, you can win by lying.
      Is that the side of the issue you wish to be on ?

  53. Rabbit permalink
    August 26, 2012 8:48 pm

    I’m looking for any sign of non partisanship in your past RP and failing to find it. You won’t find me writing any love letters to the Dems here, but today’s GOP is flat-out scary.

    If you wish to seduce many moderates to the GOP point of view you’ll need more than this.

    n the words of former Rep Fla Gov Crist: “As Republicans gather in Tampa to nominate Mitt Romney, Americans can expect to hear tales of how President Obama has failed to work with their party or turn the economy around. But an element of their party has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people. Look no further than the inclusion of the Akin amendment in the Republican Party platform, which bans abortion, even for rape victims.

    The truth is that the party has failed to demonstrate the kind of leadership or seriousness voters deserve.”

    His words of praise for Obama do not ring strongly for me, some are pretty absurd even, “Compromise” ? but he hit the target dead on about today’s radical GOP.

    • August 26, 2012 11:09 pm

      The right to life plank has been there for 2-3 decades in precisely the same language.
      It might be nice to see it change, but I believe every republican since Reagan has run with that plank. You can believe that Romney will be the first republican president to take it seriously if you wish, but you can not pretend that the current GOP is any scarier than it has ever been. Googling “Akin amendment” results in hits on religious liberty not abortion.

      Immigration does not divide across party lines. Numerous republican efforts are immigration liberalization have been torpedoed by democrats. Reagan was responsible for on of the last great immigrant legalizations. Obama could have had everything he just accomplished by fiat on a permanent basis but he actually avoided efforts to pass something. This administration has been the most hostile to immigrants in decades.

      Both parties are seeking to provide security for seniors. They have different approaches.

      Personally i think democrats over the past two years have been willfully obstinate at any serious efforts at addressing the economy and the defict – which are related.

      Absolutely, Obama has made it even easier for students to graduate from college far deeper in debt than the ever were before – and if you were not aware you can not escape repayment of a federal student loan in any way short of dying. You can not even go bankrupt.

      There are alot of things wrong with both parties. As long as you are going to magnify the faults of one and ignore those of the other – even your ideal of compromise is not possible.

    • August 27, 2012 10:08 am

      Well, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t take seriously the endorsement of sore-loser Charlie Crist….not only is he the quintessential 2-faced politician, but his inclusion at the DNC is mainly to counter newly minted Republican Artur Davis, the guy who seconded Obama’s nomination in 2008 and who will be speaking at the RNC……….

      Plus, as Dave mentions, the right to life plank of the GOP platform has been virtually unchanged since at least 2000….interestingly, Romney has always publicly supported exceptions in the case of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother – and he still does. The bottom line for me is that whether we have President Romney or President Obama in 2013, abortion will still be legal. I am concerned almost-not-at-all with most of the social issues that have been dominating the news. I agree with virtually everyone that Todd Akin is an idiot, but I couldn’t care less about his views on abortion, because they matter not one whit to public policy.

      And as RP says, we’ve all got to make choices on who/what to support, knowing that whomever we choose is going to be lacking in some way.

    • August 27, 2012 6:41 pm

      Rabbit: You label me a partisan, thereby denigrating the validity of my comments on a moderate blog. My touchstones are a coupling of personal responsibility with personal freedom. If a political party existed that ran all decisions through that prism, I would certainly be an ardent supporter. As a fiscally conservative, socially libertarian outlier, I find supporting any political party to be problematic. Your attempt to place me in a box is as counterproductive as the endless critiques you and others serve up, without any proposed SOLUTIONS. Both political parties have their extremists. The ridiculous GOP plank on abortion could very well cost them the presidential election. The Dems haven’t come up with a logical, well designed program for anything in decades. So, to maintain your moderate bonafides, do you castigate them both equally? Do you label the GOP as scary, while the Dems are driving the country over a cliff? Options are difficult for moderates these days. Pushing for the popularization of operational (as opposed to idealogical) solutions to the quagmire our democracy is in these days seems the only positive approach. Labeling a call for term limits, lobbyist limits and the Fair Tax initiative as partisan is beyond misguided. Perhaps you could enlighten us with some NON-partisan SOLUTIONS of your own.

      • Rabbit permalink
        August 27, 2012 7:06 pm

        Term limits and limited lobbying are great, very popular ideas, popular with me too. That pesky supreme court seems to be hard to get on board with those ideas though, so lacking a way to cross that bridge its just hand waving.

        As to budgets, I have proposed something, though perhaps before your time.

        When I worked for state govt a recession hit and lasted. As time went on and revenues dropped our moderate Rep Gov Snelling asked each department head to hold back 2% and then later 3% of the budget. That went on for several years, we all survived on a bit less money.

        Along those linesI have proposed here that the fed budget be cut across the board by 2% in real terms each year until the budget is balanced. I also call for equally mild tax increases, since the problem is so severe, we need both to address both revenue and spending.

        Until someone puts me on a salary and gives me actual responsibility that is the best I can do.

        Your call for moderates to get on board with the GOP because the Dems have nothing at all going strikes me as the usual conservative line, I have NO idea why you believe it will resonate with moderates. Driving us off a cliff? Two multi trillion dollar unfunded wars launched by the Bush/Cheney team and the general international belligerence of the GOP were the largest push towards that cliff, which then had a good deal to do with the unfortunate Dem landslide in 2008, I want that tendency reigned in by shared power between the parties.

        Non partisan idea #2, have a strong well funded sword but don’t break it through over use. Launch no war without a tax to fund it, should be fewer of them then.

      • August 27, 2012 8:41 pm

        Rabbit: Kudos for your proposals–the idea that government should decrease spending by a measured percentage each year is an excellent one. Do you have any data to support the assumption that increasing taxes will increase net revenue? Everything I’ve seen indicates that increasing taxes (especially during a depressed economy) actually decreases net revenue, due to tax avoidance measures by businesses and the 50% of people who actually pay taxes. Your second proposal also has merit (pay for future wars with a tax increase), but would likely be circumvented by Executive branch overreach (Hello, police action, anyone?). I encouraged you to offer some solutions–I didn’t say I would necessarily agree with them. I do believe you are right in pointing out the folly of the Iraq war, and the best way to extract ourselves from the Afghanistan mess would be a nice topic for future discussions

  54. August 26, 2012 11:15 pm

    Ian;

    This is the Obama’s “pro-immigrant” policy.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/24/immigration-raid-protests-reform-policy-change_n_1828490.html

  55. August 26, 2012 11:20 pm

    For the record Obama has deported almost 1.6M people in the past 4 years, that is about the same as Bush deported in 8 years.

    • Rabbit permalink
      August 27, 2012 12:06 pm

      Where does he find the time to do all that deporting? Must cut into his day.

  56. Rabbit permalink
    August 27, 2012 11:38 am

    Well, happy day, now we have two conservative republicans (no offense intended) and one libertarian proselytizing here on TNM.

    Priscilla, an answer to your question of why the GOP Ryan Medicare proposals are clumsy.

    First of all they were included in a proposed budget legislation that was DOA because it was a document that essentially said, “Look dems, we just won a large midterm victory and armed with that hubris we suggest that you surrender, completely and give us everything conservatives dream of.

    Second, because it uses that favorite ideological solution of conservative economic thinkers, privatization.

    Third because analysis of the prioritization medicare proposal by the OMB shows that it does not work.

    You may have read this opinion piece in Bloomberg by a fellow named Peter Orszag:

    The vast bulk of health-care costs arise from an extremely small share of patients, whose insurance will inevitably bear a substantial share of their expenses.
    That’s why competition in health care doesn’t work as well as in other sectors, and it’s also why the key to keeping costs to a minimum is to encourage providers to offer better, less costly care in complex cases.

    Unfortunately, proponents of moving Medicare to a private “consumer-driven” system, including Republican vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan, seem to instead believe in a health-care competition tooth fairy — that if we just increase the patient’s share of costs and bolster competition among insurance companies, the expense will come down. As Karl Rove recently argued, “Competition will lower costs by using market forces to spur innovation and improvement.”
    Someone might want to tell that to the Congressional Budget Office, which evaluated Ryan’s original 2011 proposal to gradually move all of Medicare to private insurance companies. (In all these comparisons, we must remember that the goal is to reduce total cost — to the government and the beneficiary combined — compared with current projections. Merely shifting costs across the two categories is not a particularly impressive accomplishment.)
    What did the budget office conclude? “A private health insurance plan covering the standardized benefit would, CBO estimates, be more expensive currently than traditional Medicare.” The reason was that “both administrative costs (including profits) and payment rates to providers are higher for private plans than for Medicare.” And that effect was larger than any cost savings achieved by people getting less health care. In any Rove-versus-CBO debate that involves economic analysis, I’d put my money on the CBO.
    When I pointed to this CBO analysis in last week’s column, critics charged that I was being misleading because Ryan has since updated his plan. I focused on the 2011 plan because that is the only one that CBO has evaluated in terms of total, not just federal, cost.
    The difference in the new version of the Ryan plan is that traditional Medicare would coexist with private plans. To suggest that this would change everything is to make an odd argument: Moving entirely to private competition would not generate big savings, but moving partially would.
    In any case, we already have a system similar in some ways to the revised Ryan proposal. Almost 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are covered by private insurers through the Medicare Advantage program, which exists alongside traditional Medicare. So what can we learn about the potential impact of the Ryan proposal from our experience to date with Medicare Advantage plans?
    Reihan Salam, a commentator for the National Review, has correctly argued that in evaluating Medicare Advantage plans, we should look not at what the private insurers are actually paid (which is set by legislation) but rather at how much they are willing to be paid (in the form of the bids they submit to cover beneficiaries).
    In 2012, Medicare Advantage bids have come in on average a bit below traditional Medicare costs, analysis by the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee shows. Even more relevant to the revised Ryan plan is that, in 2009, the second-lowest bid in each U.S. county — which is what the new plan would be based on — was an average of 9 percent below traditional Medicare, a new analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows.
    As Salam wrote, “we have new research which finds that had competitive bidding been in place in 2009, it would have reduced Medicare expenditures by at least 9 percent while preserving access to the Medicare defined benefit for all beneficiaries.” The Wall Street Journal editorial page cited the same analysis and made the same point. Case closed?
    No, because there’s very good reason to believe that the 9 percent differential is a mirage — and that experience to date does not support claims that private plans in Medicare lower costs.
    To see why, imagine two beneficiaries. One has medical expenses amounting to $150 and the other, $50. The average cost is $100. Now imagine that a private plan bids $90 to cover beneficiaries, so it looks to be about 10 percent cheaper than traditional Medicare. That plan, however, while it is designed to be very attractive to the $50 beneficiary, isn’t appealing to the $150 one, so that person stays in traditional Medicare.
    The result is that total costs rise from $200 ($150 for the expensive beneficiary plus $50 for the inexpensive one) to $240 ($150 for the expensive beneficiary plus $90 for the inexpensive one). So even though the plan “looks” like it saves money, it doesn’t. It overpays to cover the $50 beneficiary. (And that’s not even taking into account another factor: that if Medicare’s purchasing power is splintered, its negotiating leverage will be reduced. So the prices it must pay could rise. That would drive up the cost of covering the $150 beneficiary, pushing the total above $240.)
    To counteract the selection effect on Medicare Advantage plans, a risk-adjustment process is used. The system has improved over time, but evidence suggests it still does not work very well. The models used to adjust payments can account for only about 10 percent of subsequent cost variation; even the most optimistic estimates suggest they could account for only 20 percent to 25 percent of the variation. This gap allows plans that can better predict beneficiary costs to game the system by selecting beneficiaries who are expected to cost much less than their risk-adjusted payments. (Plans do not always want the least-expensive beneficiaries, but rather those who are the least expensive compared with their risk-adjusted payment. The implication is the same, though: Plans can beat the risk adjustment, and be overpaid.)
    How big is this selection effect in Medicare Advantage? The evidence suggests it’s huge. The most careful analysis was reported in a 2011 National Bureau of Economic Research paper by Jason Brown of the Treasury Department, Mark Duggan of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilyana Kuziemko of Princeton and William Woolston of Stanford University. In 2006, Medicare Advantage plans were overpaid by more than $3,000 per beneficiary because they were able to select beneficiaries who cost less than their risk-adjusted payments. About $1,000 of that overpayment reflects what the plans were paid, rather than what they bid. So relative to their bids, the plans were overpaid by $2,000 per beneficiary — or roughly 25 percent of the bid, on average.
    That overpayment rate, furthermore, is likely to be higher for the second-lowest bid in each county, and it is therefore likely to be larger than the much-touted 9 percent discount, which doesn’t appropriately account for the selection effects.
    The bottom line is that, if anything, Medicare Advantage bids are above, not below, traditional Medicare — once you do the analysis correctly, on an apples-to-apples basis. So regardless of whether you use the CBO analysis of Ryan 1.0, or the evidence to date with Medicare Advantage to analyze Ryan 2.0, the conclusion is the same.
    We don’t want to put all our chips down on the health-care competition tooth fairy.

    • Ron P permalink
      August 27, 2012 3:19 pm

      “This gap allows plans that can better predict beneficiary costs to game the system by selecting beneficiaries who are expected to cost much less than their risk-adjusted payments”

      Rabbit, I agree that medicare Advantage plans today have a lower risk pool as many of those in the Advantage plans are recently retired individuals used to managed care plans, while the older individuals are those that did not participate in managed care while working and do not want that now. Others may be in states where the alternatives to tradiational medicare is small.

      But can you give some documentation to the Advantage plans gaming the system by “selecting beneficiaries who are expected to cost much less”. It was my understanding that during the open enrollment period, their was no way this could be determined.

      • Rabbit permalink
        August 27, 2012 7:12 pm

        I hope you are not under the impression that I wrote more than the top few lines of my post, the rest was a pasted in an opinion piece. You would need to ask your question of the author, Peter Orzsag.

        Sorry for the length of the pasted-in column I should have just provided a link and a quick synopsis.

      • Ron P permalink
        August 28, 2012 11:34 am

        Rabbit, thanks for your reply. Yes I did miss the issue of the comments being those of Peter Orszag. I believe the comments that he has made are in line with many of those made by the current administration, but the one about selection of beneficiaries seems to be incorrect. I will research more to see if I can find anything else that supports that position.

        One has to question the whole healthcare market today and the future healthcare markets. The actuary that just finished the 2012 study of the Medicare program gave the program anything but a good review. And this actuary is independant from any government agency or office. In that review he stated certain assumptions were made on the cuts to the program by the ACA that would have a detrimental impact on beneficiaries access to care, thus resulting in the program being refunded to reduce the loss of doctors and hospitals providing care to seniors. Ths would then drive up the cost of the ACA as these funds were used to fund healthcare for younger individuals.

        The Ryan plan may or may not be the answer. From the comments by the independant actuary, the Obama administration plan my not be the answer. The answer lies in a conference room where both sides come together with their experts and work out a plan that marries the two sides. One thing for certain, the current plan will not survive another 10 years as it is today.

      • August 28, 2012 8:19 am

        Thanks, Ian…..I still don’t get your objection to a restructured plan that maintains the original “mission,” if you will, that Medicare be an insurance plan for retired Americans – and which changes nothing for current and near-future Medicare recipients. The alternative, which Obamacare will institute, is the bankrupting of the current program, and its replacement by a board of unelected political appointees, whose mission is, essentially, to ration care. As I said, this is similar to the way in works in the UK, which, if you prefer their system, is fine…..but you seem to indicate that you do NOT prefer that. So, I honestly do not understand your position. I do understand Orzag’s former job (I think he’s with Citigroup now), which is to rationalize Obamacare from a budgetary standpoint, but, I think that we can all agree that OMB directors are able to do that in many circumspect ways.

    • August 27, 2012 7:24 pm

      A link to Orszag would have been fine.

      We got PPACA because Dems one an election – worse still we got it by hook and crook after they lost an election. As Obama is fond of saying “elections have consequences”

      So any solution that involves privatization of anything is unacceptable solely for that reason ? Shouldn’t PPACA then be a bad idea as it involves private insurance sold through exchanges – you would think democrats might have heard of the internet by now.

      Face it. You are opposed to Ryan’s solution because you are are opposed to anything that anyone you can label, conservative or extremist proposes. You are opposed before you even bother to look at it.

      Regardless, the broad strokes of a solution are fairly limited as I mentioned before.
      If you take market based solutions off the table, that leaves you with either price controls or limiting services.

      • Rabbit permalink
        August 28, 2012 9:11 am

        Priscilla, the numbers don’t seem to work out for Ryan. I don’t think the OMB is overtly political. Proponents will generate projections where it works, Detractors will generate their own scenarios. This is a subjective and not an objective endeavor to a large degree.

        This is an area where ideally I think the US should follow Europe and Canada, but in reality, I don’t see how that can happen. I’m not an optimist on this issue, its a mess I expect a very imperfect solution will occur very slowly concurrent with great polarization. I’m not a true believer in any particular path, but privatization is obviously an ideological solution that will turn a huge number of us off.. (Not that any approach to this isn’t)

        Moderates in a sense are conservative. As a group we rarely are happy about radical change in any direction. Sometimes those changes are necessary. I don’t hold that moderates are always correct, just that we are needed, especially when politics becomes toxically divisive for a long period.

    • August 27, 2012 8:07 pm

      Since you have previously made it clear that ideology is a legitimate basis for believing or disbeleiving someone – why should I place much weight in what Peter Orszag is writing ?
      He is a former Obama OMB director. About all I can find about him of any relevance is that he noted that medicare had a spending problem in 2007.
      He is not even ranked by IDEAS/ResPec – in other words his work is infrequently cited by other economists. Essentially he is a bureaucrat with a background in economics.

      I have my own questions regarding aspects of Ryan’s plan, but that is that quasi free markets do not work very well in comparison to actual free markets.
      The left believes that economics is simple – they are huge proponents of the economy of scale. But if scale was the primary factor driving prices, why do small businesses even exist ? Why do big ones often fail ? Markets are extremely complex – they are driven by humans, the real world free market effect of driving prices down, is not driven by a single factor, or even a few predominant ones. It is not even accomplished the same way.

      Orszag’s analysis makes a number of presumptions designed to lead to a predetermined conclusion.

      As an example Orszag states that a substantial portion of healthcare expenses come from an incredible small number of patients. I have encountered this presumption before and generally found it to be either an exaggeration or only true with a subset of the facts.

      But lets presume it is true. In traditional medicare there is nothing to effect that.
      But what if those patients running up all the medicare costs, just said no!
      i am not going to spend 500K to live an additional 6 months in misery spending my children’s inheritance. That can not happen today. Medicare will foot the bill, there is little reason to say no.

      In the actual free market competition is only one factor in driving prices down. One of many others is the reduced number of people willing to pay an exorbitant cost.
      If you make sexy chemo drug super X do you want 1 patient at $1M or 100,000 at $1000 ?

      Anyway, that is just one of many assumptions and problems with Orszag’s remarks.

      Though it does highlite real problems with Ryan’s plan.

      Orszag and most of the left try to pretend that health is different. It is not like lemonaide. We make decisions differently. But that is false. In every aspect of healthcare where there are real free markets prices decline. Competition is one of many reasons, and one that works much better than Orszag presumes

      Just ask yourself, if you had to pay for your own end of life care – life being something we ordinarily place a very high value on, are you going to buy whatever treatment doctors offer you solely to stay alive and likely in misery a few more months ? Are you going to trade whatever benefit your children might get from your wealth for a tiny amount of additional time ?

      • Rabbit permalink
        August 28, 2012 8:03 am

        Your plea for me to open my mind and accept everything I disbelieve in has touched my heart. You go first, and then, if the stars are still in the sky, I will follow.

  57. August 27, 2012 2:05 pm

    Whatever became of Pat Riot? He was one of our rare middle-of-the-road moderates. I miss Valdo, too… though I never could figure out his politics.

    • August 27, 2012 8:48 pm

      Pat was here – I think – a couple of posts ago….although I think that he was posting as Anonymous, given WordPress’s annoying habit of randomly logging people out.

      Valdo hasn’t been around for a while, nor has Rob.

  58. Rabbit permalink
    August 28, 2012 9:25 am

    RP thanks for your kind reply.

    Believe me, I am well aware that taxation is not a directly obvious science

    Small income tax increases are necessary to make the cuts politically palatable in order to get Dems to cut spending. my idea is a yearly 2% increase, i.e., the 10% rate goes to 10.2, then 10.4 etc. until the cuts and tax increases meet in the middle and budget is balanced. I don’t believe that an extra 2 cents on the dollar will be even noticed, and the cuts will generate far more actual dollars than the tax increases.

    I can point out many technical and legal hurdles to my idea, but it is how state governments handle this issue; in general states do not run the deficits that the fed government does.

    I’m probably not opposed in principle to some form of balanced budget legislation or amendment.

    • August 28, 2012 1:22 pm

      Rabbit: I catch your drift on the incremental tax increases, and they have some merit. To get to 2 cents on the dollar, however, you are talking from 10% to 12%, not from 10% to 10.2%. Combine that with the increased employee health care costs required for the new health care law, and you can encourage the tax avoidance strategies that lead to decreased revenue generation for the government. Many businesses operate on razor thin margins. A 5% margin is not unusual, and a 2 cents on the dollar tax increase cuts the profit almost in half. The spending cuts necessary to eventually meet in the middle with a balanced budget would be so draconiun, that no Dem would support them (probably few GOP, either). In my opinion, tinkering with the current system of taxation is a political trap that will never get us to where we need to go. The game changer out there is the Fair Tax Initiative. It would jump start the economy like nothing else, and would be fair to all. Political animals characterize it as a regressive tax, confident that most people won’t take the time to read up on it. If you were to take the time to read the small book, I think you would agree with me that it would change everything.

    • August 29, 2012 8:01 pm

      I beleive either every or nearly every state requires a balanced budget though some use smoke and mirrors – but I do not think any are as profligate at the federal government.
      I think nearly every state provides its governor with a line item veto.

      I have no idea what tax increase debates are like in Vermont, but in Pennsylvania they are worse than the Federal Government. Gov. Corbett has been attacked for imposing “user fees” on our burgeoning natural gas industry despite a no new taxes pledge. Budget cuts have been severe for the past couple of years – starting under Democrat Rendell. Teachers groups protest, state school students protest, but the world has not come to an end – for nearly all of us nothing has changed. Whatever cuts have been imposed have not been noticed.

      Despite the vociferous complaints to education cuts, so far parents are not seeing a change.

    • August 29, 2012 8:07 pm

      Balanced budget amendment – now you are sounding positively extremist.

      Yet somehow Republicans could not even get the same number of votes for their last watered down effort that they had managed in almost every other congressional session for over a decade.

      A balanced budget ammendment is simple.

      The federal government must balance its budget by some date far enough in the future to be possible, any legislation that creates or increases a deficit must pass with some super majority – 60% 2/3, ….

      There are myriads of permutations. Some better than others. But even the worst is better than the current state of affairs.

    • August 29, 2012 8:39 pm

      If you accept that there is some tax rate for some group that is actually fair – whatever that rate is and whether you and I agree on it, it is that rate and only that rate that is fair.
      Increasing it by 2% is by definition unfair – in the unlikely even that increasing it by 2% suddenly made it fair, then the next 2% increase would make it unfair.

      As you are so found of fairness, how can a continuously increasing rate possibly be fair. No matter what fair is it was only fair once at best.

    • August 29, 2012 8:52 pm

      It sounds as if you are more interested in extracting your personal pound of flesh from the political position that solving the problem. essentially you want a compromise that allows you to claim see – my opponents were forced not only to compromise – but compromise on a matter of principle.

      It takes very little math to grasp that we can not tax our way out of this problem. That even if tax revenues did not diminish as rates increased, that confiscating not only the income but all the wealth of the top 20% would not even take a bite out of our problem.

      So the only purpose for your 2% increase is extracting your political pound of flesh.

      Real compromise requires both sides to cede ground, but should not require sacrificing principles. When it does, it is not compromise. More specifically when there is a conflict rooted in irreconcilable principles, one side is just plain wrong. And it is important to establish which one.

      This is one of the reasons I would rather see the left win and get to give full effect to its ideas. Succeed or fail on the merits. Should the left somehow manage to solve all our problems – in a fashion that conforms to their own values (not as liberals in Canada did over a decade ago by imposing conservative solutions) then we have established the validity of those ideas. But if they fail, then we can discard them and move to approaches that actually work.

      Essentially this is a different form of compromise – we’ll try it your way first, but when you can not make things work, then we will try my way.

      Sounds alot like molatov cocktail throwing burn the house down extremist marxism doesn’t it ?

  59. Rabbit permalink
    August 28, 2012 10:47 am

    This is a link (this time!) to an article in Bloomberg that I came across via Real Clear Politics. It gently and objectively describes the rightward shift of the GOP and the death of Republican moderation.

    Romney May Signal End of Establishment Republicans’ Rule

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-26/romney-may-signal-end-of-establishment-republicans-rule.html

    • August 29, 2012 8:21 pm

      The author starts with a premise and then disproves it with the next sentence.

      The 80’s represented the ascendancy of social conservatives. But they started to wane and while still unfortunately a force continue to lose strength. Bush II represented the resurgence of neo-cons – who seem to be waning even faster – except among democrats. Fiscal conservatives outside of possibly Reagan have been a voice in the wilderness until their present ascendence.

      Whether the GOP is shifting right or left depends on whether you think Rick Santorum is further to the right than Ron Paul.

      There is no doubt that social conservatives, neo-cons, and even so called moderates still retain some power, and that together they represent the majority of republicans.

      But the emerging power in the GOP is fiscal conservatism.
      To the extent that the GOP and particularly the waxing Tea Party embraces Limited Government, many of the traditional left right battles of the past several decades will disappear. A smaller government has less involvement in our personal lives,
      What matters what moral views are pontificated, if government is prohibited from imposing them ?

      I am not sure that the trend towards fiscal conservatism will continue, but so long as it does the GOP is moving left rather than right, though in reality it is moving on a different axcess – the one with totalitarianism at the other pole.

      • August 29, 2012 9:49 pm

        I don’t understand why you’d think today’s fiscally conservative GOP is moving left… if anything, they’re becoming SO conservative that they make Eisenhower look like a radical socialist.

        I see a paradox emerging, too… how does the limited government favored by the GOP carry out the GOP agenda on issues like banning abortion, outlawing gay marriage, and (especially) pouring countless more billions into the defense department?

        The Republicans seem to favor limiting the power of the government when it coincides with their interests… and boosting the power of the government to carry out key areas of their agenda. In other words, they’re pretty selective when it comes to reducing the size and power of the federal government.

  60. Rabbit permalink
    August 28, 2012 3:49 pm

    Nope, 10% to 10.2 is 2 cents on a dollar. 10 to 12 is a 20% increase. I proposed a mere 2% increase. Think of 10.0 to 10.2 being equivalent to 100 to 102 pennies.

    The fair tax sounds like a revolutionary idea.

    • August 28, 2012 9:46 pm

      Rabbit: I guess I’m not sure what you propose. Ten % of one dollar is 10 cents, If you add 2 cents on the dollar, that makes 12 cents, which is 12% of a dollar. I’m glad you are intrigued by the Fair Tax. I hope you will be motivated enough to read it. Businesses from around the world would be clamoring to have their headquarters in this country, build their factories here, and hire Americans. All the idiotic loop holes would disappear, and a whole lot more revenue would be generated the right way–through increased production and consumption.

  61. August 29, 2012 10:01 am

    “In my opinion, tinkering with the current system of taxation is a political trap that will never get us to where we need to go.” ~ RP

    I agree with this. One way or another, the tax code needs to be completely overhauled, not tinkered with. It amazes me, that under the current administration, politicians have been reduced to trying to put an exact dollar figure on what constitutes a family being “rich,” i.e. “deserving of confiscatory taxation.” As if a person making $199,000 is middle class, but, god forbid s/he makes another $1000 (or perhaps wins a sweepstakes or something)….voila! s/he’s rich!

    I’ve come around to thinking that the Fair Tax is a pretty good idea, but I wonder if it is a bridge too far, in terms of getting from what we have now to a fair tax system, without ending up with an unsatisfactory hybrid of the two.

    • August 29, 2012 1:14 pm

      Pearows and Ron P: Your concerns about the Fair Tax are valid ones. There is no question in my mind that it is the best way forward to recapture the American spirit, and replace a tax code that is so loaded up with loopholes and disincentives to doing business properly, that other countries are more attractive to business activities. BUT, it is not in the best interests of politicians to give up their control of the current system. Consequently. they will have to be dragged into it by a concerned electorate. As impossible as that might seem, what more important cause exists to absorb our efforts? The system of taxation ultimately controls everything. It is how the government obtains funds to pay for all government programs and enforcements. It dictates how the economy functions, playing a pivotal role in all business decisions. The current system hasn’t worked for decades. We just haven’t felt the full effect yet, because the government has borrowed 16 trillion dollars against the future.To maintain our standard of living, and start paying down that incredible national debt, we need a game changer. Drastically reducing spending on one side of the ledger, and introducing an economy boosting tax system on the other side is really the only way to get it done. Makes most of the other topics we discuss seem like small potatoes.

      • Ron P permalink
        August 29, 2012 4:20 pm

        RP.Your comment “Consequently. they will have to be dragged into it by a concerned electorate” is right on the money. And I do agree that this is the most important issue facing the country today since the short term jobs and long term standard of living can be changed and improved with tax reforms and spending cuts.

        But the problem that we face with a divided congress is the same problem we face with the electorate. We are all over the place when it comes to what we beleive is the most important. And even within the parties there are major divides in where political capital should be used. On the left they are divided by environmental issues and entitlement issues amoung other things. On the right they are divided between social issues, energy issues and economic issues amoung other things. An administration is effective if it gets passed one major piece of legislation. From the lefts perspective, that was healthcare for Obama.

        Since we have a divided electorate going after abortion, gay rights, debt, deficits, tax reform, energy independance and military issues, it will be a huge mountain to climb to drag a politician into any major decision like a fair tax.

        And then add into that the issue where a politician is chosen by some in the electorate because he is “more likeable” and not because he is the most qualified, the ability to get something as huge as a fair tax installed seems to be years away until an economic collapse may dictate that to happen.

  62. Ron P permalink
    August 29, 2012 11:49 am

    The idea of a flat tax or fair tax is a good idea, but in a country where there is such an entitlement mentality, the ability of any politician to get enough votes to make it happen would be impossible. The first loophole to manuever would be charitable giving. If I make $1M and give 900K to different charities, would this be fair to those making 100K and not giving anything to charities. If not, what politician would vote against charities? The second loophole to manuever would be residential mortgage interest deductions. Would any politician venture into a reform that could decrease the value of home purchasing and take on the real estate lobby that feels entitled to that deduction? The next hurdle would be excess medical expenses for those with chronic deseases. How would a politician escape the attacks for eliminating medical expenses for those with life threatening illnesses?

    And these are just three personal deductions. There are thousands of deductions on the business side that would lay hands on sacred cows.

    Yes, an unsatisfactory hybrid system would emerge since few politicains will not support a system that is good for the country when it could jeopardize their careers in government. And a government career in an elected position is another topic for discussion later.

    • August 29, 2012 7:50 pm

      Everyone must grasp that giving up their pet deductions will still result in the same or lower taxes for the majority of us. I am personally willing to see a small increase.
      The cost in time and money and anguish of doing my taxes is enormous. I would happily pay a little more to have more free time with my family.

      A the moment tax reform seems to actually be possible. Thus far it has been proposed and not drawn the political focus. Obama has tried to make small hay attacking the GOP proposal, but the merit of he attacks depends on claiming only parts of their plan will be adopted. Regardless, thus far his heart is not in it. I suspect that even if Obama is re-elected A fewer brackets, lower rate, significantly reduce deduction plan will be on the table, and may well receive the president signature. So long as it is revenue neutral, and does not appear to favor the wealthy even Obama may buy it.

      • Ron P permalink
        August 29, 2012 8:32 pm

        It will be interesting what happens with the next congress regardless of the Presidential office. I find it difficult to believe Romney can pull this off, but it is very close and there is that small possibility that he can turn VA. NC , IA, OH, Fl and maybe one other state.

        However, I have said to friends for many months that I believe our congress will let the fiscal cliff happen on January 1st. When the new congress takes office around the 4th, they will then take action on bills that will increase spending and reduce taxes. The increased spending will not equal the current level, but will be higher than that on allowed on January 1st. The tax reduction will not return all the taxes to the Bush level of taxes, but will be lower than the rates allowed on January 1st.

        This action accomplishes 3 things. It eliminates any adverse affects of the agreement made by the previous congress when they were unable to agree on spending and taxes. It gives the Democrats an out on spending cuts and with this argeement, they can run for reelection in 2 years where they supported government programs and spending. And finally, Grover Norquist is neutralized as no GOP member will have to vote for a tax increase and they too will be able to run for reelection on supporting tax cuts.

        After this action is taken, then maybe congress can begin to work on the hard stuff like tax reform you explain so well. One can only hope that Senator Reid will open up and allow legislation to come tothe floor of the senate, especially a budget bill that can be debated seriously.

  63. August 29, 2012 7:42 pm

    Rabbit;

    I do not ask you to “accept everything you disbelieve”.
    I ask you to come to rational conclusions using actual information that is readily available.

    I ask you to quit substituting faith for reality. Is that extremism ?

    I have “faith” in my views, because the real world repeatedly reinforces them.
    I did not even come to my so called extremism ideologically, but pragmatically.

    but you are so ideological that the mere possibility that a non-statist bottom down solution to any problem drives you apoplectic. It is if your entire value system would collapse if one intersection would work better without a traffic light.

    I will be happy to admit I think we would do better with 1/5 the government we have now.
    But I will start with not making government bigger faster than the economy grows.
    somehow that is extremism. you claim to be willing to make real cuts of 1%/year – yet you malign as extreme every republican as uncompromising that is not even asking for real cuts.

    I have no love for Republicans. But atleast fixate on their real sins, not the few things they occasionally get right.

  64. August 29, 2012 9:11 pm

    Rahm Emanuel got something right. Do not waste a crisis. His fundimental mistake was that he did not grasp that while great changes are possible during a crisis, that ultimately success is required.

    If Pres. Barack Obama was presiding over an economy growing at 7.2% – the rate Reagan had reached by 1984, Keynes would reign supreme, proponents of reduced government spending lower taxes, limited government etc. would have been strongly repudiated.
    That is not the case. The recession Reagan inherited was far worse than that Obama inherited. Though we know know exactly how to bring inflation under control – and it is painful but effective, not only was that not known in 1980, but Reagan was following a path repudiated by most economists. Again if Obama had half that success he would deservedly win re-election in a landslide.

    But we are still in crisis. The bad news is that people will reach out and grab any promise of deliverance in a crisis. The good news is that radical changes – either for good or bad are possible in times of crisis.

    Serious tax reform is possible right now. It is essential that people beleive that any new plan is “fair”, but most people who actually grasp the draconian nature of our warped progressive tax system grasp it is highly unfair.

    A one rate flat tax, excluding all income for everyone up to the median income of the bottom quintile, with no deductions of any kind, taxing only individual income would not likely need a rate above 20% to net the same total revenue (about 18.5% of GDP) as all income, capitol gains, and corporate taxes combined have historically.

    There would still be alot that needed to be done, with respect to spending, Not only must deductions be eliminated but all subsidies. And Medicare and Social Security would still remain insolvent.

    But recovery would be dramatic – particularly if future changes in tax laws were made sufficiently difficult that we could be certain from year to year what taxes would be.

    • Ron P permalink
      August 30, 2012 11:11 am

      asmith, when you say “a one flat tax,…..taxing only individual income would not likely need a rate above 20%….”, does this include all taxes on the federal level, or just income tax. I asked this because SS and Medicare are basically broke and benefits will start to be paid mostly from the general fund that is funded by the income tax. My position is one tax for all, a flat tax, with no other taxes on anyone at the federal level.

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