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Conservative Logic In Progress

Spot on.

Adam Strange on Conservative Logic

Justin Rosario at Addicting Info has an explanation for the ending of the video:

If you’re unfamiliar with the woman laying on the floor while the police step over her, her name was Anna Brown and she was left to die on the floor from am easily treatable condition. The hospital had her dragged away by the police because she was black and poor. Proof that not only do hospitals not always provide emergency care if they think they won’t get paid (they didn’t run a single test on her) but that there are death panels. Not the paranoid delusional ones of the right, but the very real ones brought about by the profit motive of our current system.

-Chris

April 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ron Paul and College Loans

I am always amazed when I see young people in college supporting Ron Paul.

Many Facebook acquaintances are fervent Paul supporters, posting his rantings about doing away with government interference with the market.

I happen to know that many of these kids have loans and scholarships funded by taxpayer dollars to study such things as history, music and other arts.

Here’s Paul’s response to the question, “Would you abolish all federal student aid”:

“Yes, because there’s no authority to do this, and just think of all this willingness to want to help every student get a college education. So they’re a trillion dollars in debt, we don’t have any jobs for them, the quality of education has gone down, so it’s a failed program. I went to school when we had none of those. I could work my way through college and medical school because it wasn’t so expensive. So when you run up debt, you print money, costs go up in the areas that the government gets involved in: education, medical care, and housing. So it’s artificial and distorts the economy.”

So, put your money where your mouth is. Let’s have the money back with interest, you freeloaders.

-Chris

December 5, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Robert Reich has a Sensible Plan

Economist Robert Reich has a sensible plan to fix our deficit and debt woes.

In a November 19 post, Reich gives the following advice to the Deficit Supercommittee (which has since disbanded, after failing to reach an agreement):

1. Make no cuts before unemployment is back under control (down to 5%).

2. Make the boost big enough. We need a huge jobs program with components like the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps and Work Progress Administration to restore our infrastructure.

3. Raise taxes on the super rich and tax all income (capital gains included) at the same rate. Restore the tax structure to pre-1980 levels and put a 2% surcharge on income over $5 million.

4. Cut the real welfare — military spending and corporate subsidies. Savings = $400 billion annually.

Reich’s closing plea, of course,  fell on deaf ears:

Do you hear me, Washington? Do these four things and restore jobs and prosperity. Fail to do these, and you’ll make things much, much worse.

Unfortunately, there’s not a chance any of this will get through in this political climate.

It seems like we are constantly in a battle to mitigate damage from bad policy and those actively on a misguided crusade to make things much worse, and not making any headway in actually fixing the problem.

-Chris

November 22, 2011 Posted by | Debt, Deficit, Democrats, Economics, Politics, Republicans, Tax Debate | , , , | 3 Comments

Libertarianism debunked by popularizer Nozick

Stephen Metcalf has an excellent examination of Libertarianism over at Slate.com.

The Liberty Scam offers a detailed look at the origins of the modern Libertarian movements, focusing on the career of Harvard philosophy professor Robert Nozick.

Nozick, the author of the highly influential defense of Libertarianism Anarchy, State, and Utopia, argued that taxation is a violation of the liberty of the individual and is akin to forced labor.

Metcalf argues that Nozick had to be aware from his perch at Harvard of a big something America did that required taxation and the combined labor of millions of individuals. That accomplishment was winning World War II.

During and after the war, government programs helped create stability and a stong economy that put American on a strong footing throughout the Cold War:

Harvard’s enrollment prior to World War II was 3,300; after the war, it was 5,300, 4,000 of whom were veterans. The GI Bill was on its way to investing more in education grants, business loans, and home loans than all previous New Deal programs combined. By 1954, with the Cold War in full swing, the U.S. government was spending 20 times what it had spent on research before the war….In 1970, there were nearly 500,000 employed academics, and their relative income stood at an all-time high. To the extent anyone could believe mental talent, human capital, and capital were indistinguishable, it was thanks to the greatest market distortion in the history of industrial capitalism; and because for 40 years, thanks to this distortion, talent had not been forced to compete with the old “captains of industry,” with the financiers and the CEOs.

The irony of what happened next was lost on the Libertarian movement:

By allowing for the enormous rise in (relative) income and prestige of the upper white collar professions, Keynesianism created the very blind spot by which professionals turned against Keynesianism. Charging high fees as defended by their cartels, cartels defended in turn by universities, universities in turn made powerful by the military state, many upper-white-collar professionals convinced themselves their pre-eminence was not an accident of history or the product of negotiated protections from the marketplace but the result of their own unique mental talents fetching high prices in a free market for labor. Just this cocktail of vanity and delusion helped Nozick edge out Rawls in the marketplace of ideas, making Anarchy a surprise best-seller, it helped make Ronald Reagan president five years later. So it was the public good that killed off the public good.

This continued ideological trance has grown a robust tree of rhetoric, by the likes of Ayn Rand, Frederich von Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises — but that tree has born some pretty rotten fruit:

Since 1970, the guild power of lawyers, doctors, engineers, and, yes, philosophy professors has nothing but attenuated. To take only the most pitiful example, medical doctors have evolved over this period from fee-for-service professionals totally in control of their own workplace to salaried body mechanics subject to the relentless cost-cutting mandate of a corporate employer. They’ve gone from being Marcus Welby—a living monument to public service through private practice—to being, as one comprehensive study put it, harried “middle management.” Who can argue with a straight face that a doctor in 2011 has more liberty than his counterpart in 1970? What any good liberal Democrat with an ounce of vestigial self-respect would have said to Nozick in 1970—”Sure, Bob, but we both know what your liberty means. It means power will once again mean money, and money will be at liberty to flow to the top”—in fact happened. The irony is that as capital once again concentrates as nothing more than capital (i.e., as the immense skim of the financiers), the Nozickian illusion (that capital is human capital and human capital is the only capital) gets harder and harder to sustain.

The reality of the marketplace is that the wealthy and connected game the system. The invisible hand of the free market tends to concentrate wealth at the very top, leaving the vast majority of people with little liberty at all.

Undoubtedly, there needs to be a balance to prevent government becoming too intrusive into the liberties of the individual, and a healthy discourse of where to draw the line is in order.

However, when you have an entire movement of people who profess that government has no role save for the provision of military defense, it’s hard to begin that conversation.

Even Nozick, whose book popularized and gave scholarly credence to Libertarian ideas, eventually relented. In 1989, Metcalf notes, he outlined the shortcomings of Anarchy:

“The libertarian position I once propounded,” Nozick wrote in an essay published in the late ’80s, “now seems to me seriously inadequate.” In Anarchy democracy was nowhere to be found; Nozick now believed that democratic institutions “express and symbolize … our equal human dignity, our autonomy and powers of self-direction.” In Anarchy, the best government was the least government, a value-neutral enforcer of contracts; now, Nozick concluded, “There are some things we choose to do together through government in solemn marking of our human solidarity, served by the fact that we do them together in this official fashion …”

These are the words of someone you can begin a dialogue with.

Unfortunately Nozick died in 2002, and his 180 degree turn was little noticed in The Movement.

What has evolved instead is a blast furnace demagogues spouting ideological talking points that equate taxation with slavery, and posit that ANY government intervention into the affairs of market inevitably lead to communism and tyranny on the level of Nazi Germany.

Metcalf’s conclusion is incisive, noting that the cowing of the left and level-headed conservatives alike is largely responsible for our current state of affairs:

Thanks in no small part to that silence, we have passed through the looking glass. Large-scale, speculative risk, undertaken by already grossly overcompensated bankers, is now officially part of the framework, in the form of too-big-to-fail guarantees made, implicitly and explicitly, by the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, the “libertarian” right moves to take the risks of unemployment, disease, and, yes, accidents of birth, and devolve them entirely onto the responsibility of the individual. It is not just sad; it is repugnant.

In a perfect world, we could sign these principled adherents of Libertarian ideals up for a one-way cruise to a regulation free paradise:

Any takers?

Read Metcalf’s piece. It’s quite good.

-Chris

June 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Conflict Of Interest, Much?

The current logo of Fox Television

Image via Wikipedia

It looks like the liberal media has finally shown its true colors after disclosing they are spending millions to elect Democrats into office.

Oh, wait — it was News Corp (owner of Faux News), and they just spent another million to get Republicans back in office:

“News Corp spends another million bucks on electing Republicans”

Conservatives from mainstream newspapers to the blogosphere immediately decried the move, lambasting Fox, and….well, no.

Crickets.

The donation, to the extremely right-wing U.S. Chamber of Commerce, follows another $1 million gift to the Republican Governor’s Association earlier this year.

Imagine the outcry had the situation been reversed.

At least there is transparency to disclose this fact — not that it will make any difference.

Fox lost whatever claim it had to being a news organization long ago, and has regularly confirmed their status as a propaganda arm of the GOP by their on air sponsorship of the Tea Party rallies and manufacture of race-baiting non-stories designed to whip up their low-information following.

-Chris

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Democrats, Fox News, Media Criticism, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tax Cut Morality

Des Moines IA DSC_4086

Image by jerrysEYES via Flickr

 

There’s a good post by Ned Resnikoff up at Salon.com. 

“The non-existent moral case for tax cuts” outlines the Tea Party and elite argument for cuts: 

It goes like this: We earned this money. We deserve it. It is therefore immoral to take it from us. 

Resnikoff correctly points out that the argument is silly because it is impossible to give an accurate accounting for how much of a role circumstance and environmental factors played in achieving that wealth, and how much of it was sweat equity. 

The word “deserve” is extremely loaded, and eminently debatable: 

When you control for environmental, genetic, social, historical, and biological factors, what differentiates my own distinguishing features from Charles Manson’s — or, for that matter, Obama’s, Palin’s, Lincoln’s or yours — is either imperceptible or completely nonexistent. And if that’s the case, I don’t see how you can argue that either of us deserve more or less than any of those people. 

What this suggests to me is that the only way you can coherently argue that a person inherently deserves a certain level of privilege or material comfort is to also argue that all persons deserve it, by virtue of their personhood. We already have language to describe these things that all persons innately deserve: we call them rights. 

If this is so, and I personally agree that it is, then the argument from the right is pure bluster and a manifestation of privilege. 

The conclusion is one that I am also convinced of. It is, however, not a subject  that you can discuss with extreme partisans: 

Mostly it falls back to a question of economics: how to balance the state’s ability to provide needed services for all citizens, including its most needy, while preserving a capitalist system which rewards achievement, and therefore (one would hope) innovation, productivity and excellence. 

-Chris 

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Deficit, Democrats, Economics, Politics, Republicans, Tax Debate, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Let Them Try To Repeal Healthcare Reform

Supporter of a single-payer health care plan d...

Image via Wikipedia

Gene Lyons has a post up at Salon that captures what I have been thinking about the upcoming mid-terms and the “Obamacare” scare tactics.

In “Don’t be fooled by the GOP’s sick healthcare rhetoric” Lyons makes some good points about the right’s plan to run on a distortion of Democratic accomplishments.

For example:

Is there anybody capable of filling out Form 1040 EZ who buys this latest Republican fantasy? Alas, yes. A clamorous minority remains captive to the GOP’s decades-long War on Arithmetic. The more dramatically “conservative” economic dogma fails — there’s nothing conservative about believing in magic — the greater their cultlike need to believe it.

But Lyons makes an important observation in the next graph:

Obamacare’s problems, however, are somewhat of the White House’s own making. Polls have shown that while the law’s unpopular in the abstract, its constituent parts earn wide approval. That’s partly because GOP propaganda, “government takeover,” “death panels,” etc., scared low-information voters; partly because the bill’s so complex that few really understand how it works.

It is simply not a believable argument that Republicans are going to repeal Healthcare Reform. The logistics aren’t there for them to win a veto-proof majority, and if the Democrats would merely make the Republicans answer exactly what popular provision they would like to cut (or, not answer, as the case may be) there is little chance this meme will remain potent.

The article also outlines exactly what is wrong with the Republican position. They treat healthcare as a commodity, and of necessity eliminate people who have preexisting conditions from having access to treatment. To save money.

“Obamacare” addresses this by mandating insurance to increase the pool, and lower the costs for everyone.

The Republican plan tackles costs by — oh, wait. They don’t have one. Except for the red herring of tort reform (which does not lower costs in any way according to studies in states where it has been enacted).

In any case, the county isn’t going to go backward.

Lyons cites a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study that shows that 4 in 10 respondents don’t think there is enough reform in the legislation.

In order to tackle the nation’s problems, we need a serious discussion about how to fix things and be honest about what sacrifices we need to make.

Eventually, some form of single payer will have to be enacted. It presents the most cost controls, the least complex administration and the most benefits.

If the Democrats were smart, they would run on trying to pass that. The tide is turning.

-Chris

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Democrats, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Politics, Republicans, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wealth Distribution Perspective

Rich People Live Here

Image by amanda farah via Flickr

A site appropriately named Too Much posted an eye-opening article over the weekend called “How Billionaires Could Race To Our Rescue”.

To give an idea of what has happened to all the money in this country since the Reagan era:

The ten richest Americans on the new Forbes list carry, all by themselves, a combined net worth of $270 billion, more than the inflation-adjusted net worth of the entire initial Forbes list back in 1982.

The article also contains this staggering nugget:

A 15 percent “wealth tax” on all personal assets over $1 billion would this year raise $145.5 billion, more than enough to cover the entire $140 billion budget shortfall America’s 50 states are facing in the current fiscal year.

This is a beautiful idea…that is ridiculous in its naiveté. These billionaires obtained their exorbitant wealth through things other than generosity and civic-mindedness.

To be fair, there are those who are wealthy who have the idea of giving back to the country.

In response to “Ferris Bueller” punchline Ben Stein’s televised whine about the horrible injustice of ending the tax cuts for the very rich, Linda McGibney had a great piece on the same CBS Sunday Morning show a week later.

In part, her response is:

Mr. Stein, there are Americans who qualify for this tax increase under the proposed plan who don’t feel “punished” by it. We feel it is our duty in hard times to help the rest of America…

And:

I have always understood that the “haves” were greedy. This is the first time I’ve heard one of them express it out loud so openly.

But the idea of waiting for the wealthy to bail America out because of their innate sense of patriotism is folly.

Part of the problem the Democrats face is their own inability to articulate the issue in historical context.

The tiny minority of rich people in this country are wealthier than they have ever been. Everyone else is a lot poorer. The gap widens by the minute. This happened because of tax and economic policies that allowed the rich to send jobs overseas, and allowed the wealthy (who wrote the policies in the first place) to pay less and less in taxes.

Starting with Ronald Reagan, the tax burden was lowered until disaster struck. Reagan skipped out of town, leaving George Bush Sr. to clean up the mess (and to responsibly break his “no new taxes” pledge).

Clinton had some luck restoring balance, and surpluses resulted. The wealthy were still rolling in dough, and the middle class was stronger during the Clinton years.

Then Bush took over. His policies were an economic disaster by any measure.

But the super rich will not countenance a return to the modest taxes of the Clinton years.

From their limousines and multimillion dollar homes, they view the programs that help working Americans as “government waste”.

They want to take away education, Social Security, health care and other services from the rest of us.

So they can keep more of their money.

For decades the wealthy right has decried the spectre of “class warfare” at the mere mention that they should, perhaps, pay their fair share.

Maybe it’s time to show them what class warfare really looks like.

After all, we outnumber them.

Update: This guy running for Robert Byrd’s West Virginia Senate seat is the poster child of the unpatriotic wealthy.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

-Chris

September 28, 2010 Posted by | Debt, Deficit, Democrats, Health Care, Health Care Reform, History, Politics, Republicans, Tax Debate, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Recognize Fascism

 

Benito Mussolini and Fascist blackshirts durin...

Image via Wikipedia

The American Progressive Party linked to an illuminating article outlining the 14 Points of Fascism .

NOTE: The above 14 Points was written in 2004 by Dr. Laurence Britt, a political scientist. Dr. Britt studied the fascist regimes of: Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile).

To summarize, they are:

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism
5. Rampant sexism
6. A controlled mass media
7. Obsession with national security
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together
9. Power of corporations protected
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts
12. Obsession with crime and punishment
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption
14. Fraudulent elections

Read the article and see if the similarities with the current political movement on the right are superficial or go to its heart.

Update: A YouTube reminder of who we are talking about:

-Chris

September 22, 2010 Posted by | Democrats, Fox News, Politics, Religion, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health Care Reform Explained

The Kaiser Family Foundation has again provided a valuable service, explaining health care reform in a quick and easy understand video.

The video “Health Care Meets Main Street” is worth watching:

http://healthreform.kff.org/the-animation.aspx

September 22, 2010 Posted by | Health Care, Politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment