Posts tagged politics
Posts tagged politics
So “Change” would really better be described as “Change Back,” I suppose.
Jonah Goldberg’s title and examples suck, but he has a point. The President has morphed from post-partisan (I voted for Clinton), to “three dimensional chess” to Republicans are the worst evil monsters ever.
For instance, during a Nevada debate, then-senator Obama told the late Tim Russert that, “My greatest strength, I think, is the ability to bring people together from different perspectives to get them to recognize what they have in common and to move people in a different direction.”
Whether that was a lie at the time or simply unwarranted self-confidence is unknowable. What is plainly knowable is that it was untrue.
Now Obama’s defenders, starting with the man himself, insist this isn’t his fault. He’s actually super persuasive and bipartisan, he just suffers from the fact that Republicans are the most unreasonable politicians ever, so he can’t be blamed for utterly failing to work with them. It’s like the guy who insists that he’s a real ladies’ man but can’t get a phone number because all of the hot women in the bar just happen to be gay.
Actually, it’s worse than that. Everywhere the president goes, he explains that he’s failed to get anything done either because the system is broken or because his opponents lack the honor and decency to work with him. Such arguments define cynicism.
But for Obama, cynicism is a vice for other people.
So, can we talk about how it’s a completely true and verifiable fact that Republican obstructionism in the last four years is completely unprecedented? It seems like Mr. Goldberg is implying that the GOP hasn’t presented situations that are literally impossible to deal with. Are we even living in the same country? From stalling his appointments, to refusing to extend unemployment/payroll tax cut, to gutting the STOCK act and financial reform, the GOP has been extremely and purposefully difficult to work with.
From 2008-2010, among the extremely vocal calls for Obama to be more proactive and confrontational with the clear obstructionism, I head the occasional ”but if Obama does that, the media will frame it like it’s his fault!” I didn’t believe anyone would be naive enough to fall for it, until now.
This is almost too poorly written to even warrant a response, but here is the actual series of events for those who are curious! Yay, storytime!
Alexander Ryking, who has a history of attempting to silence women bloggers (he told Jess of STFUConservatives and the other “feminazis” to “go kill themselves” several months ago, and has also been rude to women of color but I haven’t been on Tumblr long enough to have personally witnessed that), defended The Amazing’s Atheist’s violent rape threats on Reddit by tagging his posts with “I support TAA.”
I and many, many other Tumblr users were disgusted by this, so we decided to tag our criticisms of Ryking that night with “Ryking’s banana republic”—a reference to his co-opting of SJ concepts, NOT a homophobic dig, and the person who coined it was a queer man anyway. Someone also wrote a few jokingly romantic lines about Ryking’s blind defense of TAA and new atheism, and Ryking interpreted this as homophobic and misandric…it wasn’t, but because I reblogged it, Ryking insists that I am now a homophobe, which is hilarious given my own sexual identity but whatever.
We also responded to some of his posts with pictures of extreme close-ups of our eyes.
Seriously. That is what this guy is calling “abuse.”
We did NOT threaten him, make personal attacks against his sexuality, tell him to go kill himself, send him rude messages, or commit any other acts that could reasonably be interpreted as the “cyberbullying” Ryking claims it is. I did temporarily change my URL to rykingsbananarepublic and I make no apologies for that. Why should I? Why shouldn’t a group of feminists and their allies be allowed to respond creatively to misogyny? The only actual cyberbullying that has taken place was TAA’s initial rape threats on Reddit; I wouldn’t even go so far as to claim Ryking’s tweets to me and other Twitter users are cyberbullying, though I leave it up to the other people who were insulted by him to label their experiences as bullying or not.
Anyway, a few nights later, I tweeted something in defense of Whitney Houston’s legacy, and suddenly there was Ryking going ballistic. He found me on Twitter, called me a cunt right off the bat, and insisted that I claimed Whitney Houston’s death was “more important than the death of 5,000 Syrians” (I didn’t! Here is what I actually said!). I had never exchanged tweets with this man before, and was confused about his sudden interest in my thoughts about Whitney Houston and Syria. Naturally, I responded, told him how wrong he was, and the next day I screencapped some of the things he said and posted them here. I never expected that post to get the amount of notes it did, but I think that just goes to show how widespread the dislike for him is.
This author’s claim that I “deliberately baited” Alexander Ryking is pathetically inaccurate. There is an enormous difference between what we did,—creating a tag for our criticisms of Ryking’s sexism and general ignorance—and what he did, which was seek out women on Twitter to attack and personally degrade however he could. As I’ve explained recently, his behavior here is reprehensible because it takes place in a culture where women bloggers are targeted simply for being women. Ryking’s attacks were deliberately personal (“do you have daddy issues?”), deliberately wielded against women (“you feminazi cunts”), and deliberately violent (“go die in a fire”). There are NO similarities between the way we approached him and the way he approached us, period.
I like how the first article linked pretends that Ryking ‘earned’ his spot as editor through popularity; as if the most number of ‘likes’ or ‘reblogs’ made you an editor. If it did, the fact that he’s still up there would be excusable. Instead, you have hundreds of outraged users writing and reblogging posts about how terrible he is, and his horribly stilted replies that get single digit notes. Yeah, seems totally “algorithimic” to me.
A sizable minority of America’s youth aren’t in school or attached to the labor force. And it’s costing taxpayers big.
About 17 percent of America’s young people are “opportunity youth” — or people ages 16-24 who aren’t attached to the labor force — according to a report prepared by researchers for the Corporation for National and Community Service and the White House Council for Community Solutions (h/t Think Progress). Each one of these 6.7 million young people is costing taxpayers $13,900 per year and it doesn’t stop there. After 25 years old, they’ll cost taxpayers $170,740 over their lifetime, the report found.
That means that in total, those currently classified as so-called opportunity youth will cost taxpayers $1.56 trillion in present value terms over their whole lifetime.
“Both taxpayers and society lose out when the potential of these youth is not realized,” the report said.
There is clearly work that needs to be done, even if it’s simply keeping streets clean and roads repaired. It’s not as if these youth are unwilling or unable to perform tasks like that, either. A government run guaranteed employment program would allow us to provide a social safety net for anyone on hard times; this translates to less crime, less poverty, fewer evictions or major financial repercussions, better education for the populace and a more stable environment for any children.
It could look like the unemployment office now, except that instead of being handed leads for employment after you’re done with the paperwork and waiting on a bimonthly check, you pick from a series of jobs that need to be done by the government (infrastructure and community building, primarily) and are paid a living wage until you can find a better job.
It would definitely cost money, but maybe not as much as you might think. We already pay huge sums of money as a consequence of our unemployment rates. Increased crime rates means more money spent on police work, judicial processes and incarceration. Less access to healthcare (without a steady check, insurance is tough to maintain) means increased reliance on emergency care, a more expensive and less effective option.
We’ve already spent $434 Billion on unemployment benefits, $185 billion of which was paid by taxation. I’m not saying that it would pay for itself, but surely a tax increase is worth all the benefits.
The Denver Post and The Daily Beast say this proves we’re the “angriest” city:
The Daily Beast website… combined the number of protesters who showed up for a 2009 Tea Party event and the number of Occupy Denver marchers from Oct. 15, then divided that figure (7,000) into the population (582,447). The number was then extrapolated to arrive at a number of protesters per million residents (if Denver had a million residents)
The result: Denver, with 12,018 protesters per million residents tops Portland, Ore.’s paltry 8,197 per million to capture the title of America’s Angriest City.
Now, even if you divide the number of protesters into Denver’s actual population from the 2010 Census (600,158), you’d still come out on top - far ahead of New York City’s 1,024.
I don’t agree it demonstrates anger in general, but I do think it represents a broader recognition of certain fundamental problems, the government subsidy of wall street being top among them (for both members of the ‘Tea Party’ and the Occupy Denver protests). I like living here.
Freedom frightens some people. They say if no one is in charge there would be chaos. That is intuitive, but think about a skating rink. Before rinks were invented, if you proposed an amusement in which people strap blades to their feet and skate around on ice at whatever speeds they wish, you’d have been called crazy. There’s got to be speed limits, stoplights, turn signals. But we know that people navigate rinks safely on their own. They create their own order, with only minimal rules.
Society would work the same way—and does to a large extent even today. “Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government,” Thomas Paine, the soul of the American Revolution, wrote. “It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. … Common interest (has) a greater influence than the laws of government.”
Citing Thomas Paine for the proposition that man is governed best when he governs himself is probably a poor idea for those of Libertarian disposition, since many of Paine’s policy proposals involved extensive redistribution of income and property through government programs.
For example, in the Rights of Man, Paine wrote:
Having thus ascertained the greatest number that can be supposed to need support on account of young families, I proceed to the mode of relief or distribution, which is, to pay as a remission of taxes to every poor family, out of the surplus taxes, and in room of poor-rates, four pounds a year for every child under fourteen years of age; enjoining the parents of such children to send them to school, to learn reading, writing, and common arithmetic; the ministers of every parish, of every denomination to certify jointly to an office, for that purpose, that this duty is performed. The amount of this expense will be, For six hundred and thirty thousand children at four pounds per annum each…
He further advocated for public pensions for the elderly:It is painful to see old age working itself to death, in what are called civilised countries, for daily bread…pay to every such person of the age of fifty years, and until he shall arrive at the age of sixty, the sum of six pounds per annum out of the surplus taxes, and ten pounds per annum during life after the age of sixty…[t]his support, as already remarked, is not of the nature of a charity but of a right.
And in Agrarian Justice, Paine criticized the concept of private property altogether, and suggested that the government should pay every person, by virtue of their birth alone, a sum representing compensation for their loss of access to those pieces of the earth walled off as private property:
There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue…[we should therefore] create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property.
Now to be fair, there is absolutely a distinction between economic liberty and personal liberty. Paine could conceivably support economic redistribution while believing excessive regulation of business to be counter-productive. At the same time, the type of coercion necessary to secure the programs Paine is referencing is not necessarily less onerous than regulation of private business. In fact, I’m sure some would argue that Paine’s programme is more offensive to liberty than, say, Health Department inspections or capital insurance requirements. Everybody conceivably benefits when insurance companies are well capitalized and restaurants are kept clean. But the price of redistribution is borne most heavily by the wealthy. That would seem as offensive to liberty as traffic lights and raw milk bans; yet Paine was unphased by that proposition.
Alexis de Tocqueville
Funny how people hundreds of years ago could predict the natural growth of government. But Tocqueville is probably just engaging in class warfare. I bet he’s bank rolled by the Koch’s.
Tocqueville echoing Burke —- Two voices that are sorely missing from politics in Modern Americ
I’m fairly certain this isn’t a Tocqueville quote. This is a quote that is actually commonly misattributed to Professor Alexander Fraser Tytler, who allegedly coined the infamous “Tytler Cycle of Democracy:”
- From bondage to spiritual faith;
- From spiritual faith to great courage;
- From courage to liberty;
- From liberty to abundance;
- From abundance to selfishness;
- From selfishness to complacency;
- From complacency to apathy;
- From apathy to dependence;
- From dependence back into bondage.
The funny thing is that even the so-called “Tytler Cycle” doesn’t seem to be Tytler’s work either. Wikipedia (which we all know is the great Arbiter of Truth in all things), seems to think that the original passage was first used by a 1951 op-ed piece for an Oklahoma newspaper:
this passage actually comprises two quotations, which didn’t begin to appear together until the 1970s. The first portion (italicized above) first appeared on December 9, 1951, as part of what appears to be an op-ed piece in The Daily Oklahoman under the byline Elmer T. Peterson. The original version was as follows:
Two centuries ago, a somewhat obscure Scotsman named Tytler made this profound observation: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.”
While the “Tytler Cycle” was apparently the work of one H.W. Prentis in 1943:
The list beginning “From bondage to spiritual faith” is commonly known as the “Tytler Cycle” or the “Fatal Sequence”. Its first known appearance is in a 1943 speech “Industrial Management in a Republic” by H. W. Prentis, president of the Armstrong Cork Company and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, and appears to be original to Prentis.
It’s interesting how quotes like this can capture the popular imagination while the authority behind them is tenuous or perhaps even unknown. I am reminded of the misattribution to Pope Leo X of the statement, “it has served us well, this myth of Christ.” Leo X never actually said those words; it was Protestant playwright John Bale who first authored that line, for a satirical play in which Pope Leo X was a character. Bale penned that line for the Pope’s character in the play. Leo X never actually said that, though you still occasionally see it floating around the internet from time to time.
The Occupy Wall Street protests continue to grow, and to gain support from public intellectuals. Joe Stiglitz, Anne Marie Slaughter, and Paul Krugman are the latest luminaries to praise the cause. The movement has also provoked derision. Let’s consider the latest Norquist/Limbaugh memes as the protest nears the one-month mark:
1) “They’re just spoiled hippies who can’t get a job.” A quick glance at the“We are the 99%” tumblr could easily dispel this notion. The economic suffering in this country is deep and broad. As one news story put it, “one in three Americans would be unable to make their mortgage or rent payment beyond one month if they lost their job.” Even if the most down-and-out people are too poor or busy to get to Wall Street (or the hundreds of other actions now taking place), many think of the OWS crowd as speaking for them.
There is so much needless suffering going on now, and so much wealth accumulating at the very top. It is hard to understand how critics dismiss the protesters so cavalierly. I used to find the Biblical passage about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart one of the more mysterious parts of the Book of Exodus; now I feel like I’m witnessing it firsthand.
2) “They should be in Washington, not Wall Street.” Never fear,OccupyKStreet is here. More seriously, this criticism misses the entire point of the protest. Wall Street and Washington have fused. Both politicians and the Fed given enormous subsidies to large Wall Street firms, while asking almost nothing in return. You can read the Larry Lessig’s Republic, Lost, or Kwak & Johnson’s Thirteen Bankers for all the gritty details. For now, let’s just say that entities that borrow at close to zero percent, lend at 4.5 to 20+%, and pay top managers billions in salary and bonuses, are not exactly Steve Jobs-level entrepreneurs. Rather, they’re part of a corrupt revolving door system that sends a favored group back and forth between government and business. We’d do better simply to pay off this shadow elite directly than to subsidize the trillion dollar schemes that maintain the illusion that our banking system is independent.
This is not a partisan critique. Like the OWS protesters, I have focused on the role of the Democratic party in covertly supporting a system that is openly applauded by establishment GOP figures. As Matt Stoller observes, “Rubinites still dominate Democratic policymaking — Larry Summers, Jason Furman, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Gene Sperling are all Rubin acolytes. Jack Lew, the current Office of Management and Budget director, is from Citigroup; Peter Orzag, the former OMB director, went to Citigroup. White House chief of staff Bill Daley is a JP Morgan man.”
Principled libertarians have also offered Hayekian critiques of the “Government Sachs” nexus. Russ Roberts at the Mercatus Institute has perceptively recognized the close ties between the US state and Wall Street. Amar Bhide has offered a brilliant Hayekian critique of the concentration of power in large financial institutions. From the opposite end of the political spectrum, Michael Hudson pithily observes that “economic planning has passed from government to the financial sector.” Individuals with a wide range of political commitments want to break up megabanks, or engage in more fundamental reform than contemplated in Dodd-Frank. OWS is protesting a form of corporatism that privatizes gains and socializes losses. Anyone who opposes welfare for the poorest should be passionately committed to a program that would cut off the richest from the trough of implicit and explicit subsidy that is at the core of our financial system.
3) “They’re breaking the law.” Were we back in the 1960s, I could perhaps understand how a claque of law-and-order Archie Bunkers could fulminate against the Yippies trying to levitate the Pentagon. If order is your highest social goal, the spontaneous transformation of a soulless, stone-covered city block in Lower Manhattan into a festive site of music and education may spark a frisson. But what’s different today is that the targets of the protest are so clearly lawbreakers themselves. In a 1993 article, economists Akerlof and Romer proposed that “an economic underground can come to life if firms have an incentive to go broke for profit at society’s expense (to loot) instead of to go for broke (to gamble on success).” They called this “bankruptcy for profit,” and its main features have a depressingly familiar ring.
As William K. Black explains in his theory of “control fraud,” the key to business success on Wall Street has been speculative ventures implicitly or explicitly backed by the government or the Fed. As Black has argued repeatedly, to make the scheme work, there must be some form of insurance——such as public deposit insurance or private policies——that promises to “make whole” those whose funds are lost in a speculative endeavor. Second, there must seem to be, on paper, some valuation that makes the entity’s investments seem worthwhile. Insurers are not stupid; they demand some evidence that the firm has an overall net worth sufficient to permit it to meet future obligations. These demands lead to the third element: a systematic subversion of the normal tools used to assess the stability and soundness of going concerns. Accountants and auditors are supposed to impose transparency on a firm’s accounts, but can easily be coopted into “aggressive” statements of positions. The looting leadership has a variety of mechanisms at its disposal. Accounting frauds can vastly overstate the value of current holdings. Opacity hides transfers of favors that justify contracts that are irrational on their face.
In a long series of posts, I have described the shady dealings—-the special purpose entities, the accounting fraud, the daisy chain of favors leading to CDO sales, the fake insurance (aka AIG-underwritten CDS’s), the epidemic of foreclosure fraud—-that generated countless Wall Street fortunes over the past decade. Wall Street’s winners are now trying to leverage those gains into permanent political victories, both to entrench the system of favors that helped them succeed and to cut the “entitlements” that generate rival claims to the public weal. OWS is trying to stop the illicit gains of the past decade from permanently deforming our economy.
As the protesters watch megabanks grab thousands of properties via foreclosures, often through processes that are utterly lawless, they think it equitable and just that they get to claim some small parcel of lower Manhattan as a center for their own deliberative processes. Giving them this space is the least that New York’s increasingly plutocratic and petulant Mayor Bloombergcan do.
4) “They should be thankful for what they have. Real poverty means living on $1 a day.” Rush Limbaugh recently praised a report by one of his advertisers, the Heritage Foundation, which details how good the US poor have it. A full 99% have refrigerators! But of course, selling that refrigerator would only buy about 8 days of food for most families.
The relative inequality point initially intrigued me. As Jared Diamond has noted, “The average rates at which people consume resources like oil and metals, and produce wastes like plastics and greenhouse gases, are about 32 times higher in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia than they are in the developing world.” But I no longer see a rational connection between the vast fortunes made by those at the top and a process of globalization that either balances consumption or creates rising living standards for all.
Yes, there are serious moral questions raised by global inequality that renders the average American better off than 90% of the population in poorer countries. As I noted earlier, a soi-disant Green Tory might advocate for more money circulating in the economy’s stratosphere: a luxury handbag costing $80,000 may have less of a carbon footprint than, say, 32 Tata Nanos.
But for anyone truly concerned about the environment, it would be far better to see the handbag consumption turned to sustainable energy investment, rather than continuing as a diversion of spending power away from the poor. Moreover, if domestic and international inequality continues at current levels, it will reinforce the US recession. Even for those who think the average US citizen is too rich anyway, the probable political consequences of perpetual stagnation are frightening. Money is being drained away from an ordinary economy into an economic stratosphere whose denizens appear increasingly out-of-touch with the workers who feed, defend, and otherwise serve them.
5) “They have no demands!” This is the most bizarre criticism of OWS as a social movement. As one organizer puts it, ‘We haven’t had a shortage of demands and solutions. We’ve had a shortage of mass movements.’ Moreover, it’s pretty predictable what will happen once demands get issued officially. If they’re too ambitious, the movement will be dismissed as socialism. If they’re moderate, it will be dismissed as stealth Obamaism, and the protesters will be condescendingly asked “why can’t you just participate in the political system as it is?”