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October 28, 2008

Comments

I don't expect that this sort of thing will vanish once the election is over, but I do hold out some tiny hope that there will be less of it.

There might be less, but it will be more of the "Barack Obama killed Vince Foster with a box cutter while running heroin through Chicago for Osama bin Laden and personally aborting fetuses at 9 1/2 months!!!" variety.

i'm praying that Obama wins in a landslide, that way the nuttiest of the wingnuts will become even more marginalized.

...i can dream, can't i?

Ugh is surely right. We just have to hope that the discrediting of every GOP talking point and candidate will make those things stay on the fringes, in Limbaughland, where they belong, and out of Congress.

Thanks for going through all this, hilzoy. As someone who used to read NRO all the time, to keep myself honest and hear other views, I find myself less and less interested in what these folks have to say about anything. It's just a constant stream of self-refuting nonsense.

"i think one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement was that 41:01 the civil rights movement becaem so court focused i think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and organizing activities 41:12 on the ground that are able to bring about the coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change 41:20 and in some ways we still suffer from that"

You're right, this isn't a particularly liberal thing to note. It is a point I make at least once a month around here.

"but the supreme court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of basic issues of political and economic justice in this society and to that extent as radical as people try to characterize the warren court it wasnt that radical"

This is a bit more than I would say, as I beleive the Warren Court was really quite radical in the areas it chose to tamper with. But it isn't evidence of Obama's radicalism so much as it is a professorial qualifer on the definition of 'radical' that he is talking about at the time.

One important thing about discourse that I didn't really understand until recently is that people take qualifiers in very different ways.

Ususally when I use a qualifier I am trying for precision. They are needed because I'm aware that even generally accurate statements have some big exceptions. But many people use qualifiers as sort of a move to reverse the meaning of the initial statement or to hide their true intentions in the qualifier. In a crass way think of the schoolyard taunting style of "you look great, for a pig".

I think what happens is that as we grow up, we tend to associate one of those two modes as the default value for qualifiers. (And as they are both in common use, I wouldn't say that it is easy to identify either mode as 'correct' usage). We can usually learn to identify both usages, but if there is an ambiguous usage, we tend to interpret it in our default fashion.

It is also very human to give people we like the benefit of the doubt, and withold it from people we don't like.

Combine those two things, and you can get to the seemingly weird (from the point of view of people who default to precision qualifiers and already like Obama) interpretation of these comments from Obama.

(Now I'm not particularly relativist on it. I think it is pretty clear that Obama uses the professorial mode of precision qualifiers much more than he uses a reversal-of-meaning qualifier. That is one of the things I like about him.)

But it isn't clear just from the internal context of the talk that such is the case. That is my interpretation drawing on how Obama explains all sorts of things.

discrediting

I wrote couple of posts about this recently -- it seems to me like the upside of the venom with which the right is attacking Obama could be (please, please let it be) that a strong Democratic victory at the polls will discredit the right wing more than it would have otherwise. Just today I was thinking, "What can we do to keep in public consciousness the tone of Republican attacks during this race, after the race is over?" Because it would be great if for the next 16 or 20 years, the Republican party could be strongly asscociated with accusations of witchcraft. And the rest of it.

*(And yes, I realize that I'm blurring a distinction when I move from "Republican attacks" to "accusations of witchcraft." I... guess I'm fine with that.)

"What can we do to keep in public consciousness the tone of Republican attacks during this race, after the race is over?"

get a bunch of outspoken, partisan liberals on TV and in print, who would hammer this message day in and day out. just replace enough the conservative gasbags who currently dominate the discourse with liberals that the GOP was no longer able to control the narratives.

easier said than done, i suppose.

Hilzoy, it would not make sense to say that poor strategy was a "tragedy" as to an initiative you wish had failed. No Frenchman would call the German strategic decision to launch its invasion of France by way of Belgium rather than across Alsace a "tragedy of the General Staff," for example (well, no Frenchman not living in Lorraine, anyway.) Obama clearly embraces the goals when he says poor strategy towards them was a tragedy. But what were those goals? Apparently, those of the 60s civil-rights movement (stop the presses! Black man likes civil rights!) - and he includes in those some kind of "redistributive change." Moreover, he doesn't just mean the reallocation of social rights that came with tearing down Jim Crow, he means money -- because his point was that the Court was willing to redistribute rights but not money.

Why all redistributive change must be bad, especially in the context of the Jim Crow South, I don't know. But then, Americans hate history, most Southerners I know live in fervent, desparate denial of how sick their society used to be, and, well, Fox News.

Sebastian, interesting points. You're right to emphasize that Obama's usage in this discussion, which was with two fellow professors, was "professorial." In 2001, of course, Obama was a professor, and probably spent at least as much of his time on that as on being a State Senator. During the Presidential campaign, he audibly developed from a professorial speech pattern -- analytical, nuanced, and rather dispassionate -- to a more emotional and broad-strokes speech pattern more typical of politicians. Both speech styles are good for their separate purposes, but in this interview, he was professorial. If he had suddenly began talking like a politician, Hutch would probably have thought he had gone mad.

I had not noticed that some people perceive qualifiers as sneaky. I have seen people get very impatient with qualifiers, as if all true statements can be made in short, simple declarative sentances. I generally just dismiss these people as morons. But then, your explanation of what they perceive is not inconsistent with my conclusion.

I have seen something similar in one intelligent person in some circumstances, though: a friend who was customarily beaten as a child for, among other things, offering "excuses" of any kind for failure. Not surprisingly, this person as an adult has little tolerance for nuance in emotional situations. Whether there is any similarity in root causes to the aversion you describe, I cannot guess.

Ugh is surely right. We just have to hope that the discrediting of every GOP talking point and candidate will make those things stay on the fringes, in Limbaughland, where they belong, and out of Congress.

A good goal. As Obama said, it is a tragedy when a good goal fails due to poor strategy. Here, the only strategy with a chance of success is Congressional hearings, impeachments, and convictions of the GOP leadership. Otherwise, as we saw thoughout the last 20 years, they keep crafting stabbed-in-the-back narratives and returning.

They'll try anyway, of course, but it will be much harder.

I think it's easy to get distracted by the details and the narrow professional scope of some of the meanings in use here. They're important, but one can get lost in the weeds and lose sight of the overarching point here: there really isn't a reasonable or honest interpretation that supports the overall allegation McCain supporters are making here. Not only is it not possible to be both sincere and accurate in reading Obama's quote that way, but in fact he's saying the opposite--making a point with which intellectually-consistent conservatives would actually agree.

(It does not escape my notice that Sebastian, one of our resident conservatives, makes this point for me.)

Call this line of attack what it is: a lie, a demonstrable falsehood. One of many.

"I have seen people get very impatient with qualifiers, as if all true statements can be made in short, simple declarative sentances. I generally just dismiss these people as morons. But then, your explanation of what they perceive is not inconsistent with my conclusion."

I know this is at risk of a serious thread tangent, but what the heck. You should be loathe to dismiss this default mode of interpreting qualifiers as moronic.

We all work from default modes of understanding the information we receive. We have to, because we can’t spend loads of time starting from the ground up on every bit of information. I don’t think there is any shame in the fact that your useful default filters might end up leading to wrong conclusions from time to time. The problem comes when you can’t break away from the default even when it is pointed out to you (stubbornness) or if your default is so poorly calibrated as to give you wrong information most of the time. The stubbornness error is an independent problem. But in this case, depending on who you regularly associate with, I’m pretty sure either default value can give you lots of good information and also quite a few errors.

People who interpret qualifiers as regularly being hedges which or reversals of meaning aren’t being crazy. Lots of people use them that way, and failing to pick up on it can get you in serious trouble in all sorts of settings. You probably got thrown off by the fact I used a schoolyard taunt as the example. But it can happen in all sorts of adult settings where leaning on the other default would get you in trouble.

Picture a candidate who says something which elicits the response from a committee member of “That is very interesting, it reflects the thinking of [name of somewhat discredited theorist X].” Someone with a professorial default may see that as a fairly benign comment, which it *might* be. But someone from the other default will at least strongly consider that he may not want to pursue that line too far.

I may have been foolish to label the precision form of qualification as professorial, because I’ve known many professors and members of the academic world who use the opposite type.

Slightly OT but, as I warned here and a couple other places on this blog, say hello to the Red Team Slime Machine.

Threadjack ho!

Because I lean strongly towards a default of precision, I'm frequently interpreted by those of the other bent as hedging excessively, and am given to over-explaining things in an effort to achieve as much clarity as possible and avoid making promises I can't keep. What Sebastian wrote rings mostly true to me.

I would personally tend to categorize it as defaulting to Precision vs. Evasion. The interesting thing is that, as you noted, both are valid assumptions for the use of qualifiers at different times and in different cases. Equally interesting is that the intent of the speaker/writer--the intent being the primary component that signals whether the person is being Precise or Evasive--is somewhat orthogonal to the underlying accuracy of the statement.

Your "discredited theorist" example is interesting, but I'm not sure it's the right analogy for this. What you're describing there does involve that conflict of defaults, but the original statement itself puts me more in mind of the art of subtly insulting someone without their realizing it. :>

There are a great many jokes in science and mathematics--disciplines notable for their religious emphasis on precision--that draw their humor from this dichotomy. The one that pops immediately into mind is the joke about "1 + 1 = 3 (for large values of 1)".

Come to think of it, it would be interesting to see whether or not being wired for interpreting qualifications as Precision or Evasion has any correlation with being able to appreciate humor or repartee that revolves around conflict between the literal accuracy of the statement and the prima facie sensibility or meaning of them. In the case of the math joke, for example, the humor comes from the fact that in most normal situations not involving complex math, one would naturally assume that 1 + 1 = 3 resolves false.

Quick example from the other direction. If a close friend sees that you are distressed, she will often say something like "I will always be here for you". Hedging that with the precise "unless I'm dead, or my wife is in the hospital and needs me" isn't really necessary. And if you said those things, it would sound like you were trying to convey less than "I will always be here for you" even though the qualifiers are almost certainly just as present for reality in the unmodified statement.

Sebastian and Crafty - good points, and thanks for the insight. I've had my own duality in how people use words in general - either as (a) a means to communicate, or (b) tools to gain advantage. We could certainly have a fun time stereotyping i.e. men and women, Republicans and Democrats, politicians and professors etc. on this basis.

I wonder if your modifier duality, which I've never thought of until now, might be somehow related.

Back on thread, I agree with Catsy that any reasonable interpretation of the interview does not agree with its current meme. I just hope enough undecided voters figure this out.

"...after brown v board a major issue ends up being redistribtion how do we get more money into the schools 34:51 and how do we actually create equal schools and equal educational opportunity well the court in a case called san antonio v rodriguez in the early 70s 35:01basically slaps those kinds fo claims down and says you know what we as a court have no power to examine issues of redistribution and wealth inequalities 35:11with respect to schools thats not a race issue thats a wealth issue...."

What happened here, Hilzoy? This isn't remotely your writing style.

"What happened here, Hilzoy?"

Okay, I see that at some point you slipped into quoting, without noting it. Ok.

If the nutters keep pressing this socialism meme. Just reply with the following.

In an interview from earlier this year, Sarah Palin said:


A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that “we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it (“collectively,” no less), but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist.

LINK

I very much appreciate Sebastian's contribution, and I'm going to remember his perceptiveness and fair-mindedness next time I read a post of his that I disagree with.

Unless it makes me angry.

"the "redistribution" Obama is talking about does not seem to involve expropriating wealth from some people and giving it to others. ... trying to achieve equal funding for different school districts."

You know, unless the government has found some new way of funding things without taxation, we ARE talking expropriation here. And if you're equalizing funding between districts with different tax basis, then, yeah, you're taking it from one district, and giving it to the other.

Just pointing out that the ordinary, every day operation of government is a lot more socialistic than Republicans like to admit. We're arguing over the last 20%, if you ask me.

Brett, the federal government has found "a way of funding things without taxation": put it on the national credit card. Reagan did it. Dick and Dubya did it big time. Running the government on borrowed money is just peachy, for rich people: they get to lend money to the Treasury instead of paying taxes to the Treasury. Servicing that debt is for the rest of us.

You're right that we're "arguing over the last 20%". I guess that last 20% is existentially important to "real Americans", judging by the desperation with which they defend it. It's the idea, not the practice of "free-market capitalism" they bitterly cling to.

--TP

You know, unless the government has found some new way of funding things without taxation, we ARE talking expropriation here. And if you're equalizing funding between districts with different tax basis, then, yeah, you're taking it from one district, and giving it to the other.

OK, but then public schools in general involve "expropriation." Children who attend public schools come from differing economic backgrounds, even in the same district. (and even if their economic backgrounds are similar, their parents' housing choices may differ). So by funding public schools with property taxes you are inevitably "expropriating" someone.

If you want to make the case that paying for schooling should be strictly private, go ahead, but don't pretend that one level of aggregation - the district - has some inherent superiority to another - the state.

Gary: normally, when I'm making my second set of blockquotes, I just copy one of the old ones, and always the last, the one that closes them, so that I don't inadvertently blockquote the whole site. Usually, I then delete the slash from the beginning of a blockquote. This time I forgot.

Sounded like you couldn't find a complete version. I think the full broadcast is here....

http://donklephant.com/2008/10/27/full-audio-of-drudges-obama-bombshell-transcript/

You know, unless the government has found some new way of funding things without taxation...

after the last three GOP presidents, that cannot be something you have to wonder about. the only president in the past 30 years to run a surplus was a Democrat. all the others: spend-and-look-away Republicans.

Look, I like to put these propositions as simply as I can. No hedging from me here.

1) Western countries have a history of racism

That racism has extended to expropriating the property, individual and collective, of people from other cultures, as well as the bodies and the lives of people from other cultures, particularly Africans.

2) Effects of racism have continued to the present

If a brief survey of history doesn't tell you that, a look at the composition of legislatures, governorships, corporate boards, professions, ad infinitum, will.

3) People disagree about what to do about it

Some people believe that ending active discrimination will suffice. Others believe we must do more to actively promote diversity. Still others believe the justice calls for some form of specific, direct redress.

4) Good people can disagree about these issues

It makes no sense to exclude anyone from politics for exploring these issues. Racism always had a strong economic motive, and like any other economic crime (think drug dealing) it makes no sense to talk about remedies without even admitting the possibility of an economic remedy.

You don't have to agree with what Senator Obama said then. I don't believe he has any plans in his platform for the kind of redistribution he spoke of in 2001. But some conservatives want to read him out of politics for addressing the issue. I don't think that will happen; it reeks of desperation. But it also bears repeating that trying to read someone right out of politics for discussing reasonable questions of policy does not serve the political process.

But it isn't evidence of Obama's radicalism so much as it is a professorial qualifer on the definition of 'radical' that he is talking about at the time.

Maybe I'm not seeing this right, but the association isn't with "radical" but the juxtiposition of "redistribution of wealth" with "basic issues of political and economic justice in this society." It isn't entirely clear whether Obama supports this until the later caller asks him how that should happen and he appears to say legislatively or through adminsitrative action.

I don't see the comments, Hilzoy, as limited to education and welfare hearings as you state. Obama uses those as examples because they are among the few that the court actualy decided. I think it is disingenuous to find from this transcript that Obama is NOT in favor of "redistributive change" of wealth through legislative or aministrative action.

But then the transcript is horrible. I listened to the audio.

And this is not in a vacuum. Apart from the "spreading the wealth" comment, look at his own tax plan:

Obama will ask the wealthiest 2% of families to give back a portion of the taxes they have received over the past eight years to ensure we are restoring fairness and returning to fiscal responsibility.

Great. "Taxes they have received." What the heck is that? Tax cuts (I think he is talking about tax cuts) are "taxes" one has "received?" Sounds like a redistributionist position to me. According to Obama, you "receive" your dole from the government. It's not yours to begin with.

Or how about the massive expansion of "fully refundable" tax credits? And he uses these to claim a "net" tax cut? Who's being disingenuous here? Sure we have had some refundable credits in the past, but nothing like this. Only a true cynic could call welfare payments "tax credits."

I have the same questions Calabresi has . And Obama's comments support those questions.

One of my hopes for Obama as prez is that he will do more to publicize the stupid unfair school funding system - he called it unfair in his Selma speech awhile back, and nobody ever talks about that. Ever. It would be insanely unpopular with the mass of people who abandon cities to clump together in overpriced burbs for the school, and who leave the people who can't afford to do that with no money for their schools. But now that everyone's voting...

bc,

Let me make your day: it is "redistribution of wealth" when the government takes some money from you and fails to spend all of it on you.

It's also, but more accurately, "redistribution of wealth" when a mob carrying pitchforks and torches invades your house and declares that it's "big enough for six peasant families to live in". But you may not be old enough to remember that line from Dr. Zhivago.

You can use words any way you like, of course, so if allowing tax cuts for the rich to expire as the law signed by George W. Bush calls for is equivalent, in your mind, to a self-appointed Central Committee of the Proletariat nationalizing the companies you own stock in and too bad for you, then by all means keep using "redistribution of wealth" as ... ahem ... liberally as you do.

--TP

But you may not be old enough to remember that line from Dr. Zhivago.

Shall I sing you the theme song? I loved the train scenes as a kid.

You can use words any way you like, of course . . .

Which is my point. Obama chooses to call repealing tax cuts (I think you are right that this is what he is referring to and I assumed as much) giving BACK taxes "received" as if the earnings of citizens were "given" to them in the first place. How else to you "give back taxes received?" He could have said he is simply repealing tax cuts because he feels it is more fair. But that's not what he said.

And I think this is important. Obama's language resonates with the concept that wealth simply exists and should be "spread around" without regard to the fact that a lot of wealth is actually created by the hard work and labor of Americans. I realize there is not a complete equality of opportunity and thus have no major objection to a progressive tax scheme. If Obama stopped at simply raising the marginal rate for high wage earners (query: is $250k really all that much in NYC or S.F.?), I wouldn't have as much of an objection. It is the "fully refundable" tax credits" expansion that rankles me. As well as the assumption that going into a recession we should raise taxes on those providing jobs.

Clearly, I do not equate the repeal of tax cuts as the Dr. Zhivago invasion. But when Obama characterizes said tax cuts in the manner he does IN HIS OWN TAX PLAN then I get concerned. And when he talks about legislation and administrative action as tools to redistribute wealth to create a more just society, I get concerned. And when he uses "fully refundable tax credits" to arrive at a net "tax cut" I get concerned.

bc,

If you're old enough to remember Dr. Zhivago "as a kid" then you're likely not senile yet. Therefore, you might remember the "tax rebate" checks that arch-socialist George W. Bush sent out in 2002. Do you remember off-hand whether those checks were strictly limited to the recipients' tax liability? Or did they by chance amount to "refundable tax credits" for a lot of people?

Do you remember, either, the exact form of the "tax rebates" that went to various corporations right about then, i.e. in the wake of 9/11? Were those, perchance, anything like "refundable tax credits"?

I need not ask whether you remember the terrible stifling of the economy in the mid-90's when Bill the President raised taxes "on those providing jobs". Nobody remembers it:)

Relax, bc. Your "concern" is unfounded. If this country managed to survive Dubya's presidency and Dubya's questionable turns of phrase, it can survive Obama's.

--TP

Deficit spending isn't a way of running the government without taxes. It's a way of running the government with fewer taxes today, and a lot more taxes tomorrow. The bill WILL come due eventually. I suspect our's in not long in coming at this point.

Great. "Taxes they have received." What the heck is that?

Reads like a typo to me.

He could have said he is simply repealing tax cuts because he feels it is more fair. But that's not what he said.

In general, with your single cited example excluded, that is what he says. And, it's what he's doing.

According to Obama, you "receive" your dole from the government. It's not yours to begin with.

bc, take a deep breath, count to 10, and then tell me with a straight face that you think Obama's position is that all the money is the state's first, and we only get to have what the state says we can have.

It is the "fully refundable" tax credits" expansion that rankles me.

Yes, that seems to be what pisses off all the conservatives. It's what always pisses off conservatives.

The government is taking money from you, and giving it to somebody else.

You need to get over it.

The government takes property taxes from me and pays for the schools in my town. I don't have kids in school. Why should I pay?

The government takes money from the guy that empties the waste baskets in my office every night, and gives it to some retired guy in Florida who has more money than my guy will make in his whole damned life. Why should he pay?

The government takes almost two dollars from the citizens of my state in the aggregate for every dollar we get back, and gives the difference to freaking Alabama. Why the hell should I give my hard-earned money to some dumb cracker in Alabama who's too lazy to go out and get himself a job?

You get my drift.

The government takes money from us, and quite often gives it to someone else. The reason it does this is because that's the way we keep the wheels on.

Sometimes it's to encourage, or discourage, behavior that is generally seen as being useful or not useful to society as a whole.

Sometimes it's to mitigate the harmful effects of the market.

Sometimes it's to plain old help somebody out of a tough spot. Whether they deserve it or not.

Mostly it's to get stuff done that needs doing.

Maybe refundable tax credits seem like bad policy to you. If it bugs you enough, vote for McCain, or at least don't vote for Obama. That's your call.

To me, personally, kicking back as much as a whopping $8100 to a family over the course of year is money well spent, because they will spend every dime of it on shelter, food, clothes, heat, and transportation. That's just my two cents.

But we all need to get over being offended by the idea that the government will money from me and give it to someone else.

It's the grease that makes the motor go. It's the way publicly useful things get done. It's what governments do, and have always done.

It works.

Thanks -

My two incendiary cents: I find it interesting that people rail against "redistribution of wealth" as if all notions of redistribution are the same. As if basic, humdrum taxation is the equivalent of nationalizing the heavy industries or liquidating the kulaks. Why not call this attitude what it is, a selfish disinterest in the state of the country: "I've got mine, fnck you, Jack".

I realize Ayn Rand raised "enlightened" selfishness to the highest virtue, to which I say: grow the fnck up and graduate from kindergarten already. Sometimes sharing really is caring, even if you insist on regarding it as being done at the barrel of a gun. [Much like those vaguely sociopathic musings that the only reason people obey the law is because the state has a "monopoly on violence". Jesus.] Mind, if you -- the generic "you" here -- really do feel this way, I encourage you to go form your Galt's Gulch and live in Objectivist purity; you won't be missed.

This is why I generally don't converse with libertarians; self-centered anti-social tendencies coupled with a yearning towards an unrealistic ubermensch utopia don't particularly thrill me. [Particularly ironic, given the clearly mundane people who tend to cling to this view.] After all, I graduated from kindergarten.

"My two incendiary cents: I find it interesting that people rail against "redistribution of wealth" as if all notions of redistribution are the same. As if basic, humdrum taxation is the equivalent of nationalizing the heavy industries or liquidating the kulaks. Why not call this attitude what it is, a selfish disinterest in the state of the country: "I've got mine, fnck you, Jack"."

Hmm. The problem for me is in systemic feedback. I think much of what people object to as 'socialism' involves creating perverse incentive structures.

See for example russel's "Sometimes it's to plain old help somebody out of a tough spot. Whether they deserve it or not."

I agree. Kind of. I fear my qualifiers will make it look like I don't care but here we go anyway. :)

Government intervention in the form of 'helping out' should be designed to help them out in such a way that does not incentivize or otherwise make it more likely that they will need the same kind of help again.

So I'm against corporate bailouts that make it more likely that they will continue doing the things that caused them to fail in the first place.

On a personal level I don't like programs that foster indefinite government dependency. So 'deserve it' isn't really the issue, though sometimes it comes off that way. The question is more akin to "does this system make it more or less likely that this same person will be trying to get this same 'help' two years from now. Do I want the government to help people who lost their homes in a hurricane? Yes. Do I want to help them build their homes 'stronger' right on a low edge of the ocean where they are going to get wiped out again 10 years from now? No.

The problem I see with many (not all, but many) liberal programs is that they don't notice how the form of their 'help' now systemically creates a long term dependency.

Many conservatives take that only one step further and decide that 'help' programs aren't ever good.

Both approaches are very damaging to society. The conservative approach has been ascendant so its stupidity is evident now, but I hope modern liberals remember some of the lessons of the 70s about welfare induced permanent underclass systems and the danger of thiking technocrats can figure everything out from the top.

Hmm. The problem for me is in systemic feedback.

On this, I totally agree. That's vastly different than the "taxation is theft" lot, though.

The conservative approach has been ascendant so its stupidity is evident now, but I hope modern liberals remember some of the lessons of the 70s about welfare induced permanent underclass systems and the danger of thiking technocrats can figure everything out from the top.

However, on this, I don't. More accurately, I'm not convinced that the welfare system induced a permanent underclass; most of the evidence I've seen for that is of the "welfare queen" variety, which has been widely discredited. Not that welfare can't do that -- the stories of the parasites on the British dole are infamous, and rightly so -- just that I don't see that it applies to the American situation. I'd say there are much more insidious and pernicious reasons for the existence of a permanent underclass, largely due to either the class warfare engaged by the Republicans (viz. the elimination of social programs and the tax cut jihadists), the dissolution of unions -- not that they didn't need to change, but their virtual disintegration made things a lot worse -- and the latent/subconscious racism that prevents a lot of African Americans from good employment. Governmental incompetence ranks fairly low on my list, even given the disaster of the projects in the US.

Of course, once you have an underclass system it tends to be self-perpetuating, so I don't believe that your point is without merit, just that it's not the root cause.

[To the other half of what you were saying, there's certainly a danger of top-down technocracy but again, I again don't really see that as having much sway in the US. YMMV.]

hilzoy
//Conservatives have said for ages that liberals have too often tried to use the courts to bring about changes that ought more properly to be made through legislation. In this passage, Obama is agreeing with them.//

Yes. Liberals should more properly work through legislation than the courts. But redistributive change is not worthy of being sought in any venue according to conservatives.

and
//The thing is: that's what Obama is talking about. He's not talking about cutting checks for the poor;//

No. In that quote he wasn't talking about writing checks to the poor. He was pointing out that redistribution couldn't be achieved through the courts. It would take organizing [check], creating institutions [coming soon], and creating the basis for legislative power [one week away] - then redistributive change will happen. He hs announced his plan to cut checks to the poor in his new tax plan.

As for your last paragraph: It is hyperbole to call Obama those things but it is not a lie. He is those things, just not in an exaggerated sense. But he will grow into it when he gets his footing.

Rob
//...i can dream, can't i?//

Yes, but only for 6 more days. You'll wake up with a rude shock next Wednesday morning.

As for your last paragraph: It is hyperbole to call Obama those things but it is not a lie.

The reference, I assume, it to this:

he's a socialist (or a Black nationalist, or a Muslim, or whatever.)

Horseshit.

And yes, I'm feeding the troll, but I'm feeding him horseshit. If he wants to stop by for more, I'll be happy to serve up another plateful.

There's no accounting for taste.

You'll wake up with a rude shock next Wednesday morning.

I've lived through Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes. If Obama loses, it'll just be SSDD.

It'll suck, but I'll deal. It's becoming a way of life.

In any case, the conservative brand as we've known it lo these 28 years is a dead letter. It's done. It's done because it has been an utter failure at the rudimentary tasks of governance.

The dead man may still be still walking, but he's dead.

Stop by Wednesday AM and we'll chat.

Thanks -

Update on this: RNC spending $2.3M in PA, OH, & NC to air this ad. They must be feeling vulnerable here in McCain's back yard too. Just saw the ad on network TV during prime time in Tucson.

I'd like to see Obama's response.

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