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January 08, 2010

Comments

I will cling to my pessimism, thank you. It suits me just fine. ;)

The Fallows article did something to temper my pessimism, but then I clicked over to Google News and saw this headline: 'Lost' fans lobby Obama on State of the Union sked. This nation is doomed.

Great song reference!

Yglesias thinks all this decline-ism is wrongheaded, citing the fact that "developed countries never decline" (his italics).

mmm. optimism!

I remember being very impressed with Fallows as well; Charles Kegley's arguments actually are less convincing.

Three of his four signs of declining hegemony -- exorbitant military spending, a gap between resources and commitments, and preoccupation with non-threatening rival -- look similar to issues older empires dealt with for centuries on end. (e.g When were the British not obsessed with the French?)

Same thing as to a "lack of urgency in the body politic" -- though, in past cases as in ours, a better description would be fits and starts of jeremaids and distractions.

Or at least that's what I took away reading Fallows article.

Fallows underestimates the combined, Mule-like effects of Nixon and 9/11. It's over.

I have no idea who these perilously blithe people are that Perlstein is talking about.

I was amused, incidentally, that one of the people Fallows talked to was Dick Lamm, who has specialized in prophecies of doom and starkly misanthropic tough-talk for his entire political career. If he says we're in a cycle of decline, I'm not sure that's terribly different from any other period he's experienced.

I have no idea who these perilously blithe people are that Perlstein is talking about

Really?

Have you met the media? Have you met most of the celebrity-obsessed, under informed, disinterested populace?

Great post Eric. Dare I say it's very nearly Hilzoy-proof?

In about 150 Rome was up in arms about China and how much gold and silver was flowing to them because rich Romans had to have silk. China would not buy anything from Rome and took all the silver and gold.

In the 19th century England was up in arms about China about all the silver that was flowing to them because English had to have their tea. China would not buy anything back and only wanted silver. (So England dumped Indian opium on China until Mao killed the addiction with a death penalty for users in the 20th century.)

In 2009 America was up in arms about China and all the T-bills flowing there because America has to have flat screen TVs and toys. China would not buy anything from America and won't let their money float against the world currencies.

Bad old Chinese being addicted to money! We need our MTV! Bastards!

Addiction is a terrible thing . . . .

This should be a warning to the Europeans, who are slowly moving to a European government that will eventually mimic ours. The concept of our government is unfathomable over an extended period of time to the "people".

At each step in our governments evolution we have stepped further frorm the original balance between state and federal rights and obligations. Two votes in the Senate was not meant to represent the population, it was meant to recognize the rights of the state as an equal part of the Republic. However, that concept is lost on or dismissed by, seemingly, even the intelligent people writing and being quoted here. The states, as they joined, specifically accepted the overall rule of the government based on having an equal say in the Senate. No amount of time should reduce the importance of that contract.

That lack of understanding has consequences. The federal government has imposed requirements, restrictions and mandates on the states beyond what the founders ever conceived, and the states (to their own detriment) have ceded much of their autonomy to the wallet of the Feds.

Those consequences would mean, in the future European model, that all of those countries in the European Union would have to implement Healthcare in the same way. Even Canada doesn't have that level of control, they just mandate certain levels and the Provinces find solutions. A mandate of levels of HC provided to the states would have at least left some flexibility, even as an unwarranted intrusion on states rights.

If we are in a downward spiral, something I believe, it is because we don't understand the concepts of the government we have, not because it is old or bad or inflexible. Each step toward more power in the central government reduces the peoples sense of being represented by someone who is "like" them.

Tip O'Neill famously stated that all politics is local, not so much anymore. Now most politics is national and people barely know who their state rep is.

Marty,

Could you elaborate on what you think is sacrificed by lessening the importance of states?

I can tell you what a structure like the Senate means in terms of results (tiny portion of population controls too much say) but I want to understand further the implications for the loss of primacy of the states.

Thanks.

This should be a warning to the Europeans, who are slowly moving to a European government that will eventually mimic ours.

Not at all, Marty. Rather, the US stands as a splendid example of beta-mode democracy deliberately destroyed by corporate power.

US corporations hate European democracy with a passion, because in Europe a corporation is not a person - and US-standard lobbying is either illegal or offenive.

Hence the regular jeremiads from corporate media about the AWFULNESS of European democracy... which we would not hear, believe you me, if only the EU's governments and legislatures and institutions were as spinelessly cooperative with US corporations as the US government is.

Eric,

Population is a consequence of many things. One historical driver of population centers is the massive centralization of manufacturing jobs. That centralization of jobs created its own set of opportunities and challenges for the states where they invested in building and encouraging those industries. Sometimes, though granted not always, that was a state committment to improving and expanding its tax base to grow revenue and invest more in infrastructure etc. In other states those incentives have not been as aggressive because they didn't want the trade off of the problems with rapid expansion or infrastructure requiremments to pay for and maintain.

The priorities of the states in terms of growth, set asides for state and national parks, lifestyles should not be controlled by the excesssive populations of other states. The huge population in New York should not be able to decide the zoning requirements of Wyoming, and the more centralized control in those population centers might become, the more specific issues they use the power for.

Gun control laws are a much more important idea in New York city than in rural Montana. But the central government takes up the issue for discussion regularly.

In the beginning, the point was to get concurrence from the majority of the states to get something passed that affected everyone, if one state wanted it, it could just pass it in that state.

Actually, it makes the Nelson deal make sense. To agree to something he didn't believe most of the people in his state were not really for, he got something for the state. 100 Million isn't insignificant from a state budget standpoint. The problem is that many in his state still didn't think it was a good deal.

On rare occasion there are things outside the defense of the nation that truly are national issues. Civil rights, in particular, impacted the nation as a whole because it impacted the ability of people to participate as equals in society and, despite the focus on the South it affected people everywhere.

One of my questions on HCR, for example, is how many uninsured are there in each of these states. Maybe its not such a pressing issue in Nebraska because the number is small, but a huge problem in New York. Not really such a problem in Massachusetts because we already have universal coverage, nobody new gets covered we just get to pay more.

Again, all those people in Washington that felt universal HC was so critical could have done what Massachusetts did and passed it in their state.

So I just reread this, and granted it's a little all over the place it has been a while since I had this discussion. That shouldn't detract from the core point that the government is a contract with the people, through a contract with the state governments and that is the way it was designed.

No amount of time should reduce the importance of that contract.

If that "should" is an opinion and not a law of the universe, fine.

As a law of the universe, I don't buy it. There's not much in our collective life that wouldn't benefit from reconsideration as the centuries go by and circumstances change. We might review and decide to keep things as they are, or we might review and decide we need to adjust some things, but there's nothing sacred about the original balance; that's why we have a system for amending the original agreement.

As to the specifics of the balance, the original "contract" was never static. The particular balance in the original contract had to do with a lot of things, one of which was slavery. One reason the balance changed was because a war was fought, one outcome of which was that the federal government took it upon itself to say: no more slavery, we're taking that choice away from the states. Personally I don't think that's a bad thing.

At each step in our governments evolution we have stepped further frorm the original balance between state and federal rights and obligations.

IMO the "each" in "each step" is a bit of an overstatement, but that's a nit. This is IMO a thoughtful and accurate comment. Power has moved to the feds, especially since the Civil War. And a lot of the social and culturally oriented issues that Americans fight over would be, I think, less vexing if their resolution was delegated to the states.

That said, the historical problem with keeping federal hands off has been that "state's rights" has quite often translated in practical terms to serious impairment of lots of individuals' rights.

This is most obvious in the area of race, but also comes up elsewhere, frex religion (Missouri's attempts to declare itself a Christian state) and women's rights (notably reproductive rights, but not limited to that).

In principle I'm in favor of delegating a lot of what the feds do now to the states, for many of the reasons you cite, but in practice I'm against it, or at least am highly suspicious of it, because historically it's resulted in real-world deprivation of civil rights.

It's highly, as in extremely, likely that in a more federated polity, there would be places in this country where (at a minimum) separate but equal would still be the law, where polygamy and marriage to what are now considered minors would be normal, where women would not have access to contraception, where Christianity would be the official religion, and where common, virtually universally accepted scientific principles would not be taught to kids.

Among other things.

I'm not sure we have the balance completely correct now, but I also don't find the above to be particularly appealing either. And not just out of cultural preference.

Rather, the US stands as a splendid example of beta-mode democracy deliberately destroyed by corporate power.

Also spot-on. Thanks Jes.

"As a law of the universe, I don't buy it."

As long as there is the option to not be a part of the United States given to each of the states when presented with the new rules of joining, I suppose this could be ok. Although it would be a false choice in most cases as most states don't have the ability to exist on their own anymore. So there is an amendment process and it requires the concurrence of the majority of states.

This is one of those arguments that only occurs when the majority of headcount agrees with you. When the majority is against you but the states pass laws in your favor then it is ok.

The states, as they joined, specifically accepted the overall rule of the government based on having an equal say in the Senate.

I think there is more myth than reality to this story. Few of the states were ever sovereign entities. Hawaii and Texas were, and California was for about 25 minutes. You might stretch a point and claim the original thirteen were semi-sort of sovereign for a bit, but the vast majority of the states were created by the federal government on land purchased or conquered.

In other words, most states had nothing to do with the creation of the federal government - quite the opposite - and yielded no sovereignty to join.

it was meant to recognize the rights of the state as an equal part of the Republic. However, that concept is lost on or dismissed by, seemingly, even the intelligent people writing and being quoted here.

The concept is not lost on me or, I bet, others here. I just think it's a bad idea. It was a necessary compromise at the time, but one which has long since become dysfunctional. And remember that it was a pragmatic compromise - not a grand principle. Like most such, it works only for a while and under the specific conditions under which it was reached.

This is one of those arguments that only occurs when the majority of headcount agrees with you.

Are you referring to me, since I'm the one who made the argument you're addressing? If so, maybe you should stop assuming you can read my mind.

Those consequences would mean, in the future European model, that all of those countries in the European Union would have to implement Healthcare in the same way.

I'll defer to Jesurgislac on this, but my hunch is that if Brussels ever told the British that they "had" to dismantle the NHS (or, for that matter, told the French that they had to create one), it would mean the end of the great European experiment tout de suite. Not gonna happen.

"I'll defer to Jesurgislac on this, but my hunch is that if Brussels ever told the British that they "had" to dismantle the NHS (or, for that matter, told the French that they had to create one), it would mean the end of the great European experiment tout de suite. Not gonna happen."

Exactly.

Janie,

It actually was a more generic observation, not specific.

In principle I'm in favor of delegating a lot of what the feds do now to the states, for many of the reasons you cite, but in practice I'm against it, or at least am highly suspicious of it, because historically it's resulted in real-world deprivation of civil rights.

Russell,

I think it's important to keep in mind a distinction between decentralized decision-making and state sovereignty. Lots of decisions are sensibly made at the local or regional level, but that can happen without setting up the sorts of conflicts that a separate set of powers for the states leads to.

In addition, of course, however decentralized you want some things to be, the federal government isthe place to deal with national issues. On those matters, it seems foolish to me to base representation on artificial geographic boundaries, rather than population.

Exactly.

OK...in that case, I obviously completely failed to get your point, Marty. I'm not getting the US/EU analogy you're drawing on any level.

I think the reason a lot of people were dismayed after Obama's election is that they were hoping for a massive turnaround in government priorities, away from wars and towards public investment in the US, whether that's infrastructure, science, education, or healthcare. Obama is certainly to blame for the extremely conservative line taken on financial matters, but when it comes to much of the rest - for instance the shocking lack of public investment in the stimulus bill caused by diverting much of the spending to tax cuts - the Senate is to blame, and specifically a few Senators from small states.

Fallows is right about the staggering wealth of the US though. The GDP-per-capita figures do not tell the whole story: stuff in America is cheap compared to Europe, and tax rates are relatively low. But beyond that, the countries who have GDP-per-cap levels over about $35k are mostly small countries, many of them oil-rich. But America's $47k/cap is not the result of oil wealth, or of any other single natural resource, or of one single economic sector. It is not the result of an export-oriented economy that sucks up the money from other countries. It is the result of a quite extraordinary economic health, extraordinary productivity levels among workers, and extraordinary amounts of innovation.

This is not a very popular viewpoint to take as a liberal. But I moved here having grown up in the UK, and the difference in relative levels of wealth was very apparent. (That's not why I moved, or at least not the main reason - I came to San Francisco because I was up to my neck in online culture, but then, that culture is a product of America too.)

But as we saw in the last decade, just because the US is spectacularly wealthy doesn't mean that it can be complacent. The great American industrial machine is adept at increasing productivity. That's a good thing as long as jobs are available for those laid-off and replaced with machinery. I don't think layoffs are bad - I think a system that doesn't provide anything for the laid-off to do is bad. But if we were still at 1900 levels of productivity we would be living at 1900 levels of comfort, and those were not very comfortable at all for most people.

The problem is one of distribution. The US economy produces great wealth. But it does so based on three large "pumps" of economic activity. The first and largest is consumer spending. The other two are public investment and private investment. The annual output of the economy is divided between those areas based on the amount of money pumped through them.

The problem of the last decade has been that conservatives have been attacking two of the big pumps. They've been attacking the consumer-spending pump through measures that reduce the bargaining power of employees, in order to increase the profitability of business. So wages have lagged productivity gains. For a while in the mid-00s that problem was concealed (and wage pressures tempered) by an exceptional increase in loose credit, especially borrowing against home equity; it became a self-reinforcing spiral when equity values seemed to balloon as loose money for mortgages became available. Of course we know how that ended: with a great erosion of household wealth, a mountain of bad debt, and a collapse in housing values.

So here we are looking at a consumption pump that's not working full-speed. But it's worse than that. The other task of the conservatives in the last decade was to attack the public investment pump. That was done to reduce the taxes paid by the wealthy. The effects of this were more evident than the damage to the consumption pump. Bridges collapse. Freeways decay. Schools degrade. Tuition increases.

Private investment is largely a function of the other two pumps. It is based on the expectation of future consumption and future public investment. You don't build a factory for the public benefits it provides: you do it because you expect to reap a reward. The mistake of the conservatives has been in seeing private investment as the main engine of the economy. It is not: it is purely secondary to consumption and public investment.

Still, both of those pumps do still work and keep enormous amounts of money moving through the system. But that's not good enough, as we've seen. As productivity increases, wages have to increase to provide enough consumption to employ the displaced workers. If that doesn't happen, it can be fixed by increasing public investment until you're back at full employment. But what you can't do is keep the total amount of wages and public investment constant while productivity increases. It doesn't work like that.

But I'm an optimist even though the institutional barriers to change are very large, and even though the mostly-parasitic banking sector is very powerful, and even though corporate interests tend to get their way. We see with the health bill and some of the stimulus bill a real change in direction towards public investment, even though it is an extremely painful process. The last decade showed that the direction that the conservatives took did not work. At all. That was what I thought at the time, but now we have the proof.

And I think most people took note. That's why Obama won and the Democrats swept Congress. Now what we need is for the Senate to catch up with where the rest of us are. And they are coming, albeit very slowly.

The big danger is the Republican attempt to confuse and cloud what just happened. But I think people are smarter than that. The trick will be to counter the wild disinformation that is being put out through right-wing media channels and often echoed in the mainstream press. I don't know how someone can look at the last ten years compared to the preceding fifty and say that something didn't go badly wrong, but apparently they can.

I do think that any Republican resurgence will be very short-lived. People are impatient for the Democrats to show results, and they could certainly do better. But the Republicans have nothing. In power they cannot govern effectively. My biggest worry is that the big problems in the Senate will simply block all effective attempts to change anything at all, but again, that will be something that can be pinned on the Senate, and ever-so-slowly I expect people to catch onto that.

When it comes to China, Fallows gets it. I'm thrilled that China is developing so fast and hopeful that they will be good friends of the US. I don't see much reason they won't be. But the immense distance still to go there, and the need to maintain enormous growth rates into the future, mean that they are extremely vulnerable to economic setbacks, and there is no economy immune to setbacks. In the US we can shrug off a year of -1% growth. In China that would be a disaster. And it will happen one of these years. As the man said: "It's only when the tide goes out that you see who has been swimming naked." That's going to be a pretty ugly sight in China after a decade or two of boom times.

Hawaii and Texas were

And Vermont. Longer than Texas was, for that matter.

I think it's important to keep in mind a distinction between decentralized decision-making and state sovereignty.

That's a good point, and an important distinction.

I'm not in favor of state sovereignty. If you want to be in the US, you surrender your sovereignty.

Stuff like speed limits, gun laws, etc., make sense to me as local issues to resolve.

Stuff like labor laws, public safety regulations, less so, but perhaps arguable.

Stuff like civil rights, not at all.

"OK...in that case, I obviously completely failed to get your point, Marty. I'm not getting the US/EU analogy you're drawing on any level."

My point is that no one is going to ask how many people Belgium has, they will get the vote that protects their decision making and the UK will get their decision making vote. So no one will cede that right willingly. Nor will any state. But it could become an unintended conseqquence of a European Union that looks much like the first 13 colonies from an agreement standpoint.

I suspect that a vote in the Senate would not be close on this issue.

The high population states would probably recognize the ability of other states, given that voting criteria, to just add lots of people as fast as possible by any means.

I think the unintended consequence of this would be the merging of states to increase population as a percentage of total representation. We could end up with South State, West State, Upper Midwest and Northeast State competing for people and, ultimately, creating a real risk of a non United States.

My biggest worry is that the big problems in the Senate will simply block all effective attempts to change anything at all,

For clarity, both parties have been doing this for decades. The Republican conservative agenda that you say failed so miserably over the last ten years was bare bones. It would have been interesting to see the financial agenda actually implemented, judges not blockedd, appointments not blocked, legislation and budgets not declared dead on arrival. Then i would take this more seriously. This just the majority party standard line about the minority.

Lastly, there is a difference between distributed decision making and states rights. Both are helpful. But states rights ensure that the people whose total life experience is within 12 miles of Manhattan or 50 miles of LA aren't making decisions for how the other 99% of the country live and vice versa.

But states rights ensure that the people whose total life experience is within 12 miles of Manhattan or 50 miles of LA aren't making decisions for how the other 99% of the country live and vice versa.

States rights ensure that a small group of powerful people can deny basic human rights to a larger number, without any overriding authority to say "no, you can't do that".

The standard "states rights" - the ability of the few to deny human rights to the many - is something that countries in the European Union have already surrendered. To join the EU, a state must abide by the Copenhagen criteria - which includes the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, must demonstrate respect for and protection of minorities, must show functional democratic governance, and must abide by the rule of law. Those "states rights" have already been given up: which is why the EU is superior to the US in democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for minorities, and the envious reaction that we'll eventually be as bad as you because we'll override "states rights" is just... ignorant.

The US wouldn't qualify to join the EU by the Copenhagen criteria. Not by half.

But states rights ensure that the people whose total life experience is within 12 miles of Manhattan or 50 miles of LA aren't making decisions for how the other 99% of the country live and vice versa.

Not for nothing, but the combined populations of the NYC metro area and greater LA is about 30 million people, or about 10%, not 1%, of the population of the US.

So, I take your point, but you're off by an order of magnitude.

And believe me when I tell you that for every "heartland" American who thinks their precious lifestyle is being impinged upon by some coastal elite, there's at least one urbanite whose life is affected by a Senator from a state whose total population is not much larger than the county I live in.

Just to pound on this a bit more, the population of the NYC metro area is just short of 19 million, which makes it more populous than all but three states.

Metro NYC has more people in it than any one of 47 states.

A lot of freaking people live in cities. If they wield a lot of influence, it's because a lot of people live there.

And to be honest, from where I sit, urbanites don't affect policy anywhere near in proportion to the amount of the population that they represent.

Just saying.

The Republican conservative agenda that you say failed so miserably over the last ten years was bare bones.

Er... really? Massive tax cuts instituted immediately. At least one unnecessary and unfunded trillion-dollar war and arguably two. Massive unfunded spending on Medicare Part D. Massive unfunded federal spending all around, in fact. Republican nominees running all federal agencies with very noticeable effects on policy. I mean geez, if this is bare bones, I'd hate to see what full-fledged implementation would look like. I'm not sure the patient would survive the operation.

"Not for nothing, but the combined populations of the NYC metro area and greater LA is about 30 million people, or about 10%, not 1%, of the population of the US."

Actually I was referring to area rather than population in the 98%, probably off the other way by the same magnitude.

And

" "heartland" American who thinks their precious lifestyle is being impinged upon by some coastal elite"

"precious lifestyle"? this is an odd perspective from you Russell. Should they not care?

"A lot of freaking people live in cities. If they wield a lot of influence, it's because a lot of people live there."

So, in an ideal world for me, they should have the ability to effect huge changes that impact them, not the people who don't live in a city of 19M people out of choice.

I don't see how this does anything but make my point.

And I guess this is going to be what conservatives have to say about the miserable statistics of the 00s. But look, there are very direct causal links from the things that Republicans did to the problems that they caused.

Stagnant wages? You don't think 8 years of violently anti-labor, pro-business policy and regulation had anything to do with that? Did it just happen on its own? The housing bubble? That had nothing to do with bank deregulation? Gigantic budget deficit - clearly nothing to do with huge tax cuts and massive spending. Huge cost of the war in Iraq - nuthin' to do with Republicans! La la la la la!

This stuff isn't like the weather. It didn't happen on its own. Republicans did it (sometimes with the assistance of some extremely dumb Democrats).

Seriously, you guys have to come up with some better answers. You totally blew it. You got to implement a bunch of stuff on your long-term wish-list (not all of it) and the result was spectacular disaster. Now you want to say that was because the Democrats didn't let you implement enough of this agenda? What, one more war in the Middle East would've fixed everything? If only we'd let Bush really deregulate the banks there wouldn't have been a housing crash? If we'd privatized Social Security there would have been a 20-year economic boom? What is the theory here other than "arguing by making stuff up"?

Jacob,

Funny how all that unfunded government spending was passed by Congress after Congress Republican, Democratic and pretty well split. I love how the Republicans get blamed for what a split and/or Democratic Congress did over the last 8 years. The second war is now the "war of necessity" that the Republicans didn't spend enough on. No Bush budget was ever passed.

"Seriously, you guys have to come up with some better answers. You totally blew it."

Housing crash was directly caused by Democratic policy implemented under Clinton, actually the single biggest contributor to the challenges of the 00's. The ability to expand the mortgage pool almost infinitely was a direct result of that policy change. When money became availabe after the dot com bust it was the easiest place to put it and then, the Republicans didn't manaage the leverage adequately. But, without trillions of dollars of mortgages at 95% or 100% of value for people who had little chance to pay them over time that problem wouldn't have existed.

It is popular and easy to blame the administration in power for financial issues but the continuum of Congressional decisions across adminstrations has more impact that any single administration policy. The Bush tax cut was incredibly modest by comparison to the stimulus money being talked about and spent now, but somehow that amount of money caused all this? We can now spend a trillion a year more and it is going to take 10 years to fix it but his 300B deficits caused the problem? These numbers don't add up.

Most of the points you make are nothing more than political rhetoric to ensure the Democrats gained control.

Yes, and the dog ate your homework, I know.

Bush had 4 years of Republican control of both the House and Senate, and 6 years of Republican control of the House with the Democrats having a bare margin of 0 or 1 votes in the Senate (and unlike the Republicans, not filibustering every single thing that the Senate tried to do).

The Bush 2001 tax cuts passed the House with 211 Republicans in favor, and 28 Democrats in favor with 153 opposed. So I guess that was a "split" decision, right? Definitely unfair to lay that at the feet of the Republicans.

The Bush 2003 tax cuts passed the House with 224 Republicans in favor, and 7 Democrats in favor with 198 opposed. 2 Senate Democrats voted for it... along with 48 Republicans.

The Iraq War Resolution could more reasonably be described as "split", but even there the responsibility has to overwhelmingly fall on the party that overwhelmingly voted for it (as well as the party whose President championed it). In the House, 215-6 Republicans were for-against, and 82-126 Democrats. In the Senate, Republicans were 48-1 and Democrats were 29-21.

The fact that Democrats had nominal control of the Senate until 2002 and the House after 2006 does not change the fact that the policies that were passed (with a few Democratic votes) were Republican policies, not Democratic policies, and were mostly overwhelmingly opposed by Democratic representatives. It is wildly dishonest to claim otherwise.

" (and unlike the Republicans, not filibustering every single thing that the Senate tried to do)."

Unlike the Democrats the Republicans didn't throw every right wing policy into the legislative process hoping to get them all passed, because they knew which ones would be filibustered so they didn't bother. The Dems now throw everything in to create the just say no mantra. But they actually get to pass some even over the filibuster.

The facts you are using are reasonably accuraate but with no context.

Jacob,

No doubt, Iraq was Bushes war.

Bush's tax cuts cost $300bn? Really?

http://www.ctj.org/pdf/bushtaxcutsvshealthcare.pdf

"The Bush tax cuts cost almost $2.5 trillion over the decade after they were first enacted (2001-2010)."

Housing crash was directly caused by Democratic policy implemented under Clinton, actually the single biggest contributor to the challenges of the 00's. The ability to expand the mortgage pool almost infinitely was a direct result of that policy change.

Which policies. Name them. Explain their mechanism of effect. Explain why that effect did not happen until Bush was in office. Explain why Bush did not have the opportunity to change those policies. Explain why the 8 years of regulatory authority that the Bush administration had prior to the crash were not enough for them to identify and rectify the systemic causes of the bubble and crash.

The policy was the lowering of mortgage criteria by the Congress from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae mortgages to allow mortgagess with little or no down payments and up to 100% of the appraised avlue, while lowering the income requirements. This was a bill championed by Barney Frank, etal and implemented, with some opposition by Republicans, at the end of Clintons presidency. While it was touted as helping low income people achieve home ownership but it impacted mortgages at all levels.

That plus the explosion of credit lines on houses (same legislation) to pay for spending for people who might have had adequate equity.

It created the time bomb that exploded as the first recession we hit lowered housing values, spending and the cycle accelerated as people ran out of credit to cover houses they couldn't afford, less spending more fear, more recession. Then the leverage on what had historically been the absolute safest invesstment(mortgages) in the world collapsed. Interestingly in 2005 the Republicans tried to get this fixed and the Democrats blocked it.

All that being said i think the Republican administration should have made fixing it a higher priority, but it is the continuum of policies and mistakes over time and across administrations that got us here. Not the Republican deregulation in x year.

Much like the security issues we have today aren't Bushes leftovers or Obamas lack of focus, they just are where we are at.

Hmmm, Marty. Maybe you should read this article. It talks about who did what when, and you might note the things that happened between 2000 and 2004.

Jesurgislac: "Hence the regular jeremiads from corporate media about the AWFULNESS of European democracy... which we would not hear, believe you me, if only the EU's governments and legislatures and institutions were as spinelessly cooperative with US corporations as the US government is."

Not to deny the undue influence of corporations on the U.S. government, but I've never heard those "regular jeremiads". And last I heard Berlusconi owns about 1/2 of the Italian media market. So I'm not sure that Europe is immune from the intermingling of corporate/governmental power. I'm not sure in what ways Jesurgislac suggests that Europe is a far superior government. (That said, I certainly admire Europe's longstanding public transportation infrastructure and healthcare system.)

As to Jesurgislac's claim that Europe is superior to the U.S. because "To join the EU, a state must abide by the Copenhagen criteria", I'm not sure how the United States Constitution is less comprehensive in its demand that states show respect for minorities, functional democratic governance, and adherence to the rule of law.

"precious lifestyle"? this is an odd perspective from you Russell. Should they not care?

It's a pet peeve.

If I hear one more tale of a worthy heartlander whose values and lifestyle are being imposed upon by some coastal liberal elitist, I'm gonna puke. And I'm gonna puke right on the shoes of whoever is telling the tale.

Sure, they should care. And they should have an influence on public policy commensurate with their numbers and their contribution to the nation as a whole.

As mentioned upthread, I have no problem with decisions about lots and lots of things being delegated to the states in principle. I do have lots of problems with how the doctrine of states rights has played out in practice, historically, in lots of cases.

So it's an interesting concept, but as is so often the case, the devil is in the details.

And yeah, if and when we ever want to make it easier for folks to get credit to buy a house, I'm all for limiting that to folks at lower income levels. Rich folks don't need it.

Russell, so in a broader sensw should the people in rural middle America have any less say in contrast to the 19M new yorkers than those new yorkers should have in contrast to say, a few Billion Chinese? Not being flip, honest, by your standard of one person one vote with no consideration then Iraq is a pure Sunni government, but the worl just does what the Chinese and Indians agree on. I like our way better.

Back to the optimism/pessimism question.

I got through most of the Fallows essay, though I skimmed the last few paragraphs in about half a second. This quote from DeLong and Cohen early on struck me: The American standard of living will decline relative to the rest of the industrialized and industrializing world.

Taking this assertion on its face, my immediate reactions are: So what, it’s about time, and I certainly hope so.

The statement is ambiguous, and perhaps purposely inflammatorily or pessimistically framed. It would be equally true whether the US standard of living declined in absolute terms from today while the rest of the world stayed the same, or the US standard of living stayed the same while the rest of the world rose toward our standard, or even if the US standard rose but the rest of the world’s rose even more. I don’t see why two of those three possibilities should be a problem. And I doubt I’d mind if the average US standard of living declined some, as long as, at the same time, the gap between the top and the bottom within the US narrowed back to something more reasonable, just, and humane.

Or in other words, a lot of us, both within the US, and in the US taken as a whole in comparison with the rest of the world, have too d*mned much more than our fair share of the pie. If a US “decline” means that we gobble less and a billion Chinese people get indoor plumbing, I simply don’t see the problem.

And before someone comes along and suggests that it’s within my power to consume less but I have no right to ask/expect anyone else to do so (echoing suggestions from a tax rate debate a while back where someone suggested that those of us who think the tax rate should be higher are free to pay more voluntarily): I live pretty simply, though I still may well be consuming more than a global fair share; it’s hard to tell. I won’t bother to elaborate since that’s not the topic at hand. But I also think I have every right to hope for and work toward a world where the goods (of all kinds) are more evenly and fairly distributed than they are at the moment.

I will leave for later or some other time the question of precisely how sad I would be if the US “declined” by ceasing to “account for roughly 40 percent of global military spending.”

So -- I’m kind of pessimistic, but more about our internal politics, neglect of infratstructure, etc., than about “decline” in relation to the rest of the world. Whether I have reason to be, whether we’re in more trouble now than at other periods of our history, including some that I remember first-hand, I don’t know.

Not being flip, honest, by your standard of one person one vote with no consideration then Iraq is a pure Sunni government, but the worl just does what the Chinese and Indians agree on. I like our way better.

Well... if you're honestly not being flip, then you'd best be agitating for the faceless monolithic states to delegate power downward to the counties or municipalities. No reason for those 19 million in NYC to be able to pretend they know what's best for the folks in Sherrill, nor for the 5 million urbanites in Houston to decree how the far-flung rural reaches of Texas ought to be governed.

The point being, obviously, that I suspect you're not actually in favor decentralized rule as a principle unto itself; you're just drawing your (arbitrary) line of acceptable democratic agglomeration at a different level than russell. Which is perfectly fine, but it makes your invocation of China and India meaningless. And/or flip. ;)

Sapient: I'm not sure how the United States Constitution is less comprehensive in its demand that states show respect for minorities, functional democratic governance, and adherence to the rule of law.

Because the Copenhagen criteria are actually (a) taken seriously (b) enforced.

You live in a country where states still pass bans on same-sex couples marrying or having a legal partnership registered - and where Congress and Senate in 1995 passed a partial-repeal of the US Constitution to make it legal for the states disrespecting the rights of minorities to ignore legal marriages performed in other states. That's just one example, but it is a pretty damn blatant one.

We could move on to the US's lack of functional democratic governance, if you like; or cover the lack of respect for the rule of law, next?

Could someone please look where my pretty long and elaborate post went (filter, eaten by typepad?)
General content: Europe has its severe weaknesses too but it is still a work-in-progress.

"Stuff like speed limits, gun laws, etc., make sense to me as local issues to resolve.

Stuff like labor laws, public safety regulations, less so, but perhaps arguable.

Stuff like civil rights, not at all."

Until you repeal the 2nd amendment, stuff like gun laws ARE "stuff like civil rights".

Russell, so in a broader sensw should the people in rural middle America have any less say in contrast to the 19M new yorkers than those new yorkers should have in contrast to say, a few Billion Chinese?

Look, here was your statement:

But states rights ensure that the people whose total life experience is within 12 miles of Manhattan or 50 miles of LA aren't making decisions for how the other 99% of the country live and vice versa.

As a strict statement of fact, it's a reasonable statement. IMO decisions made by folks in different parts of the country don't actually have as much impact on folks in other parts than is indicated by your comment, and the reasons for that probably don't rely all that much on the doctrine of states' rights. But broadly, it's a reasonable statement. If we had a more decentralized polity, the impact would be even less.

The tone gets up my nose. Not least because the populations you refer to are 10%, not 1%, of the total. The urban strip from DC to Boston is 17% of the population. The "coastal elites", as a group, happen to be a lot of people, happen to create a huge amount of the wealth of the nation, and happen to embody a lot of what this country is.

My personal heartland has deep roots in Brooklyn, Queens, and Orange NJ.

Net/net, you're walking on the fighting side of me.

But that's my problem, not yours.

The substantive problem here that your question does not address is that we *all* are making decisions, all the time, that affect *all* of the rest of us. There are better and worse ways to sort that out.

In an international context, there is no sovereign entity that can step in, knock heads, and make everyone play nice. So we participate in negotiations and treaties, impose sanctions tariffs and other rules on each other, go to war, or just suck it up and live with it.

In an intranational context, there is a sovereign entity that can step in and sort thing out if needed. That would be the federal government.

There is no bright and clear line defining what things should be the purview of the feds, and what should be delegated. So, we argue about it.

Historically, the doctrine of states' rights has been embraced to justify a freaking world of pain for a lot of people. The kinds of causes that inspire calls for a decentralized polity these days don't really inspire me either, although I'm sure they're important to somebody.

So, net/net, I'm skeptical that a "states' rights" style delegation of policy making to local governments would be so great. It's an interesting concept, but I'm not sure how beautiful the reality would be.

My two cents.

Brett, noted, and in fact I can't think of a place in the country where ownership of a firearm is flat out not allowed.

"The policy was the lowering of mortgage criteria by the Congress...." blah, blah, blah. The post that followed is a blatant pack of lying crap not supported by the data, the history, the alleged legislation, or even common sense. It is a remarkably disingeneous attempt to blame Clinton (for everything).

Further, the GOP had 8 years to correct this, but they.....cheered it on.

Cheap propaganda. Nothing new here.

bobbyp, actually its a pretty accurate representation of the facts, pointing out the architect of many of these problems was Barney Frank. Nothing new is also accurate.

Actually, Marty, you are dead wrong. Your interpretation of events regarding the causes of the housing bubble is wildly inaccurate and misleading to the point of mendacity.

"Brett, noted, and in fact I can't think of a place in the country where ownership of a firearm is flat out not allowed."

Only because we've fought all out, and got called fanatics for it. And there are areas where it comes damn close to flat out not allowed, even now.

About that “precious lifestyle” business -- I’ve been p*ssed off about this at least since Dan Quayle went around demagoguing about “real Americans.”

I come at it from (at least) two angles, my family history and my sexual orientation. I’ll put them in 2 separate comments.

Family history: my dad was the son of Italian Catholic immigrants; my mother was a rural Baptist with lines of ancestry running back to the 1640’s in Connecticut. If there is an “American story,” it is both those stories, plus my story as the intersection of theirs, and many others.

Last summer I had the pleasure of taking my great-niece, just 5 years old, on an outing, the first we had ever gone on alone together. Speaking of precious, she had already, in her young life, been through a bout with cancer and a string of aftermath infections that kept her in the hospital for a month, and she was now back to good health. We went to the mall for books, pizza, and some time at the indoor playground.

As we were rounding a corner in the mall we came upon a line of people, at the end of which was a group that included several women and children, all Latino. There was a little boy about the same size as, but a bit younger than, my great-niece (she is very very slender, and was even more so then). The two little ones were struck with each other: my niece stopped in front of the little boy, and they stood there gazing into each other’s eyes. She stroked his cheek, and they both smiled. All of us adults were smiling, and one of the women made a comment to the effect that the little boy had a girlfriend. Then we all parted, still smiling.

It was sweet. It was also upsetting, because looking inward I could see that my own reaction included a perceptible thread of a feeling that those people didn’t belong in “my” home town.

When I was growing up, there were two Italian neighborhoods and one black neighborhood. All the other ethnic/immigrant groups had dispersed; there were no longer any other strictly ethnic neighborhoods. In the hierarchy of prejudice, Italians were just above blacks. Catholics were below Protestants. No one admitted to being an atheist. There were no Asians, Hispanics, or Middle Easterners. There were Jews, but not so many as to cause issues, as far as I ever knew, except that they -- like Italians and blacks -- were not ever ever admitted to the country club.

As I prodded my feelings about the Latino folks at the mall -- and they are far from the only ones in town; even the “heartland” is pretty diverse these days, at least in a town of 20,000 -- I realized that they are in something like the position my dad’s parents were in when they first came to town. They are the newcomers. They are browner than the people who were there before them (except for the African-Americans, of course, but aren’t they always in their own unique position?). They are on average less well off. They speak with an accent, or maybe they don’t even speak English at all. They eat different food (maybe; these days I’m not so sure). They have different customs. The Italians and the Irish are already there, so their religion isn’t a novelty for once. But still: they’re different.

Rationally, as a matter of voting and public policy, all Americans equally Americans, from the newest-minted citizen to the DAR. Emotionally, the fact that there are now lots of Latino people in my home town is a change, and like most changes, it takes a little getting used to. It’s both a gain and a loss, even if the loss is just the loss of the past, or even the loss of a sentimental attitude about a past that wasn’t all that rosy when it was being lived.

So there’s a way in which I can find in my own heart a little sympathy for people who don’t want “their” lifestyle to change, who don’t want “their” America to change. The problem is, it’s not “their” America, and it never was. It’s “our” America. The fact that politicians generation after generation want to rile people up around this split into “real” Americans and the interlopers is one of the most depressing things about our politics.

Almost as a footnote, because very few of the people who are in a panic about the loss of “their” America are likely to care about or even admit it (someone who can say that if English was good enough for Jesus it’s good enough for Americans is not going to listen to a word I say): except for the Indians, every single person who is here, is here because they or some ancestor of theirs disturbed, disrupted, or destroyed someone else’s “precious lifestyle.” I think it was chmood who wrote in an ObWi thread a couple of months ago: they stole it fair and square, and no one’s going to take it from them.

Except that someone probably is, at least insofar as just living here is defined as “taking it from them” -- and it would be better for everyone to acknowledge the fact and get to work on figuring out how to live together peaceably.

***

I realize Russell was making a point about the “precious lifestyle” of self-styled heartlanders in contrast to the coastal “elites” -- and that’s a topic in its own right, which I won’t go into except to marvel that anyone in this country has the gall to consider Boston or Brooklyn as not being part of the “real” America.

Janie, Grear story, I grew up with Latinos, Blacks and poor whites spanning several neighborhoods in Dallas. Nothing I ever write reflects that any individual is less American. I have lived in Boston for 30 years. The discussion that somehow because people choose to live in highly populate urban areas that they should dictate the lifestyle of rural or small town people 1500 miles away seems ludocrous to me. Both ways.

Marty tells us that a Republican House of Representatives, led by Barney Frank, forced Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make bad mortgage loans. What forced outfits like Countrywide to make bad mortgage loans, or what Fannie and Freddie had to do with bad commercial real estate loans, Marty does not say. But never mind that.

What Marty really has to tell us is how Barney Frank forced the Wizards of Wall Street to package all those bad loans into "AAA" securities and sell them to each other -- and bet against those same securities, with AIG as their bookie.

--TP

"Nothing I ever write reflects that any individual is less American."

When the torchbearers and the spittle flected flamethrowing tea baggers of what passes for current conservative "thought" throw the term "real americans" onto the discussion table, they do exactly that. It is a mean spirited rhetorical bullying tactic deserving nothing short of derisive scorn and approbation.

Kinda ironic, actually, referring to a mass political movement as "tea baggers", and then complaining that somebody ELSE is "spittle flected".

To be fair I don't lay the direct causal blame for the housing bubble and crash mostly at the feet of the Republicans. That was mostly an institutional failure. But it was the Republicans who were supposed to notice that failure and do something about it. That's why they call it "the executive branch". It's not the "hey-I-sure-got-a-nice-desk branch". The point is to provide oversight and executive function. The ideological blinders of the Bush administration kept them from taking action.

But the housing bubble is not central to what I was talking about when I said that the Republicans spent a decade or so attacking two of the big economic pumps. It was not a single action that led to wage stagnation; it was the combination of hundreds of smaller decisions all pushing in the same direction: against labor. Similarly the attack on public investment was a question of priorities. A trillion dollars in Iraq was high priority. A trillion dollars on infrastructure, healthcare, education, or research in the US was unthinkable.

But anyway. I'm optimistic, in a nutshell, because this country is the one that elected FDR three times. It values results over ideology.

Jacob, for me one of the most depressing events of a depressing decade was that GWB was re-elected even after the revelations about Abu Graib (among other things). I guess I'm not as optimistic as you, because I'm not sure the country that elected Bush twice is any longer the same country that elected FDR. I would love to be proven wrong.

The discussion that somehow because people choose to live in highly populate urban areas that they should dictate the lifestyle of rural or small town people 1500 miles away seems ludocrous to me. Both ways.

Marty, the problem is in defining what a lifestyle is, and to what extent -- in probably the most diverse and mobile country in the history of the world -- anyone has the “right” to their own. As a gay person I see this up close and personal, and therefore I don’t just take at face value the notion of these pure heartlanders preserving their wholesome “real American” lifestyle in the face of contrary pressure from the godless elites or the immigrant hordes.

I’m not directing this at you personally, but you’re using words that are hot buttons for me after a long lifetime that has progressed from ignorance to hiding to coming out of hiding to a degree of outrage that the hiding was ever necessary, not to mention at the idea that I should go back into it.

The word lifestyle tends to hide as much as it reveals. People still go on about “the gay lifestyle” -- even though there are as many lifestyles among gay people as there are among any other vaguely definable group of peole. I led the rural fiddle-playing basketball-chauffering-mom lifestyle for many years, indistinguishable from that of my straight counterparts. But the people who use this phrase don’t mean that. They’re using a code, and what they really mean, among other things and as far as I can tell, is “people who I assume perform sex acts that I consider yucky.”

Conversely, that wonderful heartland lifestyle of “rural or small town people” is to some extent a code for “we don’t want to see any brown people or queers in our town, so the brown people can just stay away and the queers can just stay in hiding and pretend they’re straight (even if they’re our own sons and daughters), or get the hell out.”

There are lots of people in this country (not all of them in the “heartland,” for that matter) for whom my very existence, walking openly down the street as the person I happen to be, is taken to be a violation of their values and their lifestyle. To the extent that that’s the sense in which they’re being forced to relinquish their lifestyle, then, as I said in the previous comment, I have some sympathy with how hard change can be, but beyond the sympathy all I can say is: deal.

So when you talk about one set of people “dictating a lifestyle” to another set of people, what are you talking about?

If the urban elites (or someone, since that phrase too is an absurd overgeneralization) were telling the rural people that they had to be gay or brown or Catholic, or to speak Spanish or Italian or Arabic, that would indeed be an indefensible intereference in their right to live the way they want.

But if the urban elites (or someone) are telling rural and smalltown people that gay or brown or Muslim or Spanish-speaking people have as much right to be there as they do -- then that’s something else again.

As I’ve said before and will undoubtedly say again, it’s my world too. If being expected to share the world with me is a violation of someone’s "lifestyle," well again, I do know how challenging change can be, but their right to maintain their lifestyle does not extend that far.

To give an extreme example, I’m sure southern slaveowners considered their lifestyle precious; there are plenty of people still sentimentalizing about Dixie to this day. But however precious their lifestyle was to them, insofar as it depended on slave-owning they had no right to it, and the sooner some “bigger bully” came along and forced them to relinquish it the better. I’m not equating being gay with being a slave, I’m just trying to draw in the starkest terms possible the distinction between the idea of a “lifestyle” as the personal and private choices people make and have a right to make, and the idea of “lifestyle” that extends beyond the personal to dehumanizing or disappearing other people, or -- in the modern context -- simply denying other people their equal right to participate in our shared public life.

If part of your lifestyle is that you aren’t and don’t want to be gay, more power to you; I totally support your right not to be interfered with in that respect.

If part of your “lifestyle” is that you don’t want me to be gay without paying some kind of penalty to appease your prejudices, then I totally support efforts to interfere with your lifestyle in that respect.

And -- if this whole business of urbanites dictating to heartlanders isn’t about stuff like acceptance of gay people as ordinary fellow Americans, what is it about?

The discussion that somehow because people choose to live in highly populate urban areas that they should dictate the lifestyle of rural or small town people 1500 miles away seems ludocrous to me.

It *is* ludicrous. It's ludicrous because it doesn't happen.

To touch on your examples, the fact that a lot of Western land is public isn't particularly the fault of people in New York. Any more than the fact that most goods are shipped through NYC, LA, and NOLA is due to the whims of people in Utah.

A lot of land in the West is public because it's open and undeveloped. It's open and undeveloped because it doesn't support a high population density.

NYC, LA, and NOLA are big shipping points because they're near oceans. Most big cities are where they are because of some aspect of their inherent geography.

And for the record, the largest chunk of public land outside of Alaska is in New York State.

It's correct to say that the requirements for gun laws in Montana and NYC are quite different. Guess what? The actual gun laws in Montana and NYC *are quite different*.

The effect of any given person in NYC on the gun laws in Montana is approximately that of a butterfly sneeze. The effect of the entire population of NYC on the gun laws in Montana, in fact, probably approximates a butterfly sneeze.

Which is appropriate.

Here is a synopsis of the gun laws in Montana. In a nutshell, if you want to own and carry a firearm of any kind, you can, period. No license or permit required, with the exception that you need a permit for concealed carry if you're in town.

I'm guessing the citizens of NYC were not consulted when these laws were drawn.

I don't see what the freaking beef is.

The beef is simple, without the equity of representation in the Senate that would likely not be true.
I amm not advocating change, I was defending the current make up of the Senate.

I amm not advocating change, I was defending the current make up of the Senate.

Alrighty then. :)

And a correction to a statement of mine upthread -- the largest public *park* outside of AK is in NY.

Virtually all of the western states have significantly more public land as a percentage of total land area than anyplace east of the Mississippi, just not in the form of parks. It's BLM land, or Forestry service land, or Fish & Wildlife.

From another angle -- Legacy of Conquest, by Patricia Nelson Limerick, tells the story of the American west as involving, in part but from the beginning to this very day, the myth of the rugged independent westerner -- demanding freedom from federal interference on the one hand, and living on federal handouts on the other.

Subsidized logging, subsidized cattle-raising, subsidized railroads... It's not as simple as one part of the country gratuitously telling another part what to do. It never is.

The beef is simple, without the equity of representation in the Senate that would likely not be true.

I call BS on this whole notion that states' rights serve to protect the ability of the states to regulate or not regulate guns as they see fit.

It's a completely one-way street. No gun ownership advocate is willing to do anything to help Massachusetts, for example, have and enforce the gun laws it wants. That's why we have guns coming in to criminals from places like Virginia, where they yell about about states' rights a lot, meaning theirs, not other states'.

Apparently the deal is that urban areas aren't supposed to interfere with gun rights because that would offend rural folks and interfere with their lifestyle. But rural folks are under no obligation to do things, like close gun show loopholes, support registration or any other sort of record-keeping, etc., that might help urban areas implement their preferred policies. They get hysterical at the very idea and start raving about black helicopters or whatever.

Now, I'm sure Brett is going to come along and claim that the states should not in fact have the power to interfere with gun ownership. But if that's so, what do variations in gun laws have to do with the whole states vs. federal debate? Nothing.

So spare me the wonders of how states' rights let each state have the gun laws it prefers. It's complete nonsense.

Go Bernie! ;)

I call BS that the people in Virginia should be responsible to enforce Massachusetts gun laws, which is exactly the point.

I call BS that the people in Virginia should be responsible to enforce Massachusetts gun laws, which is exactly the point.

Oh really? You mean states have no obligation to assist other states in law enforcement? Anyway, they don't need to enforce them, just try not to help criminals subvert them. That's my whole point. Gun advocates exhibit not the slightest interest in states' rights when it comes to respecting MA gun laws, so it's more than a bit rich to claim gun law variations as a sterling example of how well federalism works.

"Kinda ironic, actually, referring to a mass political movement..."

Kinda ironic, actually, referring to tea baggers as a "mass political movement".

"I call BS that the people in (real america) should be responsible to enforce (over-reaching other states')laws"

I give you the pre civil war fugitive slave acts. Now, for some reason, the shoe in on the other foot. What could have caused that, I wonder?

"The beef is simple" (yes, but where is it?)

"...without the equity of representation in the Senate (how is representation wildly at variance with one person one vote in any sense 'equitable'?)

"...that would likely not be true" (depends).

"I was defending the current make up of the Senate" (because it suits your current political positions on some issues).

"I call BS that the people in Virginia should be responsible to enforce Massachusetts gun laws, which is exactly the point."

Terri Schiavo argues otherwise.

Apparently 'states rights' is great only on a selective basis, depending on the issue at hand. In other words, it is a principle totally lacking in principles.

"Kinda ironic, actually..."

You know what's ironic, Brett? It's ironic that you, like all conservatives, can't find the honesty to address the point made.

If you want to argue that using the term "real americans" is a legitimate form of political discourse, please make it. Otherwise, I ask for your silence.

Fair enough?

"Real Americans" is, of course, a legitimate form of political discourse. If used in reference to people who are only pretending to have American citizenship. So I'd say it might have some use in the context of illegal immigration, but not much else.

As far as national decline, I've observed before that our political system is rather like a PC that's been running without reboot too long. Our political class have accumulated so much "institutional knowledge" about how to circumvent constitutional restraints and neuter real democracy, that it's barely functional.

But I must still say, I can't be impressed with people who insist on juvenile insults like "tea bagger". And yet get all bent out of shape if somebody calls their party the "Democrat" party, instead of "Democratic".

Brett: I've observed before that our political system is rather like a PC that's been running without reboot too long.

Occasionally, Brett says things I agree with.

Of course the result of a reboot to make the US a functional democracy again would make Brett the Libertarian very, very unhappy - not least because (supposing the US were to self-impose the Copenhagen Criteria) - there's no reason in the world to suppose that the rebooted US would contain anything as 18th-century as a civil right to bear arms in a well-regulated militia.

I've said before that the gun-manufacturer's interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is an odd one for all purposes but the profitability of selling guns - since it entails ignoring the phrase "a well-regulated militia" which, more sensibly, would suggest that all US citizens have the legal right to serve in the National Guard. Ie, it's a Constitutional block against the bigotry behind "Don't Ask Don't Tell", just as it should have been a block against the bigotries against non-white soldiers serving equally....

But I must still say, I can't be impressed with people who insist on juvenile insults like "tea bagger".

If I have to go through the archives here at ObWi and find every time you've referred to politicians as "sociopaths," I'm going to fly to North Carolina and pimp slap you so hard your teeth will rattle, so I suggest you find a different line of argument.

And yet get all bent out of shape if somebody calls their party the "Democrat" party, instead of "Democratic".

As if referring to the Democratic party as "the Democrat party*" were not in itself almost nauseatingly puerile.


* BECAUSE THEY AREN"T DEMOCRATIC AT ALL LOL DO U SEE?

Jess, if the "reboot" were conducted in an even moderately democratic fashion, the inclusion of a right to keep and bear arms would be all but guaranteed. The Democratic party hasn't abandoned gun control as a campaign cause for no reason, they did it because gun control is political poison through most of the country.

And, yes, I'm sure I wouldn't like a rebooted US constitution as much as I like the current one. But what's the point of liking the current one? It's not really in force, anyway. And the degree of institutionalized dishonesty necessary to run a Leviathan state under the US Constitution warps our whole system of governance.

That is a key point in my constitutional thinking on the subject. We have a Leviathan state. We have a limited government Constitution. And in order to square this circle, we must have a dishonest political class. Leviathan states with Leviathan constitutions don't labor under that handicap.

Much as I like limited government, we'd actually be better off with a constitution which agreed with practice: It would at least be possible to staff the government with honest people, something that's impossible now.

Brett claimed: if the "reboot" were conducted in an even moderately democratic fashion, the inclusion of a right to keep and bear arms would be all but guaranteed.

We did our democratic reboot mostly in the 19th century, though it took nearly a century to complete: 1832-1929. (Admittedly, it was interrupted by several wars.) There have been electoral tinkerings since - the initiation of a more federal UK, with the Assemblies of Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Parliament of Scotland, all of which have a more democratic mandate in that a large proportion of candidates are elected by proportional representation, is probably most major one.

This democratic reboot had huge effects on the political landscape of the UK, to the extent that while the Tory Party still remains in name the same party as it was when it opposed the first Reform Act of 1832, in practice it has evolved to meet the changing political situation, as much as the LibDems and the Labour Party and all the other even newer parties.

The assertion that you know how the US would be governed, if (a) every person's vote were counted (b) the power of the corporations was broken, is fantasy in the highest degree.

But I'd note that, in the UK, after a lone gunman attacked a primary school and killed 16 children, the grassroots reaction was a fierce campaign for gun control, that grew by thousands in a matter of a few weeks. Their opposite numbers, who felt that even if a nutter had managed to kill a dozen kids this was no reason to restrict their legal right to own a gun, mustered in hundreds only.

The Tory government of the day, initially anti-gun control, looked at the figures - three hundred voters against thousands - and switched sides like greased lightning.

Any major political change brings smaller changes in its wake. It's possible that the US love-affair with uncontrolled gun ownership would survive a series of massacres of school children even without corporate lobbyists fighting for their profits... but you really have no idea, because your mind is corporately made up on this issue, and you can't think outside the box about what would happen to public opinion if the NRA in the US were as powerful as the BNP in the UK.

I'd note that you took one path, which now has you restricting ownership of excessively sharp butter knives, while the US took a different path, which has most of the states handing out concealed carry permits to anyone without a criminal record who undergoes a bit of training. The US is NOT the UK, thank goodness.

But I must still say, I can't be impressed with people who insist on juvenile insults like "tea bagger". And yet get all bent out of shape if somebody calls their party the "Democrat" party, instead of "Democratic".

Having previously displayed my vast ignorance of modern culture on this very site, I confess that the insulting nature of the term "tea-bagger" was unknown to me until recently. So when the tea-partiers decided to send teabags to Pelosi I saw nothing wrong with calling them teabaggers. I suspect that may be true of others as well.

As for referring to the "Democrat Party," it's as Phil says. It's a playground taunt, like repeatedly calling you "Butt Bellmore," or something equally asinine.

Let's see: Calling the tea party tea baggers just just natural, but calling a party you don't think is particularly democratic "Democrat" instead is asinine.

Nope, doesn't work for me. The reason you people insist on sticking with tea baggers is BECAUSE it's an insult. Ok, granted, probably a lot of you don't realize that it's sexual innuendo, but the people orchestrating it damned well, do. It's a deliberate campaign.

I mean, seriously, Bernard: I don't call myself a "Butt"; Do you call yourself a "Democrat"? Granted, "Democrat party" is an insult, it's meant to imply that the party isn't democratIC. But it's not juvenile on the level of "tea bagger".

Anyway, this distracts from my point to Jess, which is that she should stop assuming that, just because the American cultural emphasis on gun ownership looks strange from an English perspective, it must be some artificial imposition. It's not, and if the Constitution does get rebooted, she should expect the RKBA to still be around afterwards, unless there's some serious funny business involved in how it goes down.

In which case the people responsible are going to learn first hand why we've got that right.

If I have to go through the archives here at ObWi and find every time you've referred to politicians as "sociopaths," I'm going to fly to North Carolina and pimp slap you so hard your teeth will rattle, so I suggest you find a different line of argument.

Out of line, Phil. Way, way out of line.

Brett: which is that she should stop assuming that, just because the American cultural emphasis on gun ownership looks strange from an English perspective, it must be some artificial imposition.

*raises eyebrow* The American love-affair with unregulated gun ownership looks strange from the perspective of any European country - including, I dare swear, Switzerland, which has high levels of gun ownership, mandated militia membership for male citizens, and strict gun controls.

But it makes perfect sense in the light of corporate control of US politics.

I mean, seriously, Bernard: I don't call myself a "Butt"; Do you call yourself a "Democrat"? Granted, "Democrat party" is an insult, it's meant to imply that the party isn't democratIC.

I mean, seriously, Brett, are you really offering this as a defense?

Anyway, we agree that it's an insult. Whether it's a juvenile insult or an adult one is realy immaterial. So you're complaining about one insult while defending another one which, by the way, is in general use by the Republican party.

In which case the people responsible are going to learn first hand why we've got that right.

Ah, the last resort of the Internet Hardman: Fantasizing about shooting a bunch of people with whom he disagrees politically.

The greatest fantasy of the internet would-be tyrant: Imagining nobody would put up a fight.

Did you post your last comment on the wrong blog, Brett? Or is this just you being vaguely, randomly insulting in the hope that someone will take offense and get told off by Slartbartfast again?

Nothing random about it, it was a direct response to Phil.

This is a very heavily armed country, with a widespread belief in the right to be armed. You might conceivably rig a constitutional convention to prevent the right to keep and bear arms from being included in a new version of the Constitution, that won't magically make a few hundred million guns go away, or change the attitudes of the people who own them.

That's kind of the point: An armed populace limits what the government can safely impose on the people. It really is a fantasy to think that all you have to do is change things at the top somehow, and the herd will just fall into line.

The greatest mistake of the fantasy "patriot" militiaman: Imagining that liberals don't have guns, too.

I find it highly amusing that Brett imagines the only proponents for limiting firearm ownership in a hypothetical new Constitutional convention would be meddling liberals. I mean, this is a nation where we have "law & order" types defending tasing 10-year-olds, or my personal favorite, people with broken backs who can't speak intelligibly and won't stand up when told.

The push to "re-evaluate" gun control from a right-wing authoritarian perspective would be quite strong, especially if there was a reasonable chance of avoiding direct electoral consequences for doing so... as there likely would be in the case of a dramatic restructuring of the government.

That's kind of the point: An armed populace limits what the government can safely impose on the people.

Never has yet: never will. The fantasy of libertarians that somehow legal possession of guns by dozens or hundreds will do something to prevent government tyranny, is... well, as much a fantasy as the libertarian claim that they'd like to live in a country without government, taxation, or publicly-funded utilities.

The ACLU, not the NRA, is the chief bulwark against government tyranny: which is why right-wing authoritarians love the NRA as they love the pro-life movement, and for much the same reasons - but hate the ACLU, Amnesty International, and all the other pro-freedom pro-civil rights organizations with a passion.

It's worth noting that a moderately armed populace will likely do little more than up the odds against a strong government bent on riding roughshod over civil liberties. Dissidents won't be arrested, they'll be disappeared. And so on. If the populace rises in full armed revolt, they'd better hope they have the military on their side, else they're at best going to be waging a long, bloody insurgency campaign, not a quick, glorious revolution.

I wish Phil and Russell would decide whether liberals have guns or not.

Oh, I'd never make the mistake of thinking only conservatives and libertarians have guns, I've met some well armed liberals, too. That's not the way the odds run, of course... Liberals tend to want government thugs doing their violence for them, I guess; It lets them imagine they're peaceful, or some such nonsense.

And, yeah, while the primary push for disarming the populace in this country comes from the left, it's always had a degree of right-wing support. It never would have gotten as far, otherwise. Hey, the elder Bush was responsible for unleashing the BATF on America's gun owners again, after Reagan had reined them in, and in so doing helped create the militia movement. The younger Bush was actually trying to run to Gore's left on gun control, until his advisors convinced him he was cutting his throat politically. And he never did retract his promise to sign a renewal of the 'Assault weapon' ban, if it reached his desk.

But the point here is, when push comes to shove, direct electoral consequences aren't the only consequences in the offing. The dangerous fantasy here is that if you can finesse the politics, nothing else matters.

A hell of a lot else matters, especially if you're doing a reboot of the government, and legitimacy is no longer just going to be presumed.

It would be just like professional politicians to think that rigging the outcome wins the game, when the very question at hand is whether the people are going to keep playing along.

I wish Phil and Russell would decide whether liberals have guns or not.

Ultimately, we can only speak for ourselves.

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