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July 31, 2011

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Hell of a post, Doc.
As I check out the blogs here and there, today, I'm gonna' drop links around, if you don't mind.
I also might link it over at Coates' open thread tomorrow, if someone else doesn't beat me to it.

You're right, I suppose, that the Tea party movement is, on a fundamental level, anarchistic. Anybody who really cares about liberty is, after all: Having a minority ordering the majority about is not really all that much worse than having the majority ordering about the minority. And having a minority chosen by the majority doing the ordering appears to devolve into option 1.

Self government is exactly that; Governing yourself. It isn't a form of government, it's government's antithesis.

And, frankly, just asserting that the tea party is the same as the Confederates doesn't amount to much of an argument. More like a way of avoiding an argument...

"Self government is exactly that; Governing yourself. It isn't a form of government, it's government's antithesis."

What?

I read in a survival manual somewhere that you can survive pretty well if you drink your own urine three, maybe four times.

After that, the noxious salts and such become so concentrated that the solipsistic cycle poisons the drinker.

Then you have to drink someone else's urine, which I believe is disallowed in the parched bankruptcy of Galt's Gulch.

Would you just move to Somalia already and leave the grownups alone, you crank?

You're right, I suppose, that the Tea party movement is, on a fundamental level, anarchistic. Anybody who really cares about liberty is, after all ...

Come on, Brett, we've been over this ground before. Somalia is only one modern example ... my favorite discourse on this (as I have posted before) is Brad DeLong's No Libertarians in the Seventeenth-Century Highlands.

The practical effect of a lack of government is the law of the jungle. Nowadays that would be catastrophic for the liberty of most people. Maybe you would wind up with a libertarian paradise after most people were dead, but I doubt it.

Self government is exactly that; Governing yourself. It isn't a form of government, it's government's antithesis.

This reminds me of the observation that masturbation is the best kind of sex, because the pleasure given always equals the pleasure received...

Just because anarchy, zero government, isn't practical under present circumstances, doesn't make government a positive good, which we should seek to maximize. Democracy is the 'least worst' form of government, but that's only to say it's the least offensive form of something bad, and to the extent we can get by without it, with people making their own individual choices, instead of voting on what everybody has to do, we should.

just because I like (some parts of) our government doesn't necessarily mean I want to maximize it.
And why is government bad? I think it's great. Maybe 1,000 years ago if I was a peon I wouldn't like it, but I live in the US, and I have it pretty good. I get to have a say in what happens, and if there are things I don't like, I can work to change them.
I find that left to their own devices, some people (and companies) make great choices, and some make lousy ones. I like that our society, thru our votes, sets some agreed-upon standards for that conduct, and has some enforcement mechanisms to back that up.

Plus, you get to have sex with someone you love.

Democracy is the 'least worst' form of government, but that's only to say it's the least offensive form of something bad...

The issue we must grapple with is, does the intervention of government in whatever scenario make things better or worse? Sure, we have to keep in mind the potential for government to make matters worse, and the danger of tyranny, but that is no excuse for ignoring the bad results flowing from a lack of government intervention.

Once upon a time, conservatives acknowledged the fallen nature of human beings and the need for some kind of authority to keep people in line. We have laws against murder and I imagine you agree that this a legitimate sphere for government action.

But let's take less clear cut example, outsourcing. Market forces have led to companies moving jobs out of the U.S. to lower cost labor markets. Is this good for our society as a whole? There are serious negative repercussions: unemployed workers, reliance on foreign sources for strategic products, and the transfer of valuable intellectual property to potential adversaries. Should the government do something about this? Private actors have no motivation to consider the damage to our national security from this trend.

We don't really have a choice. We have to make government work.

It seems to me that this is also the difference between the tribal form of unity (I am one with my family and those like us) and the national form (I am one with those in my nation.) The tribal form is more ancient, and even most modern nation states trace their roots to it. The North fought more for the civil religion of America, the idea of it, while the South fought for their tribe.

Plus, you get to have sex with someone you love.
This ignores the problem of self-hatred that is unfortunately quite common (esp. on the conservative and/or religious side but not limited to it).

A favorite* syllogism of mine:
1.Love thy neighbour as thy love yerself
2.Love of self is sinful
=> Loving thy neighbour is sinful
=> hating him is the proper way

*in describing that mindset

We have to make government work, to the extent we need to have government. We disagree about the latter, hence we disagree about the former.

If we walk into a restaurant, and I decide to order my own meal, instead of voting with you on what we'll both eat, that does not make me an enemy of all that's good and decent. It makes me somebody who wants to make his own choices. In some cases choices MUST be common. (Which side of the road shall we drive on?) I some cases nobody remotely sane suggests they have to be common and coercible enforced. (Chocolate or vanilla ice cream?)

It is not a sign of madness, nor evil, to disagree with you about where to draw the line on marginal cases.

Just because anarchy, zero government, isn't practical under present circumstances, doesn't make government a positive good

Under what circumstances would it be practical?

IMO it would take some kind of remarkable (and historically unprecedented) transformation of human nature to make the libertarian / anarchist ideal feasible.

You'd need a human race made up solely of the responsible, well-intentioned, truthful, and wise.

Otherwise it's dog eat dog, and that is not conducive to liberty in any useful form.

We will all be free to guard our individual hoard of potatoes with whatever ordinance we can muster.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Feel free to show me, from the actual history of the human race, where I'm wrong about this.

Regarding the whole Confederacy thing, I've often wondered if going to war to keep the Union whole was the right decision.

All that blood, and 150 years later the rebels are still in a snit.

If it ever comes to it again, I say show them the door.

As a total aside, I also just wanted to comment that the Spirit of '76 has nothing to do with the spirit of the Confederacy. It was painted by an Ohioan who actually did fight in the Civil War, on the Union side.

The original hangs in my town hall, here in chilly New England. It was purchased and presented to the town by a Civil War general who grew up here, and who moved to Ohio as a young man to work as a railroad engineer. His son was the model for the young drummer.

In the mid-19th C the town I live in was a crappy little hardscrabble fishing village of 8,000, and it raised $100,000 in cash to support the Civil War effort, and sent over 1,000 men into battle. The first regiment of volunteers was mustered into service the day after the attack on Fort Sumter.

I'm sure there's some other painting of the time that you could find to capture the rebel spirit of the Confederacy. Perhaps one with the good old stars and bars in the background. The Spirit of '76 has a different legacy, not one that the Confederacy ever earned or deserved. FWIW.

I can't believe you people get trolled by this clown again and again and again and again.

Brett:

"If we walk into a restaurant, and I decide to order my own meal, instead of voting with you on what we'll both eat, that does not make me an enemy of all that's good and decent."

Picky eater, are you?

You must be loads of fun at those family-style fondue dipping joints.

Do you sniff your food before you eat it. I have a brother who, even in the poshest of circumstances, will lean in with a suspicious dart of the eyes as if someone is trying to put one over on his gustatory constitution, and sniff the plate of food just set in front of him.

When he tastes the wine, (his own carafe; there will be no sharing) he gargles the first taste, gives out a sort of strangled yodel, and spits the mouthful on the carpet and all over the shoes of the waiter.

Then he produces a container of his own urine which he has smuggled into the restaurant, and takes a swig.

You can't take him anywhere.

Russell:

"Otherwise it's dog eat dog, and that is not conducive to liberty in any useful form.

We will all be free to guard our individual hoard of potatoes with whatever ordinance we can muster."

Down at the Dog Eat Dog Charcuterie, Brett might think he can just walk in and throw down a three-day old road-kill dog carcass and eat it raw, but tucking into some fly-specked carrion at barely room temperature is, well, the enemy of all that's good and decent.

We prefer the USDA-inspected canine, its shots up-to-date, the carcass stored properly, and the buckshot removed for less perilous chewing.

Where'd you get them potatoes? They look familiar.

These days, we have potato derivatives, to escape regulation. No one knows who owns them, but when they rot, the world's entire root cellar has to be thrown out.

Incidentally, we have the new Liberty Urination Pilsner fresh on tap today in limited quantities.

If you want to go out for dinner with a bunch of friends, everyone has to agree to the restaurant, which does restrict what you can order, though you still can get whatever's on the menu.

SO EFFIN' WHAT??? (I guess I'm not in the mood for dumb analogies today....)

Doc, you go from a stupid post by the Kershaw County Patriots, who you link without support to the much broader Tea Party (which comprises a broad range of people, some nutty, some simply anti-large gov't), to all Confederates to all South Carolinians. Don't you think this is a rather broad brush? I am fairly sure that, if I had the time to scour random postings by far-left, outlier group leaders, I could make the same argument. Here at ObWi, I'd be hammered for it, and rightly so.

Implicit in your argument is that Tea Partier's and much of the South hates their gov't. Were that the case, one would expect, among other things, that the South would produce a disproportionately small number of military recruits to serve that hated entity, and yet it is otherwise.

Sorry, this is less than solid logic and the conclusion, as well received as it is here, does so not because it has substantial merit, but because it fits the narrative. Perhaps the narrative itself should be subjected to a bit of self-critical analysis . . . ?

You'd need a human race made up solely of the responsible, well-intentioned, truthful, and wise.

This.

And don't forget perfectly rational, well-informed, and with limitless reserves of determination, industry and energy.

Which simply doesn't describe any human race I've ever heard of.

The only place or conditions where anarchic-ish 'governments' can ever possibly work is in fiction - and usually because there's a hidden assumption that people who don't fit the correct mold are simply a genetically defective minority, and thus liberal employment of the death penalty will be able to have things running more or less smoothly within a couple generations.

(I'm thinking particularly of places like the moon in Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" - where the founding assumption that once you dump enough rapists/delinquent debtors/graffiti artists/lazy people/witches/what-have-you out the airlock, the survivors will have themselves a nice cozy anarcho-libertarian society.)

Implicit in your argument is that Tea Partier's and much of the South hates their gov't. Were that the case, one would expect, among other things, that the South would produce a disproportionately small number of military recruits to serve that hated entity, and yet it is otherwise.

You know, it's been one of the great mysteries to me of how conservatives/the right/the GOP can sit around and demonize the federal government in general, and "unelected bureaucrats," and taxes, the deficit, tyranny, etc., and yet when it comes to the military and defense spending, it's blow jobs for everyone.

Brett, I think it's amazingly simplistic of you to assert that government is always bad. (Just as it is simplistic to assert that govfernment is always good.) Government cannot solve all problems, and can make some things worse. But there are some things that government can do better than the alternatives.

Take one example you can, perhaps, relate to: You need some kind of organization to provide law and order, and to defend the nation against outsiders. Sure, you wouldn't need that (as much) if everybody else was willing to be similarly anarchist -- but they ain't. And since others will organize into groups (whether criminal gangs or armies), you have to take some kind of steps that will deal with those on some relatviely equal basis. That means some kind of organization, which is all that government is.

Now you can argue that government ought to be severely limited. But that's not the same as saying that it's always bad. Just that you don't want it interfering in stuff you figure that you (if not anybody else) can deal with yourself. But give everybody the same choice, and you end up with more, perhaps, than you would like. Your choice is to live with that, and try to hold it down, or to move somewhere where most people are closer to your preference. If you really do want nothing at all, people keep suggesting Somalia. And there's a reason for that. Yes, they have little government -- and they also show pretty clearly what happens when others have an organization and you do not.

Just because anarchy, zero government, isn't practical under present circumstances, doesn't make government a positive good, which we should seek to maximize. Democracy is the 'least worst' form of government, but that's only to say it's the least offensive form of something bad, and to the extent we can get by without it, with people making their own individual choices, instead of voting on what everybody has to do, we should.

I think this is a practically useless attitude. Government isn't inherently good OR bad, nor is it useful to view it either as "positive good" or its opposite.

It'll lead you to all sorts of strange places if you view government as some kind of [necessary] evil. It'd be like listing out all the bad things that air can do (e.g., feed house fires, let serial killers breathe, support the wings of killer dragons and/or disease carrying mosquitoes, kill you if it's too full of CO, doesn't support you very well if you're overweight, isn't of much use if you're falling through it without a 'chute, etc.) and then concluding that, really, when you think about it, hyper-oxygenated water would really be so much more rational. So that should be our ideal, even if its not really practical yet, and air should be viewed very suspiciously as a necessary evil.

Pure lunacy.

Government is necessary for human society. Period. The only question is how best to do it and how to make the one(s) we have better at the margins.

McT, the Kershaw post is embedded in Fred's post and Doc goes on to point out some other posts about this. Doc has a thesis about what is driving anti-government resentment. You can either say that it is normal and rational, as Brett does, or you can suggest another source.

When Doc brought up Albion's Seed before, I thought there were some interesting objections to the thesis. I'm actually reading a book that has some similar arguments, (called The Horse, the wheel and language, arguing for where the Indo-European homeland is) but I'm half way thru it, so I'm not sure if it applies yet or not. Being from the South, my main objection is that the thesis, as I understand it, suggests that Scots-Irish culture is responsible, yet my area (the Gulf Coast), doesn't have much in terms of Scots-Irish, but probably has similar feelings about government, so I'm not sure if the cultural persistence argument is correct, but a lot of it is framing.

However, something seems to be driving this anti-government resentment, (I mean, really, Michele Bachman as a plausible presidential candidate?) Do you have a plausible alternative?

As far as military recruits, that implies a rationality that I don't think is there when you are talking about honor and serving one's country (that is not meant to be a slam on military service, just that you are claiming that somehow, the decision to serve is one that is weighed on a kind of rational scale seems to be a bit bizarre) As another example, when I worked with native American endangered languages, I often went to 'pow-wows', where various tribes gathered for cultural and social exchange. (here's a link explaining it). One thing that every pow-wow has is a call for the veterans, who often lead what is called the Grand Entry. If there is a group that would 'rationally' not want to have the US flag flying over their ceremony, I think it would be Native Americans, but they have this reverence for those who have fought and served. The same argument, that there is some kind of rational calculus going into serving, would apply here. It may seem dismissive if I say it is 'irrational', but my own feeling is that just because I label is irrational, it doesn't mean I think it is of less value than something that is rational.

It'd be like listing out all the bad things that air can do

IMO this is about right.

The normal human pattern appears to be to live in communities. Part of "living in communities" is establishing institutions for organizing and regulating - for *governing* - their common life.

As far as I can tell, government is inextricable from human life. It's one of the things that humans do.

We employ speech, we make music and art, we are tool users, we build stuff. And we live in communities that enjoy some kind of common public life, and we invent governments to organize that public life.

It's got its good side and its bad side, but talking about how it will somehow fade away into some kind of libertarian paradise is a fantasy.

You might as well tell pigeons not to flock, or fish not to swim in schools.

I mean, really, Michele Bachman as a plausible presidential candidate?

LJ, I think the reason that Bachman is plausible to some people is that, like, Brett, they see government as always bad. So someone who is utterly unable to do the job of being President is not a problem. In fact, if anything it is a definite plus. Exactly because, if they can't get no government, they would rather have incompetent government which is easier to evade.

Pigeons, privately, are libertarians at heart. That's why they crap all over the public statuary.

Also, I've heard there is a movement among fish for home-schooling.

... when you think about it, hyper-oxygenated water would really be so much more rational.

I knew the trees was a bad move. We never should have left the ocean. [hat tip, Douglas Adams]

Michele Bachman - I find her a more plausible winner of the 2012 Presidential Election than Sarah Palin. Palin is a grifter whose main disadvantage in a Presidential election is that she's known by the electorate as a no-nothing idiot (in most respects). This was made clear in 2008 and subsequently by resigning as governor of Alaska, among other things. The swing voter, IMHO, will reject her over Obama, just based on familiarity.

Bachman, OTOH, is still a relative unknown to the general public. Further, she's savvy enough to at least pretend to display some competency, and has some innate, more general smartness than Palin, IMO (Palin's innate smartness is in exploiting ressentiment). If after this debt deal we're at 12% unemployment and Bachman is the GOP nominee, I'd give her a greater than 50% of winning.

Further, based on a conversation with someone who has had multiple face to face meetings with Bachman, she's smarter than she prefers to display.

Shorter Ugh: you wish for a Bachman 2012 GOP nomination at your peril.

Following DocS.’s use of Albion's Seed, by David Hackett Fischer (The following is from researchers who use his work.)

R. Horseman’s Race and Manifest Destiny: Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism,

After Reconstruction and the victory of the Spanish-American War, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant solidarity was at its zenith and triumphant. The “ethnic nationalism of whiteness, underpinned by Protestantism, had penetrated and had come to dominate the American psyche… whiteness, Protestantism, American nationalism, and imperialism were bound tightly together in the moral conception of whites by the turn of the century” (Blum 2005).

From: Blum. Edward J. (2005). Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press.


Yet it is instructive to note how different things were not so long ago. In the 1920s, the United States consolidated its Anglo-Protestant ethnic character in a series of legislative actions: the Volstead Act of 1920 prohibited the consumption of alcohol; the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 shaped immigration flows around a quota system designed to preserve WASP dominance; and Al Smith, a Roman Catholic of part-Irish extraction, was defeated in his bid for the presidency in 1928. Nativist commentators glowed with praise for a U.S. Congress whose ethnic composition matched that of the Continental Congress of 1787. In communities large and small, powerful Protestant voluntary associations like the Ku Klux Klan, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Masons, and American Protective Association (APA) nurtured the bonds of white Protestant ethnicity and enforced Anglo-American hegemony. Even as late as the 1960s, 90 percent of white Protestants, Catholics, and Jews married members of their own faith.

By the 1960s, as if by magic, the centuries-old machinery of WASP America began to stall like the spacecraft of Martian invaders in the contemporary hit film, War of the Worlds. In 1960, the first non-Protestant president was elected. In 1965, the national origins quota regime for immigration was replaced by a “color-blind” system. Meanwhile, Anglo- Protestants faded from the class photos of the economic, political, and cultural elite—their numbers declining rapidly, year upon year, in the universities, boardrooms, cabinets, courts, and legislatures. At the mass level, the cords holding Anglo-Protestant Americans together began to unwind as secular associations and mainline churches lost millions of members while the first truly national, non-WASP cultural icons appeared. Not only were barriers to non-WASP ethnic groups virtually eliminated at all levels of American life, but national institutions appeared to be reapplying the idea of communalism in an inverse manner. Namely, minority ethnic communities were now replacing the old Anglo- Protestant ethnie (or ethnic group) as the recipient of collective privilege.

How did such a stunning transformation take place between the 1920s and the 1960s?

From:

Kaufman, Eric P. 2004. The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America: The Decline of Dominant Ethnicity in the United States, London: Harvard University Press.

And "liberty" within the US's racist system had more to do with being "whites" than with "rights"


Whiteness as Property

Abstract:
Issues regarding race and racial identity as well as questions pertaining to property rights and ownership have been prominent in much public discourse in the United States. In this article, Professor Harris contributes to this discussion by positing that racial identity andproperty are deeply interrelated concepts. Professor Harris examines how whiteness, initially constructed as a form of racial identity, evolved into a form of property, historically and presently acknowledged and protected in American law. Professor Harris traces the origins of whiteness as property in the parallel systems of domination of Black and Native American peoples out of which were created racially contingent forms of property and property rights. Following the period of slavery and conquest, whiteness became the basis of racialized privilege - a type of status in which white racial identity provided the basis for allocating societal benefits both private and public in character. These arrangements were ratified and legitimated in law as a type of status property. Even as legal segregation was overturned,whiteness as property continued to serve as a barrier to effective change as the system of racial classification operated to protect entrenched power.

Next, Professor Harris examines how the concept of whiteness as property persists in current perceptions of racial identity, in the law's misperception of group identity and in the Court's reasoning and decisions in the arena of affirmative action. Professor Harris concludes by arguing that distortions in affirmative action doctrine can only be addressed by confronting and exposing the property interest in whitenessand by acknowledging the distributive justification and function of affirmative action as central to that task.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=927850

I know a huge part of the “conservative” “anti-state” or whatever movement is manned by folks who don’t want the State to touch their social entitlements, and when “libertarians” (whatever that means today) is a settle way to say, “The social entitlements are meant for me and not those ‘fake Americans.’”

Sorry:

I know a huge part of the “conservative” “anti-state” or whatever movement is manned by folks who don’t want the State to touch their social entitlements, and when “libertarians” (whatever that means today) talk about “restructuring” social entitlements (and its biggest government hand-out in the form of the military) is a settle way to say, “The social entitlements are meant for me and not those ‘fake Americans.’”

I don't know about the subculture hypothesis of Albion's Seed, but I do think the attitude of the Confederacy is still alive. It's not just a Southern phenomenon, but I do agree the mindset of "individualistic rebel" has its roots in the antebellum South and the romanticized view of an agrarian culture dominated by aristocrats (who believe in their innate superiority) served by cheap (or slave) labor.

Unlike russell, I believe the Civil War was definitely worth fighting to preserve the Union. Despite the holdouts that are now trying to ruin the country, much of the South is a much better place for having remained a part of the United States. The North provided respite for a lot of African-Americans during the Great Migration, people whose descendants are now returning to a more hospitable South. The Civil Rights movement was moved forward by the integration of the military during the '50s and the participation of northern intellectuals and religious groups. Nobody knows how long slavery itself would have persisted - maybe a long time. But Southern urban areas are mostly Democratic, and the demographic changes that are occurring will surely continue to affect the politics in a positive way.

It's possible that the current right-wing movement is the last gasp of the angry white male phenomenon, since they are a dying majority. I just hope we can survive it. The only way we can, I believe, is for liberals to unify against a pernicious movement that is intent on destroying the idea that our country is about progress, both economic and social.

However, something seems to be driving this anti-government resentment, (I mean, really, Michele Bachman as a plausible presidential candidate?) Do you have a plausible alternative?

Lunacy at the extremes is universal, but it is the left who defines the Tea Party and most conservatives (first conflation) with being "anti-government" when the better description would be "anti-big government" (second conflation).

Tone deafness is also universal. Why is there such a ground beat on the right against "big government"? Well, look at how HCR and the Stimulus were passed. For people who weren't on board with one, the other or both, it was the worst kind of governmental heavy handedness, both as to process and end result. And, look at the debt ceiling dramatics. Whether anyone likes it or not, we have spent more, and committed to spend even more on top of that, than we can afford to pay, even if taxes go through the roof, in which case the economic growth we must have to (1) put people back to work and (2) produce the tax revenue needed to pay down debt is DOA.

Brett is a governmental minimalist and, as the inverse to more than a few here, has his talking points from which he is not going to move.

Bachmann is a conservative's true nightmare, like Palin. Without substance or meaningful vision, they simply bring a complex range of emotions bundled into a vaguely coherent platform.

I suspect, without using too broad of a brush, that poor Southern military recruits today look to enlistment as a way of securing Federal "entitlements", like jobs, medical care and education, due to the deliberately shredded nature of the social safety net at the state level and the outright hostility toward folks who might require a little help in those environs.

I mean, you could stay in Texas and have a government that prays for rain but does little else about it, or you could join the military and hope to be assigned somewhere where it might rain on you.

I notice too that anti-government venom in those states never seems to phase the suck on the Federal Treasury the former Confederacy represents.

Lunacy at the extremes is universal, but it is the left who defines the Tea Party and most conservatives (first conflation) with being "anti-government" when the better description would be "anti-big government" (second conflation).

As if.

For "phase" read "faze"

Otherwise, what "Countme-in" said.

Well, look at how HCR and the Stimulus were passed. For people who weren't on board with one, the other or both, it was the worst kind of governmental heavy handedness, both as to process and end result.

This may be off topic, but I don't get that.

I mean, RE: end results, OK, fine. You don't like the bills. We can agree to disagree. (I'm not entirely happy with the outcomes either, but probably from the other direction: I feel they were pretty weak tea after having gone through the Senate super majority ringer.)

But you're also complaining about the process.

And AFAICT, the process was perfectly lawful. (And not that tu quoque is an argument, but I daresay it was procedurally much cleaner than, say, the contortions of passing Medicare Part D).

I've certainly been aware that this is a meme out there in the tea-o-sphere ("ramming down our throats", etc.), but I'm inclined to dismiss complaints about "heavy handedness" of the process as some combination of:

1) sour grapes at the sheer gall of Democrats to both win majorities and then pass a couple pieces of legislation that conservatives don't 100% agree with (which is not a process objection at all), or

2) the view that any process wherein this (gasp) black (/Muslim/Kenyan) President initiates or signs legislation is per se illegitimate.

If you've got a #3 that makes more sense than either of those, I'd be happy to hear it.

And, look at the debt ceiling dramatics. Whether anyone likes it or not, we have spent more, and committed to spend even more on top of that, than we can afford to pay, even if taxes go through the roof, in which case the economic growth we must have to (1) put people back to work and (2) produce the tax revenue needed to pay down debt is DOA.

My emphasis. This strikes me as plain old wrong.

First of all with the borrowing terms the federal government is getting, there's absolutely no need to stop running deficits in the short term (i.e.: during the recession).

Which means that your conclusions about putting people back to work or collecting enough revenue are faulty. The correct thing to do is take on LOTS more debt in the short term, pay it back out in Keynesian stimulus, than reap the revenue-licious rewards of a humming, healthy economy a few years down the road. There's no reason to think that adding a few extra trillion to debt to kick start the economy will be an unbearable burden.

Which brings us to the fact that, in general, we absolutely can afford to sustain high levels of social and infrastructure spending indefinitely*. If the economy is healthy, and we manage to get a handle on health care costs**, projections for entitlement spending look fine. Recessions are -- or can be if you don't screw it up -- temporary, and our nation is not actually broke or incapable of ever accomplishing anything ever again (Heritage talking points notwithstanding). It may well take higher rates on top earners -- and it will certainly require sound management of the economy -- but those are both good ideas anyway.

-----
* With the possible exception of health care, but that is true whether or not government is involved at all - and of course government involvement appears to be the best and only hope to stem the tide.

** Again, yes, this is an unknown, but a) government intervention is the only thing that has any chance of succeeding, and b) either way, the private sector is just as fubar if we fail.

I second jack lecou in requesting that McKinney explain how, specifically, it was heavy handed for a Democratic majority to pass a health care bill that was based the concept of: 1) allowing the status quo to remain in place for Americans who like it, 2) providing health insurance exchanges for Americans who don't, 3) barring insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions and chronic health problems, 4) extending the scope of family policies to cover older children who may not be settled in a workplace providing appropriate insurance, 5) basically protecting the viability of health insurance companies by requiring people to participate, or to pay a very modest penalty if they don't.

jack, your second comment in answer to McKinney is also very right on.

Thanks, sapient.

we have spent more, and committed to spend even more on top of that, than we can afford to pay

This is so manifestly untrue as to border on a lie.

Very nice, as far as it goes, but it seems that this breakdown of American culture, and the corresponding analysis of attitudes towards government, flatly ignores at least four other important cultural/ethnic/religious groups: Jewish immigrants from central and eastern Europe, Catholic immigrants from southern Europe, Catholic immigrants from the Americas and the third world, and Asian immigrants of various religions.

Though these groups are far more recent players on the American stage, their influence is at least as great as that of the Anglo-Saxon whites that preceded them (and the Africans that the whites shipped over by the thousands as chattel). These groups have managed to have an impact on American culture in excess of their population partly because they have greater than average interest in political participation, many of them coming to this country not simply as immigrants, but actually as refugees.

To try to understand modern American culture based on a demographic model that is 150 years out of date is, at best, misguided. At worst it is an exercise in revisionism and racism, no better than the backwards looking utopianism of the conservative movement.

Jack Lecou,

I've certainly been aware that this is a meme out there in the tea-o-sphere ("ramming down our throats", etc.), but I'm inclined to dismiss complaints about "heavy handedness" of the process as some combination of:

1) sour grapes at the sheer gall of Democrats to both win majorities and then pass a couple pieces of legislation that conservatives don't 100% agree with (which is not a process objection at all), or

2) the view that any process wherein this (gasp) black (/Muslim/Kenyan) President initiates or signs legislation is per se illegitimate.

If you've got a #3 that makes more sense than either of those, I'd be happy to hear it.

Exactly right. In what sense was legislation passed by Congress, after some horse-trading, and signed by the President, crammed down anyone's throat? The only possible reason to make that claim is the belief that somehow Congress and the President (especially) are not legitimate office-holders.

that poor Southern military recruits today look to enlistment as a way of securing Federal "entitlements", like jobs, medical care and education, due to the deliberately shredded nature of the social safety net at the state level and the outright hostility toward folks who might require a little help in those environs.

You could, but then you'd expect the demographics to be disproportionately African-American and Hispanic. They aren't. The South, followed by the Mid-West, leans fairly heavily to flag-waving types. This has been the case for decades.

And AFAICT, the process was perfectly lawful. (And not that tu quoque is an argument, but I daresay it was procedurally much cleaner than, say, the contortions of passing Medicare Part D).

No one said the process was unlawful. But, as I recall, the substance of HCR bill was made available 48 (72?) hours before the vote. Republicans were entirely shut out of the process, as was the public, on the details of the legislation. Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu got notoriously special deals, there was the fake-abortion compromise to get the pro-life Democrats on board and the damn thing is 2500 pages long, so protestations that it just basically preserves the status quo and fixes a thing or two here and there just doesn't wash. In short, there was a not irrational perception of arrogance on the part of Democrats--how many times did I hear or read someone on the left say "Elections have consequences." I am sure there is plenty of counter-spin some here might offer. To you it sounds perfectly reasonable, but that's because your buying your own sales pitch. From the outside looking in, it's being tone deaf.

Also, try to recall the context. LJ wanted my take on why the "anti-government" movement has the traction it does. The answer, in short, is the appearance if not the reality of over-reaching by the left.

I'm inclined to dismiss complaints about "heavy handedness" of the process as some combination of:

1) sour grapes at the sheer gall of Democrats to both win majorities and then pass a couple pieces of legislation that conservatives don't 100% agree with (which is not a process objection at all), or

2) the view that any process wherein this (gasp) black (/Muslim/Kenyan) President initiates or signs legislation is per se illegitimate.

If you've got a #3 that makes more sense than either of those, I'd be happy to hear it.

I do, but you won't buy it. First, Items 1 and 2 above are part and parcel of the internal kool aid the left drinks. Item 2 first--You can whine all day long about how those nasty racist conservatives think Obama is illegitimate because of his color, but saying it doesn't make it so. If that were true, conservatives would be fine with Obama's policies if he were white. Item 1--Democrats won across the board because they got more votes. That's democracy. They passed HCR against widespread doubt and opposition, and were pretty self-congratulatory about it. Some of the details are covered above. The totality of the process is seen as arrogance/heavy-handedness in some quarters and produces a reaction, in this case the results of the 2010 elections.

even if taxes go through the roof, in which case the economic growth we must have to (1) put people back to work and (2) produce the tax revenue needed to pay down debt is DOA.

My emphasis. This strikes me as plain old wrong.

Sure it does. That's the left's, and particularly the progressive left's, take on how economics works. The problem is, not everyone agrees with this. Again, recalling the context of my answer to LJ, he was looking for reasons why the backlash against Obama et al is so pronounced. One of the reasons is that spending is way out of control and the other is the only clear picture they get of Democrat policy going forward is: keep spending and raise taxes. While this seems perfectly reasonable to folks on the left, it doesn't appear to be quite so obvious to a lot of others. Feel free to dismiss them as idiots, racists or whatever. Name calling will continue to be as persuasive as ever was.

Which brings us to the fact that, in general, we absolutely can afford to sustain high levels of social and infrastructure spending indefinitely*. If the economy is healthy, and we manage to get a handle on health care costs**, projections for entitlement spending look fine. Recessions are -- or can be if you don't screw it up -- temporary, and our nation is not actually broke or incapable of ever accomplishing anything ever again (Heritage talking points notwithstanding). It may well take higher rates on top earners -- and it will certainly require sound management of the economy -- but those are both good ideas anyway.

Again, this is standard, progressive thinking. We can spend even more than we already are and with sound management of the economy, things will be great. Some of us doubt the ability of Pelosi/Reid and Obama to manage the economy. But, on the left, it is an article of faith that committed, intelligent people can look rationally at what the country needs and find a way to engineer the correct economic result. The fact that this has never happened before in human history, particularly in a country as large and diverse as the US, gives few on the left any pause for concern.

This is so manifestly untrue as to border on a lie.

Well, thanks for that. Simply because someone believes that we can tax at confiscatory levels and spend virtually without limit doesn't translate that belief into immutable fact. But, if you want to know why there is such antipathy on the right to further government growth, BobbyP's dismissal of those who do arithmetic differently is a good example of what produces heated opposition.

I don't expect to change many, if any, minds. But just as Pelosi and many others got it wrong when they dismissed the early Tea Party movement as astro turf, so too do many continue to miss the boat by discounting the number and commitment of those who find the Democratic approach problematic.

how many times did I hear or read someone on the left say "Elections have consequences.

You realize that this was a George W. Bush and, more generally, a circa-2004 Republican, thing that got thrown back in their faces when they lost, right?

"Simply because someone believes that we can tax at confiscatory levels and spend virtually without limit doesn't translate that belief into immutable fact."

I wouldn't expect many minds to be influenced by fact-impaired type statements like this one. Unless this is meant to refer to a hypothetical society that actually has confiscatory levels of taxation and where the party that bitches the most about deficits isn't the one that is primarily responsible for it?

Scots-Irish culture is responsible, yet my area (the Gulf Coast), doesn't have much in terms of Scots-Irish
Scots -Irish from the "back country" migrated following the rivers into Ar. and N Tx (Ohio-Tennessee-Mississippi-Red). The actual Gulf Coast folks mostly came across from GA, Mississippi, and Alabama.
That's why Dallas and Houston hate each other - very different backgrounds.

we have spent more, and committed to spend even more on top of that, than we can afford to pay

This is so manifestly untrue as to border on a lie.

Speaking as a lefty, I don't mind saying that we owe more money than is healthy. Depending on who's counting, total US debt - including what we owe ourselves, which we actually do need to pay back, so yes, it does count - is in the neighborhood of 100% of GDP.

The last time it was that high was during WWII, when we were engaged in truly global battle against two powerful industrial states.

It would be good for us to lower our debt load to something closer to historical levels.

Although I will say that claims of "confiscatory levels" of taxation are, as a plain and simple matter of fact, historically nuts.

I don't mean any disrespect, it's just not supportable by the actual history. Both the marginal income tax rates, and the overall rate of federal taxation as a percentage of GDP, are historically low, low, low, low, low.

If you want to go back more than about 80 years, you might have a case. Otherwise, not so much.

The numbers just are not there.

The South, followed by the Mid-West, leans fairly heavily to flag-waving types.

Not quite accurate. It's kind of a mixed bag. At least, when evaluated on a per-capita basis.

TX and OK stand out, but so does HI and MT.

MS and both Carolinas, those bastions of rebel yelldom, are outdone by every state in the northeast, including all of New England, NY, and NJ.

ME outdoes GA.

Not quite so cut and dry.

Note that this doesn't include Marine recruitment. I couldn't find state-by-state stats for the Marines, which AFAIC speaks well of them.

But statistically, there just aren't enough Marines to make a dent in my overall point.

how many times did I hear or read someone on the left say "Elections have consequences."

Seriously, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

McK, I hope you live to be 110. If you do, you will not, from this day until the day you die, hear that phrase in an unfriendly context as often as folks like me heard it on a more or less weekly basis from 2000 until 2008.

HCR was discussed, in Congress and in public meetings, with and without guns, day in and day out, for well over a year. It's all that anyone talked about.

Yes, it's a great big burning hunk of legislation. It's a complex issue, with about a million stakeholders each with their own axe to grind, and represents a dollar figure verging on 20% of GDP.

So yes, it's contentious, and yes, it's complicated, and yes, it takes a lot of language to try to pin it down.

I can tell you that my .Net 4.0 "In A Nutshell" book weighs in at 1,000 pages. That's in a Nutshell, dude. Thank god I don't hack X Windows code anymore, that was a whole bookshelf.

How many pages in Blackstone's Commentaries?

How many pages of text would I need to read to come up to speed on the history of US Constitutional Law? How many for a thorough understanding of organic chemistry?

I know a guy, a great bassist and tenor saxophonist, who has transcribed over 7,000 pages of jazz solos. The dude is a great player, and that's what it takes to be one.

2,500 pages for legislation to govern the entire freaking health care industry of the United States of America seems proportionate. To me, anyway.

Yes, the average person won't grok it all. The average person is not going to grok the legislation in all of its miniscule detail, because the average person is not going to grok the reality in all of its miniscule detail.

That's unfortunate, but it is what is is.

FBOW, that's why we have representatives, and it's why we give them enough money to hire a staff.

There are a lot of things like that. Life's complicated.

"Bachmann is a conservative's true nightmare, like Palin. Without substance or meaningful vision, they simply bring a complex range of emotions bundled into a vaguely coherent platform"

Bachman is the prefect Republican, though. She loudly proclaims how Christian she is voting to give herself a tax cut, and to decimate supports for the elderly, the disabled, the children of the poor, and the unemployed. she calls herself a fiscal conservative while suppportig her party's policies which were intended to create a deficit (so it could be used to justify her vote agaist Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment). She's agaisnt big government programs and earmarks while voting to shovel farm subsidies to her family and federal tax dollars to her husband's business.

She's the perfect Republican politician!

I'm still stuck on this confiscatory taxes crap.

Some Republican House member was whining yesterday about the high taxes on the poor old rich who could't afford to keep their country club memberships and had to buy less expensive cars.

I know a old lady who has no car. She can't afford one. She feeds a family of stray cats (mom ad her six adult offspring) who live uder her trailer. I helped her get the cats all spayed and nuetered paid for by a charity. She loves the cats--they are her family and company--but she can't afford to feed them. (I buy a bag of cat food once a month to supplimet what she buys)She lives on top ramen herself the last week of every month.

But never mind that!@ According to Mck she should sacrifice to help pay down the deficit first, rich people can sacrifice later on. So what should she sacrifice? Her tiny beat up old traler? Her insufficient food stamps? Her Medicaid? The Social Security disability that doesn't cover her very rudimetary living expenses? Or maybe she should take the cats to the pound and have them killed so she won't have to budget cat food any more?

How come coservatives ever seem to give a shit about the confiscatory nature of the attacks they make on the poor?


i hoestly don't know how conservatives can live with theri consciences. Dogmas about confiscatory taxes are not more important than real poeple.

McKinney (in quotes here and below "The answer, in short, is the appearance if not the reality of over-reaching by the left."al
And "appearance" here is media bloviating? Since my (and others') prior comments demonstrate that there was actually no overreaching? Media, anybody? Fox News? Murdoch? Lies?

"The totality of the process is seen as arrogance/heavy-handedness in some quarters and produces a reaction, in this case the results of the 2010 elections."

"Seen as"? Fox News anybody? Murdoch? Lies?

"spending is way out of control and the other is the only clear picture they get of Democrat policy going forward is: keep spending and raise taxes?"

Spending? Bush turning huge surpluses into deficits, leaving Obama with a financial crisis? Do you have a memory disorder?

"Some of us doubt the ability of Pelosi/Reid and Obama to manage the economy. But, on the left, it is an article of faith that committed, intelligent people can look rationally at what the country needs and find a way to engineer the correct economic result. The fact that this has never happened before in human history, particularly in a country as large and diverse as the US, gives few on the left any pause for concern."

Can politicians manage the economy? Maybe not entirely. Can they influence employment? Yes. It's called stimulus.

"I don't expect to change many, if any, minds."

No doubt. Most people who speak on the basis of dogma, without evidence, on the basis of "appearance" and what's "seen as" ...
that doesn't change minds.

Laura Koerbeer, thanks so much for your comment. Confiscatory taxes? The lowest rates since the '60's? The '60's until the 90s being the proudest years of American history? Give me a break.

China is progressing. It's making huge mistakes along the way, for sure - way too much progress; way too little regulation (no, no regulation! In China!). What kind of country, McKinney, do you want to be? What do you see as our future? No taxes..... ahhhhh. Filthy air; filthy food; no education; no medicine; people dying from poverty.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh - but no taxes. Billionaires by their swimming pools.....

I was curious, so I went and looked it up.

How many pages is the US Code, unannotated:

The Code itself, from the USGPO, is in 35 volumes of around 1,200 to 1,400 pages each, including 6,850 pages of index in 6 volumes and one volume that is nothing but a 1,400-page LIST of the other public laws that have not been codified (e.g, the budget, etc).

Then there is the Code of Federal Regulations, for another $1,400 or more for a subscription, for another 20,000 pages

So yeah, it's all nuts, and maybe the country is, plainly and simply, ungovernable due to the welter of law that's accumulated over our not-quite-250 years.

But 2,500 pages of law to govern the provision of health care just doesn't seem out of scale to me.

It's a hell of a lot of ink and dead trees, but for good or ill, there doesn't appear to be anything unusual about it.

Not my field, as they say, so I'm sure I could be wrong.

McKinney
Your last comment show astounding lack oh history of your own country. This is a person who's been in this country for only 13.5 years. Also lack of basic economy 101.
The comment reminds me of the time when i just arrived to the US and listening to TV shows where the claims that can be attributed to US only was claimed for the world, statements like biggest in the world, longest, only free country, so on and on. Knowing better then the false glorification proclaimed all over the TV, it made me wonder how much lies the people are able to take. I found out that there is no limit to it.

Simply because someone believes that we can tax at confiscatory levels and spend virtually without limit doesn't translate that belief into immutable fact.
Aren't you projecting a bit?

This is from* a person who's been in this country for only 13.5 years.

Not to pile on, MckT, but you spelled "Democratic" wrong.

Brett's misapprehension is widespread, and it is a serious problem.

Government is neither good nor evil. It is not a thing to be maximized for its own sake, but neither is less government an intrinsic good. Government is nothing more than a tool; when it works effectively, it is one of our very best tools.

It is not the only tool, and attempting to apply it inappropriately can do real harm.

But attempting to destroy it wholesale is to attempt to cripple mankind as surely as denying us fire or electricity.

Simply because someone believes that we can tax at confiscatory levels and spend virtually without limit doesn't translate that belief into immutable fact.

You are either delusional or belabor under the believe that you can spout bullshit without being called on it.

It is an article of faith among right-wing blowhards that they can spout off that they are "overtaxed" and that the government "spends without limit," believing that their statements are true by dint of the fact they say them. They are not. You are simply a self-interested blowhard who demands that these statements be taken seriously because it is in service to the morally bankrupt ideology you cling to and your social milieu of right wing conservatives you want to ingratiate yourself with. Topped off with a lot of resentment towards younger liberals that you are pissed off at.

Spending is low. Insofar as sometimes it rises as a % of GDP, it's because GDP had a precipitous drop-off. We cut and cut and cut your taxes and spent money on wars to keep you entertained, and it did nothing but piss you off and cause you to complain even more about taxes. Why? Because a Democrat got elected president, giving you what you felt was carte blanche to spout right-wing lies you "know" are true.

I realize that this is how you treat your friends and family, spouting right-wing BS as though it deserves to be treated as factual, but it is not. My only conclusion is that cutting spending and taxes, letting the budget and the country crumble, does not appease the right wing hostility in your heart but only aggravates it and detaches you even further and further from reality.

We did it your way, electing a right-wing president with a toady right wing congress, and he tanked the economy. We gave you everything you wanted, and it turned out that conservative policies are a big fat harmful lie. Why do you think we're going to take you and your morally bankrupt ideology seriously, now? When you had the chance to care about the country, you were a right-wing Bush toady loyalist. I don't really think that gives you credibility on this matter, especially know while you spit on the unemployed.

This one goes to 11.

Maybe dial it back a notch or two, please?

If you read McK carefully, you will find that he is neither a blowhard nor an adherent to a morally bankrupt ideology, and he's not a guy who spits on anybody.

And he does actually pay a lot of taxes, as do many folks.

I don't have a huge beef with the substance of what you're saying, just asking for a deep breath to be taken.

I'll endeavor to take my own advice.

When I asked McT the question, it was a mix of rhetorical and real, and I wasn't trying to turn him into a piñata, so my apologies if you thought I was hoisting you up there.

I tend to take a much more sanguine view of debt (but I would, living where I do). My general example is the fact that Nintendo had revenues of $22 billion dollars in 2009, though that may be superseded by the observation that Apple has more cash than the US government.

At any rate, apologies for calling out to wander on the firing range.

he does actually pay a lot of taxes, as do many folks.

No, I'm pretty sure he doesn't, at least for someone living in a first world country. And the taxes he pays aren't "confiscatory."

Facts matter. McK's emotional state he's been whipped into by right-wing ideology is not to be taken into account.

But, as I recall, the substance of HCR bill was made available 48 (72?) hours before the vote. Republicans were entirely shut out of the process, as was the public, on the details of the legislation.

Not to be uncivil, but were you under a rock in 2009? The debate went on literally for months. Outreach to Republicans to try to reach a deal went on for months and months and months. "Shut out" my bleeding foot.

Spin all you like, but flatly refusing to compromise or negotiate in good faith and then voting 'no' down the line is not at all the same as being "shut out". (In fact, the bill contained a lot of upfront concessions to Republicans - it's been accurately characterized by many as essentially the Republican policy prescription for HCR, ca. late 90s or early oughts.)

As for the 48 hours thing - this is a red herring. It's common knowledge in Washington that nobody really reads the full legalese before a vote anyway, even if they've got a week. The broad outlines are usually known, and it's more or less a matter of trusting the intent of the drafters and the relevant committees. Usually you can patch it up later if there's a big problem.

That's somewhat problematical, I'll admit, but not in any way unique to bills you oppose that got passed by Democrats - heck, Boehner just rushed through the debt bill with less than 48 hours, and that's already something like the 5th time he's broken his promise to always allow 72 hours.

(As an aside, in principle I think I'd support keeping bills in "plain English" until the final vote - or after it. IIRC, the plain English version of the HCR bill was only a few dozen pages - it's all the legalese involved in patching it into the existing code and crossing every T that inflates bills of even moderate complexity so much.)

Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu got notoriously special deals, there was the fake-abortion compromise to get the pro-life Democrats on board...

Disappointing, but still more or less normal horse trading, what's so objectionable about this case? (Note that any Republican willing to vote for the thing probably could have asked for just about anything they pleased.)

... and the damn thing is 2500 pages long, so protestations that it just basically preserves the status quo and fixes a thing or two here and there just doesn't wash.

See above about bill length in general, but on this point, I'd add:

- Why does a long bill make these claims less plausible? Minor changes or not, a bill like this has to touch and tweak a lot of things all over the place. That tends to pad the word count.

- And note that the claim isn't that the bill doesn't make any major changes - it obviously does - the claim is that the bill doesn't change the status quo for people who already have insurance they're happy with. That's quite different. It's easy to see how the new add-ons (exchanges, new rules, etc.) might be relatively more complicated.

In short, there was a not irrational perception of arrogance on the part of Democrats--how many times did I hear or read someone on the left say "Elections have consequences."

Sure looks like some irrational perception to me.

To review: A year-long debate and negotiation is followed by passage of a much-discussed, centrist-or-even-rightish-leaning bill of not-unusual length via some perfectly ordinary horsetrading and last minute legislative wrangling - in part necessitated by the fact that Republicans refused to bargain in good faith.

Yet this is spun by the tea-party set as some kind of outrageous abuse of the legislative process in which a secret, dangerous, socialist bill was passed while Republicans were "shut out".

That's not spin. It's simply ludicrous.

I am sure there is plenty of counter-spin some here might offer. To you it sounds perfectly reasonable, but that's because your buying your own sales pitch. From the outside looking in, it's being tone deaf.

Umm, ditto. Though not tone deaf so much as "fact deaf".

Also, try to recall the context. LJ wanted my take on why the "anti-government" movement has the traction it does. The answer, in short, is the appearance if not the reality of over-reaching by the left.

All you're pointing out is that the "anti-government" movement appears to harbor a lot of incredibly false perceptions.

This doesn't really explain where those perceptions are coming from or why they're finding such fertile ground...

I do, but you won't buy it. First, Items 1 and 2 above are part and parcel of the internal kool aid the left drinks. Item 2 first--You can whine all day long about how those nasty racist conservatives think Obama is illegitimate because of his color, but saying it doesn't make it so. If that were true, conservatives would be fine with Obama's policies if he were white.

1. How would we be able to tell that that they wouldn't be?

2. Even if we did have a "white Obama" control to test this claim, and found the tea party still hostile, this doesn't necessarily dissipate the racism charge. There's still the--very credible, IMO--narrative that a lot of middle class whites oppose social spending if it's perceived that it might benefit minorities. (A black president is just icing on the cake.)

3. In any case, I wouldn't say this is the sole motivation. It's obviously complicated. Some people are just coming from it from the perspective of flatly wrong beliefs about economics. Or sheer hyperpartisanship.

They passed HCR against widespread doubt and opposition, and were pretty self-congratulatory about it.

I would point out, according to the polling, minority doubts. In fact, the final bill was probably somewhat to the right of the measures supported by the polling (see: public option, the).

IIRC, overall public support DID fall in the late stages of the game, and after passage, but this was due to (1) right-wing FUD of the kind you're rehashing here, (2) a lot of more left-wing folks souring on watered-down nature of the final bill. It's very misleading to try lump the two together.

Some of the details are covered above. The totality of the process is seen as arrogance/heavy-handedness in some quarters and produces a reaction, in this case the results of the 2010 elections.

Right, per above, left-wing apathy plus right-wing anger equaled low turnout of the former and an unfortunate sweep for the latter. Not to mention the sluggish economy (thanks to undersized stimulus).

But again, this doesn't really explain why so many people on the right were/are so ready to believe the ridiculous FUD.

I can’t take seriously the seriousness of anyone who talks about confiscatory tax levels without acknowledging the -- in effect -- confiscatory practices of big business in this era. By “confiscatory levels” of taxes I presume McK means taxes on higher earners; the “confiscation” I’m talking about hits everyone, and the lowest earners the hardest.

Example 1: I got a text message the other day on my cell phone, welcoming me to some b*llsh!t service that I hadn’t (knowingly) signed up for and don’t want. Because it was time to put my son on my cell phone plan, I happened to ask at the Verizon store what I could do about the nuisance of having to pay 20 cents for text messages I don’t want.

Turns out the nuisance isn’t just a 20 cent charge for the text because I don’t have a plan, it’s probably a $9.99 charge (if not worse) for “premium texting.” And I can’t do a damned thing about it because Congress -- those confiscatory bastards -- is too busy letting Verizon confiscate my money for services I didn’t ask for and don’t want to get around to protecting the little guy any more.

The article says that the big 3 cell phone companies made about $650 million between 2006 and 2011 on cramming fees. Most of that money came from ordinary people like me, a lot of it for things people like me didn’t want. And that’s only the cut the phone companies got for putting the charges on their bills. Vastly more money, presumably, went to the crooks who are stealing $9.99 from me because Congress lets them.

Example 2: I have a fat folder in my file cabinet of “Privacy Notices” from companies I deal with -- my bank account, my insurance company, my IRA, etc. -- because Congress did sort of more of less in a way force companies to inform me about all the ways I’m powerless to stop them from using my personal data for their own gain.

These may seem like minor details, but the list could go on and on (read the Red Tape Chronicles regularly and see), and the list is symbolic of the bigger thing that’s wrong with this picture of “confiscatory” business practices aided and abetted by Congress as often as not.

Just to get some perspective on the level of confiscation that McK is so ticked off about, I want to repeat -- for the third or fourth time on this blog -- my summary, from CBO data, of just how badly off the super-rich have gotten in the past 30+ years in this horrible world of “confiscatory” taxes:

The 2005 charts divide the top quintile into 7 sublevels. The highest level of all is “Top 0.01 percentile.” In 1979 there were roughly 9000 households in that group, by 2005 there were about 11000.

In 1979, the after-tax income of the lowest quintile was $14,400; of the top 1% of 1% it was $4,188,300. The top 1% of 1% were taking home (after taxes) 291 times the bottom quintile.

In 2005, the after-tax income of the lowest quintile was $15,300; of the top 1% of 1% it was $24,286,300, or 1587 times the bottom quintile.

The wealth is all going to the top, increasingly obscenely. Charting the CBO numbers, one finds that the bottom four quintiles were essentially stagnant in terms of after-tax income from 1979 to 2005. Even the lower portions of the top quintile didn’t make many gains. Only the top couple of bands did better over time, and their lines on the graph got ever steeper.

If the top 1% of 1% gave away half their after-tax income to the lowest quintile, the folks in the lowest quintile would see their monetary resources rise by a third, while the folks at the top would have to struggle along on a mere million a month.

There isn’t a violin in the world small enough to express my level of concern at how our “confiscatory” tax structure is soaking the poor bastards who have to get along on twenty-four million a year after taxes, while twenty-five million households try to make it on $15,000 or so.

I got the #’s above from here in March of 2009. When I went back recently to update my charts, I couldn’t find the top quintile broken down so finely any more.

Gee, I wonder why.

Not oly does a miority oppose the HCR act, but the oppositio is based o lies from the Republica party: death panels, socialism, big govermet coimig betwee the aptiet ad the doctor...if Republican politicians had any legitimate objections to the bill they surely would have expressed them, but it is to the shame of the party ad it's supporters that the oppositio to the bill was expressed entirely in terms of lies. The opposition was partisan politics, ot based on substance.

WHich ought to be shockig. It ought ti be shickig that early every Republica elected to natioal office lied about a Health care reform act because they cared more about partisa politics tha the log term effects of health expeses o our ecoomy or the effects of lack of isurance o ordiary families.

Just aother example of how Republcia poiliticias ot oly do't care about ordinary voters but don't care about America, either.

Just as they showed they don't care about America when they deliberately created a deficit, then lied about the causes of the deficit and used it as a basis for economic terrorism against their country to drive their ideological agenda down everyone's throats.


That's why Dallas and Houston hate each other

Nuance here. Dallas is the New Zealand of Texas and everybody knows that. It is undisputed.

McK, I hope you live to be 110. If you do, you will not, from this day until the day you die, hear that phrase in an unfriendly context as often as folks like me heard it on a more or less weekly basis from 2000 until 2008.

I was unaware that the Repubs began with this arrogance. I agree, turnabout is fair play.

Your last comment show astounding lack oh history of your own country. This is a person who's been in this country for only 13.5 years.

I'm not sure how to respond to this.

Not to pile on, MckT, but you spelled "Democratic" wrong.

Thanks. Your shots are always well aimed.

2,500 pages for legislation to govern the entire freaking health care industry of the United States of America seems proportionate. To me, anyway.

The point is, the legislation itself should have been put out there for review and discussion. The concept was discussed, but not the actual law going into effect. It was consciously suppressed, to deflect specific criticism and because the number of last minute deals that had to be cut to get it through. It was an ugly process and probably the genesis of the Tea Party roots.

FBOW, that's why we have representatives, and it's why we give them enough money to hire a staff.

If my representative is never shown a copy of the legislation, I am not represented. It was a sh***y way to pass a bill and the left will regret the process.

If you read McK carefully, you will find that he is neither a blowhard nor an adherent to a morally bankrupt ideology, and he's not a guy who spits on anybody.

And he does actually pay a lot of taxes, as do many folks.

Thanks, Russell. If Tyro and some of the others going off on my "confiscatory taxes" comment were to read particularly carefully, they would see that I was responding directly to BobbyP. Further research would reveal that one of BobbyP's comments on Russell's "Tax Me" post seemed to proposed confiscatory levels of taxation and much higher spending.

So, chill out, Tyro. I do not contend that the left universally demands confiscatory levels of taxation or unlimited domestic spending. I will note, however, that much of the word choice is substantively no different than the blowhardism on the right. Full of invective and mind reading and imputing to others the worst of motives. I am particularly amused at Sapient's notion that I am a Fox News fan.

Also, interesting recruitment stats, Russell.

And, you're right, as we've discussed before, I pay a lot of taxes, as do a lot of people.

so my apologies if you thought I was hoisting you up there.

Appreciate the thought, but entirely unnecessary. This is not my first rodeo.

I tend to take a much more sanguine view of debt

In a way, I do to. If it's as bad as I think it is, then eventually, to quote the president, we will have to eat our peas regardless of what anybody wants. If it isn't, well then, my bad.

But, as I recall, the substance of HCR bill was made available 48 (72?) hours before the vote...

The Medicare Part D vote in the House. Felonies, actual felonies, committed on the floor of the House, to insure passage.

Oh, the horror of Dems shoving THAT one down the Nation's throat. Oh, wait...


Let me put it a different way.

A very small percentage of the population is raking very large, and ever larger, amounts of wealth off the rest of us. That rising line of income for the top 1% of 1% didn't come from thin air, it came from everyone else. It certainly didn't all come from value these people added to the world. People who take moeny from me for stuff I didn't ask for and don't want, and who have bought Congress's cooperation in giving me no remedy, are crooks, pure and simple, whether legally so or not. Taking some of the money back from them isn't confiscation, as far as I'm concerned, it's simple justice.

Getting all exercised about the government taking a few more bucks from unimaginably wealthy people to put toward the "general welfare" and the "common good," and not giving a damn about the fact that huge multi-national businesses are stealing a few bucks at a time from practically everyone on a regular basis -- kind of a partial view of the big picture, if you ask me.

My emphasis. This strikes me as plain old wrong.

Sure it does. That's the left's, and particularly the progressive left's, take on how economics works. The problem is, not everyone agrees with this.

I've no doubt you can find some partisan economists who will tell you whatever you want to hear.

Nevertheless, the basic economic outline here is not especially controversial. here for example, is an article from just a couple days ago quoting private sector bond analysts on the damage further spending cut backs are likely to do to an already weakening economy.

The partisan counter narrative that low taxes on the rich are needed to spur supply side investments hasn't really been finding a lot of empirical support in recent years. Nor has the absurd notion that austerity budgets reduce unemployment or help economic recovery.

(Relatedly, the view lately espoused by many policy elites - that low inflation is far more important than fighting unemployment - is somewhat incoherent when examined closely.)

Again, recalling the context of my answer to LJ, he was looking for reasons why the backlash against Obama et al is so pronounced. One of the reasons is that spending is way out of control and the other is the only clear picture they get of Democrat policy going forward is: keep spending and raise taxes.

While this seems perfectly reasonable to folks on the left, it doesn't appear to be quite so obvious to a lot of others. Feel free to dismiss them as idiots, racists or whatever. Name calling will continue to be as persuasive as ever was.

Well, popular understanding of the economics of national debt or the need for countercyclical fiscal policy is indeed abysmal. I'll grant you that.

It's problematic, inasmuch as this leads them to elect disingenuous leaders who play on this ignorance, and inasmuch as the press is unwilling to educate.

Again, this is standard, progressive thinking. We can spend even more than we already are and with sound management of the economy, things will be great. Some of us doubt the ability of Pelosi/Reid and Obama to manage the economy.

I think on the evidence, I doubt the ability of Republicans to responsibly manage the economy more.

But, on the left, it is an article of faith that committed, intelligent people can look rationally at what the country needs and find a way to engineer the correct economic result.

I think by definition, committed, intelligent people can rationally judge what the country needs.

I do not take it on faith that we can generally find such people in Congress or the White House though.

The fact that this has never happened before in human history, particularly in a country as large and diverse as the US, gives few on the left any pause for concern.

Believe me, it gives plenty of us pause.

The problem is: there's no alternative.

See, the fact that rational economic policies have to be fought and argued for constantly, the fact that the public and elected policy makers frequently fail to act responsibly, does not actually manifest any kind of viable alternative. Not one that will, on net, result in better outcomes or less economic suffering.

I don't expect to change many, if any, minds. But just as Pelosi and many others got it wrong when they dismissed the early Tea Party movement as astro turf, so too do many continue to miss the boat by discounting the number and commitment of those who find the Democratic approach problematic.

I'll just note that the tea party was astroturf originally, so Pelosi was right. And while it's developed somewhat organically (cancerously, even) since then, there're definitely still some monied interests making sure it's all properly fertilized and watered.

The concept was discussed, but not the actual law going into effect. It was consciously suppressed, to deflect specific criticism and because the number of last minute deals that had to be cut to get it through.

Assumes facts not in evidence.

Debt ceiling bill is about to pass trough senate today and be signed by Obama. Will Obama use line veto signing to leave clean debt ceiling line since he promised that he will veto partial debt ceiling rise? will he use line veto power just as Christie did to eliminate agreement with Democratic majority in NJ senate? Or as Bush did numerous times without much of a peep from Media.
Debt deal affects only the budget of the 2013 and the cut is between $9 and &22 B, More of the cuts are coming from "super congress" commission trigger.
2014 and following budgets are not going to be affected by this since it is going to be new different congress.

POTUS doesn't have line item veto power.

i hoestly don't know how conservatives can live with theri consciences. Dogmas about confiscatory taxes are not more important than real poeple.

Laura, your second sentence hits the nub of it. Most of us care most about "real people". But real people means primarily people we can relate to. If you know, as you do, someone who is poor it is much easier to relate to the poor.

If you rarely encounter real poverty (let's hear it for gated communities!), it becomes much easier to feel like the poor are somehow "undeserving" of you help. That is, they are the cause of their own problems, so they deserve their situation. And besides, since you rarely see them, how many poor can there really be?

What we have, then, is a failure of empathy combined with a failure of imagination. Supported by a preference not to know anything which would break that view of the world. But once you have achieved that, your conscience really isn't a problem. Because there is nothing for it to get a grip on.

In a way, I do to. If it's as bad as I think it is, then eventually, to quote the president, we will have to eat our peas regardless of what anybody wants. If it isn't, well then, my bad.

The problem with this is that this is a case where actions based on beliefs can become self fulfilling prophecy.

Assuming that the debt situation is not currently urgent, a protracted recession or stagnation caused by misguided austerity measures will nevertheless make the long term debt situation very bad indeed.

It won't simply be a matter of "my bad," I was wrong. (Indeed, there will probably be plenty of folks still around arguing that the problem is just that there wasn't enough cutting.)

OTOH, if short term debt funded stimulus spending were on the table, and it did indeed speed recovery, the long term debt problem would fade to insignificance. (Assuming no Bush III administration, natch.)

Hat tip to Balloon Juice for the link. Especially the first six paragraphs; not new ground but explaining the origins and makeup of the Federal debt very clearly:

http://nplusonemag.com/origins-of-the-crisis

Especially this:

"Intra-governmental debt is something of a misnomer: $4.53 of it is really money owed by the government to the American people. The biggest single number in sight, $2.40, represents what Americans have collectively set aside for retirement, or Social Security. This $2.40 is a surplus, collected over decades, as the total revenues from Social Security payroll taxes have exceeded the total amount being paid to beneficiaries. This surplus has been invested in the government, where it counts towards the total debt. The psychological impact of this language game should be clear. What ought to be celebrated as sound financial planning appears instead as further evidence of reckless profligacy. The more money we save, the poorer we are told we are. There is also $1.68 in savings for health care and $0.40 dedicated to needs such as highways, housing, the disposal of nuclear waste, and unemployment insurance."

Repeat: "The more money we save, the poorer we are told we are."

See my next comment as well regarding the pointlessness of saving alternatives available to 99% of the American people.

From, for me, a surprising source.

Read the comment from Redrum by a guy who works fairly well up the totem pole on Wall Street, regarding the public stock markets and the parasitic nature of the financial industry, particularly with regard to derivatives.

Remember, the public equity markets, (what have you made in the S&P Index over the past 12 years, folks?) are where we have been told by Kudlow, the Bush Administration, and every Republican since time began that they want most or all of our Social Security savings (see above comment) to go.

The depth and breadth of this attempted heist is monstrous. It's civilization ending.

"Francis Cianfrocca Monday, August 1st at 9:55PM EDT (link)

To my mind the public stock markets are not the real stock market. The real market is PE. The public markets are where private investors go to dump their garbage after they’ve sucked the juice out of it.

To a great extent, we don’t build great companies with public funding anymore in America. Certainly not like we once did. I think that’s an awful shame.

And if you’re an investor in the public stock markets, well, I feel for you.

I think that on net, the financial industry today is parasitic to the real economy, and I’ve felt that way for quite a lot of years. Nearly all the years I’ve been involved in finance, actually. If you know anything about the microstructure of derivatives markets (and maybe you do), you’re probably as disgusted as I am. And they’ve gotten measurably worse just in the past two years.

I think that investment firms need to be restructured such that the primary stakeholders (be they partners, MDs or shareholders) must be fully exposed to the downside as well as the upside.

I believe that the government can and MUST impose much stricter capital requirements on banks. In this, I’m in full agreement with the recent Tarullo proposals. If anything they don’t far enough. Certainly Basel III doesn’t go far enough. And the “con-cons” that people like Credit Suisse are talking about are too geeky to work right in a crisis, when you need them."

Me again.

Even among a rutting herd of bleating, callow punks, Confederate violence-encouraging blockheads, and raving John Birch nativist lunatics, you can occasionally find some sense, if you get there before the moderators blam them.

We are effed beyond all effing.

Via Krugman:

http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/World/20110802/greece-economic-and-political-crisis-110802/

Ah, look who shows up when an austerity party is thrown. And, of course, the Other, gets the punishment.

We have all of the elements here.

Never negotiate with hostage-taking terrorists:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/01/1001973/-McConnell-on-debt-ceiling-hostage-taking:-Well-be-doing-it-all-over?via=blog_1

You hunt them down like Osama Bin Laden and put a bullet through their eye.

it is the left who defines the Tea Party and most conservatives (first conflation) with being "anti-government"

When dealing with abusive members of a relationship, it is wise to believe what they say. When right wingers say they want to "drown the government in a bathtub," I believe them. Forgive me for taking their anti government rhetoric at their word.

There is a difference here-- the right believes in small government for its own sake (so they claim, at least). Mind readers that they are, they project their own false belief system on liberals, whom they believe to want "big government for its own sake" when actually the left tends to want government big enough to do what it needs to do. One ideology is a practical, pragmatic one. The other ideology is an ideology of the fanatic playing crazy.

I'd like to say something about this "2500 pages" nonsense.

I happen to be involved, right now, in negotiating a business deal involving the sale of software. Most of the terms have long been agreed to, and I could provide a 2-3 page description that would pretty well cover everything a normal person would want to know about this.

Yet the negotiations go on, because there are lots of legal concerns, because of the need for actual precise definitions and distinctions, because of the need to allow for unlikely but possible events, etc.

In other words, once you get into legalities, documents and agreements, and certainly statutes, can grow much larger than outsiders would think necessary to implement the basic ideas.

I think anyone who has been involved in anything like this (closed on a house lately?) understands the process and how the paper multiplies. Surely lawyers do.

So I have no sympathy for this particular complaint. It's meaningless.

As far as that goes, how many pages of fine print does it take these days just to log on to free wireless in a hotel? Or to buy and download a piece of software?

Brett:Self government is exactly that; Governing yourself. It isn't a form of government, it's government's antithesis.

No, this is not what self-government means at all.

If your personal view of self-governance really does boil down to "nobody else gets to tell me what to do"--as seems to be the case for the Tea Party--then it is not the least bit surprising that you find our (small-d) democratic republic so oppressive and inconvenient.

Countme: You hunt them down like Osama Bin Laden and put a bullet through their eye.

I am not on board with this.

It's not that I dispute the premise that Republicans in Congress have been engaged in a campaign of political terrorism and (quite literally) holding the economic well-being of the country hostage to their demands.

They are criminals and should be afraid for their liberty, wondering when the FBI is going to arrest them and charge them with a collection of RICO and conspiracy charges. They can never be forgiven for metaphorically holding a gun on the economy and threatening to pull the trigger if they are not given a wish-list of ideological concessions as ransom.

Make no mistake: this was, is, and remains a form of extortion and terrorism, the actions not of a legitimate political party but of a criminal conspiracy of fanatics who do not care about the harm they are prepared to inflict on the rest of the country in order to get what they want.

But the line I quoted from you is a bridge too far. For the sake of the country, they must be destroyed--but through the political and legal process, not like that.

"One ideology is a practical, pragmatic one. The other ideology is an ideology of the fanatic playing crazy."

This is,IMHO, a ridiculous statement. Even in the debate just kicked down the road, or concluded, we saw the priorities of both sides when faced with the requirement to actually spend less. It is not "fanatics playing crazy" to insist on some level of prioritization of spending on a limited budget.

I suggest that the things that got cut demonstrate as much about the priorities of the Democrats as the priorities of the Tea Party. Once faced with the reality of not being able to buy everything, they picked the specific cuts as much as Republicans.

Ans as for the 2500 pages, this:

Yet the negotiations go on, because there are lots of legal concerns, because of the need for actual precise definitions and distinctions, because of the need to allow for unlikely but possible events, etc

is precisely why if you got a 2500 page document with one day to read all those details you wouldn't sign it. If it needed to be 2500 pages, which it probably did, even 48 hrs. is not enough time to get through all the details. Then there was no changes accepted at all, every amendment was killed or blocked in that 48 hrs.

Would the people you are negotiating with even consider signing it in those circmstances? Uh, no.

CCDG: It is not "fanatics playing crazy" to insist on some level of prioritization of spending on a limited budget.

But this is not what happened, or what needed to happen. This kind of muddled argument is exactly what comes of conflating the need to raise the debt ceiling with the issue of government spending.

The fact is that the debt ceiling had to be raised on its own. Period. It was no more optional than it is for me to decide not to pay a credit card bill in order to reduce my discretionary spending. The need to raise the debt ceiling reflects money that Congress has already voted to spend, not an opportunity to rethink that spending.

It is ridiculous and contradictory that we have a debt ceiling in the first place, but if we must tolerate its existence, it should be a first principle of any responsible legislator that whether or not we pay our bills is never up for debate. The time for settling that debate is when you are voting to appropriate money, not when you get the bill.

Threatening not to raise it is tantamount to threatening to sabotage the economy and creditworthiness of the United States. The financial well-being of this country is not a bargaining chip to be used as leverage to get what you want, and doing so is not just incomprehensibly stupid--it is, I argue, criminal extortion on its face.

The only reason these two issues became conflated is because extremist Republicans in Congress chose to conflate them, knowing that they would never be able to extract the kind of spending concessions they sought without threatening the country with unthinkable economic consequences.

Insisting on prioritizing spending in the budget is not "fanatics playing crazy". Threatening to force the country into default and blow up the economy in order to demand spending cuts is.

"Make no mistake: this was, is, and remains a form of extortion and terrorism, the actions not of a legitimate political party but of a criminal conspiracy of fanatics who do not care about the harm they are prepared to inflict on the rest of the country in order to get what they want."

This is also ludicrous. The President and Democrats could have had the eventual compromise months ago. There would have been little fanfare and the damage done would have been mitigated.

The President decided to use the battle to get tax hikes, period. He went as far as he could go, the 12th hour, to try and use this debate to raise taxes. He tried everything he could to get 80+ people in the House to back down on the very platform they were elected on.

That was just politics by Obama (and Boehner who tried to help him).

The brinksmanship here was the Presidents, laying the foundation for the next debate.

I am sure, my opinion, that his political advisors assured him it would weaken the Tea Party and Republicans if he could create the "terrorist" meme, and it mattered little what the eventual and inevitable compromise included.

BTW, Democrats would love it if Obama had shown the same comittment to his campaign promises when they controlled both houses of Congress.

"The only reason these two issues became conflated is because extremist Republicans in Congress chose to conflate them, knowing that they would never be able to extract the kind of spending concessions they sought without threatening the country with unthinkable economic consequences."

This is just not true. This issue became conflated as far back as Obama voting against raising the debt ceiling as a Senator. Some issues slowly grow over time until someone has the impetus to call them out. This is one.

A substantial portion of Americans, although not a majority despite 80% seeming to want a balanced budget amendment, voted for members of the House with the agreement that we would stop growing the size of the Federal budget beyond its means.

Tying the two things together was, and is, almost the only leverage for forcing prioritization.

I hope everyone now focuses on the prioritization of the money to be spent, that is a great debate to have.

CCDG: This is also ludicrous. The President and Democrats could have had the eventual compromise months ago.

You're still missing the point entirely: there never should have been a compromise. It should never have been necessary, because the threat not to raise it or else should never, ever have been made by a responsible party.

The President decided to use the battle to get tax hikes, period.

Horsesh1t. The Republicans laid down an ultimatum that the debt ceiling would not be raised unless it was part of a package to reduce the deficit. Obama attempted--wrongly, I think--to find some middle ground, proposing a number of different approaches to reducing the deficit including raising revenues.

The brinksmanship here was the Presidents, laying the foundation for the next debate.

There is no way to describe this other than completely unhinged dishonesty that does not at all comport with reality.

This is just not true. This issue became conflated as far back as Obama voting against raising the debt ceiling as a Senator.

You do not seem to grasp the vast gulf of difference between the toothless individual posturing that has occurred in the past and the coordinated threats of the Republicans in Congress this time around.

In the past, the raise of the debt ceiling was a routine opportunity to make a point about spending and posture for the sake of politics and appearances, but the question of whether or not it would be raised has never been seriously questioned. That the ceiling would be raised was a mathematical certainty allowed individuals to vote against it as a way of making a statement.

Every credible political observer from across the spectrum is in agreement that this time was vastly different. The markets seem to agree.

Tying the two things together was, and is, almost the only leverage for forcing prioritization.

This is a revealing comment. There are many, many things in life that could be used as leverage--but that should never, ever be used that way by a moral person.

Since you're not getting the point, perhaps an analogy will help convey just how beyond the pale the threats of the Tea Party are.

My wife and I are doing the budget, and she notices that our credit card is close to being maxed out. She is upset about how much I've spent. I point out that we have had to deal with a bunch of medical issues, essential car repairs, buying school supplies for the kids and paying for college tuition. I also point out that the majority of the credit card bill is actually her own spending, much of which was on nonessentials.

(Apologies to my actual spouse--no resemblance to any actual budget discussions intended.)

She is uphappy with this. She refuses to accept responsibility for the debts she incurred, and keeps hammering the point that we're spending too much and our card is almost maxed out. She refuses to pay the credit card bill, saying that we simply don't have the money. I point out that the money is already spent and we owe it, and that I'll be happy to discuss ways to cut back our spending--but not at the expense of our health and our childrens' educations, and not by refusing to pay our bills.

At that point she lays down an ultimatum: cancel all of our media subscriptions, cancel my upcoming surgery, and stop paying tuition for our eldest son, or she will refuse to pay the credit card bill. Appalled, I point out the harm that her threat would cause: we would go to collections, take a huge hit on our credit report, we'd have a hard time getting any further lines of credit and would pay more interest for what we do get; I could lose the use of my arm if I don't have surgery and be unable to work, making our employment situation far worse; our son's education and future would be compromised, his studies abruptly interrupted. I point out that the time to decide whether or not to spend this money was when we decided to spend it, not when the bill comes due and we find ourselves in debt.

Those are the terms, she says. Agree to deep cuts in our budget now, or we default on our credit card debt.

In the face of it, her initial complaint is valid. We have too much debt. We incurred a lot of expenses in the last ten years, and we owe a lot of money as a result. We should both be taking a hard look at what we spend, and work on paying down our debt and prioritizing our expenses.

But the way to do this is not by refusing to pay our bills, costing us even more money--and credibility--in the long run.

It is not by sacrificing our childrens' education.

It is not by sacrificing our health, and skipping expenses necessary to keep me employed.

This is, in a nutshell, what the Tea Party extremists in Congress have done. It should be the biggest political scandal in American history that a group of fanatics have threatened to force the country into default in order to extract political concessions they would never have had the votes to get.

I think anyone who has been involved in anything like this (closed on a house lately?) understands the process and how the paper multiplies. Surely lawyers do.

So I have no sympathy for this particular complaint. It's meaningless.

I have a little bit of experience in sorting out legalities, and every case is different. But, in general, telling someone who is inclined against HCR to STFU, don't ask to read the bill and don't bitch because it's so long, just take our word for it, it's pretty simple, straightforward, blah, blah, blah, is precisely the kind of heavy handedness that provokes massive mistrust and a disproportionate backlash.

As for compromise, if you're not on board with the concept, why should someone compromise? It is no answer to say, "since you won't agree to work with us, you can't see the law we're going to pass until we're ready to pass it." If that is an acceptable answer, we're all screwed because whoever has the majority will be in a position to pass laws without the opposition getting a meaningful look at them.

Look, feel free to try to justify the HCR process. Dismiss the other side's complaints summarily and they will give you the same treatment right back, when the shoe is on the other foot, at which time you can claim victim status.

It is not "fanatics playing crazy" to insist on some level of prioritization of spending on a limited budget.

Sorry, I'm with Amezuki on this.

The debt ceiling has no substantial connection to, and ought not have been discussed in the context of, planning and negotiations for budgets going forward.

Insisting on "prioritizing spending" in the context of raising the debt ceiling is trying to close the barn door after the horse is gone.

Too late. That money is already budgeted, allocated, committed, and in many cases, spent.

I believe the ratio of cuts to revenue increases in the most ambitious Democratic proposal was something like 4 to 1.

So, claims of Obama gumming up the works with demands for "new taxes" don't fly.

The House Republicans own this mess. They wanted it, they got it, it's theirs.

As another frame of reference, I watched the press conference of the Progressive Caucus yesterday. The position of the Progressive caucus was that all compromise should be voted against and the President should invoke the 14th amendment to raise the debt ceiling.

This is at least as "extreme" as the Tea Party position and would have been a risk to the deal if the Democrats had a majority in the House. It's about 74 Congresspersons, more as the overlapping Black Caucus stood with them.

So it is about the same number as the Tea Party Caucus.

McKT: But, in general, telling someone who is inclined against HCR to STFU, don't ask to read the bill and don't bitch because it's so long, just take our word for it, it's pretty simple, straightforward, blah, blah, blah, is precisely the kind of heavy handedness that provokes massive mistrust and a disproportionate backlash.

I don't see anyone here doing that. What I see is people pointing out that complaining about the page length or word count of a given piece of legislation or body of work is not any kind of useful argument about the merits of its content. The emails I get from Flickr that notify me of activity on my photostream tend to be one or two pages of text and images. A Heinlein juvenile is a few hundred. A Dance with Dragons runs over a thousand. You could probably trim some fat around the margins, but each of these are just about exactly as long as they need to be.

So yes, people are right to dismiss the "but it's 2500 pages!" complaint as irrelevant. The response to this should be something along the lines of: "Really? Which pages do you think should be omitted?"

The response to this should be something along the lines of: "Really? Which pages do you think should be omitted?"

To be clear, the point of this response is to redirect a meaningless and arbitrary complaint about length in a more productive direction. To credibly complain that the length of a piece of legislation is inappropriate, a person is assumed to have a detailed understanding of its contents in order to have an informed opinion about whether or not the length is appropriate.

If the person complaining understands the material, they should be able to say something to the effect of, "pp 217-285 and 1103 -1220 are mostly redundant; they both set out definitions for X Y and Z, but phrase it in different ways that could lead to confusion. We could cut a lot of fat by merging those sections and ensuring that the language is consistent". Or perhaps, "at least 400 pages of this monstrosity are consumed by nickel-and-dime amendments that are at best tangentially related to the bill".

Those are targeted arguments of substance and merit.

The complaint of "2500 pages is too long" is not.

"The debt ceiling has no substantial connection to, and ought not have been discussed in the context of, planning and negotiations for budgets going forward"

I might have agreed with this two years ago, when we actually had a budget. But, the Democrats haven't submitted a budget to be debated in the Senate since Obama took office. NO budget. Two years. Over 800 days. My Senator didn't get to debate a budget. Amezuki's kitchen table discussion didn't happen. The closest thing was Obama's budget that was rejected 97-0.

There wasn't one in the House until the Republicans took over, that didn't get a Senate debate. No budget.

I don't agree anymore. They are tied together, and should be, or pass a budget so they are not.

As for the past votes being an opportunity for spineless Senators to act appalled, I don't see that as a good thing. No matter what party they were from. It makes Obama's big speech about the debt ceiling in the Senate almost sound like a lie.

However, I think he was serious and honest, then.

This is at least as "extreme" as the Tea Party position

Yes, and how far did they get with it?

They are tied together, and should be, or pass a budget so they are not.

No, they're not, and ought not be.

Pass a budget, and raise the debt ceiling if need be.

Stamping your feet and claiming you're going to turn the money tap off so that existing bills aren't paid is not only dumb, it's counterproductive. It costs us money.

How much of the federal budget right now is debt service? How much *more* of the federal budget will be debt service, without changing any other line item, if the credit markets start insisting on a higher return from T-bills to account for risk of default?

They could make the same point by stacking up $100 bills and setting them on fire.

It's just freaking foolish, I don't care how pissed off they are.

How much *more* of the federal budget will be debt service, without changing any other line item, if the credit markets start insisting on a higher return from T-bills to account for risk of default?

$1.7 billion so far.

Heckuva job, teabaggers.

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