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June 30, 2004

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May I ask that we stop referring to Bush's "tax cuts"? Milton Friedman used to have a riff about how "tax cuts" aren't really tax cuts--only spending cuts are tax cuts. Tax cuts unaccompanied by spending cuts are tax shifts--shifts of taxes from the present to the future...

"May I ask that we stop referring to Bush's "tax cuts"?"

Given that Senator Clinton herself referred to them as cuts, I don't think that you're going to get much traction on that. :)

Moe

PS: Thanks for the traffic, btw.

Honestly, it isn't even mangled or taken out of context. The (yet another BD-inspired) hue and cry over at Tacitus is revulsion at the very idea of taxation at all.

"We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good" This is a windy way of saying 'You're going to be taxed', and to vilify the concept is to vilify taxation itself. I had no idea there were so many objectivists over at chez Tac.

To paraphrase, 'we (the government) are going to take things away from you (the people)' on behalf of what the government thinks is good for you'. The disturbing thing about Hillary's words is the us-them relationship. Whatever happened to 'we the people' in Hillary's world view? No question she was talking to a specific audience, but then the question arises, was she pandering to the liberal crowd or were her words heartfelt? I suspect the latter.

As for tax cuts and DeLong, far be it from me to go against Milton Friedman, which is I why favor reducing the rate of spending growth.

"Tax cuts unaccompanied by spending cuts are tax shifts--shifts of taxes from the present to the future..."

That's not true if the government is running a surplus. And spending cuts aren't tax cuts if the government intends to run a surplus, unless you assume that the surplus will be both needed and used to offset future potential tax increases, of course, but I prefer to assume that it will just be stolen or wasted by crooked politicians.

Bird, do you have any evidence to support your charicatured paraphrase? It's the kind of overwrought one-sided gloss that you would rightly slap around any liberal for producing.

I can't believe you really hold to the thesis that anytime a politician says "we" to mean government and "you" to mean citizens they are rejecting a government of the people. If you'd like, I'm sure I can pull up a host of Republican speeches using the same terminology.

Much more likely, I think, is that when Hillary says anything at all your Ivory Tower Socialist Appeaser alarm goes off.

The we-you paradigm how did that come about. That relationship is reaffirmed every time you fill out a Federal form, especially those from the IRS.

Bird, do you have any evidence to support your charicatured paraphrase?

Evidence? It's my interpretation and it's my opinion. The evidence that's really needed is for Hillary to explain herself.

The evidence that's really needed is for Hillary to explain herself.

Right. Because the burden of evidence couldn't possibly be on the person trying to frame and characterize her words in the worst possible light--a person with a clear vested interest in demonizing or discrediting her.

she deserves any little negative kharma that comes her way.

Doesn't everybody deserve their negative Karma? Isn't that the nature of karma?

Doesn't everybody deserve their negative Karma? Isn't that the nature of karma?

As I understand it, yeah.

And as an aside, Moe--for what it's worth--wishing ill on someone tends to generate bad karma. ;) Much more effective to simply wish them their own karma, period; that way the universe delivers justice and your metaphysical ass is covered.

wishing ill on someone tends to generate bad karma

One can only hope that come November that relationship continues. :)

I have to agree with Professor DeLong here. What Bush did was an--in my opinion--valuable structural change...but it's not a tax cut unless you reduce the burden of taxes on the economy. What Bush did was simply to shift those burdens around to deficits and future taxes.

Of course, the hope is that they will somewhat ameliorate that shift by forcing a reduction in spending, but I don't see much evidence of that.

Moe:

I'm curious as to why you don't think Ms. Clinton is a socialist. Care to give your reasoning? Just for the record I don't think it's necessarily bad to be a socialist. Foolish, perhaps.

I remember the disdain she expressed for small business during her health care reform debacle pretty well. Could be because I'm a small businessman ;-). She doesn't seem to be any fonder of big business, either.

I believe the proper terms for these things we are talking about here is "deferred taxes."

Let's face it. In 2006 we will see one of two things happen. A tax increase or widespread budget cuts.

One candidate for President is running his campaign as if neither has to happen. That candidate should not be elected.

Dave,

I for one appreciated Moe's reminder that "Marxist," "Socialist," and "Democratic politician" are not synonyms. I think by definition socialism requires the state to own the means of production.

It may be your opinion that Sen. Clinton is "not too friendly" towards business, but I can't recall any time when she has suggested that we should nationalize all of our industries. In fact, most of the complexities of her health care plan arose because she insisted on maintaining the role of the private sector in health care.

If you have examples when she has explicitly advocated government ownership of the means of the production, please provide them. However, (as the OP suggests) it isn't too helpful for an intelligent discussion to just throw those terms around simply because you think the person isn't sufficiently "pro-business."

I think it's important to remember that neither liberalism nor conservatism is, per se, irresponsible fiscal policy. Liberals, generally, believe that the government should tax more in order to provide more value to its citizens; conservatives believe the government should tax as little as possible and leave it to individuals to provide the services liberal government would, with their own money.

The ravings of ideological anti-tax fringes aside, neither is morally right or wrong. Just different ways of approaching balanced fiscal policy.

Bush's economics should be rejected by advocates of fiscal responsibility on both sides of the aisle.

When the Congress raises the debt limit later this summer, I think we'll be at about $25,000 of national debt per man, woman, and child in America.

Those tax refunds weren't withdrawals from an ATM, they were cash advances on a credit card.

Socialists don't have to control the means of production if they control a large enough percentage of how that production may be legally utilized.

doh:

First, I plead not guilty to every charge you made against me in your post.

I think by definition socialism requires the state to own the means of production.

That is absolutely incorrect. You are describing Marxism. I do not believe that Ms. Clinton is a Marxist. Check the Wikipedia, for example. Ms. Clinton may be a Utopian Socialist.

It may be your opinion that Sen. Clinton is "not too friendly" towards business

I never said she was not too friendly so that's obviously not a quote from me. This is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of record. Here's the quote:

I don't really care if this plan puts a few marginal companies out of business.

I'll try and dig up a citation for you. FWIW, most small businesses are marginal.

but I can't recall any time when she has suggested that we should nationalize all of our industries.

This is irrelevant. I haven't claimed Ms. Clinton was a socialist let alone a Marxist.

In fact, most of the complexities of her health care plan arose because she insisted on maintaining the role of the private sector in health care.

I'm not sure what the relevancy of this is.

If you have examples when she has explicitly advocated government ownership of the means of the production, please provide them.

You have confused Marxism with Socialism, as I've suggested above.

However, (as the OP suggests) it isn't too helpful for an intelligent discussion to just throw those terms around simply because you think the person isn't sufficiently "pro-business."

I don't know whether Ms. Clinton is a socialist. And I don't even think that a little socialism's a bad thing. There's evidence both ways. And if you'll re-read my post I was asking for Moe's opinion, not expressing my own.

If you have examples when she has explicitly advocated government ownership of the means of the production, please provide them.

That's too narrow a definition of socialism, which is when the government owns or controls the means of production. In that vein, Hillary's attempted takeover of the health care industry was socialistic.

Sebastian,

I think during the 1950s the top marginal tax rate in this country was roughly 90%, yet I don't think anyone would say we were a socialist country.

It may be that you could come up with some hypothetical that be so extreme that we could debate about whether it's the functional equivalent of socialism, and whether there is such a thing.

However, the point remains that government ownership of the means of production is the defining element of socialism, and to use the term to describe a level of tax or of regulation that you think is excessive or inappropriate (but which does not fundamentally alter our capitalist system) obscures more than it explains.

It's like calling any drink served in a martini glass a martini-- even if contains chocolate liqueur and strawberries.

Because the burden of evidence couldn't possibly be on the person trying to frame and characterize her words in the worst possible light--a person with a clear vested interest in demonizing or discrediting her.

Hillary said the words, Catsy, so she owns them. If she is unwilling or unable to explain herself, then others will. Judging by her history and ideology, that's how I interpreted her politics of meaning.

Bird dog, I take both your points.

Dave, I apologize for translating "doesn't seem to be any fonder" into "not too friendly"-- that was sloppy, but I would stand by my (admittedly rough) description of socialism. I am out of my depth here, but I would describe socialism generally as a way of ordering the economy and Marxism as a political theory underlying an argument for socialism. I think the wikipedia entry supports that, although they suggest socialism has come to mean a lot of different things to different people. :)

I would leave it that, except to say that I think it's a little disingenuous to ask someone for the reasoning "why you don't think [she's] a socialist" and then deny expressing any opinion at all on the matter.

Why the, um, Ms. Clintons?

doh:

Thanks. Once again, I plead innocent to disingenuousness. I try very hard not to ask rhetorical questions. When I ask a question, it's because I want to know the asnwer.

Based on the various posts of Moe's I've read, Moe appears to be substantially more conservative than I. So I was curious as to his reasoning for reasons that will be apparent later in this comment.

Marxism is a variety of socialism in which the critique of the existing system centers on the ownership of the means of production. Marxists believe in either central state control of the means of production or control by workers' councils. Utopian socialism is a variety of socialism in which the critique of the existing system centers on the equitable distribution of goods. Any redistributionist system is socialist. I'm not making this up. It's just what the words mean.

Of course we have a socialist system now. Some refer to it as Fordism—a set of compromises between business, labor, and government that involves mass production, mass consumption, detente between labor and management, and a certain level of government supervision of business. We're living in a rather scary time because this system is collapsing after 75 years under a combination of its own weight and globalization.

The Democratic party has been the major advocate for Fordism since the time of FDR. So I was curious as to what distinctions Moe was making. I'm a Democrat. I don't think that a little socialism is a bad thing.

why the Ms. Clintons

It's polite. And I presume (perhaps incorrectly) that she'd rather be addressed as Ms. than Mrs. But I'm anti-elitist so I don't believe in using titles like Senator, President, etc. in general discourse.

Dave,

Thanks for the extended answer. I didn't think your question was rhetorical, just loaded (i.e., I thought you wanted an answer, but the way you asked it implied your own views, and you certainly seem to have confirmed my understanding of those views in this post).

"Any redistributionist system is socialist. I'm not making this up. It's just what the words mean."

I guess we'll just agree to disagree on this. I think there are people who use the term in this way, but personally I don't think it is particularly accurate or helpful.

At the very least I would suggest that the statement "Of course we [in the U.S.] have a socialist system" would be somewhat controversial among political scientists.

Marginal Tax rates are not the indicator of socialism. Furthermore the tax structure at the time was so different as to make meaningful comparisons of pure 'rates' very difficult.

Socialism is about government taking substantial control of the decision-making process. It can do this by taking control of the means of production (Marxism) or by piling regulation after regulation on the decision making process (the prefered US version of slouching toward socialism). The term 'socialism' is a bit like the term 'bald'. As 'bald' refers to a certain noticeable but loosely defined loss of hair (the old problem of exactly which hair follicle loss makes you 'bald' is a classic problem), 'socialism' refers to a certain noticeable but loosely defined loss of decision-making control. Which is to say that not every hair-follicle loss is 'balding' and not every government regulation is 'socialism'. But some are. And Senator Clinton is more on the socialism end of the spectrum.

Sen. Clinton is an example of a modern exponent of mixed economy, the most successful type of economy the world has ever known.

"If she is unwilling or unable to explain herself, then others will."

That's evident. Whether the explanations are tortured and absurd is another question.

"Judging by her history and ideology, that's how I interpreted her politics of meaning."

The problem here is that your foundation circular. You interpret her utterances according to your perception of her ideology, and yet you base your perception of her ideology on her utterances. Or, to be more concrete, you feel quite justified believing that Hillary is evil because she says so many evil things. Except to frame her utterances as evil you have to 'interpret' them correctly, which you feel justified doing because you know she's evil. And round and round it goes.

You are by no means the only person with that tendency (rare is the saint without it), but you might want to work on it.

sidereal, u rule!

Socialism is about government taking substantial control of the decision-making process.

Wanna explain again how the Nazis were really socialists then, Sebastian?

Sebastain: Socialism is about government taking substantial control of the decision-making process. It can do this by taking control of the means of production (Marxism) or by piling regulation after regulation on the decision making process (the prefered US version of slouching toward socialism).

Too often, in North American politics, political opinion is ONLY measured by the quantity of abvocacy of government control, and the economic philosophy quotient is ignored. This leads to bizarre bedfellows, like right-wingers thinking that Orwell was one of them becasue he was anti-authoritarian, despite his being a far-left socialist (at least, according to American standards).

Socialist theory has a little bit of a economic component, Sebastian. There are even far-left socialists who beleive in little or no government control.

Or, to be more concrete, you feel quite justified believing that Hillary is evil because she says so many evil things.

That's about the silliest bit of mindreading and false projection that I've ever read, sidereal.

"So I was curious as to what distinctions Moe was making."

I mostly meant that she wasn't a large-S Socialist, and especially wasn't a large-M Marxist; she's a large-D Democrat. It wasn't really meant to be all that consequential a statement, really. :)

Moe:

I completely agree that Ms. Clinton is neither a large-S Socialist nor a large-M Marxist. I don't think she's a small-m marxist either (if such a thing exists).

Josh: Wanna explain again how the Nazis were really socialists then, Sebastian?

Well, they were the National Socialist German Workers' Party, weren't they? They were fervently anti-communist, though. Not that I'm buying into Sebastian's argument. It sounds to me like he is defining the rhetorical power out of the "socialist" pejorative, so I say let him have at it. George W. Bush is a socialist!

Well, they were the National Socialist German Workers' Party, weren't they? They were fervently anti-communist, though.

If only I could be sure you were joking, Gromit.

"May I ask that we stop referring to Bush's 'tax cuts'? Milton Friedman used to have a riff about how 'tax cuts' aren't really tax cuts -- -only spending cuts are tax cuts."

The good Professor is being a bit disingenuous there, as he well knows Milton Friedman supports every tax cut of every kind as the only poltically practical tool for containing spending.

Speaking of which, if some of us really want to take away from the rich to promote the common good, why don't we propose cutting spending by taking away from the rich the transfer benefits they receive from those poorer than themselves?

Those over 65 on average now have *multiples* of the wealth of those under 40 who are raising kids, are the richest demographic class, already have $11 trillion in half-filled retirement accounts that will only take in more wealth and compound for the next 20 years to make them even richer compared to the younger ... and are receiving ever-growing transfer benefits too!

What's more regressive -- not taxing the rich enough or taxing the poorer to make transfers to the rich?

Hey, if Hillary would come out for taking away from the rich by means testing transfer benefits for the common good, we could go a good long way towards closing the future national deficits and cut taxes on the working classes too.

It's the progressive way!
And Friedman would be happy too.

That's too narrow a definition of socialism, which is when the government owns or controls the means of production. In that vein, Hillary's attempted takeover of the health care industry was socialistic.

She was advocating nationalizing medical schools?

Um, what?

Could you be specific about what, precisely, was the part where she advocated "takeover of the health care industry"?

To paraphrase, 'we (the government) are going to take things away from you (the people)' on behalf of what the government thinks is good for you'. The disturbing thing about Hillary's words is the us-them relationship. Whatever happened to 'we the people' in Hillary's world view?

This is demonstrably factually untrue because of the simple fact that she does not advocate revoking the tax cut on "most people," let alone "the people"; she advocates revoking it for a small minority of the people,specifically, those above a certain level of wealth, which most of those she was addressing were among.

Demonstrably, factually, incontrovertibly, the "you," referred to this small minority of the people. Not "the" people.

Therefore there is no demonstrable basis for asserting that she was referring to "the people," since she was, in fact, not. Stating otherwise is simply untrue.

The only basis for asserting otherwise, in general, about Senator Clinton's beliefs would therefore be to either use another example, or to show provable evidence of mind-reading ability.

"Check the Wikipedia, for example. Ms. Clinton may be a Utopian Socialist."

Or maybe not. She might be an Eisenhower Republican. She might be as much a socialist as Nelson Rockefellar. She might be in favor of capitalism.

From that entry:

Note also that while many would say that socialism is defined by state ownership and state planning of the means of production and economic life, a certain degree of such state ownership and planning is common in economies that would almost universally be considered capitalist. In Canada, Crown Corporations are responsible for various sectors of the economy deemed to be of strategic importance to the people (for example power generation). In the U.S., a semi-private central bank with close ties to the federal government, the Federal Reserve, regulates lending rates, serving as a "bank of banks." Also, governments in capitalist nations typically run the post office, libraries, national parks, highways, and (in the case of the US) NASA.

[...]

State, provincial, and local governments operate and own power companies and other utilities, parks, mass transit including rail and airports, and schools including universities. Capitalist governments also frequently subsidize or otherwise influence (though do not own) various sectors of the economy, such as automotive, weapons, oil (petrol), aerospace, and agriculture.

In the post WWII political (lexicon), this sort of economic state planning (if not even ownership) became integral to stabilization of the global economy, and has come to be known as Keynsian after John Maynard Keynes.

[...]

There is general agreement among socialists and non-socialists that a socialist economy would not include private or estate ownership of large enterprises....

It seems unlikely that Senator Clinton would describe herself as a socialist; if she is a "socialist," so was Dwight D. Eisenhower, and so are both George W. Bushes, and so are most Republicans.

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