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June 10, 2009

Comments

This seems a bit defensive and anxious, compared with yesterday's post. I'm glad the Times ran this article today and cleared things up.

Dude, complaining about colors in pie charts and randomly quoting Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Really?

Can't you at least face up to the fact that your previous post on this subject was willfully misleading?

"Bush-era programs ...

Programs that Obama either endorsed or proposed -- another third of the current deficit."

Considering that Obama did happen to be a Senator during the Bush era, 2 and 3 are hardly mutually exclusive catagories. Voted for it, signed it, what's the practical difference?

I'll gladly give him a pass on any Bush era programs he voted against, or which were enacted prior to his term in the Senate. Provided he's now proposing to discontinue it...

and how exactly do "conservatives" think this problem is supposed to be fixed (in the real world where actions have consequences, not at the Libertarian Fantasy Pony Ranch) ?

Isn't one of the lessons from the 1930's that Roosevelt's attempt to balance the budget adversely affected Depression recovery?

While understanding the need to bring deficits under control, surely this should be timed for when employment statistics are positive.

Those who want to "tackle" the debt NOW -after 8 years of willful blindness are just trying to sabotage America's recovery to improve their chances of getting a Republican back into the White House.

This analysis strikes me as not very useful. It looks at the change in programs from an arbitrary date and tries to assign blame. It takes the programs that already existed at the arbitrary date as the baseline i.e. what is normal.

To me, a more useful analysis would be a zero budget approach. You and I will decide what is a good use of the resources we have now rather than arguing about who ruined the good plans that our grandfathers planned for us to have now. (All within the context of the constitution of course.)

i might just extend the ObWi pie filter to let it filter based on comment content instead of just username. if i do, "long-term, heavy drinker" will be my first target.

"Whose" agenda, not who's. Also, if we're talking about the morality of deficit spending, perhaps I'm more sanguine about at least short-term efforts to stave off economic calamity and to address a yawning health-care deficit that means a lot to tens of millions of people in this country. In the long term, I agree that our fiscal problems need to be addressed. Here's an idea - rethinking our expensive imperial ventures! How about that?

I'm giving Obama a pass right now because the only realistic way of bringing the deficit under control is a combination of spending cuts and tax increases (whatever their source). Given that the economy is still in the ICU, I don't think it can take that kind of shock right now. The public would rightfully sh*t a brick too if they were asked to pay more taxes, while watching the government bailout the executive class.

I also don't see any realistic option to some sort of government sponsored health care program, so one huge line item in Obama's contribution is unavoidable, but should eventually save us money in the long run.

That said, I'll give Obama through 2010 to come up with a serious plan to bring the deficit under control.

The New York Times article lists two things under the category of policies formed by Bush, but extended by Obama: The Iraq war, and tax cuts for households making under $250,000. May I take it that you are now in favor of immediately pulling out of Iraq, and ending Bush's tax cuts? You seem to be criticizing Obama for not doing so.

Hand Job Sue

as in 'Susan, giver of happy endings'?
or as 'Susan the hand surgeon'?
or in some type of employment lawsuit?
or as in 'please pass Susan to Job'?

Clearly, the first of a line is being eaten by ants while the last of a line is tied to a tree.

Or, in this case, vice versa.

This seems a bit defensive and anxious, compared with yesterday's post. I'm glad the Times ran this article today and cleared things up.

Ermmm.... what?

Can't you at least face up to the fact that your previous post on this subject was willfully misleading?

It wasn't misleading, willfully or otherwise, so: No. (I'm sorry if that's not the answer you're looking for.)

Look: These deficits are enormous. They need to be resolved. Obama is going to have to deal with them or face the consequences.

Thanks, Scott. Fixed.

Who says I think it's going to be fixed? We'd never have built up this huge debt if the political will existed to do anything about it. There's no will in Washington to cut spending, (Heck, to even refrain from increasing it!) or increase taxes by the extent necessary to boost revenues enough to even stop increasing the debt. Assuming that latter wouldn't completely stall the economy.

Realistically, we'll do what other nations that were irresponsible enough to get into this position have done: Cheat our creditors by either hyperinflating or repudiating the debt, and then get by on present revenues because nobody will be stupid enough to loan us money again for decades.

"if i do, 'long-term, heavy drinker' will be my first target."

Too easily gone around. "Sotomayor" with "drinker" would be better.

HAMLET: Madam, how like you this play?

QUEEN: The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

The post title is pretty cool, but I get García Márquez's most famous works mixed up. Is that the first line from One Hundred Years of Deficit Predictions, or Downsizing the CDC in the Time of Cholera?

Isn't one of the lessons from the 1930's that Roosevelt's attempt to balance the budget adversely affected Depression recovery?

Yes. Cutting spending and raising taxes caused a dramatic speedbump in the still-fragile recovery. Of course, the point that those things had to be done at some point was a valid one. And since this is unlikely to be a Great-Depression-sized event, we can presumably safely take those steps sooner. Right now, though? How conveeeenient.

My point, Damien, is that all programs have to be on the table. That includes holdover Bush era programs, as well as Obama's programs. But it doesn't mean that I'm in favor of cutting every program.

Who says I think it's going to be fixed? We'd never have built up this huge debt if the political will existed to do anything about it.

The same thing was said at the tail end of the Reagan-era deficits -- and they were resolved. It will probably require another divided government, however (democratic president, republican congress).

"Also, if we're talking about the morality of deficit spending, perhaps I'm more sanguine about at least short-term efforts to stave off economic calamity and to address a yawning health-care deficit that means a lot to tens of millions of people in this country. In the long term, I agree that our fiscal problems need to be addressed."

Agree with this.

"if i do, 'long-term, heavy drinker' will be my first target."

Also, you'd exclude a lot of important content.

MDS, I agree with you that we shouldn't take action regarding today's spending, but it's time to start focusing on future spending. (Incidentally, the Fed also helped create the second dip in the recession by requiring increased bank reserves .... another lesson to keep in mind during the coming round of new regulations.)

"It will probably require another divided government, however (democratic president, republican congress)."

It took more than divided government. It took divided government, an impeachment battle preventing them from just buying each other off, and a stock market bubble boosting revenues too fast for Congress to spend them.

Even if 2010 sees the Democrats loose control of Congress, and Obama were to be impeached and start spilling blackmail info on members of Congress, I doubt we'll get the revenue bubble.

Nope, I'm betting on the hyperinflation, our government's not honest enough to simply repudiate the debt.

The long-term key to reducing deficits is health care reform. The right doesn't want to do anything about health care costs and whines about "rationing." However, they also whine about deficits, which seems inconsistent.

I'm new here and I really like this blog. I first heard about it when Publius was outed. I think a lot of other people did too, so maybe some good will come out of it.

So, please don't flame me for being a newb, maybe this is some inside joke I don't get, but why does everyone keep posting about Sotomayor's drinking? I don't think there's any evidence she has a drinking problem. Is this just based on a stereotype of latinos/latinas? I don't think that's very funny.

test

"Everybody" isn't posting about it. Some idiot is doing it under multiple assumed names.

"The long-term key to reducing deficits is health care reform."

Right... The long term key to reducing deficits is another huge spending program.

Any country where people can say things like that without rim-shots is doomed.

janiced, there was a troll here earlier trying to spread rumours about this.

the comments themselves have been deleted, but other comments reacting to those comments have not been.

Brett: If other countries are able to have universal health care coverage using a smaller percentage of their GDP and have better outcomes (longer life expectancy), doesn't it suggest that US has an inefficient system that could, if reformed, lead to spending less (sum of private and public) on health care?

If the bottom line here is that Obama needs to get deficits under control then there really isn't much to argue about. I don't think there is much of a constituency for continuing deficits. The debate, of course, is how to do it. Republicans often assert that they are somehow better positioned to do so but their big economic ideas, more often than not, amount to cutting taxes. Aside from the idea of simply de-funding GM and losing 100s of thousands of jobs in the process, or reversing the stimulus bill while we are still in the middle of a major recession, I really don't see anyone out there in the Republican leadership proposing any real deep cuts that would be especially helpful at the moment.

Brett,

We already have a huge spending program called Medicare. Its long-term projections don't look good. The problem is rising health care costs. Perhaps, what you call a "huge spending" program isn't the answer, but something has to be done to reign in costs. What percent of GDP do you think we can afford to pay in health care? I don't hear conservatives coming up with any programs to control costs.

We spend way too much on health care relative to other industrialized Western countries, with far less universal coverage, leading to runaway growth in Medicare spending. Why is that? Because our wonderful "market" prefers it that way, while those horrible "socialists" overseas have a more rationalized model that covers more people, provides a more robust safety net, and does it all at lower cost. So, yeah, fixing health care once and for all will enable us to spend less than if we continue with expensive and ineffective Medicare and Medicaid band-aids to a broken system.

Janiced, I think the logic was only someone who was drunk could trip and fracture an ankle.

You have no need to worry, though, Brett. The likelihood that the President will actually commit to anything meaningful in terms of fundamental reform in health care is vanishingly small.

MDS, I agree with you that we shouldn't take action regarding today's spending, but it's time to start focusing on future spending.

Well, it depends on what sort of "focusing." "Focusing" on Social Security, for instance, has involved a lot of silliness and dishonesty over ridiculously-long time frames. So we don't necessarily need to put plans on the table immediately, or admit that X is in dire jeopardy unless We! Act! Now! On the other hand, if people start thinking about rational ways to implement post-recession tax increases and spending cuts, with an awareness that the future is uncertain, well, that's a different color of fish entirely. So yes, even acknowledging that we must return to a sustainable deficit trajectory (not the same thing as a surplus) would be an important first step from The Powers That Be. And slowing the curve could be an earlier step. Personally, I have hopes for the health care and defense spending sectors, as well as progressive taxation. But we'll see. Unlike Social Security in isolation, though, doing nothing isn't a solution for the full balance sheet.

Incidentally, the Fed also helped create the second dip in the recession by requiring increased bank reserves

Yeah, tightening the money supply is not particularly high on the list, because inflation is not as imminent a threat as illiquidity. Wish there were some way to reward the smaller banks that didn't use the CDS loophole to over-leverage, though.

Scott, it would be interesting to see study as to how much of cost is on bureaucracy (the insurance companies and the doctors' paperwork); how much on excessive testing to preempt malpractice litigation- and compare to other countries.

von,

I do think it's possible to identify some part (not all) of the deficit as exclusively Bush or exclusively Obama, but I think it takes a lot of work and is not just a matter of totting up programs and tax changes, or drawing timelines. You argue that the stimulus spending, for example, is exclusively Obama, but you have no idea what things would look like without it, or with McCain's competing proposals. The "sober assessment" you want, if done carefully, might surprise you. Depressions are not good for government revenues. IOW, to large extent, that spending is there as an inevitable, and generally desirable, result of our financial crisis.

Similarly, it's hard to see why spending on Iraq, or revenue losses from Bush tax cuts, ought to be pinned on Obama. You can talk about other programs that have been extended, but how many of them could realistically have been cut?

Is it important to deflect blame from Obama when it is reasonable to do so? Yes. It's very important. This is because the Republicans are going to blame every nickel on him, and then offer their own ideas for cutting the deficit. We know what these will be. "Revenue enhancing tax cuts" (chuckle), "cutting waste, fraud and abuse," and welshing on the money owed to Social Security.

If you want a serious effort to reduce the deficit some years from now you are going to have to face the fact that Republican policies are not going to do it. So much as you want to " soberly assess the role of Obama's agenda in growing the national debt" you should also soberly assess the political landscape and see who's ideas are likely to be sensible.

I didn't post that! What's going on? Is this a racist site? I thought it was mostly center-left.

J.C., if somebody proposed to outsource the health care system to a country which has already demonstrated the capacity to run a health care system in an economical fashion, THAT might make some sense.

OUR government has already demonstrated its incapacity in that regard.

You don't take on huge tasks until you've demonstrated you can do them right on a smaller scale. Especially not when they're important tasks.

And you don't take on huge new spending programs when you're running record deficits, on the theory that you'll make it up on volume. That's madness.

janiced, this site is having a serious troll outbreak.

the site owners are trying to delete posts and have already banned the guy once, but it looks like he is coming back from other ip addresses.

' Is this a racist site? I thought it was mostly center-left."

what's the difference?

Ok, maybe not filtering on content, but is there at least some way to keep existing names from being stolen?

We spend way too much on health care relative to other industrialized Western countries
Speaking of which, anyone who didn't do so when it was winging its way around the internet a couple of weeks ago should read Atul Gawande's excellent article examining the source of a two-fold difference in medical costs within the Medicare system - and why our current profit-based medical care system presents growing problems that will be hard to fix without major reform.

Oh my! I've never seen anything like this. Can't you ban these people?

Anyway, Brett, I don't know why you think European governments (and Canada) are fundamentally more competent to administer health care programs than the U.S. government.

It also seems that conservative Republicans mismanage government, then use their own mismanagement as an argument for smaller government. It seems to me the issue is competence.

Obama has frequently cited Ronald Reagan as a model on changing the political culture of a country. Reagan gave people the big tax cuts, and let them have it for free by not cutting spending by the same amount. He knew a future generation of politicians would have to make the hard choices to cut spending or raise taxes. Bush I and Clinton did that, but they didn't touch Reagan's core cutting of taxes on the very rich (which dropped from 70 to 28 percent under Reagan, then rose to 40 percent under Clinton).

Obama is doing the same thing, but in the opposite direction. Give people the popular new spending programs first. Once they have been created, they become politically untouchable. Then use the deficit as the motivation for the tax increases necessary to pay for them.

It does leave the US with a higher debt, long term, than necessary, but it may be the only way to get major fiscal policy changes through the US political system.

And, strangely, it does seem to work. Reagan got his tax cuts, and eventually they were paid for. Obama's health plan, once implemented, will transform American society for the better. Sooner or later politicians will have no choice but to raise taxes to pay for them.

In the case of health care, people will see their health premiums decline by *more* than their taxes will go up, so it won't even be a net loss.

Government deficits are government spending minus government revenue.

When revenue exceeds spending, i.e. when a surplus rears its ugly head, the immediate response from "conservatives" is that we should cut taxes because the government is demonstrably collecting more money than it needs.

Anybody who thinks I'm unfairly generalizing about the "conservative" response in this respect is invited to out me.

Note that if Obama keeps tax rates exactly as Dubya left them, but cuts spending drastically, he can run a government surplus. That would please von, since he apparently prefers surpluses to deficits. But it would make the "Club for Growth" types clamor riotously for more tax cuts.

Probably, von is principled enough that he would not join in that chorus. That would piss off Grover Norquist, who would out von just for spite.

It's almost impossible to run a federal budget that's always and precisely in balance. So there have to be both deficit years and surplus years. When a large political faction is dedicated to the proposition that surpluses must be fought with tax cuts, it's no wonder we get more deficit years than surplus years.

--TP

"Anyway, Brett, I don't know why you think European governments (and Canada) are fundamentally more competent to administer health care programs than the U.S. government."

My theory is that we have, for fundamental reasons, a government that's run by people who are less honest. European governments are the Leviathan run under constitutions which, honestly read, permit the Leviathan. The US is the Levianthan run under a small government constitution. Squaring this circle necessitates a systematic dishonesty, at a fundamental level, which has consequences throughout the system.

That's one of the reasons I advocate a constitutional convention. While it would probably result in a leviathan style constitution, at least that would allow the system to be run by honest people, and an honest leviathan is better than a dishonest one.

Also, the European governments got rebooted during WW2. Our's has been running too long without a reboot, the OS is seriously corrupted. ;)

Uncle Owen: "Well, he better have those units in the south range repaired by midday or there'll be hell to pay." But then Owen didn't even survive to midday. These silly humans have such difficulty keeping their minds on the task at hand, the one that is theirs to control now.

It wasn't that Owen Skywalker's vision of the future was completely wrong. The problem was that there were a lot of other things going on he couldn't know and even among those things he could know, he wasn't exploring all possibilities, just the one that came to him spontaneously.

My experience is that real people are like this, too, like von in this piece and the one before. Sure, the federal budget deficit at some point in time and at some size will have more negative consequences that positive ones. What are those quantities? What are the line by line expected consequences of any possible items of decreased spending and/or increased revenue, not some broad categories with artificial labels, but actual budget items? If you're just going to shoot from the hip in your blog about that, what's the point?

Yesterday you responded to a question of how you would manage this differently with non-quantitative answers about making the stimulus shorter and means testing Social Security. I heard plenty of arguments 4 months ago about the stimulus needing to be bigger. Why should I believe you instead?

Means testing Social Security sounds good to me, since it doesn't cost me anything. My 87 year-old mother would jump on you with both feet, though, especially in the likely case that you are more affluent than she is. Do you know what happened to Dan Rostenkowski at the fists of the elderly? Good luck telling her you don't mean her means would be tested, especially since you haven't looked at this enough to be quantitative. It is both political and economic consequences that have to be explored.

If you want to discuss an important economic topic like federal spending, you can either do it in a non-partisan, academic, detached, analytical way - regarding both the numbers and the politics of whose ox gets gored and who pays for it - or you can be a political hack, if not for one's party, than a hack for one's preferred position on an issue. I don't see anything in between. As soon as you start saying "Obama's" crisis or deficit instead of "the" crisis or deficit, you've crossed the line into being a partisan hack, whose words are not to be trusted, especially for me since you don't seem to know all the aspects of this problem I've looked at in the last 30 years, things like this miraculous transformation I've witnessed where Democrats now offer middle-class tax cuts instead of being the tax and spend Democrats that Republicans still try to attack, but not as effectively as they once did. Who do you blame for that, oh great judge of blame?

Warning Obama, are you? I bet it's not that simple. Your motives don't seem so pure to me, and your analysis definitely leaves a lot out. Plus I bet Obama already knows everything you've written here, maybe not the title.

Brett:"OUR government has already demonstrated its incapacity in that regard."

While there have been times where I proposed the US should have outsourced its foreign policy to Ottawa, never thought about it for other government functions.

Canadians, probably because of our smaller size and philosophically different origins, have had more positive expectations on government enterprises and activity. Example, For decades we had a government owned railway CN competing with a privately owned one CP. Seemed to work pretty well for us.

I think it helps if you expect government to have a positive effect. I think part of the fallout of Reaganite -"government is the problem"- thinking is you want government to get smaller. Instead one should want government to get better, and recognize that the shortcoming of large bureaucracies need to be addressed, not by creating privatized large bureaucracies.

While the Canadian federal government sets minimum standards (including portablility), it is actually our provincial governments that run the single payer systems in Canada.

I have no experience with our system, but my impression is that they work pretty well for most people.

Von Yesterday: Every yearly deficit under President Obama is larger than any yearly deficit under President (W.) Bush, and the trend line at the conclusion of the CBO's forecast is up, not down. ...
This is a problem for President Obama and his supporters, not just an opportunity for Obama-skeptics like myself. Obama's deficits could very well threaten Obama's presidency if left uncontrolled


Von today: Slice it however you like, a third of 2009's deficit is caused by Obama's agenda

Quite a walk back, I'd say.

Brett,

I'm not sure how West Coast Hotel, Wickard, Jones & Laughlin Steel, or any other commerce clause decisions created systematic incompetence. I'm sure you disagree with them, and you can make good arguments that they go beyond the Constitution's original meaning, but what does that have to do with health care?

If the U.S. government is incompetent compared to Europe it's because of small government conservativism. After all, if you believe government is always part of the problem, you have little incentive to care about good government.

My husband warned me about these "trolls" and they really are annoying. I'm glad someone deleted that n-word post. But, why does this site have so many of them? It detracts from the whole blog.

Von Yesterday: Every yearly deficit under President Obama is larger than any yearly deficit under President (W.) Bush, and the trend line at the conclusion of the CBO's forecast is up, not down. ... This is a problem for President Obama and his supporters, not just an opportunity for Obama-skeptics like myself. Obama's deficits could very well threaten Obama's presidency if left uncontrolled


Von today: Slice it however you like, a third of 2009's deficit is caused by Obama's agenda

Quite a walk back, I'd say.

Since the two quotes are consistent, I don't see the walkback. Every yearly deficit under President Obama is larger than any yearly deficit under President (W.) Bush. And most of the 2009 deficit -- where, as I acknowledged yesterday and today, Bush had the most influence -- is created by programs that Obama either endorsed or proposed. (Leaving aside the effects of the recession, of course.)

"When revenue exceeds spending, i.e. when a surplus rears its ugly head, the immediate response from "conservatives" is that we should cut taxes because the government is demonstrably collecting more money than it needs." TonyP

If i can second your point with the Canadian example, our Liberal Government (think Clinton) wiped out our deficit, and from, I think, 1998-2008 Canada had budget surpluses. When the Conservatives (think Bush lite) came to power in January 2006 they immediately began to think of ways to eliminate the surplus- lower taxes; give money to provincial govts. And they have succeeded so we are back in deficit (as opposed to having a surplus to apply to stimulate our economy).


JaniceD: We haven't had these kind of comments normally. It has only been during the last few hours. Normally, we're a fairly reasonable and moderate bunch, and fairly troll-free. I have no idea what provoked this person, but whatever it was, I'm sorry it set him/her/it off.

Thanks Hilzoy, that's good to hear. I don't want you to think I was blaming you or the other hosts for those comments. I was just taken aback because I'm not used to seeing that sort of thing. Maybe I don't spend enough time online. The amateur sociologists in me is kind of intrigued though: what causes that? These people seem like sociopaths. If I met a "troll" like that in real life I'd call the police.

"But, why does this site have so many of them? It detracts from the whole blog."

I think the whole "outing publius" thing put this blog on the troll radar.

It'll blow over. Please stick around, I think you'll enjoy it here when the flying monkeys find another toy to play with.

What it's got to do with it, is that, when you've got a constitution which calls for big government, and you've got a big government, you can run that government with people who are fundamentally honest. (You might not, anyway, but it's possible for you to do so.)

If you have a constitution which calls for small government, and you've got a big government anyway, you have to staff it with people who are, on some level anyway, fundamentally dishonest. It's unavoidable, because genuinely honest people would either quit their jobs, or end up running a small government.

This "living constitution" crap; See much of that in Europe? They don't need it, because their constituions actually permit the sort of governments they have. We have to lie about it.

But, why does this site have so many of them?

It usually doesn't. I think the Ed Whelan affair made a certain number of nutters aware of Obsidian Wings. They'll get tuckered out and go away soon. Meanwhile, the reasonable people who discovered ObWi for the same reason will stick around and soon feel like old friends in a cozy pub where everybody nobody knows your name.

--TP


JaniceD: it's a mystery to me. But then, I also don't really get why people do things like trying to get back on sites that have banned them, either. All a mystery.

Though one thing is clear: they have too much time on their hands.

Yesterday you responded to a question of how you would manage this differently with non-quantitative answers about making the stimulus shorter and means testing Social Security. I heard plenty of arguments 4 months ago about the stimulus needing to be bigger. Why should I believe you instead?

You heard some of those comments from me. I favored a similar (or bigger) initial stimulus -- albeit with a different make up -- and a much smaller tail end stimulus. Indeed, the most costly year for the stimulus is 2010. If the recession ends in summer of this year, as Krugman predicts, it's not clear what this spending is stimulating.

Means testing Social Security sounds good to me, since it doesn't cost me anything. My 87 year-old mother would jump on you with both feet, though, especially in the likely case that you are more affluent than she is.

I don't know if that's true, but, in any event, you can't solve these issues (particularly on the medicare front) simply by increasing taxes; you have to restrict benefits as well.

I see your logic, Brett. I can understand why you think the system we have now is "dishonest," though I don't exactly share that sentiment. But most of the people in government don't have any clue about the original understanding of the commerce clause, or the commerce clause in general. To them, the administrative state is just a given. I don't think your average civil servant is an ardent originalist consciously acting in bad faith.

I realize it's a fairly close-knit community here, with a long history. Regarding this, what do you (the locals) think about this site becoming more popular, more well known, with, inevitably, more strange commenters? Any nostalgia for the past?

"I don't think your average civil servant is an ardent originalist consciously acting in bad faith."

what i was thinking, too, janiced, only you said it better.

"My husband warned me about these "trolls" and they really are annoying. ... But, why does this site have so many of them? It detracts from the whole blog."

"JaniceD: We haven't had these kind of comments normally. It has only been during the last few hours. Normally, we're a fairly reasonable and moderate bunch, and fairly troll-free. I have no idea what provoked this person, but whatever it was, I'm sorry it set him/her/it off."

JaniceD is new. The troll is new. JaniceD's husband knew she would comment here. He warned her about the troll. Hmm.

JaniceD has the exact same IP as our troll.

Which, go figure. It's not that big of a block of addresses, there; about 32k.

Great Scott, Holmes! Do you mean to say...

J'accuse!

aniceD has the exact same IP as our troll.

could you translate that for us non-tech people?

i had thought that ip addresses were unique to a computer. so does that mean that janiced and the troll are posting from the same computer?

or does your '32k' comment mean that she shares her ip address with up to 32k other computers?

in which case the "exact same ip" is pretty much just a coincidence?

or what?

"I had thought that ip addresses were unique to a computer"

No. They can be traceable to a single machine, but not always.

I don't even understand all the different ways this can vary, so I'll just give you an example.

Company A has bought internet services from a provider, and has assigned all of its business machines a static IP address. If we have an employee of Company A commenting from their office desktop computer, it will have the same IP, day after day. Now, say this employee goes home and posts from his home computer, which accesses the Internet via his cable company, and the cable company has dynamic IP assignments. I think what happens then is the IP can change at any time the cable modem drops the connection to the main office, which is (hopefully) not often. Any time you power-cycle the cable modem, the IP address of that commenter may change.

There are gobs of other examples, but it's HUGE coincidence that two people might suddenly start commenting from the same IP address and not having it be, for instance, AOL. Which it isn't.

The above may contain some mistakes; feel free to correct me.

"The amateur sociologists in me is kind of intrigued though: what causes that? These people seem like sociopaths. If I met a "troll" like that in real life I'd call the police."

so you think that, absent a huge coincidence, janiced should maybe call the police now?

"or does your '32k' comment mean that she shares her ip address with up to 32k other computers"

No. It means that block of IPs is run by a single company; in this case: ThePlanet.com. Who may just be getting their abuse-line bell rung by yours truly, if we keep getting crapped on.

They probably manage lots of other IP blocks as well. They're not "shared" IPs, though, like your home wireless net would look like to the outside world.

Possibly. Because I suspect she's got our Christian Weston Chandler troll in her basement.

Y'know, I was having some of the same suspicions as d'd'd'dave expressed and Slarti confirmed (absent Kid Bitzer's excellent "the troll was inside the house!" scenario), but I thought it was ungenerous and pointless to express those suspicions.

so you think that, absent a huge coincidence, janiced should maybe call the police now?

More likely we should, if only metaphorically speaking. janiced's wide-eyed innocence is just a tad too wide-eyed, if you ask me, to the point that it seems just as likely to me that she and the troll are one and the same.

For that matter, I'd be curious as to whether antrumf @ 5:03 is the usual antrumf. There are people who comment so often that their style is unmistakeable -- no one who reads ObWi regularly would mistake the short comments signed "Warren Terra" today for the real, or perhaps I should say the usual, Warren Terra. But antrumf isn't quite as familiar, at least to me, and the butter-wouldn't-melt friendly innocent questioning tone of the 5:03 comment strikes me as not unlike the tone of janiced's questions.

If it is the "real" antrumf, I apologize; it's not that there's anything wrong with the comment on the face of it....

also, if a commenter is behind a router, the he/she will have IP address of the router, as will everyone else behind that router, too.

i'm gob-smacked; i feel like such a naif.

i should have *known* she was up to no good: she used a *pseudonym*!

i still think her 4:53p reply to brett was good and on point, though.

which only deepens the weirdness, in a way.

janice, dear? get help.

Brett: have you ever read Luther Martin's oral argument in M'Cullough v. Maryland? If not, hunt it down. And I think you'd like that newish http://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Founder-Drunken-Prophet-Founders/dp/1933859733/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244673820&sr=8-1>bio of him.

JanieM, yes that was the "real" me, nothing sinister behind it. I'm just interested in the history behind this site to some extent, because the quality of discourse in the comment sections is so high.

Of course I don't comment often enough to have any recognizable traits/quirky characteristics in my comments, so I understand your suspicions I suppose...

antrumf, again, apologies, and thanks for clarifying. It starts to feel like a hall of mirrors when people are commenting under their own names, but other people are also commenting under their names...

I guess the thing that made me wonder was that your question was so open-ended and a little off to an angle from the topic(s) at hand. But it would actually make for an fascinating post/topic in its own right.

I have been coming here for about a year and a half, and I keep coming back because of -- your phrase -- the quality of the discourse. It has been interesting to get familiar with the on-going dynamic, and also to watch it change in subtle ways as new people come by, and some of them stay.

Since you've brought it up, a similar topic that I'm fascinated by is the way comment threads do and don't stay on topic. Some threads stay pretty focused, others wind off on tangential paths....surely there must be a doctoral thesis in there somewhere. ;)

"JaniceD has the exact same IP as our troll."

Well I'll be darned. And here I was thinking she was such a nice commenter.

Hard to know who to believe these days.

Von,

I share your concerns about huge ongoing deficits. What put me off yesterday was your emphasis on Obama's ownership of the whole problem. Today you seem more open to the idea that the conservative voices in this country may have had some hand in creating this problem for Obama to solve. I also believe they are not being much help in getting it solved, but that's another argument.

That's all I was saying. Your tone yesterday was off putting to someone who agrees with you on this issue. Someone else said it much better than I ... "When you referred to Obama's deficit problem instead of the deficit problem".

The whole "contributions to the deficit," and even the "contributions to the swing from a surplus to a deficit" is really... nonsense? Its not like everything that happened before Bush entered office was good budgeting, and only the changes since then matter. If the deficit were eliminated by leaving every cent on that chart in place, but altering some prior program, the budget would be no less balanced.

"I don't think your average civil servant is an ardent originalist consciously acting in bad faith."

Neither do I. I think the rot is higher up.

What I think is that reading a text that says one thing, and understanding it to mean another thing more convenient to your ends, requires a certain degree of doublethink. A kind of ingrained, habitual dishonesty. And that it can't be limited to just reading the Constitution.

"A kind of ingrained, habitual dishonesty. And that it can't be limited to just reading the Constitution."

You realize, Brett, that you're attributing these beliefs to more or less everyone who doesn't agree with you?

You're pretty much saying that everyone who isn't some kind of hardcore libertarian/conservative is habitually dishonest. Or, in other words, some, let's be conservative, and say it's only 60% or so of the country, has this kind of ingrained dishonesty.

"If you have a constitution which calls for small government, and you've got a big government anyway, you have to staff it with people who are, on some level anyway, fundamentally dishonest. "

Yeah, dude, "if".

I have a copy of the Constitution right here on my desk. I've read it a number of times, end to end. I often carry it around with me in my briefcase.

Somehow I missed the clause that says "The government of the United States will be small".

Can you point me to it?

Yeah, I realize that.

It's not 60% of the country, it's not like 60% of the country have actually thought about it. But, yes, I am accusing a hell of a lot of people of double think. Including you.

It's the path of least resistance, it's easy. But it does take a certain mindset to read the commerce clause, for instance, really read it, and conclude that the federal government is entitled by it to regulate non-commerce that stays in a state.

And, yes, I think that mindset has it's consequences.

"But, yes, I am accusing a hell of a lot of people of double think. Including you."

I'm glad we've cleared that up. Shorter Brett: everyone either agrees with me, hasn't thought about it, or is dishonest.

Good to know.

Some folks might stop and think when they realize that they're claiming that almost everyone in their country is wrong about how their government is historically supposed to function, but you and your friends aren't among those folks.

You simply know better than everyone else.

Got it.

"And, yes, I think that mindset has it's consequences."

Is that why you have friends who join militias? Or what are you saying?

Why, Von, do you say only that the deficit problem needs to be addressed by cutting programs (at 3:03 pm)?

Why not raise taxes to, say, what they were in the 1990s?

You also say at 3:03 that you think it will take a Republican congress to achieve this. This seems quite backwards to me - their stimulus protests notwithstanding the Republicans show less appreciation for the problem of long-term deficits, and a less plausible response to the problem, than the democrats.

I, too, look at the breakdown of federal budget expenditures and say to myself, "If only the federal government hadn't deliberately taken the Commerce Clause to apply to non-commerce in single states, we wouldn't be spending more than $600 billion on defense. Plus, there'd be no Medicare." Or something like that.

Sorry, that was a dishonest remark. But it's to be expected, since I don't think the New Deal actually inevitably led to the President having powers of unlimited detention without trial. Which puts me on the objectively wrong side, since perish the thought that the right side contain anyone who actually knows anything whatsoever about the history of judicial power in this country.

Somehow I missed the clause that says "The government of the United States will be small".

It's right there between "Ignore the general welfare" and "Any mention of 'well-regulated militia' in this document shall be crudely scratched out with a crayon." At least in the honest Constitution.

If you want to discuss an important economic topic like federal spending, you can either do it in a non-partisan, academic, detached, analytical way - regarding both the numbers and the politics of whose ox gets gored and who pays for it - or you can be a political hack, if not for one's party, than a hack for one's preferred position on an issue. I don't see anything in between. As soon as you start saying "Obama's" crisis or deficit instead of "the" crisis or deficit, you've crossed the line into being a partisan hack, whose words are not to be trusted, especially for me since you don't seem to know all the aspects of this problem I've looked at in the last 30 years, things like this miraculous transformation I've witnessed where Democrats now offer middle-class tax cuts instead of being the tax and spend Democrats that Republicans still try to attack, but not as effectively as they once did. Who do you blame for that, oh great judge of blame?

Warning Obama, are you? I bet it's not that simple. Your motives don't seem so pure to me, and your analysis definitely leaves a lot out. Plus I bet Obama already knows everything you've written here, maybe not the title.

Posted by: DavidD

Got it in one on the partisan hackery. I think, per von's post yesterday, that hacks who are also innumerate don't have any idea just how they look to others. Insisting that an analysis is 'nonpartisan' when it is bashing Obama while also insisting the numbers are okay is not just wrong, it's hilariously wrong. It's like someone with no sense of smell insisting that they didn't break wind, and anyway, no one can really tell. Uh, yes they can.

Further: this is the time when you've got to fish or cut bait. As someone else said above, if you are critical with Obama's policies, just what are you proposing to replace them with? More generally, this is where people have to say that they reject any sort of Keynesian-type macroeconomic theory. What should have happened months ago as a condition of the bailout is that the chief execs should have gone on national TV, and admitted that they made mistakes, and apologized for them.

What we see operating here is a zombie economics theory (doubtless underpinning the operations of zombie banks); the whole Chicago School/Supply Side/Trickle Down/Laffer Curve/Tax Cuts/Deregulation farrago of debunked nonsense refuses to stay dead, and those who still want to use it better be straight up about admitting it (even those with no sense of smell realize that zombies stink.) You can't berate Obama for following wrong-headed policies unless you specifically reject the theory underpinning it, as well as being very honest about what theories you do subscribe to.

I don't see that happening here. I don't even see an acknowledgment about how hilariously, wrong-headedly innumerate the last post was. Never admitting your wrong may win you a few battles, but I rather think it's a recipe for losing the war in the end.

SOV

"You can't berate Obama for following wrong-headed policies unless you specifically reject the theory underpinning it, as well as being very honest about what theories you do subscribe to."

I reject Obamas economic policies.
I reject keynesian economics in favor of the chicago school.
Yes, many financial businesses among others, made substantial mistakes.
Military spending is outrageous. Let's bring the military completely within our borders and save some money.
Deficit spending by a government is a mistake except in uncommon emergencies like wars (and maybe depressions).

"You can't berate Obama for following wrong-headed policies unless you specifically reject the theory underpinning it, as well as being very honest about what theories you do subscribe to."

There. I've declared. Feel free to mock.

There. I've declared. Feel free to mock.

Bwwwahh-ha-ha-ha!

Whew. Wait . . .

Bwa-ha-HA-HA-hahaha. . . heh . . . heh.

Thanks for the go-ahead, stuttering dave. That felt good.

We're at the beginning of the end of the New Deal/Great Society era. It's really this simple: Government. Spends. Too. Much. Money. Period.

Between the mounting interest on the debt and the open-ended entitlements we've voted for ourselves, we've gotten to the point where we aren't willing OR able to pay it back. There's a finite amount of investment capital both in the United States and in the world that simply functions as an upper limit to US borrowing. We are nearing that limit. The only question now is how much inflation the Obama administration is going to print before they get a clue.

Thinking you're right logically implies thinking people who disagree with you are wrong, Gary. And if they're wrong about something which is quite simple and evident, and being wrong about it is in their interest, one does deduce that a certain amount of dishonesty, perhaps unconscious, is involved.

Living constitutionalism, the determination to 'read' the Constitution as 'meaning' something congenial no matter what the words happen to say, is a species of dishonesty. This is a constitution written over two hundred years ago, for an agrarian society, by people who seriously distrusted government. You can't run the kind of government we have today under it, and be honest.

I can understand your being unhappy about my saying that, though.

Now, let's take the commerce clause. The power "To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;"

If you are of ordinary intelligence, and literate in English, it verges on impossible for you to honestly think that the power to regulate a specific subset of commerce really is the power to regulate non-commerce, and commerce apart from that subset. The question is too simple to admit honest error. If that's your position, there's only a limited number of explainations for why you hold it: You're an idiot, you don't understand English, you're crazy, or you're dishonest. (Though maybe the first person you lied to was yourself, and is that really healthy?)

Which is it?

Now, you could think that the government really needs the power to regulate non-commerce within state boundries. And you could say, "To hell with the commerce clause, I want the federal government to violate it!"

And that would be honest. It would be honest because you're a private citizen, with no obligation to support the Constitution.

OTOH, if you hold federal office, you've sworn an oath to abide by the constitution, and "To hell with the commerce clause!" isn't a position you can honestly adopt, unless maybe you want to resign your office. ("Let's amend this bit of idiocy!", otoh... THAT is an honest option.)

But let's say you hold public office, and you really think the commerce clause as written is lunacy, a modern nation needs more power than that. And you don't think the states would ratify an amendment to give you more power than that. What are you going to do?

If you're FDR, we know what you do: You bully the courts into lying about the matter, and then replace the judges with congenital liars when they retire, and warp the entire legal culture with the need to maintain a consistent set of lies about what the highest law of the land means.

My position, in a nutshell, is that, while I think the actual Constitution is a pretty nifty document, the sheer dishonesty necessary to run this government with this constitution is so great, and so damaging, we'd be better off with a much worse constitution which honestly permitted the sort of government we have.

Assuming, of course, that having obtained such a constitution, the people running the government could break their habit of just lying about any part of it that they found inconvenient. Which I have my doubts about...

I'll trade you stretching the commerce clause into a shape it was never intended to have for the personhood, including rights under the bill of rights, of corporations.

Let me know if we have a deal.

Deal!

And if they're wrong about something which is quite simple and evident, and being wrong about it is in their interest, one does deduce that a certain amount of dishonesty, perhaps unconscious, is involved.

Well, it's amazingly gracious of Mr. Bellmore to admit this. I kept attributing it to intransigent ignorance of the legal history of this country, but apparently I was providing too much benefit of the doubt.

"Government. Spends. Too. Much. Money. Period.'

An assertion totally empty of any meaningful content. Societies spend "money". They create "wealth" in various ways, distribute it in various ways, and consume it. If they're smart, they set some aside for the future. In addition, Mother Nature makes no guarantees that established patterns of wealth creation can or will continue indefinitely.

But in the spirit of opposition, I offer this: Most highly stratified societies (which we are well down the road to becoming) Do. Not. Have. Enough. Spending. Period.

Deal!--Brett Bellmore

You've been had, Brett.

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