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July 19, 2010


"It is exactly the same with government. If people can vote increased benefits while foisting the costs off on other people, they won't be as careful about choosing wisely, because being wise doesn't impact them very much while getting stuff for free does."

I completely agree with this statement. However, I apply it to the fact that the rich have been using their power to get increased benefits for themselves, at the expense of greater debt, reduced services, higher taxes, economic distortion, and in the specific case of Wall Street, huge investment losses, unemployment, and general economic ruin for the rest of us.

In fact, that was a large portion of my argument on why even higher marginal taxes on extremely high incomes would be a GOOD thing, because it would reduce the incentives for people to "extract value" from their companies, since the rewards for those kinds of short-term gain wouldn't be as high.

And that's the part you've studiously ignored, to pretend that this is a matter of trying to vote for pancakes for everyone at Uncle Pennybags' expense, or similar. It's about stopping, and attempting to undo an extreme case where exactly that has been happening, only it's the few who've been profiting at the expense of the many.

Or do you really think that CEOs now are worth 6000 times what their average worker makes, and many times more than somebody like say, Henry Ford used to make?

It's about stopping, and attempting to undo an extreme case where exactly that has been happening, only it's the few who've been profiting at the expense of the many.

This. Thank you, Nate.

Here's my proposal: 10% tariff on all goods imported from China. That will net us 9 billion a year.

That's how we used to roll back before the days of income taxes.

But of course we can't do things like that nowadays because we'll make free trade jesus cry little silver tears.

Just moving that Overton window, y'all.

And for crap's sake people, don't leave home without your dictionary and grammar guide!!

I'm compiling all of the spam I get and plan to compose a song cycle using it as a text.

Spam is 21st C dada poetry.

Expanding on Nate's comment.

Sebastian worries that if the great masses know that someone else is paying the bill, they're going to party like it's 1999. I agree that that is a logical hypothetical concern.

Now, my (and Nate's it seems) concern is just the opposite: that a narrow group of interests will use the federal purse to enrich themselves at the expense of all.

So let's go to the federal videotape. The three largest expenditures in the federal budget are Social Security, Medicare and Defense.

Social Security is a program where everybody pays and everybody benefits.

Medicare is a program where everybody pays and everybody benefits.

Defense, at least in theory, is a program where everybody pays and everybody benefits. But one can certainly question the extent to which we all benefit from $40bn worth of F-22 fighters. And how much did I benefit from the Iraq war, as opposed to say, Halliburton, Blackwater, Triple Canopy etc. etc?

And when we look closer at say, Medicare, we can see that big pharma secured for itself an exemption from bargaining for drug prices, a huge subsidy which we all pay for and which benefits a small and powerful interest group.

How about student loans, where the government guarantees economic rentiers like Sallie Mae a profit?

How about the farm subsidies that are shoved down the gullet of Archer Daniels Midland and Conagra? Does Sebastian think that those are the product of the mass of freeloaders sticking it to the top 1%?

So I think at the federal level at least, the problem that Sebastian has is hypothetical only, whereas my and Nate's problem exists in reality, which is greater.

I would also note that this problem is about to get worse, since the 'originalists' on the Supreme Court just expanded the conjured-from-thin-air rights of corporations (who now pay almost no taxes relatively speaking, btw) to dominate the discussion and convince everyone that what's good for Halliburton is good for America.

I would also add that I think Sebastian's concern is addressed by the structure of a republican government, as James Madison explained over 200 years ago:

"The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary."

--- Federalist No. 10

So Sebastian's worry, it would seem, is better handled by having more economic power centralized in Washington than in the various states (I do agree with him that California is a case study in mis-management). Now, remind me again, who is it again that' always clamoring for 'states' rights'?

Do poor people even vote?

I know the wealthy and upper-middle-classes vote, but do the working poor and unemployed poor show up on election day?

Do poor people even vote?

Yes. Many of them vote exactly like expensive TV commercials tell them to.


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