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September 27, 2010

Comments

"At some point I'll figure out how to make it use my actual name."

What do you need to know? Have you tried clicking on "Account" on the top right, after signing in to your Typepad account, then where it says "Account Information," enter what you want in "Display Name"?

I've never looked at this before. I simply looked at the dashboard, and those seemed like the first things to try. Does that work? If not, the Help button is right next to the Account button.

cool, done. thanks gary!

"But like government, the market has changed since Adam Smith first hypothesized the Invisible Hand."

As it happens, Mark Rosenfelder has just finished a read-through and analysis of Wealth of Nations which is kind of a nice counterpart to this post.

russell, cool! *terrorist fist bump*

But remember -- you got to put "by russell", in italics, at the top of your post or the locusts will getcha.

And remember that you have to pay the blogger tax of 5.5% of your monthly word-count to the blog front page.

It's a problem, not only in the US but a host of other countries (france and Japan spring to mind) that there is some notion that the country is still rural when it is nothing near it. France has to deal with stuff like this and Japan still has a system where a rural voter is equal to at least 3 or so urban voters (down from a high of 5 or 6 in the early 80's). However, being the American exceptionalist that I am, I will say that we do a lot better in getting urban folks to think of themselves as rural and get all bent out of shape about urban elitists.

(btw, boo-yah on getting russell to post. I'm thinking it is going to feel like Christmas morning to click on the blog when I get up)

Russell is a front-pager now?

Okay, I'm redundant. Because the vast majority of the time I comment here, anything I have to say could be more efficiently summed up as "what russell said".

In fact, aside from one single nitpick:

the Ukraine

It's just "Ukraine". No "the".

Other than that, "what russell said".

Nowadays, "capital" is money.

Well, that's the whole point of capitalism. Feature? Bug? Inherently fatal contradiction?

Like Chou-en-lai famously remarked, perhaps it's too early to tell.

I wouldn't say the use of the article is so much wrong as out of fashion.

Another element of this problem is that many people entertain the idea that "non-free" markets create distortion in the information that the market can transmit.

But information theorists will tell you that you need some level of predictability in your communications, or you can never have any confidence in what's being transmitted. Optimizing that level of predictability is a constant struggle; but there's no way that a) a completely unregulated market actually transmits more USEFUL price signals than b) one that has regulations that one can tell, in advance, will have certain impacts on the communications one receives about the market.

Congratulations, russell!

You've been top of my wish-list (sorry, Gary) to see on the front page for some time now. Nice to see it happen.

(Now I need to check and see if that pony's come.)



Abuse of a close italics tag. Ten years in the cubes, citizen moonbat.

"Optimizing that level of predictability is a constant struggle; but there's no way that a) a completely unregulated market actually transmits more USEFUL price signals than b) one that has regulations that one can tell, in advance, will have certain impacts on the communications one receives about the market."

Well, I suppose that, as a theoretical matter, if the effect of the regulations is well behaved, and you know in detail exactly what they are, you could deconvolute the prices you see, to get the pre-regulation prices. Those, of course, aren't every safe assumptions, especially the latter, so in the real world it IS noise.

But really all I've got to say, is that, if you want hip metaphors for "big", you need to mine Weird Al's "Fat":

"Government so big that, when it sits around the house, it really sits around the house!"

Glad I don't have to choose between Gary & Russell - y'all have made my blogging month!

It never fails to amaze me that NO ONE talks about Smith's intended audience: the landed nobility and the commercially wealthy, who were already colluding so effectively against the populace (think Enclosure Acts, and Blake's "dark, Satanic" cloth-goods mills, which were well on their way to destroying the ability of common people to provide for themselves).

The fruits are so tasty, too: a HIDDEN aristocracy, no longer needing direct power (hire people to run things for you - call them elections, and make sure everyone knows who has the money...no need for anything as sordid as visibility); a populace so duped by lies and threats (real and imaginary) that they will fight hard for their masters and against their own interests in the hopes of becoming a master themselves one day (ha - as if!).

Add this to our domestic terrorists' stock-in-trade of 'plausible deniability', and you have the recipe for these last 30-40 years.

Yes, yes, blame "the government" - ignore the fact that THE ONE THING REQUIRED to be IN government is for the wealthy to continue issuing checks to the politicians along with their marching orders; throw the bums out for being 'soft on people' and install another scary bunch of ideologues who are intent on riding feudalism-by-proxy until the wheels come off...and if they don't funnel enough money to the shadow-feudalists, cook up a scandal, "stand on principle", throw them out...and do it all again.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I would have a vastly easier time taking "conservative" positions seriously if the proponents (yes, Brett, GOB, McKinney - I'm talking about you guys) didn't work so damn hard trying to pretend that the obvious just isn't happening.

Russell is a front-pager now?

Okay, I'm redundant.

You are hardly redundant, Catsy, but Russell as a front pager is indeed welcome.

Along the same lines, it has been pointed out in ways better than I can do, but bears repeating, that it's not necessarily size of government that matters, but what it does and how - whether we, as taxpayers, are getting our money's worth. Size is an arbitrary criterion; I notice that 'conservatives' tend to complain about size only when they don't like something in particular. You don't hear complains from them about the size of the 'defense' apparatus (enormous and out of control) or drug enforcement (ditto). But the relatively dinky Dept. of Education, for example, which must dance backwards in its attempt to improve educational standards? Big gubmit!

Reagan's moldy legacy lives on: sentimentality and nostalgia, not reason, shape our ideas of government.

italics begone!

"Government so big that, when it sits around the house, it really sits around the house!"

FTW.

Seriously, the world needs a rimshot emoticon.

I propose this: @!

It never fails to amaze me that NO ONE talks about Smith's intended audience

Or context, which was explicitly mercantilist.

"Free market" as compared to what is always a useful question.

Thanks all for the kind words, I'll do my best not to be a dope.

Russell, perhaps you could fix the broken italic tag Posted by: dj moonbat | September 28, 2010 at 12:04 AM?

Also, if you might email me your email address, at gary underscore farber at yahoo dot com, we can have these conversations without boring everyone. :-)

Hey, nobody told me troubleshooting HTML tags was part of the deal! :)

Should be good now.

I am quite flattered that something I wrote was cogent enough - for once - to be meaningful, as brevity isn't my strong suit.

To reiterate: the point of my screed wasn't that government can do everything. Like any mechanism, it too needs maintenance and an occasional overhaul. The point is that people in government have to be accountable to their constituencies to a degree that management in the corporate world aren't to their employees, and that what makes government a better mechanism for social and economic policy than the market is that it is shepherded by people you can get rid of at the ballot box. That's why we have these messy, inconvenient things called elections.

If Apple employees don't like Steve Jobs, but really want to stay and feel they can make a difference in the company, they have to stage nothing less than the corporate equivalent of a palace coup, or a Potemkin. Is that really what anybody wants as a model for the changing of the guard anywhere?

Of course, I'm naive. I actually believe in crap like representative government, and elections and stuff like that. But no matter how ineffective people think all that is, it is far preferable as a model for a civic polity to feel empowered by compared with say, Bush's Ownership Society, where the only thing you have to your name is a pile of debt.

There can be no truly small government in America given our size, outreach, and global influence. There can only be, in the end, competing conceptions of government - one, a robust, proactive, stewarding kind of leadership that sees the excesses of economics run amok and hems in the damage we've seen it be capable of, and the other, a do-nothing, outwardly strong but inwardly soft cadre of managers that sees leadership not as a question of accepting responsibility, but as a shift of risk and blame.

For most of the last 30 years or so, we have had the latter kind of governance. The day that Americans wake up and realize that this is their enemy, not homosexuality or illegal immigration or Muslims or masturbation or any other conjured-up bugaboos, will be the day Americans start being responsibly civic.

Dr. Science and russell added. All Alone In The Night link fixed.

Gary, shouldn't you be added as an author?

Um...disregard the last question. Done.

That would be nice, Slarti, if you would be so kind.

Um, is this a question?

Now you're just trying to drive me crazy, aren't you? :-)

?

While you are under the hood, the lawyers guns and money blog link goes to the old one, the new one is
http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/

Typepad seems to be full of inner turmoil just now. I've added Gary but he is invisible (make of that what you will). I'll try and come back later and fix the remainder of things that I set out to fix.

A-HA!

Pshew.

Barter and/or payment in kind is normal. Travel for pleasure is a bizarre, alien concept. Travel is freaking dangerous. People mostly live their lives within a few miles of home.

Let me be a pedant and note two things. Even in a situation in which barter was somewhat common, there was already a pretty strong cash economy in place. More importantly, your second statement isn't true. Those who had the money absolutely traveled for pleasure. The notion of the "grand tour," young English aristocrats traveling around Europe and being debauched, was a background to a whole lot of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century literature.

/pedant

Congrats to Russell, Catsy, Gary, and Doctor
Science as new front-pagers.

Did I miss anyone?

All wise choices by whomever the "bureaucrat" is (see Nate's excellent rant in the previous post's comment section regarding the meaning of "bureaucrat") who's doing the choosing. ;)

At this rate, EVERYONE will be a front-pager within a few weeks.

Who will be left to comment?

there was already a pretty strong cash economy in place.

This is quite true.

My point (which I hope remains accurate) was that most folks had a degree of independence from the cash economy that simply does not exist these days.

That independence extended quite a bit past the colonial period, I think. My father and my in-laws grew up in rural GA and PA, respectively, and lived in a context where you could get quite a lot of the basics of life directly, without having to participate in a cash economy to get them. I'm talking the 20's and 30's.

The history of political economy is not my field (maybe in my next life?), but my sense or intuition is that the move to an almost completely money-based economy was a real watershed event.

It's both very hard and very unusual for folks to live cash-free nowadays, and that has a lot of consequences for all of us. And its more than just the cash, it's the dependence on very complex supply chains and infrastructure for even basic things like food, water, and shelter.

Those who had the money absolutely traveled for pleasure. The notion of the "grand tour," young English aristocrats traveling around Europe and being debauched, was a background to a whole lot of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century literature.

Noted, but I don't think that was true, or at least was not anything like typical, in the early 19th C US.

From the depths a new breed of commenter will rise. Those who visit here regularly but remain silent, because all the good comments have already been made.

Regarding the size of government, we may not have one after next Tuesday, thanks to Bureaucrat Vermin Dictator Jim Demint.

See Washington Monthly, "A Unilateral Decision to End Legislative Activity in the Senate".

I don't want the Republican defeated, I want it dead.

Who will be left to comment?

Former front-pagers, of course.

Noted, but I don't think that was true, or at least was not anything like typical, in the early 19th C US.

It wasn't common in the U.S., but neither was the concept alien or unknown. And Americans who had the financial wherewithal definitely would travel for fun.

Just noting the difference between "financially out of reach" and "alien concept."

Congrats to Russell, Catsy, Gary, and Doctor Science as new front-pagers.

As flattered as I am that anyone would actually believe that, I am not an ObWi front-pager.

Russell: great addition! And nice to have Gary back. Still lacking much conservative voice. You guys have to stop putting that whole side of the argument on those few (we happy few) in the comments section.

Missing from this discussion is the federalism angle (no, not Sharon Angle; I didn't say that). To me, perhaps the greater part of the question is what questions should be left to the states.

I generally agree that any government in a pop. of 300 Mill. is going to be "big." That states the obvious. And, although entertaining, this post is just stating the obvious. We are not in 1801. Got that. So when you say:

Bring some specifics to the table, we'll run the numbers, and we'll see where we stand.

I say I agree. Let's discuss specifics. You start.

"Small" and "big" are relative terms here. What's wrong with "smaller than it is right now?" Or more responsive? Less beholden to special/corporate/wing nut interests?

Personally, I like to think in terms of efficiency. I don't mind something bigger that is truly better. I'm not convinced that the growth of the federal government is necessarily better. And ditto on spending. Sure, build bridges (doing that in my area) but a malt liquor/ marijuana study?

Sure, there are some things that simply have to be done nationally. But is going national for those that do not under some warped commerce clause theory really better? OTOH, getting truly local doesn't always help. I think, having now lived in California for 7 years, that special districts are a special kind of joke. Of course, given how this state is run, I'm not sure letting the state do things would be demonstrably better.

"Specialization of labor" means you might be an HR consultant whose niche is outplacement for lawyers who are looking for a lifestyle change.

I just may need her number.

"As flattered as I am that anyone would actually believe that, I am not an ObWi front-pager."

I could believe it.

Of course, I'm sorry, but the left section is full now. But if you'll just be willing to play a conservative, Eric can sign you up today!

Yes, we're still in the market for sensible C's/center rightists.

Unfortunately, they're either too high-profile (Friedersdorf, Larison) or already snatched up (Kain) or sort of unplugged (Djerejian)

"What's wrong with "smaller than it is right now?" Or more responsive? Less beholden to special/corporate/wing nut interests?"

Well, speaking for myself, I don't give a crap about the "size" of the federal government in some absolute sense. It's the results.

I'm all for more responsive, and less beholden to interests with more money than citizens behind them. But that doesn't require the government to be "smaller", just better.

If I was going for smaller in an absolute sense, I'd start with a lot of our very wasteful and unnecessary military spending. But when Republicans talk about "small government" they're not talking about scaling back military adventures, they're taking aim at the Department of Education, or burdensome food inspections, or infrastructure and jobs for districts besides their own, and other domestic programs they don't like, which are pretty small on the scale of things we're dealing with here.

although entertaining, this post is just stating the obvious. We are not in 1801. Got that.

You're right, it is stating the obvious, and that was kind of intentional.

IMO it can be useful to just lay out the obvious thing. Sometimes that's because it lets you walk back a discussion to a point that everyone can agree on, and then move forward from there. Sometimes, the obvious just needs pointing out.

Sometimes both are true.

"Small" and "big" are relative terms here. What's wrong with "smaller than it is right now?"

Smaller than it is right now is fine, as long as the things we want it to do get done.

I'm with Nate, the size specifically doesn't bug me. Government should be as big as it needs to be to do what we want it to do.

"What we want it to do" is, I think, the more critical question.

Or more responsive?

More responsive is always good.

IMO "large" and "responsive" are, all other things being equal, inversely proportional. Some degree of non-response comes with living in a nation of 300M people.

The private sector is prone to exactly the same effect.

Less beholden to special/corporate/wing nut interests?

You will get no argument from me on this.

My solution on this is simple but nobody likes it:

No protected speech or political participation, either directly or through $$$, for anything other than natural human persons.

I don't see any other solution at all, let alone a better one.

Personally, I like to think in terms of efficiency.

Me too.

I would have liked to see single payer health care, for reasons of efficiency and for reasons of universal coverage.

Choice of private sector vs public sector quite often favors public sector when it comes to efficiency.

Sure, there are some things that simply have to be done nationally.

My take on this is that the solution needs to be comparable in scale to the problem.

What would make sense to me in a lot of cases would be regional, rather than national, solutions. It's quite common that a single state is not commensurate with the size of a problem, regional compacts seem like a good middle way between state and federal.

There are probably lots of issues that "New England" or "the Great Lakes" or "the Mountain West" or "the Gulf Coast" can tackle that would be too large for a single state to handle well, but which don't really require national attention.

But to me the issue is a pragmatic one, rather than one of principle.

Sure, there are some things that simply have to be done nationally.

My take on this is that the solution needs to be comparable in scale to the problem.

Sorry, one final point to bring it back home to the original post.

My point overall here is that *the scale of the issues that government needs to address has grown* since the nation was founded.

More things that touch everyday life occur at very, very large scales. *Vastly* larger scales than were typical even in my parents' early lifetime, let alone 200 years ago.

Those things need to be addressed. Waving hands and saying that the problem is that "government is too big" seems, to me, to be an act of willful, naive nostalgia.

If we want to discuss ways to decentralize *the economy*, rather than (or at least not just) government, that is a conversation I'd love to have.

Re Nate's observation (as I was going to say before ObWings ate my previous comments) - another vast difference between the Federal Government of 1800 and today is the size and scope of the military/military-related establishment - which is, after all, a "government program". Two centuries ago, the nation's armed forces were a few dozen ships for a Navy; and minimal land forces (?16,000?) meant to be bolstered by volunteerism if needed: volunteerism which was also assumed to be largely localized and self-supplied (as the Second Amendment enshrines).

Not quite the same nowadays - and unfortunately, the issue of controlling the size of the miltary/military-industrial establishment is pretty much a non-starter is virtually ANY context.

Russell -- More responsive is always good.

IMO "large" and "responsive" are, all other things being equal, inversely proportional. Some degree of non-response comes with living in a nation of 300M people.

This really does come down to being about what you want 'responsive' to look like. I'd rather that the government would have been *less* responsive to the unfocused anger we had after 9/11 for instance. That's one feedback loop that I think is badly broken and measuring the wrong inputs.

I think the economy is another area where I'd prefer less short term responsiveness for more and broader long term growth. Less amplitude for slower and shallower drops, please.

Not all feedback loops are good for the system.

Welcome, Russell!!

Conservatives of virtually all stripes are united in their belief that the federal government is too large.

And this obsession with size, rather than functionality, is bizarre.

You want to argue that the government shouldn't be doing X or Y? Fine. Let's hear it. You might be right.

You think taxes should be cut? Fine, lay out a proposed budget that passes the laugh test and we can talk.

But if you want to argue that there is some magical number which measures the absolute limit of the size of government, then leave me alone.

you got to put "by russell", in italics, at the top of your post

Can't somebody update a template somewhere to make it do that automagically? We're on WP, which I know is different from Typepad, but it does it automatically for us.

Brett:
But really all I've got to say, is that, if you want hip metaphors for "big", you need to mine Weird Al's "Fat":

That may be the first time you and I have ever agreed on anything.

When the government goes to get its shoes shined, it has to take their word.

one of you could try faking conservative posts. see if anyone could tell.

Bizarro Gary say me no consider cleek's bad idea.

Or perhaps that would be clean-shaven Gary.

That doesn't work. Fake conservatives usually end up compromising and give the whole ruse away.

Since everyone is always wondering, aside from those who claim they KNOW what we think, we the Founders speak just this one time from the grave and hereby declare that since the States (50? No one asked us about that! Alaska? I think Jefferson knew that would be trouble, but we didn't listen)) and municipalities have been in most cases so woefully and willfully deficient in providing for the general welfare, that the Federal Government in 2010 is just about the right size in scope, expense, and personnel.

Lose a weapon system or two and pay your bills through taxation instead of debt would be two suggestions we might make, but you idiots do what you want.

We frankly and collectively wish that our fellow corpse Abraham Lincoln would have liquidated the Confederate South when he had the chance (look what treatment he received for pulling his punches) to make the Nation, umm, more manageable and humane, but there you go.

Nowhere in the Constitution does it state you people can't have TWO Civil Wars to settle the original problem, though I imagine some whining Confederates will claim those words exist in the document as they get their [email protected] kicked once and for all.

Catch you later. Here's to f8cking it up.

Now leave us out of it from now on.

Barvo! Barvo! Encroe!
Damn the Republiturds!
Kill all the Confederates!

I stop paying attention for a day, and what happens? Russel turns front-pager! As welcome as that is, it raises this question: who can possibly replace Russell in comments?

On the substance of the post: Bring some specifics to the table, we'll run the numbers, and we'll see where we stand.

"The numbers" presumably have dollar signs in front. Politics, and governance, is about MONEY. Good thing, too, because the other thing it can be about is ... what? Blood?

Some things, some people seem to say, are more important than money. If you think abortion is murder, no amount of money can change your mind, right? If you think life ain't worth living unless you get to own a gun, could we possibly give you a big enough tax cut to persuade you otherwise?

If the answer to such questions is "Hell, no!" then I suggest politics -- the horsetrading that shapes governance -- comes to an impasse.

Now, consider such notions as "it's unfair to tax rich people more than X%" or "it's unfair that some people can't afford health insurance". These are moral sentiments. Not as passionately held, maybe, as moral sentiments on abortion or guns, but moral sentiments nonetheless. Can even these moral sentiments be reconciled by "running the numbers"?

I worry that no, they can't be. I worry that even if we could, for instance, run the numbers and show that we could provide health care to everybody without raising anybody's taxes, the "unfairness" of "undeserving" people getting something they have not "earned" would still be objectionable to some self-styled conservatives.

--TP

Using the BLS, in 1960 all government employees were 15.6% of the total workforce, in 2000, they were 15.8% and in 2007 they were 16.1%.
As a note, in 2000, the total workforce was 131,785K and in 2007 it was 137,598K.

So, over the last 50 years the relative size of government, as far as employment is concerned, hasn't really changed that much.

Between 2007 and 2009, the workforce shrank by almost 7 million while government employment actually increased slightly so the %age of the workforce has increased to 17.8%.

Sort of analogous to the decline in federal revenue in 2009 to less than 15% of GDP.

"As welcome as that is, it raises this question: who can possibly replace Russell in comments?"

The union has negotiated hard on this point, and the contract clearly outlines our right to both post and comment, now that we're a union shop.

Russell: "that is a conversation I'd love to have."

Russell, you are a mensch and one fine, reasonable voice, among a few others, attempting conversation with a howling sh*tstorm of zombie insanity.

By storm, I don't mean Obsidian Wings, which is now a lone telegraph key with a paperweight fallen against it signaling from a destroyed planet on the other side of the universe, I mean this moment in the history of the United States when the internal mortal enemies of this country are doing their worst to destroy their own government and a sizable majority of civilized American society.

Outside Obsidian Wings and few other lone outposts, there is no conversation.

Let's take TARP, for one imperfect but necessary example, promulgated by the Bush White House, though the raging blonde sexbomb vermin (I wonder if the fascist FOX blondes can shoot real bullets out of their D-cup paps) leading the fascist sh*tstrom would have us believe differently.

After witnessing the thieving oligarchy on Wall Street enrich themselves at taxpayer expense after their institutions and their livelihoods were saved with my tax dollars and my grandchildrens' debt dollars because the oligarchs themselves got down on their $5000 suited knees at the White House and begged for the support of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama, and then turn around and bankroll and make common cause with the ignorant anti-TARP, anti-banker dumbas*es in the Confederate Republican Tea Party lynchmob against Pelosi and Obama, here's the conversation I want (if possible, which it's not, so f*ck all conversation).

This Sunday evening, I want President Obama, with the leaders of the Congressional majority alongside him, to announce to the country that not only is TARP canceled (let's get rid of the stimulus too, for good measure, in fact blow the projects up that it funded, preferably while lying vermin Republicans cut the ribbons at the openings) canceled as of midnight, but every cent of both programs must be returned to the Treasury no later noon on the same Monday, and most importantly, every single banking and financial transaction, stock trade, bond trade and including all banking mergers and FDIC takeovers of failed banks, since the moment Treasury Secretary Paulson dropped to his knees and FED Chairman Bernacke delared "If we don't act, we may not have an economy on Monday morning," will be canceled.

We go back to status quo ante on that weekend during the Bush Presidency.

The government will do nothing, as the murderous Republicans want, to alleviate or ameliorate the situation as ....

.. every large bank and most small ones who destroyed the Glass-Steagall wall, insurance company, money market fund, mutual fund, stock exchange, mortgage loan, and savings account in the industrialized world flatlines at zero, as the Republican Party desires, and FOX Business News and CNBC (Maria Bartiromo torn to pieces by Tea Party mobs in New Jersey) go black because good-looking, well-coiffed anchors are slitting their own throats on camera, and the same Republican vermin (led by FOX filth, airhead murderer Mike Pence, goatf*cker Erick Erickson, venom-mouthed anti-American traitor Mark Levin, the pale fascist Glenn Beck, and cracker confederate vermin Jim DeMint and their acolytes storm the gun stores throughout America and whine and howl about the effing gummint not saving their worthless, fascist butts..

... and President Obama recalls the military from overseas to "disperse" the raging anti-American Tea Party mob (who have dragged Rick Santelli from his cushy perch reporting on the gummint bond trade and hacked him to pieces for the his mere association with the words "gummint bonds") with deadly force. ..

When we relive that moment that the Republican party wished we had lived through -- that horrible conservative zombie created catastrophe -- when they are bloodied and defeated and gone from this Earth .. then .. maybe.. if I'm in the mood .. you, Russell, will be able to make your case in the short-lived eye of the sh*tstorm.

But, what the hell, carry on. Maybe reason can eke out a stinking three percent increase in the high marginal tax rate.

But, come January, the Republican Part will resume murdering children with pre-existing conditions.

TonyP:

the "unfairness" of "undeserving" people getting something they have not "earned" would still be objectionable to some self-styled conservatives.

See my next post, and tell me why that kind of unfairness, undeserving people, and unearned stuff doesn't seem to count ...

Gary:

the contract clearly outlines our right to both post *and* comment, now that we're a union shop.

Sing it, brother.

"Conservatives of virtually all stripes are united in their belief that the federal government is too large."

Conservatives of virtually all striped like to say that they believe this, but few conservatives objected when Bush increased government spending at a faster rate than any president since Lyndon Johnson.

This Matt Taibbi piece touches on that

The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common. After nearly a year of talking with Tea Party members from Nevada to New Jersey, I can count on one hand the key elements I expect to hear in nearly every interview. One: Every single one of them was that exceptional Republican who did protest the spending in the Bush years, and not one of them is the hypocrite who only took to the streets when a black Democratic president launched an emergency stimulus program. ("Not me — I was protesting!" is a common exclamation.)

As someone once said, read the rest.

Russell, a welcome addition indeed. Very welcome. FWIW, it isn't just the size, it's the cost of government and the weight.

You write:

If you want to talk about not wasting money, that's great. Nobody, least of all me, likes to see good money p*ssed away. Bring some specifics to the table, we'll run the numbers, and we'll see where we stand.

If you want to talk about Scaling Back The Heavy Hand Of Government and Unleashing The Creative Potential Of The Market, please excuse me while I go count the silver.

Not having time to do a bunch of research: specific dollars wasted by the Feds: earmarks. No, not a huge amount of money but emblematic of Washington's attitude toward money. As for gov't's heavy hand, there is (1) the 1099 requirement being dropped on all businesses with 25 or more employees to account for every purchase over $600 (making adding that 25th employee a very real cost factor, but good going, wise and beneficent gov't, this will surely boost private sector growth), (2) the new banking reg that let's banks lend only against receivables that are 60 days old or younger, regardless of other securitization (you know, because businesses who are current on their AR need lots of money whereas businesses getting slow paid have excellent cash flow--again, good thinking, gov't, you've really solved a problem there) and (3) other banking regs that impose higher capitalization requirements on fully securitized and performing loans when cash flow falls below current loan obligations (such as when a guarantor makes loan payments due to short term cash flow interuptions)--the happy result here is that the bank, rather than increase capital behind the loan, calls the notes, otherwise the bank loses money. It's a lose-lose all the way around, yet it's your gov't at work.

As for the efficacy of big gov't, I give you the the efficiency and effectiveness of the executive branch after the BP oil spill (no more offshore drilling, so the rigs move away and people are out of work, but hey, at least gov't capped the well, or not).

As noted by another commenter, gov't has grown to 17% of the work force while the private sector has been shrinking. As the proponent of big gov't, Russell, what is the justification for this? Or any of the above?

MKT: funny how you get big-picture when you want to ignore crucial facts and details...and how you erupt in dissociated factoids when you want to avoid dealing with someone else's big-picture argument.

Playground behaviors like this lend themselves to beatings, torn clothing and detention, but not to better arguments, better governance, or a better life for anyone; therefore, I have to ask:

WHY ARE YOU HERE?

Since I've been away from the tubes for the most part for the last day and a half, which is like an eternity around here, and don't want to delay expressing the following sentiment by trying to read through the comments and somehow adding, minimally at best, to the discussion, I just want to say, belatedly, "RUSSELL!!!"

(Sorry for yelling. I got a little excited.)

you want to ignore crucial facts and details

There's more than a little supposition, there, I think.

Not having time to do a bunch of research: specific dollars wasted by the Feds: earmarks. No, not a huge amount of money but emblematic of Washington's attitude toward money.

How, precisely -- and please show your work!! -- is the money spent on earmarked projects "wasted?" I don't want one specific example of a ridiculous project, or even two; I want something showing a general trend of "waste," as distinguished from "I do not want money being allocated in this manner or for these things."

the new banking reg that let's banks lend only against receivables that are 60 days old or younger, regardless of other securitization (you know, because businesses who are current on their AR need lots of money whereas businesses getting slow paid have excellent cash flow--again, good thinking, gov't, you've really solved a problem there)

It seems this needs some unpacking, but I'm not in a position to do so. Obviously, companies with poor cash flow might need to borrow in order to meet payrolls, keep their own A/P current, etc. -- all laudable goals -- but a) I'm sure this law wasn't passed for no reason whatsoever, so I'd like to know the background, and b) perhaps if you have cash flow problems, increasing your own collection and debt reduction efforts should be a larger priority than borrowing. As you're so fond of pointing out when it comes to government, anyway.

As for the efficacy of big gov't, I give you the the efficiency and effectiveness of the executive branch after the BP oil spill (no more offshore drilling, so the rigs move away and people are out of work, but hey, at least gov't capped the well, or not).

PRIVATE OIL COMPANY CATASTROPHE DISPROVES NEED FOR GOVERNMENT FILM AT 11.

(And, frankly, in my limited experience, if you've got a sufficient number of accounts that are 60+ days old that it's endangering your ability to operate, when nearly every business I know is net 30, you're kind of a f*ckup as a business operator.)

I think one of the main divides is between people who are more worried somebody might get something they didn't "earn" in some sense (which, yes, doesn't seem to apply to inherited wealth and the like), and people worried that somebody won't get opportunities, through events they didn't earn.

The absolute number of the federal civilian workforce, including the U.S. Post Office, has remained steady since 1950. When expressed as a percentage of the total American population since 1950, federal civilian employment, including postal workers, has fallen precipitously.

Throw in the military - same trend.

Nearly all of the growth in government employment since 1950 is at the State and local levels, mostly concentrated in public education, which I conclude reflects population and school enrollment growth.

Here's a couple of cites -- feel free to drill down and find more.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_percentage_of_americans_are_government_employed

http://books.google.com/books?id=v4U0dImzX7YC&pg=PA310&lpg=PA310&dq=total+government+employment+as+percentage+of+workforce+in+1960&source=bl&ots=_9--FGA6HZ&sig=akpjf7oYoQG_O_JR8CZbk-qeEgk&hl=en&ei=PUajTLX-CISBlAfuuoXRBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CCwQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=total%20government%20employment%20as%20percentage%20of%20workforce%20in%201960&f=false

Scroll down to pages 308-311 for the relevant charts in that second cite.

I'd review historical marginal tax rates since 1950 as well (91% at the high end in 1950 into the 1960s) versus 36% today, but those also proved to be useless facts scattered like leaves in the howling sh*tstorm of zombie insanity.

WHY ARE YOU HERE?

To make friends and to enlighten.

I don't want one specific example of a ridiculous project, or even two;

No problem: travel the great state of West Virginia and make a note every time something is named after Robt. Byrd.

perhaps if you have cash flow problems, increasing your own collection and debt reduction efforts should be a larger priority than borrowing.

Check. You're right, sort of: you first work on expense containment and collections. You can then either borrow to cover rent and payroll or lay people off.

And, frankly, in my limited experience, if you've got a sufficient number of accounts that are 60+ days old that it's endangering your ability to operate, when nearly every business I know is net 30, you're kind of a f*ckup as a business operator.

I suspect the operative phrase here is "limited experience". In a recession, people pay slowly, particularly individuals and small businesses who are struggling. This cohort makes up about 20% of my practice. I could fire my struggling clients, or wait to get paid. In the meantime, I need to service those accounts, which requires employees, and I need to pay those employees, which requires a temporary line of credit. I don't get paid during lean times and, as is currently the case, I have put back a lot of what I thought was my savings into the business. That's the way it goes.

But if we're going to have a gov't worship service, it's fair game to point out that gov't certainly can be the problem and not the solution.

"But if we're going to have a gov't worship service..."

Seriously, McKinney? Would you like a little more straw with that?

Besides, it's definitely not a real service, we haven't even broken out the robes or the FDA approved Good Silver!

Alright, The Founders, that second cite got screwed up. I'll try to find the right one for you.

it's definitely not a real service

Fair point. More of an informal prayer meeting.

No problem: travel the great state of West Virginia and make a note every time something is named after Robt. Byrd.

I may be ignorant, but I'm not stupid: What does that, [i]specifically[/i], have to do with "earmarks" as a general proposition, how many of those things were paid for via earmarks, and are they all actually "wasted?" Does each and every one actually have no genuine function?

Just so we're absolutely, positively, 100% clear, you're telling me, via shorthand, that all of these things were a) paid for by earmarks, and b) are wasted money. Is that about correct?

In the meantime, I need to service those accounts, which requires employees, and I need to pay those employees, which requires a temporary line of credit.

Right, and I said that those are appropriate things to be borrowing for. But, again, this law didn't arise out of nowhere. Can you link me to some background? What was the impetus for it?

The Founders second cite turns out to be good.

I mean, Robert C. Byrd Visitor Center at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. Did they just throw his name on an existing building, or build a whole new one? How much did it cost? Was that paid for by Federal tax money, or by National Park user fees? Was it accomplished via an earmark in some other bill? I don't know! But I bet McKinneyTexas doesn't, either!!

Robert C. Byrd Cancer Research Center at first glance seems to me to not be a waste of money, but I don't know exactly what research it does, what it is, or what its relationship to "earmarks" is. And I bet McKinneyTexas doesn't, either!!

Robert C. Byrd High school in Bridgeport . . . I just -- well, I think you get my point.

But, again, this law didn't arise out of nowhere. Can you link me to some background? What was the impetus for it?

I cannot give you a cite. I've asked my banker and two clients in banking what the hell gives and they tell me it's just part of the new stuff they are seeing under Obama. The theory is that if loans are only made against AR at 60 minus, the chances of a loan going bad are significantly reduced. This is true, as far as it goes which isn't very far. If you don't make any loans, you have a zero default rate. What is bad is that the regulators will not let a bank look at the other security the bank has on the loan. The only allowable metric is AR minus 60. It's stupid and arbitrary. And has nothing to do with the meltdown.

no more offshore drilling, so the rigs move away and people are out of work, but hey, at least gov't capped the well, or not

Ah, the BP spill was a testament to government inefficiency, because BP is the government?

Interesting.

Incidentally, there is no ban on offshore drilling and never was, so, no, the rigs aren't moving elsewhere. And, besides, the oil is where the oil is. Rigs can't just move somewhere else and get the oil anywhere.

PS: Chmood, keep it civil please!

'And, frankly, in my limited experience, if you've got a sufficient number of accounts that are 60+ days old that it's endangering your ability to operate, when nearly every business I know is net 30, you're kind of a f*ckup as a business operator.'

The limited experience is really showing. It's less than useless when comments emerge from sources based solely on ignorance and bias. If you actually know something about small business, with employees and good customers who slow pay, please enlighten us.

Not having time to do a bunch of research: specific dollars wasted by the Feds: earmarks.

I think it's valid to have a concern that earmarks might tend to be corrupting to a legislator (certainly a debatable point), but it doesn't make sense to think of earmarks as something which necessarily add waste.

Earmarks are not extra spending. They simply designate some of the appropriated money to specific things. They can be bad things ('Bridge to nowhere') or worthy things (drinking water for NOLA after Katrina), but they don't change the size of the appropriation, they just specifically allocate a portion of it. I don't see how, on balance, disallowing earmarks makes much of a difference in anything. Phony issue - perfect for a phony like McCain.

I've asked my banker and two clients in banking what the hell gives and they tell me it's just part of the new stuff they are seeing under Obama.

Blargh. Given how many insurance companies and healthcare consortia tried to blame a bunch of crap on "the new Obamacare law" before it even went into effect, I'm going to take that with a grain of salt. (Obama tends to get blamed for a lot of things that are Bush-era holdovers.) Without a link to the specific regulation in question, and knowing where it came from, when it was proposed and for what reason, there's just no signal in this noise.

the BP spill was a testament to government inefficiency, because BP is the government

No, because gov't, as in Katrina, is supposed be able to swoop in and fix things through its well known efficiency and focus. And, yes, there is a ban. It's called a moratorium. That was the gov't response.

I hope everyone took their Benadryl today. With all the straw flying around here, Hay Fever Alert is high, repeat, high.

How come Ford is doing so much better than big Gummint Motors?

No, because gov't, as in Katrina, is supposed be able to swoop in and fix things through its well known efficiency and focus.

As opposed to the private sector's response to the BP spill and Katrina? Which was...what exactly?

And, yes, FEMA can operate pretty well, when you put someone in charge who has a clue. As for "Brownie" he had no relevant experience, and severely botched it. But that's true even if Brownie was heading a private company.

And, yes, there is a ban. It's called a moratorium. That was the gov't response.

No, the moratorium is a slight pause on certain deep sea drilling (not all drilling) and it only affects new rigs, and even then, not all of them.

Really, it's not much of much.

Interestingly, are you chiding the government for doing too little here? If so, I agree, but that kind of cuts against the grain, no?

How come Ford is doing so much better than big Gummint Motors?

Clearly it's the government's influence!

As if GM was doing great before, but then the government stepped in and ruined it all. Or something.

God, that doesn't even approach making sense. Even The Economist admitted recently that they were wrong, and Obama right, and the auto-bailout has been a huge success.

The Economist. Not exactly a bunch of Commies.

Leaving aside the vast engineering differences between evacuating a city, providing clean food, water, and housing to residents, and fixing failed levees, and capping a blown out leaking well under almost a mile of water, I thought the Republican response was to blame the government for interfering with the private sector, not blame the government for not interfering enough.

(Which isn't to say the BP spill was handled as well as possible, way too much leeway was given to BP, and estimates of the amounts spilled and the damage were way lowballed, and the use of the dispersants made oil disappear from the surface, but sink to the bottom and spread under the surface. For more on the science, see here for university of georgia scientists who were in the area the whole time.)

are you chiding the government for doing too little here?

No, pointing out that gov't doesn't do what you think it should.

My offer to pay for both your and GOB's plane tickets to Somalia is still open btw.

Or Liberia. I don't want to limit your freedom of choice.

"How come Ford is doing so much better than big Gummint Motors?"

Because Ford was in a better place than GM to begin with, because they'd started making transitions to the cars they made and their production processes years ago?

Or, y'know, evil inefficient government must have turned the vibrant, growing, creative GM into a soulless husk. Or something,

No, pointing out that gov't doesn't do what you think it should.

But Clinton's FEMA did what I think it should. That Bush's didn't is more an indictment of Bush putting clueless cronies in charge than the notion that FEMA can't do things right.

As for Obama, there was no way to cap the well. The science/tech was not available.

Now, I do agree that he showed too much deference to the private sector in letting BP try to do that, and handle the clean-up, but again, that is an argument against letting the private sector take control, not against government involvement.

No, pointing out that gov't doesn't do what you think it should.

And, in turn, BP's failure to cap the well is an excellent example of private sector not doing what you think it should.

Further, the fact that BP (and its partners in Deep Horizon) cut safety corners in myriad ways is yet further evidence that the private sector doesn't do what you think it should.

No, because gov't, as in Katrina, is supposed be able to swoop in and fix things through its well known efficiency and focus.

Could you possibly try constructing an argument on this thread that does not rest on a foundation of pure straw?

And, yes, there is a ban. It's called a moratorium. That was the gov't response.

And it was absolutely the appropriate response. When an incident exposes a previously unknown level of risk, and in the process exposes previously unknown limitations in your ability to mitigate that risk, you put a halt to the activity until you can properly reassess the risks. That's true in the abstract, and it's particularly true in the specifics of this case.

I own a number of systems at a major e-com site. Let's say I have a server in a cluster fail, and when it does, it causes massive customer impact that we simply can't mitigate in any timely fashion. Worse, the cluster was designed by a team with a reputation for cutting corners, and it quickly becomes obvious that any other server in the cluster could fail the same way--and any one of them failing could cause this massive level of customer impact. I would be on the phone with the VP of our org telling him that we have to disable this system immediately until we can ensure we are not at unacceptable risk simply by continuing to run it.

We are /still/ at unacceptable risk from deepwater drilling. Does anyone really think that we are any better equipped to deal with another similar blowout a mile below the surface?

The point is that during this crisis we gained new information about the scale of the risk posed by deepwater drilling, and--more to the point--learned that the mitigation plans drawn up by the supposed experts were largely complete BS that failed in practice, and that we /cannot/ effectively deal with a crisis like this.

The /only/ responsible thing to do is to stop the risky activity until we are actually capable of effectively dealing with it when it goes wrong.

Yeah, Ford was doing much better than GM before the financial crisis. Which is why the gummint didn't get involved with Ford! The government only bailed out GM b/c the other option was to let it fail, and that was deemed unpalatable. Ford wasn't staring into the abyss.

I personally was mildy anti-auto bailout, but if it's going well, great.

But Rob, how could GM have been doing poorly when GM was in the...private sector? Does not compute.

Jeez, could we just once have a conversation where "government is good at some things" doesn't draw the response "oh, so you think government is the bestest at everything?"

"How come Ford is doing so much better than Big Gummint Motors?"

I don't know, goodoleboy. Over what period of time? You bring your facts and I'll bring mine since Americans are the only folks on Earth who each possess their own individual set of facts -- 310 million sets of facts and growing despite the high marginal "fact tax".

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38539282/ns/business-autos/

I don't know. How come Big Gummint Audi, taken over and 100% resurrected by the U.S. taxpayer via the big gummint Marshall Plan after World War II, has gone on to be the private sector success it is?

Here's private sector efficiency for you, McTexas: the short period of time it took for the BP well to go kablooey after every warning sign was ignored by BP, Transocean, Halliburton, with a little help from the bought-off enablers at MMS.

I think only the American military and maybe al Qaeda are more efficient in the time lapse between mission assessment and the resulting explosion.


"But Rob, how could GM have been doing poorly when GM was in the...private sector? Does not compute."

Wow, that is dramatically unfair to the argument. I'm relatively sure that most understandings of the private sector are perfectly capable of allowing for the idea that some companies do better than others. In fact I don't even think I've come across a proponent of free market competition that doesn't have that idea firmly in hand.

"some companies doing better than others" is not the same thing as "a company doing poorly [to the point of failure]," so long as we're being pedantic. I'm not aware of any business model which requires competitors to go bankrupt if they don't lead the market.

Wow, that is dramatically unfair to the argument. I'm relatively sure that most understandings of the private sector are perfectly capable of allowing for the idea that some companies do better than others. In fact I don't even think I've come across a proponent of free market competition that doesn't have that idea firmly in hand.

Wow, Seb, could that be as dramatically unfair as pointing to one example of a government-aided company not recording enormous levels of profit?

My response was in kind, equally unfair to illustrate a point.

Ironically, however, GM is doing much better post-bailout than pre. In other words, the Gummit helped. Big time.

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