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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Comments

Marc Cooper

Dennis..Let me make this easy. I am NOT a candidate, nor could I be one.. so I dont really care if my observations would resonate among the electorate, or on the factor floor as u put it. The fact that speaking basic truths about the market have been, are and will be unpopular in no way erode their validity. There are extremely complicated social and even psychological reasons why people choose to live in denial about certain realities that shape their lives that have to do with self-worth, dignity, self-image, guilt etc, So, yes, very likely, that generic socialist-hued message that you describe as taboo in American politics is... taboo. I suspect that's why we can have the scion of a wealthy, elite dynasty pass himself off as a Regular Guy. If you will noitce carefully, I make no sweeping political recipes. I used to. But Im out of that business. Im also full of contradictions .. I cop to that rather immediately.

Nell Lancaster

I've appreciated a lot of the comments here, but especially want to thank reg for his. I've had the same thoughts about immigration (that right wingers will kill us on this issue if they're allowed to have it to themselves, and that denial of real problems illegal immigration creates for the Dem. base is being perpetuated by orgs that I support but not uncritically).

Most of all I appreciate reg's comments because it's so clear that they're from the heart of someone who is a Democrat and wants the party to improve and succeed. I don't get that sense from Marc, whose talents seem to be mostly on the critical side (not entirely, of course: defense of class realities excellent and very welcome!)

richard

Dennis,

I think your comments about marxism are a strawman, unless I am horribly misconstruing your points. If so, mea maxima culpa in advance.

When was the last time the Democratic Party asked the workers to throw off their chains? Never? Thought so. There is a great deal of difference between Marxism/Socialism and the social programs that the Democrats have been pushing since FDR. The point of of those social programs wasn't to undermine capitalism, it was, in the words of FDR (or was it Keynes?) "to save capitalism from itself."

I'm a southerner and I have never once heard a Democratic candidate make Marxist arguments about public policy. Could you please point me to the Democratic marxist candidate anywhere?

reg

richard - Lyndon LaRouche ?

(This whole marxist strawman bullshit is...bullshit.)

OOOPS...I'm over limit.

DennisThePeasant

Richard-

Evidently I did not express myself well, but please note I said Democratic or Progressive, which is exactly what I meant. And my point was not to criticize anyone's beliefs for the sake of starting an argument about the validity of those beliefs. I used Cooper's statements within a hypothetical candidacy to illustrate my point, not to suggest that he would campaign on those points or that either of us would make acceptable candidates to any known party. You could have completely reversed the hypothetical with criticism of some of the hoarier chestnuts used to defend the excesses of capitalism just as easily.

My point was that if either Democrats or 'The Left' in general want to get from here (losing elections in the case of Democrats, sliding into irrelevence in the case of 'The Left') to there (winning elections on the one hand and being relevent on the other), then there needs to be a fundamental re-examination of what they are presenting and how they are presenting it. That doesn't necessarily demand that one abandon one's core beliefs.

When Marc states "The fact that speaking basic truths about the market have been, are and will be unpopular in no way erode their validity", he is completely correct. My question, though, is this: What is the goal here? Is it speaking basic truths for the sake of speaking them? Or is it speaking basic truths so that they might be accepted by those who are not already in the fold? If it is the latter, then both the Democrats and 'The Left' have some work to do, both in examining the message as well as delivery of the message.

You can build the best car in the world. If you can't convince anyone to buy it, then you have failed as a car builder on the most practical level imaginable. Correct? So what else matters?

That's three for me. I'm outta here.

richard

Dennis,

I think I transformed your hypothetical into an actual critique of existing Democrat strategy. I'll read your posts more carefully in the future and let the rest of your comments stand, in the spirit of avoiding the tit for tat that Marc is trying to move away from.

Woody

In response to Marc Cooper writing: "I have vastly enjoyed reading this thread so far (including our loveable but always mistaken conservatives like GM and John Moore)."
--Marc, thanks for not listing me in the group of "always mistaken conservative(s)." With my reputation in tact, I will express my always correct (and conservative) thoughts.

First, I wouldn't want to help the Democrats, as we have a fundamental difference about what makes this country great. They think that big government does and I think it's individual citizens allowed to operate without needless restrictions. So, the Democrats should ignore, as I'm sure they will, everything that I say.

A big problem for the Democrats is in coming up with new ideas that appeal both to their base and to segments of additional voters. The party's base is a loose coalition of unique special interests who care mainly about their own issues. This base includes include homosexuals, abortionists, labor unions, minorities, welfare moms, retirees, social engineers, environmental wackos, bad artists, university professors, mass media reporters, the slut next door, a drunken senator from Massachusetts, dead voters, judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, 482 voters in the state of Washington who cast their ballot after the governor's election, sex addicts, marijuana rights advocates, 90% of this thread, and many well-meaning people who want to help others but do it the wrong way. With only a coalition of special interests and not a broad segment of society as its base, can you imagine the Democrats coming up with ideas that can excite the coalition and expand the base at the same time? The Democrats just don't appeal to "regular Americans" (do you like that term?) like the Republicans.

On think tanks: If the intent is to come up with new ideas for the left and to support them with "facts and analysis," then forget it. It seems that many well-known think tanks seem to have preconceived conclusions for which they then find "facts and analysis" to support them. These new "progressive?" think tanks would be seen for what they are (political arms of the Democrats) and they would run into the same fault of believing that they are right and just need more support to prove it to everyone. This is typical of Democrats. "Our message is right, but we just didn't get it out there." We got it and we didn't like it. Go waste your money on think tanks.

Jim Hitchcock wrote: "And allocate FREE advertising on the airwaves. ...what a huge fight you'd get from broadcasters.... ...for the airwaves that WE own...."
--I've never understood or agreed that the electromagnetic force of nature belonged to the federal government. If they can claim that, then we need not hold our breath until they start charging a tax on air.

Marc Cooper wrote: "Problem is the Supreme Court Buckley ruling that defines paid political advertising and contributions as protected first amendment speech."
--I remember when the McCain-Feingold bill covering campaign financing was passed and signed. Everyone expected it to be ruled unconsitutional as a limit on free speech. It wasn't. How can one limitation on speech be constitutional and another similar limitation be unconstitutional?

Marc Cooper wrote: "...the Republicans... Their problem is that the engage in scare tactics to stampede ordinary people into voting for the interests of the very wealthy.
--Yeah, this is nothing like the Democrats scaring senior citizens with stories that the evil Republicans are going to take away their social security or telling the blacks to be afraid of George Bush who allowed a black man to be dragged behind a truck to his death. If I vote to help the "rich" (and, I'm not one), it's because I can rise above class envy, understand the economics of increasing the investment pool to help the economy, and hope that, one day, maybe I can be rich, too, because the Republicans support the freedoms and opportunities that allow me to strive for that goal.

the other josh wrote:"The main obstacle is finding candidates down there (southern states) who can connect with culturally conservative Southern voters without engaging in the divisive slimery that Republicans have perfected."
--Do you believe that slimy politics appeals to southern voters? From your implications, it appears that prejudice is alive and well from the left. the other josh, if you were accused of prejudice, you would be offended, but sometimes our thoughts can be determined from little things we write. Maybe it's time for other parts of the country to admit the southern states back in as full partners.

rosedog wrote: I’m not a great personal fan of an organized religion, but I’m sick to death of being called anti-God by the right,"
--A friend told me that he wasn't part of organized religion. He was a Baptist. Seriously, rosedog, I respect you; but, surely you understand that when many people on the left criticize someone's faith or say that it's just bunch of mumbo-jumbo to be ridiculed (and we see this all the time)...well, it doesn't exactly make those people on that side of the fence look pro-God or even neutral. But, more specifically, the left typically attacks Chrisitianity while singing the praises of other religions as part of their tolerance progam. By the way, has anyone really called you anti-God?

I hope you've enjoyed this highly intellectual response. Okay, at this point if everyone has used up his quota of posts for this thread, does that mean that I got the last word?

By Woody--a regular American

Marc Cooper

Woody.. damn... I'm sorry for the oversight and my slighting of you. OF COURSE, you're always wrong! But ur brave and outspoken and that's admirable.

Mork

Dennis - of course my tax bracket doesn't grant me superior insight - I mentioned it only to deflect the charge in John's post that the only reason to support progressive income was class envy and a desire to redistribute wealth.

On the other point you make, I agree that my claim was overbroad. But I think it would be fair to say that a solid majority of serious economists would agree that, in a system where income tax is the primary source of government revenue, a progressive income tax is more efficient than a flat or regressive income tax.

But it was wrong to say that a progressive income tax is clearly the most efficient of all possible tax regimes, and you were right to correct me.

John Moore (Useful Fools)

This will be a long post, since I haven't been on the internet since my last comment (down visiting the ancestral reservation for the first time). If you don't want to read a long, post, please skip it.

My oft but not always mistaken friend Marc says "I don't think it intellectually supportable to maintain that workers and empoyers have equal rights in the market."

Of course not. In some cases, workers have the upper hand and in others, the employers do. But that's an argument about equality, whereas your statement was based on labor theory of value - that employers were, by the act of being employers, robbing their employees. And that view, at least in the united states, is just silly.

There is nothing in the world that can create equality except death. The best thing I know of is to try and create a system where coercion (i.e. anything the government does) is operated maximum possible equal treatment. I see no reasaon for private individuals to have the same standard, and attempts to level the playing field lead to all kinds of negative consequences.

Attempts to create equality are also used by demagogues because the emotion of envy is so powerful and easy to use. Conservatives are for creating equality of opportunity under the law (and we mean it), not equality of results. There is a '60s famous science fiction short (don't remember the name) about a system that tried to create equality. People of high intelligence had implanted devices to randomly interrupt their thought, bringing their cognitive processes down to a low (but equal) level. Strong people had to wear weights to remove their advantage over weak people. Etc, Etc.

Having been an employer and an employee, I've never felt like I was someone more powerful than my employees. Sure, I could fire someone. But then I had to find someone else who was willing to do the job, learn the OJT skills that are so often ccritical. There will, of course, be cases, where one side or the other has a huge power advantage. I know of no system used by non-genetically modified human life forms that doesn't have that problem/ Welcome to life.

There are some factors that reduce the power of employees that I would like to see rectified - my hobby horse on that is that our health care payment system only works very well for employer purchased health insurance, which can lock people out of jobs (it causes age discrimination, among other things). I won't belabor that here, bit those who are interested in how it works, from an insider standpoint, can go to my blog and check one of the earliest articles which explains why conservatives don;'t understannd health care.

Regarding the draconian consequences you mention (sleeping under a bridge, starving), the only people who end up in that position are those who are mentally ill (pathological substance abusers, inadequately treated schizophrenics, many people with personality disortders). There is a solid net to prevent either starvation or homelessness. When you consider that well over 90% of welfare households have color TV's, you have to figure they aren't sleeping under bridges or starving. Caveat - bureaucracies screw up, and can leave people in limbo too long, but that's what charities are for - for example, the Salvation Army or St. Vincent De Paul. NOBODY IN AMERICA HAS TO STARVE, GO HOMELESS, OR FAIL TO HAVE MEDICAL CARE. That safety net is there.

Michael Totten, thanks for your response. While I think the only fair tax is a per-capita tax (perhaps with some adjustment for proprotionate use of common resources), in a rich country like ours, a socially appropriate tax system,in my opinion, would be pretty flat, but with an appropriate safety net for those at the bottom end. I don't care about the truly wealty (except I want their money like so many people do), there are not enough to have a significant fiscal effect no matter what you do in taxation.

Mork,
I don't give my experience as proof (good grief, that wouuld be utterly stupid - do I look stupid?), but as real world examples to help communicate (note that you also mentioned your tax status). Anyone trying to teach concepts knows that examples are very important in getting those concepts across, but anecdotes are rarely useful as proof of anything.

Michael Turnet, excellent synthesis of how working capitalism requires taming by the government. I agree with you except about educational funding, where the excess government money into the system has raised professors salaries through the roof (my dad, of course, didn't mind), raised tuition through the roof (we paid, without any inancial aid, for my daughter to go through John Hopkins neurosciencec program), and funds people in areas that frankly are not that useful to society - namely much of the drivel that masquerades as humanities these day.

John Moore (Useful Fools)

Since I have one left in my quota,

Welcome to the newcomers. Marc, great thread.

PJ

Well, I guess this thread is done, but I just read this essay in Atlantic wherein author Ben Wittes feels that liberal partisans would benefit from having "their" issues--abortion rights, for instance--decided in a legislative rather than legal forum. http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200501/wittes/

Maybe the Dems should stop pursuing issues in the courts (even though they win) and let the polity decide. Most people favor in some fashion abortion rights, gay unions, controlled immigration, environment. So why not let the Reps overplay their hand and use it against them? Interesting thesis. I like it.

Jim Rockford

Marc -- a great article and analysis of what's wrong with the Party today.

I'd like to add a few more observations (I agree that more think tanks and Soros will make things worse not better).

1. Dean had the right idea about getting "the guys with Confederate Flags"; these are usually working class white men who's economic interests it is possible for the Dems to get if they actually went after them. The Dems have really *not* pursued policies that benefit the Confederate Flag guys.

The "What's Wrong With Kansas" arguments ignore that the actual important Democratic Policies have little to do with the man or woman working at Wal Mart and everything to do with the rich, urban elite's agenda. Affirmative action is one huge issue; it tells the "Stupid White Men" in Michael Moore's words that the line for THEM forms at the absolute back, when it comes to government jobs, contracting, or higher education. I wouldn't argue in favor of dropping Affirmative Action (morally/legally/ethically it's still needed as a remedy for past discrimination), but unless/until the Party starts offering REAL tangible economic benefits to offset this push to the end of the line, the "Stupid White Men" won't be stupid at all and figure out the Party will just transfer money out of their pockets into someone else's. Making Gay Marriage a huge issue within the Party simply told the working guy one more time that his real economic issues were not important, it was Rosie O'Donnell getting married that concerned Democrats.

Kerry could have killed with a "tax cut for the average guy" coupled with a tax increase on the super-rich; plus the promise of free/low cost College ala Zell Miller's Hope scholarships. Instead he chose to fight the battles of the elites.

2. Dean was a moderate, well-respected Gov. of Vermont. However, his national campaign while it raised a ton of Internet money was mostly a Kos Kidz "screw em" echo chamber with all the anti-Americanism and immaturity that implies. His main contribution was to skew Kerry so far to the Left and anti-war that no victory against the weakened Bush was possible. He is NOT the guy to perform well in a technical post; James Carville is (he's won two Presidential elections, and two primaries, to Dean's exactly none).

3. The main weakness of the Party today is it's elitism, and open hostility to populism. As noted, in Montana and Colorado, when populism actually occurs, victories follow. Even in states not considered friendly to Democrats. Look at the main platform of the Democratic Party as expressed by the Kerry campaign: opposition to Bush's pre-emption doctrine in general and Iraq in particular. Telling Americans they need the permission of the UN, the French, a global test, etc. after 9/11 to kick someone's ass is not a winning argument outside the class of folks who summer in Europe. Kerry wrongly hoped his biography would cover this problem. Not a winning move, ask President Bob Dole or war-hero Bush 41. Policies matter; Bush's kick-ass attitude and cowboy approach even with the mess in Iraq was what the public wanted. Kerry was too much a prisoner of the anti-war/anti-force Kos/DU people along with the wishful "return to Clintonism" to provide a muscular alternative to Bush and convince folks he'd kick ass.

The Party seems too much of Kos/DU and the awful legacy of Jerry Brown, rather than Pat Brown. Pat built the University of California, the Freeway system, and really modern California. Jerry preached "small is beautiful" and an "era of limits" ... while dating celebrity popsters and starlets. His refusal to act on rising property taxes in the face of Howard Jarvis eerily predicted Gray Davis's downfall to Ahnuld.

4. Gun banning and the pushing of the usually hypocritical Hollywood elite's gun-ban and anti-death penalty agenda are losers for Democrats since it solidly enhances their anti-populist / elitist image which is well deserved.

The NRA helped win the South for the Republicans. Dems look like hypocrites when they back folks like Sharon Stone, Michael Moore, and Rosie O'Donnell in wanting hand gun bans. All these folk employ armed bodyguards because some animals are more equal than others. Add to it the baser hypocrisy of say Sean Penn having a concealed handgun license while endorsing the Handgun Control Inc. (Penn was convicted of assault on a photographer, beat up and tied up then Wife Madonna who did not press charges). And of course, whadda ya know. Penn reported his guns stolen out of his car. Yet he skated by on that one scott free. Some animals are more equal than others.

Message: Dems don't care about rural folks more than 45 minutes from the nearest patrolman, or living in high crime areas. They only care about rich celebrities.

The NRA is a genuinely grass roots, populist organization, very strong in the South and West. A dropping of the anti-gun position by the Dems (painful since it hurts the elite base) along with the anti-death penalty drive (message: Dems are soft on crime and care more about criminals than victims) ALONE can put the South in play. Clinton said Gore lost the South (including Tennessee) on Gun Control. Dems need to make this organization friendly to them; but it will never happen sadly.

I think Rove ran a barely competent campaign against a very poor one (Shrum's). Lee Atwater would have killed Kerry on the Death Penalty, possibly picking up California and Pennsylvania. The future is very bleak IMHO unless the Democratic Party gets back onto the populist approach and drops their elite agenda.

Most of the Party seems in big "pretend mode." Let's pretend 9/11 never happened and the complete irrelevancy if not active obstruction of the current collective security arrangements (NATO, the UN) were not revealed to Americans. Let's pretend we can go back to Bill Clinton's policies of bomb em and forget em. Let's pretend we can win with New England, the Upper Midwest, and the Pacific Coast. Let's pretend that the main issues of the day are gay marriage and the decision to go into Iraq. Let's pretend we can win over huge sections of the country when we call them stupid.

The biggest problems though boil down to: nothing economically for the average guy/gal; not being serious about the government's #1 job: providing security from attacks. This is why Bush won despite a bad record and worse campaign.

GMRoper

Marc writes, "I have vastly enjoyed reading this thread so far (including our loveable but always mistaken conservatives like GM and John Moore."

Hmmm, well Marc, since I agreed with you on Pinochet, MoveOn.org and Chavez let alone on Castro, does that mean you were wrong?

Oh! Wait! I forgot, folk on the left always speak in absolutes; even when they don't mean it. :-)

Tom Grey - Liberty Dad

Final post here -- commenters are welcome on my blog:
tomgrey.motime.com

Reg: "you are fundamentally an idealist who's cut a deal with people who have a radically different morality than you do. You're chewing on their "pro-life" bone and all of the "freedom" smokescreen for a fundamentally flawed Iraq policy. But you're not even going to get moral satisfaction on those, because America will throw the GOP out of power if they really do outlaw abortion and the neo-con crusade is rapidly running aground on the shores of reality."

I want a World Without Dictators. Yes, Idealism. Gov't by democracy, NOT Death Squads. Bush is claiming to be against death squad gov'ts, for the selfish security of America. This is the fundamentally correct Iraq strategy. (It's possible Bush made tactical errors in achieving democracy there, but this claim is not even certain -- where are the examples of it being done better?)

Reality is choosing between real alternatives. Bush-backed regime change in Iraq OR continued rule by Saddam's Death Squad. Opposing Bush meant, in reality, supporting death squads. Today the Left supports death squads rather than accepting America being successful at promoting democracy. This is despicable.

Stay and fight in Vietnam until we Americans learn how to help the S. Vietnamese have a democracy OR accept commie victory, and gov't by death squads. Anti-War = support death squads (in reality.)
The Left is pretty good at complaining about the Right support of death squad -- but is hypocritically quiet about the Left Death Squads.

As a former Libertarian, I have always supported "choice", restricted by the maxim of not hurting "somebody else". Every human fetus has different DNA than the mother -- it IS "somebody else". None is so innocent, so helpless, so poor. Killing because birthing is "inconvenient", so as to support irresponsible sex, is one of the core parts of the Dem message. Dems will, increasingly, lose as long as they refuse to care about the lives of the most innocent, helpless, and poor. Outlawing partial-birth abortion will not make the GOP lose. Reversing Roe, so that states decide on abortion, will not make the GOP lose.
Proposing a Federal anti-abortion amendment prolly won't happen until after a Federal anti-gay marriage is passed; but most folk don't think such an amendment will pass. As long as the Reps are fighting about the laws, they will be getting stronger while not-winning; and the "conservative = anti-change" Dems, who oppose any new restriction on the right of mothers to kill any unwanted human fetus, will be weaker on this "moral values" issue.

Top CEOs do NOT like a truly free market -- I know that. You should know that, too. What they want is gov't protection/ loopholes/ "regulation" so that they do not have to allow the customers the easy possibility of choosing something else. On taxes, look at Heinz-Kerry; she made millions but paid less than 18% (because most of her listed income was tax free bonds).

In practice (reality?), the flat rate taxes as introduced in Russia, Estonia, and Slovakia, for example, have resulted in higher absolute amounts of tax revenue collected by the gov't. The "theory" of progressive taxation fails the "reality" test of
tax collection in the real world.


I, too, support a "wealth tax" -- especially on land value. (See Henry George), but most important is a reduction in US gov't spending. The Dems real problem is the success of American Capitalism, for the average worker. Some 68% of Americans are buying their own homes. On an absolute global level, they are ALL "rich". So the Dems are basically supporting "take from the super-rich, to give to the rich". This may win on a populist envy-based, destroy/ tax the super-rich platform, but it fails any honest "moral superiority" test.

Rich Americans don't "need" the gov't to take more from the super-rich.

Aaron

Dennis the Peasant - excellent posts.

John Moore is also SPOT ON about taxation.

The current system to me seems to penalize earners who's income caries highly from year to year.

If I was a doctor or a tenured professor, or just a public sector employee in a union, I could accept being taxed highly since my job would be incredibly stable.

But many entrepreneurs and employees in the private sector now have jobs that pay great one year and nothing the next. I think a large number of normal employees also get the idea (especially as people invest in the markets) that in the real economy, not everything is so stable.

and I just cannot buy that yet more income redistribution or Eurostyle policies will really help. Isn't class warfare dead anyways when any country that decides to punish 'rich' companies is simply inviting foreign companies to export the same products at lower cost?


Aaron

John Moore,

Perhaps the government could force students taking loans to study engineering, science, etc. If we alreayd force savings through FICA and force income redistribution, why stop there? I mean, if the average joe is too dumb to handle a private SS account, why should he choose his major - that's for sure going to severely affect his income.

I bet we can help a lot of poor people by making sure their college education isn't wasted in Humanities. Econ, Science, Engineering, etc. If they want that drama degree, earn the money to pay for the second degree or do a double major in 5 years.

I also think we should FIRE all high school guidance counselors.

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