Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

Weekend reading: Links & comments 10/30/2015

October 30, 2015

The Midwife to Chaos and Her Perjury by Andrew Napolitano for The Unz Review.

Republican attacks on President Obama and the Clintons generally amount to straining at gnats while swallowing camels.  The House Benghazi Committee’s questioning of Hillary Clinton fits this pattern.

She was questioned for 10 hours, nearly continuously, for her alleged neglect of security leading to the murder of an American diplomat in Benghazi, Libya.  But nobody asked her about why she instigated a war against a country that did not threaten the United States, throwing innocent people leading normal lives into bloody anarchy.

And incidentally providing a new recruiting ground for terrorists..

The 6 Reasons China and Russia Are Catching Up to the U.S. Military on Washington’s Blog.

China Sea Blues: A Thing Not to Do by Fred Reed for Fred on Everything.

Just because the United States has the world’s largest and most expensive military doesn’t mean we have the world’s best military.  We Americans are complacent because of our wealth, and because we have not faced a serious threat to our existence in 70 years.

Our leaders think we can afford to waste money on high-tech weapons that don’t work, and military interventions that aren’t vital to American security.  Other nations, which have less margin of safety and would be fighting near their own borders, may be a match for us.

FBI Accused of Torturing U.S. Citizen Abroad Can’t Be Sued by Christian Farias for The Huffington Post.

Nowadays the Constitution stops where national security and foreign policy begin.


‘Entitlements’ and welfare: the difference

December 2, 2014

There’s a big difference, easy to not notice, between “entitlements”, such as Social Security and Medicare, and “welfare”, such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

Social Security and Medicare are paid for through special earmarked funds, which the people who benefit from these programs pay into.  They are different from welfare programs, which are paid for through general tax revenues, mainly the income tax.

Gary Flamenhaft, a guest poster on the Club Orlov web log, has a good explanation of how this works.

Some people criticized my claim about the Tea Party’s reason for shutting down the government: “They thought that the welfare system is bankrupting the country.  This is a laughable claim, because welfare spending looks negligible when compared to military spending.”

They pointed to the $850 billion Social Security program, the $821 billion Medicaid and Medicare program, and the $521 billion in other mandatory programs, calling them “welfare.”

There is just one problem with this critique: none of these programs are funded using the income tax. They are called entitlements, and the way you entitle yourself to them is by paying into them using a special payroll tax. Same goes for unemployment insurance, by the way.

entitlements720All of these are funded using something that is called a tax, but in essence they are joint savings accounts that you hold in common with many other people, with some rules on how the money is then spent on those who have paid into them.

Clearly, the Tea Party doesn’t like these joint savings accounts either.  We still need to distinguish them from “welfare,” or we won’t even know what we are talking about.

If you are not aware of this, the employer and employee each pay half of the payroll tax to the government, although if you are self-employed—lucky you!—you get to pay both halves.  [snip]

If you look at the US budget, on Table S-4 p. 168, you will see the distinction between mandatory programs paid by payroll tax and “appropriated” programs paid by income tax. There may be some overlap, but this gives you a general idea:

  • Subtotal, mandatory programs: $2,234 billion.
  • Subtotal, appropriated programs: $1,174 billion.


The college professor who defeated Eric Cantor

June 13, 2014

Liberals and progressives claim to protect the ordinary person from exploitation by powerful corporations.  Conservatives and libertarians claim to protect the ordinary person from oppression by a powerful government.

The common ground where principled liberals and conservatives ought to meet is in opposing the present corporate-governmental interlock in Washington.

David Brat

David Brat

I think of myself as a principled liberal, and that is why I am pleased that Prof. David Brat, a principled conservative, won his upset victory over House Majority Leader in a Republican primary this week.

Brat is chair of the Department of Business and Economics at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., and hold degrees in divinity as well as economics.   One of the themes of his teaching and writing is the hidden ethical assumptions that underlie economic reasoning and how they are used to substitute cash values for moral and religious values.

He accused Cantor of being a tool of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which he is.  He raised $200,00 for his campaign, while Cantor spent nearly $5 mllion — an advantage of nearly 25 to 1.   Everything else aside, I’m always glad to be reassured that big money is not invincible.

Brat has been described as a tea partier, but the Wall Street Journal found no evidence he was supported by any of the big tea party organizations.   I think he is a tea partier only in the sense that he, like the tea party movement, expresses the justified anger of the American middle class over what has happened to them in the past 15 years.


Eric Cantor’s Opponent Beat Him By Calling Out GOP Corruption by Lee Fang for Republic Report.

The guy who beat Eric Cantor penned a scathing, seemingly unpublished book about the economics profession by Zach Beauchamp for Vox.

Capitalism and ethics drive Brat’s worldview by Michael S. Rosenwald and Antonio Olivo for the Washington Post.

Added later:

Dave Brat and the Triumph of Rightwing Populism by John B.  Judis for The New Republic.   Hat tip to Bill Harvey for this.   Evidently Brat is more aligned with the official tea party movement than I originally thought.   The problem with the tea party movement is that it directs the justified anger of the American middle class at those lower on the economic scale rather than at the elite.


Voter’s choice: The sleazies vs the crazies

November 8, 2013
Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe

Back in 1991, the ex-Klansman and neo-Nazi David Duke ran for governor of Louisiana against the colorful and corrupt incumbent, Edwin Edwards.  Supporters of Edwards put up billboards saying: “Vote for the crook, not the kook.”

It seems as though this is the kind of choice we are offered today (although few candidates for high office are as extremely corrupt as Edwards and none that I know are as extremely extreme as Duke).

Democrats and mainstream Republicans, even though they may be personally honest themselves, are committed to propping up a corrupt financial system and an out-of-control surveillance-covert action-police complex.  The main alternative is the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party, which expresses the justified anger of the American middle class but is out of touch with reality.

We had an example of this in the recent Virginia governorship race, in which the sleazy Terry McAuliffe defeated the  Ken Cuccinelli.  Our leading Presidential candidates at this point are Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie, candidates of the corrupt status quo, and Ted Cruz, the right-winger.  I won’t say Cruz is the candidate of the lunatic fringe because his following is too strong to be considered just a fringe.


The shutdown ends, the battle continues

October 18, 2013

While the government is for now allowed to resume normal operations, it is operating under the sequestration of funds.   The sequester, which went into effect in March, is the result of the previous budget standoff between the President and congressional Republicans.  It consists of across-the-board budget cuts so drastic that it was thought that the two parties would compromise rather than allow them to go into effect.

MW-AR658_spendi_20120521163312_ME11This is not what liberals want.

On January 15, the continuing resolution to fund the government expires and a new round of sequesters goes into effect.  If the Senate and House agree on another “clean” continuing resolution, that will be in effect a victory for the conservative Republicans.  I won’t call it a defeat for President Obama because his own stated goal is a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit.

Would the radical right wing of the Republican Party be satisfied with this?  Will liberals and Democrats counterattack and, if so, how?  Stay tuned.  We live in interesting times.


The New Right and the Old South

October 18, 2013
Yellow shows districts of Republican congressional representatives who voted against ending the shutdown.

Yellow shows districts of Republican congressional representatives who voted against ending the shutdown.

Texas writer Michael Lind believes that the hard-core Republican conservative movement reflects a strategy by Southern politicians and business leaders to make their region competitive by means of a low-wage economy.

As the map above shows, that is an oversimplification, but it is true that a majority of the members of the Tea Party Caucus were from the South.  I think there is something to what Lind says.  This has been the historic strategy of the Southern elite, going back to slavery and Jim Crow.

Creating an economic differential between the South and the rest of the country requires weakening or destroying the social safety net in the South, Lind wrote.  This in turn requires disenfranchising lower-class voters, for which there is ample precedent in Southern history.  Disrupting the national government is not too high a price to pay for this.

Lind said liberals can put an end to Southern exceptionalism by enacting (1) a federal living wage, (2) national standards for the social safety net, (3) real voting rights, (4) nonpartisan redistricting, (5) abolition of the Senate filibuster and (6) abolition of the federal debt ceiling.

All these things would be good ideas.  Could they be enacted?  None of them, except a modest increase in the federal minimum wage, is an administration priority.


C. Wright Mills on counter-revolution

October 9, 2013


By this criterion, the Tea Party movement is not revolutionary.  It does not threaten the power elite, even when its members disrupt the functioning of the government, even in those few times in which they have threatened armed rebellion against the government.

If the Tea Party really were a threat to the corporate and governmental elite, the FBI and police would infiltrate and spy on their meetings, their rallies would be surrounded by police who would arrest and club them for the least little thing and their leaders would be called in for questioning every time they tried to travel by air.

These things happen frequently to hard-core opponents of war, surveillance and destruction of the environment.


Crisis in government: Links & comments 10/4/13

October 4, 2013

Shutdown Standoff: One of the Worst Crises in American History by John B. Judis for the New Republic.

What’s at stake is whether a political bloc has the power to bring the American government to a halt in order to get its way.   If the Tea Party Republicans get their way, Judis warned, the U.S. government could become unable to function, leading to the rise of extremist parties of the right and left.  I don’t think he exaggerates.

Debt Ceiling Chicken and Trench Warfare by “Yves Smith” for Naked Capitalism.

The United States may be in for a longer and more destructive political siege than anyone expected.  Not only are there no plans for the two sides to meet, nothing is being done to prepare for discussions.  The problem is that this is an either-or situation not subject to compromise.  Either you recognize that a political faction has the right to crash the government, or you don’t.

Republicans Are No Longer the Party of Business by Joshua Green for BloombergBusinessWeek.

The government shutdown creates economic uncertainty and hampers the economic recovery.  That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is opposed to it.

Tea party lawmakers see the culmination of years of effort in shutdown by Zachary A. Goldfarb for the Washington Post.

Since Barry Goldwater ran for President in 1964, members of the right wing of the Republican Party have seen the size of the federal government as the main threat to American freedom.  Ronald Reagan didn’t accomplish this, Newt Gingrich didn’t, George W. Bush didn’t.  Now, at long last, the Republican small-government conservatives think they can accomplish their goal.

The real reason for the government shutdown by Dean Baker for Al Jazeera America.

Baker said the Ted Cruz Republicans see this as their last chance to stop Obamacare, because it will be popular if it ever is allowed to work.

The government shutdown could end today.  All it would cost is John Boehner’s speakership by Chris Gilizza and Sean Sullivan for the Washington Post.

Seventeen Republicans have said they’d vote for a “clean” continuing resolution, which would allow the government to resume normal functioning.  They and the Democrats would be a majority in the House of Representatives.  But if John Boehner allowed that to happen, he would lose his party’s support to be Speaker.

The Shutdown in 10 Infuriating Sentences by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

Kevin Drum demonstrated that the shutdown is not a result of equal stubbornness on both sides, but a faction of the Republican Party that intends to rule or ruin.

Even if the shutdown ends, the government is operating under the budget sequester, which is a victory for right-wing Republican priorities in itself.

What does it take to enact a law in the USA?

September 30, 2013

In a country with a parliamentary system, a Prime Minister is chosen by the party with a majority in parliament, or by a coalition of parties if none of them has a majority.  The Prime Minister then proposes laws and normally they are enacted by parliament.  If parliament rejects an important bill, the Prime Minister has the option to call an election, and let the people decide which they think is right.

Here in the United States, the process is different.  In order to become law, the Affordable Care Act has to get a majority of votes in the House of Representatives and 60 out of 100 votes in the U.S. Senate.  It then had to be signed by the President and reviewed by the Supreme Court.  It seems to me that, whether or not you agree with the law, that ought to be enough.

Source: Buffalo News

Hat tip to Buffalo News.
Update: President Obama signed a law providing for continuation of pay of active-duty military personnel.

But now the Republicans in the House of Representatives are threatening to shut down the government unless the Obama administration delays implementation of the health care act.  They don’t have the votes to repeal the law, so they are using a blackmail tactic instead.

In my opinion, Obamacare is a flawed plan which is unlikely to work as intended.  But it is law, and millions of individuals and thousands of businesses have made plans based on the schedule for implementing it.   Shutting down the government would be harmful to the country, but there would be even more harm from the economic uncertainty created by doubts as to whether a law really is law even after it is enacted.

Granted, there are worse things that could happen than a temporary shutdown of government.  But it creates unnecessary disruption, unnecessary hardship and also unnecessary expense, because it is more costly to shut down and restart than to continue operations.  It is terrible way to run a government.


The politics of defunding Obamacare (2)

September 26, 2013


Click on The GOP’s Self-Defeating ‘Defunding’ Strategy for Karl Rove’s article in the Wall Street Journal.


The politics of defunding Obamacare

September 26, 2013


Click on What Republicans don’t understand about the politics of Obamacare for more from Ezra Klein on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

Hat tip to jobsanger.

President Obama is lucky in his enemies

May 30, 2013

President Obama is fortunate in his right-wing enemies.   They help him more than they hurt him.  When they attack him for minor and imaginary misdeeds, as they almost always do, they divert attention from the worse things of which he really is guilty.

Enemies who make Obama friendsFor example, I can’t see what is so terrible about Internal Revenue Service auditors looking extra carefully at Tea Party groups claiming tax-exempt status on the grounds that they are non-political educational organizations.  It seems to me that this is an obvious thing to look at closely.  As I understand it, the IRS didn’t actually challenge the tax exempt status of any Tea Party affiliate, just put them to the inconvenience of filling out extra paperwork.   Maybe the IRS inquiry was justified, maybe not, but I don’t see it as important.  The result of the controversy will be that IRS agents from now on will think long and hard before questioning a tax-exempt application from any right-wing organization.

The government’s reading of Associated Press and Fox News e-mails without warrants is a more serious issue, but it is a well-known fact that the U.S. government has developed a universal electronic surveillance system that operates outside the Fourth Amendment.  Why would they be except?  The whole affairs reminds me of Senator Joe McCarthy’s investigation of the U.S. Army in 1954 (which I am old enough to remember).  McCarthy could get away with smearing the reputations and ruining lives of individuals, but when his attack on a key part of the U.S. power structure proved to be his downfall.   My first thought was that President Obama overreached himself in a similar manner, but my sober second thought is that the Washington press corps is not a key part of the U.S. power structure, they only think they are.

communicatorThe Benghazi attack, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed, is a legitimate issue.  It is reasonable to inquire whether better security could have been provided and whether the State Department intentionally presented misleading information.  But to me, these questions are much less important than the question of why the sdministration sponsored the overthrow of the Libyan government in the first place.  Muammar Qadaffi, the rule of Libya, renounced terrorism and efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and the overthrow tells other dictators there is nothing to be gained by cooperating with the United States.

The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party says President Obama is a socialist who wants to redistribute income to the lower classes and call off the war on terror.   The truth is that the President is a corporatist who has bailed out Wall Street, offered to cut Social Security, done nothing for black people as such while proposing to continue the war on terror indefinitely.   But it is hard to use these facts to point out that the Tea Partiers are wrong, without making Obama’s policies seem like good things rather than bad things.

The biggest problem in making the true case against Obama is the false case against Obama.


Click on How Arrested Development Explains the Obama Presidency for Conor Friedersdorf’s complaint that the U.S. public’s choice is between President Obama, who is committed to a state of war lasting for the indefinite future, and opponents such as Rep. Peter King, who complains that Obama says the war will someday have to end.

Click on Drones for “Regime Protection” for Philip Girardi’s article in The American Conservative about how the Obama administration plans to keep the Maliki and Karzai regimes in power after the troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan by the use of flying killer drones against their enemies.

Click on Obama’s terrorism speech: seeing what you want to see for Glenn Greenwald’s analysis of the difference between President Obama’s rhetoric and his actions.

Click on Media Targeted By Obama, Discovers Noone Cares Except the Mediafor more about straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

Is the recession the fault of people like me?

July 10, 2012

Why hasn’t the government of the United States done more to end the recession?  According to an economist named Steve Randy Waldman, it is my fault—or rather the fault of people like me, old retired people who’ve saved their money and don’t want anything to happen that would affect the value of our savings.

We are in a depression, but not because we don’t know how to remedy the problem. We are in a depression because it is our revealed preference, as a polity, not to remedy the problem. We are choosing continued depression because we prefer it to the alternatives. … …

But the preferences of developed, aging polities — first Japan, now the United States and Europe — are obvious to a dispassionate observer.  Their overwhelming priority is to protect the purchasing power of incumbent creditors.  That’s it.  That’s everything.  All other considerations are secondary.  These preferences are reflected in what the polities do, how they behave.  They swoop in with incredible speed and force to bail out the financial sectors in which creditors are invested, trampling over prior norms and laws as necessary.  The same preferences are reflected in what the polities omit to do.  They do not pursue monetary policy with sufficient force to ensure expenditure growth even at risk of inflation.  They do not purse fiscal policy with sufficient force to ensure employment even at risk of inflation. They remain forever vigilant that neither monetary ease nor fiscal profligacy engender inflation.  The tepid policy experiments that are occasionally embarked upon they sabotage at the very first hint of inflation.  The purchasing power of holders of nominal debt must not be put at risk.  That is the overriding preference, in context of which observed behavior is rational.

via interfluidity.

I don’t see it.  I am fortune enough to have savings, which I have invested conservatively, and I don’t think that either the federal government or Wall Street is acting in my financial interest.  If it were, I would be able to earn interest on my bank account or my money market fund.  No, the U.S. government, the German government and the international financial institutions are operating in the interests of the big banks and investment firms.  They are acting to preserve the value of their assets, not my savings.

True, many Tea Party members are in my economic class, and they are much more worried about inflation and government debt than they are about unemployment and public services.  But the Tea Party rank and file don’t run things.  The average Tea Party supporter is as opposed to the Wall Street bailouts as I am.

True, economic policy is tilted toward averting inflation, which isn’t a serious problem at present, rather than bringing down unemployment, which is.  I think that reflects the policies which serve the interests of financial institutions, whose priority is to maintain the value of currencies and financial assets, and over the interests of the producers of tangible goods and services, whose priority is to maintain the level economic activity.

I don’t think governments should intentionally adopt a policy of inflation, but I do think they need to recognize that inflation is not the main concern right now.  Right now continued recession, with the strong possibility of another financial markets crash, is a greater threat to my savings than inflation is.

Click on Depression is a choice for Steve Randy Waldman’s full comment.

Reverse psychology saves a library

June 24, 2012

Hat tip to Diane Ravich’s Blog.

The power of the Koch brothers

October 28, 2011

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have a more powerful influence on American politics and policy than many governors and senators.  By my standards, President Barack Obama is a conservative, who has protected and bailed out Wall Street bankers while seeking to undermine Social Security and Medicare.  By theirs, he is a socialist, and they intend to drive the country into an even more extreme pro-corporate direction.  The above video and the following text provide a good report on them.

Charles and David Koch are each worth about $25 billion, which makes them the fourth richest Americans. When you combine their fortunes, they are the third wealthiest people in the world.  Radical libertarians who use their money to oppose government and virtually all regulation as interference with the free market, the Kochs are in a class of their own as players on the American political stage.  Their web of influence in the U.S. stretches from state capitals to the halls of congress in Washington, D.C.

The Koch brothers fueled the conservative Tea Party movement that vigorously opposes Barack Obama, the U.S. president.  They fund efforts to derail action on global warming, and support politicians who object to raising taxes on corporations or the wealthy to help fix America’s fiscal problems.  According to New Yorker writer Jane Mayer, who wrote a groundbreaking exposé of the Kochs in 2010, they have built a top to bottom operation to shape public policy that has been “incredibly effective. They are so rich that their pockets are almost bottomless, and they can keep pouring money into this whole process.”

Koch industries, the second largest privately-held company in the US, is an oil refining, chemical, paper products and financial services company with revenues of a $100 billion a year.  Virtually every American household has some Koch product—from paper towels and lumber, to Stainmaster carpet and Lycra in sports clothes, to gasoline for cars.  The Kochs’ political philosophy of rolling back environmental and financial regulations is also beneficial to their business interests.

The Kochs rarely talk to the press, and conduct their affairs behind closed doors.  But at a secret meeting of conservative activists and funders the Kochs held in Vail, Colorado this past summer, someone made undercover recordings.  One caught Charles Koch urging participants to dig deep into their pockets to defeat Obama. “This is the mother of all wars we’ve got in the next 18 months,” he says, “for the life or death of this country.” He called out the names of 31 people at the Vail meeting who each contributed more than $1 million over the past 12 months.

In the 2010 congressional elections, the Kochs and their partners spent at least $40 million, helping to swing the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives towards right-wing Tea Party Republicans.  It has been reported that the Kochs are planning to raise and spend more than $200 million to defeat Obama in 2012.  But the brothers could easily kick in more without anyone knowing due to loopholes in U.S. law.


The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street

October 20, 2011

The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are grass-roots American movements that arose out of concern about economic decline and anger at government bailouts of the Wall Street banks.

Since their concerns overlap, can they got together?  Probably not.

  • The Tea Partiers’ anger and resentment are directed at people below them on the socioeconomic scale.  Occupy Wall Streeters’ anger and resentment are directed at people above them on the socioeconomic scale.
  • Tea Partiers think the root of our problems are in Washington.  Occupy Wall Streeters thinks the root of our problems are on Wall Street.
  • The Tea Partiers’ theme is that the government does not follow the Constitution as they understand it.  The Occupy Wall Street theme is economic injustice.
  • Some Tea Partiers dress up in Revolutionary War costume.  Some Occupy Wall Streeters wear masks inspired by the movie V for Vendetta, which is about a future revolution.
  • The Tea Partiers are proud of American exceptionalism.  The Occupy Wall Streeters join hands with protest movements around the globe.
  • The average Tea Party member is middle-aged.  The average Occupy Wall Street member is young.
  • Tea Partiers are almost all white (which is NOT to say they are racist).  Occupy Wall Street is a rainbow coalition.
  • The Tea Party is a faction of the Republican Party.  Occupy Wall Streeters include more Democrats than Republicans, but the majority are independents, who strongly oppose both major political parties.
  • The Tea Party has an effective strategy, which is to run support candidates reflecting their views in Republican primary elections.  The Occupy Wall Street movement as yet has no strategy, except to hold rallies and bring together like-minded people.

When the Tea Party first emerged, many Americans looked on it favorably, but recent public opinion polls indicate that only 23 percent of Americans look on it favorably now.  In contrast, some 50 percent of Americans look favorably on the Occupy Wall Street movement at present.  It will be interesting to see how many look favorably on it a year from now.

But I think the majority of Americans are justifiably angry, and they will turn to leaders who understand and express their anger—if not the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street, then someone else.

 For the past few decades, economic conditions have worsened for a majority of Americans, while income and wealth have been redistributed upward to the richest 1 percent (and within that group, the richest 1/10 of 1 percent).  We Americans historically have looked upon a continually rising material standard of living as our birthright.  There is bound to be a revolt, sooner or later.  The only questions are who will lead it and what form it will take.

Click on An open letter and warning from a former Tea Party movement adherent to the Occupy Wall Street movement for thoughts of a disillusioned Tea Party supporter.

Click on Why You Shouldn’t Compare Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party for a Time magazine article.

Click on Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party: Do they agree on anything? for an article by Jacob Weisberg in Slate.

Click on Occupy Wall Street the Left’s Tea Party? Maybe, but… for an article by Robert Reich in the Christian Science Monitor.


The stakes in the GOP presidential race

September 29, 2011

Click on Someecards for more like this.

Can we do without military Keynesianism?

August 8, 2011

It is interesting how some people who disbelieve in the power of government to do anything about unemployment also believe there is such a thing as “war prosperity.”  During my life I’ve heard many people say that it was World War Two, not the New Deal, that ended the Great Depression.  To the extent that this is true, all it means is that the level of government spending in the 1930s was too modest.

Here’s a quote from Judson Phillips, a Tennessee lawyer who heads Tea Party Nation.

If we decided to build a couple of new carriers, thousands of workers would be hired for the shipyards. Thousands of employees would be hired for the steel mills that would provide the steel for the hull and various sub contractors would hire thousands. Do you know what that means?

It means they would receive paychecks and go out and spend that money. That would help a recovery. That is a shovel ready project!

Increasing spending for the military does a couple of things. It not only not only stimulates the economy, it protects our nation. That is a better investment than say spending money on teaching Chinese prostitutes how to drink responsibly.

via The Economist.

But there are those on the opposite side of the political fence who are just as inconsistent.  Many advocates of economic stimulus programs believe it is possible to make deep reductions in the armed forces and military spending without any adverse effect on employment and the economy generally.

If Judson Phillips favors military spending as a job-creating measure, and opposes spending on infrastructure construction to create jobs, that is inconsistent.  But many members of the Tea Party movement do in fact want to cut military as well as civilian spending.

The Obama administration is more in line with Judson Phillips than some of his fellow Tea Partiers are.  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned against any real cuts in military spending (he favors only a slowing in the rate of growth) and says cuts should be concentrated on discretionary non-military spending as well as Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements.

I do not think the declining U.S. economy can sustain military bases and military operations all over the world.  I think the size and mission of the U.S. armed forces are excessive compared to what is needed for defense of the homeland.  But if the armed forces and military spending were shrunk to what is necessary, and nothing is else changed, this is going to raise the unemployment rate.   We need a change in priorities, not just cuts in spending.


What the Tea Party understands

August 4, 2011

Members of the Tea Party understand certain things that many liberals don’t quite grasp.

They understand that you don’t bring about political change by giving unconditional loyalty to a political party or a charismatic leader.

They understand that if you want to bring about political change, you have to join with like-minded individuals outside the political party structure to decide what you want your elected representatives to do, to tell them what you want them to do, and to support or oppose them based on whether they support or oppose your program.

Rather than ridiculing the Tea Party, liberals should profit by its example.

Liberal commentators often remark on the anger expressed by members of the Tea Party.  Such anger is thoroughly justified.  The American middle class is right to be enraged at what is happening to it.  The trouble with the Tea Party is that it directs its anger downward rather than upward, but that’s another matter.

Extreme talk and double standards

March 8, 2011

I disagree with Jack Hunter on issues, but he is dead right about his perspective about extreme talk.

Obviously Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is not comparable to Stalin, Hitler and the Egyptian dictator Mubarak.  I doubt that any union protesters in Wisconsin really believe that he is.  Their signs are just a way of venting their anger.  I don’t think the signs are helpful, but I can understand the anger.

I am sure many self-identified conservatives feel the same about Tea Party signs depicting President Obama as Hitler, Stalin or Osama bin Laden.

The point is not what labor union members or Tea Party members put on their signs, but which has the better ideas.  I think the union protesters are right for the most part and the Tea Party protesters for the most part are confused, but I ought to be able to make my case for this based on the merits.


The CEO, the Tea Partier and the union guy

March 1, 2011

Here’s a joke that’s making the rounds of the Internet.

A CEO, a Tea Partier and a union organizer sit down at a table, on which there is a dish of 12 cookies.

The CEO takes 11 of the cookies and says to the Tea Partier, “That union guy wants part of your cookie.”

What’s the matter with liberals?

December 21, 2010

The reason self-described conservatives have the support of so many white working people is that they are working for a coherent program in a committed, disciplined way.  The reason self-described liberals are losing support is that very few of them have the same commitment, discipline and clarity.

Idaho Tea Party protest

The conservative message is that government as such is evil and counterproductive, except in regard to social order, national security and internal security, in which case its powers should be absolute.  Also, liberals are cultural elitists whose aim is use the powers of government to impose their crazy ideas on ordinary people.  People hear this day in and day out in talk radio and Fox News, with very little push-back in the so-called mainstream media.

I have to respect members of the conservative movement for keeping their eyes on the prize. The present makeup of the Supreme Court and federal courts, as an example, did not just happen.  Jan Crawford Greenburg’s Supreme Conflict (2007) reports, admiringly, on 40 years of effort, going back to the Nixon administration, to pack the court with judges who could be counted on to vote reliably conservative and yet get past the liberals in Congress.

Self-described liberals for 30 years have lacked a coherent message.  As somebody said, a conservative will tell you how conservative he is, while a liberal will tell you he isn’t all that liberal.  The so-called mainstream news media are not a counterbalance to the right-wing media.  As an alternative to propaganda for an ideology, you have hip jaded cynicism.  (That’s an overgeneralization; good reporting is still being done, but you have to look for it to find it.)


Vegetarians running for barbecue chef

November 1, 2010

Tea Party Republicans are unlikely to do a good job running the government, for the same reason a bunch of vegetarians are unlikely to put on a good barbecue, a bunch of teetotalers are unlikely to mix good cocktails, and members of the Socialist Workers Party are unlikely to do a good job of running a Fortune 500 corporation.

If you sincerely believe that “government is the problem” – not just a particular activity or power of government, but government itself – then it is an exercise in futility to try to manage the government efficiently and effectively.  In fact, the closer you come to governing well, the more you undermine your argument, and the more you mess up, the more you prove your original argument was right.

Glenn Greenwald asks a question

September 28, 2010

President Obama has ordered the assassination of Anwar Awlaki, a Muslim cleric in Yemen who reportedly supports, and recruits for, al-Qaeda.  He is a U.S. citizen, he has not been charged with any crime and his father has filed a lawsuit asking for a court injunction against his son being summarily killed.  The Washington Post reported that the Department of Justice asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit without a hearing, on the grounds of “state secrets.”

If the President has the power to order American citizens killed with no due process, and to do so in such complete secrecy that no courts can even review his decisions, then what doesn’t he have the power to do?

via Glenn Greenwald –

What doesn’t the President have the power to do?  He doesn’t have the power to take action on global climate change.  He doesn’t have the power to enact a stimulus program sufficient to make a dent in 9 percent unemployment.  He doesn’t have the power to carry on the routine business of government.  He doesn’t have the power to get confirmation of appointments to key governmental positions or federal judgeships.  The Federal Reserve Board lacks a quorum, key positions such as director of Office of Management and Budget are unfilled, and vacancies in federal judgeships go unfilled because the Republican minority in the Senate obstructs votes on confirmations.

The Republican Party leadership and the Tea Party faction say that requiring all Americans to buy health insurance is tyranny.  But the Obama administration, even more than the Bush administration before it, gets a pass on actual acts of tyranny – torture, assassination, universal Big Brother-type surveillance of private citizens.


Why I go easy on the “R” word

September 23, 2010

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was a failed attempt to connect the Potomac and Ohio rivers, as the Erie Canal here in New York state connected the Hudson River with the Great Lakes.  Construction was begun of a canal and towpath along the north bank of the Potomac River, but abandoned before it got further west than Cumberland, Md., in the Alleghenies.

In the course of time the C&O Canal became the property of the federal government.  In the 1960s, somebody proposed that the route be made a federal highway, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and others led a counter-movement to develop it as a national park and hiking trail.  At the time I lived in Washington County, Md., which included about 78 of the C&O towpath’s 184 miles.  I thought the national park was a good idea, but a lot of people in Washington County didn’t.

I remember a lady from the District of Columbia suburbs asking why so many western Marylanders were opposed to the project.  I explained that part of the proposal involved the possible taking of land through eminent domain, and many western Marylanders had a highly-developed sense of property rights.  They basically believed that property-owners had an absolute right to do anything they wished with their land except post it against hunters.

The lady said that, no, the reason must be that they were afraid that black people would be hiking the canal.  I said that wasn’t the case, but she wouldn’t listen.  By imputing racist motives to people she disagreed with, she was able to ignore their rights and their point of view with a clear conscience.

Later came the 1964 and 1968 Presidential elections, in which  “law and order” was a big issue.  Liberals said “law and order” were “code words” for being anti-black.  Next came the uproar over mandatory busing of children to non-neighborhood schools to achieve racial integration.  Opponents were branded as racist.  So were opponents of affirmative action.  Now you are considered anti-Hispanic if you are concerned about stopping illegal immigration from Mexico.  And of course the Tea Party movement has been widely denounced as racist.

But what if you are sincerely concerned about crime or illegal immigration?  Is it out of bounds even to take about such issues?  If you can’t talk about a problem, how can you resolve it?  Maybe there should be some place you could go to get a certificate of non-racism so you can get credit for arguing in good faith.

I’m sure that if I had the power to see into the hearts of Tea Party members, I would find a certain number have racial prejudices.  But the same would be true of white mainstream Republicans or white liberal Democrats. For that matter, the same might be true of me.

I’ve been called a racist.  Possibly other people saw things about me that I didn’t, but being called a racist did not make me more inclined to self-examination.  It only made me defensive.  That’s why I go easy on using the “R” word.