Once More into the Liber-al-tarian Breach

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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  1. Avatar Jaybird
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    In 2008, when economic issues returned to the headlines, the libertarian vote not surprisingly shifted back to the Right.

    I found my jaw dropping at this one. I remembered McCain dropping everything and going back to Warshington to make sure that the bailout passed and, in my little libertarian circle, everybody went nutzo.

    I reckon Cato must know what they’re talking about… but, seriously, I read that and thought “they did?”

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the number of cranks (dude, I giggled when I read that) I happen to find myself surrounded by and I shouldn’t be surprised that they aren’t particularly representative of libertarianism… but, lord, was I disappointed when I read the CATO link.Report

  2. Avatar lukas
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    says:

    The “movement Left” wants card check, cap and trade, financial “reform”, all of which haven’t passed yet. Lord knows what the SC will do to the health care bill, but it will probably have to be revisited every few years anyway, as the details/funding of the system become major campaign issues.

    All of these are going to disturb our little liber-al-tarian happy dance, not to mention that libertarian stances on certain issues (e.g. drugs, marriage, trade) are unlikely to go down well with centrist Democrats.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to lukas
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      @lukas, “The “movement Left” wants card check, cap and trade, financial “reform”, all of which haven’t passed yet.”

      Of those three, the only one that I expect is a potential long-term monkey wrench is cap-and-trade. The financial reform issue is either going to result in a law in the next year or so, or it’s not going to result in anything significant at all as we start to move further away from the crisis that started everything. We may have other economic crises (I almost expect it) in that time span, but they’ll be tougher to tie to the collapse of 2008.

      Card-check meanwhile seems to have dropped significantly down the Left’s agenda, if it was ever all that high in the first place. It’s a priority for a particularly influential component of the Left, broadly speaking, but it doesn’t seem to be a hill that the Left as a whole is prepared to die on. I’m also not sure that it’s something that is a big enough issue to make people with libertarian leanings decide that the Republicans are better, even in combination with cap-and-trade.

      I understand your point about the centrist Dems, also, but I think that’s exactly why the movement Left will find it necessary to make appeals on explicitly libertarian grounds on those issues. In one sense, this can put pressure on those centrists to move leftward. But more likely is simply that in the long run the Dems will wind up with a new set of centrists as the existing Dem centrists largely go down to defeat this year and, possibly, in 2012 and the Dems look for a new variety of centrists to regain those lost seats.Report

  3. Avatar Bubbaquimby
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    says:

    I wouldn’t really call Yglesias a true movement progressive. He is a lot more willing to throw in and/or accept other philosophical beliefs. Just read the comment thread in that post, they don’t by that it’s a en of big gov’t at all.

    I still think this is all a big pipe dream and mostly just made up of people who find being associated with social conservatives uncomfortable.

    Now I think there are many more reasons for not wanting to be a part of the right (civil liberties, fiscal irresponsibility, etc).

    But you way gloss over how much the Dems and even the Left have basically caved to executive power and even on foreign policy there isn’t near the amount of calling out Obama. The main person I hear is from Glenn Greenwald and after that it’s pretty quiet.

    I think it’s fine if you want to make a more left libertarian movement that is more pragmatic but independent from the Dems. That just doesn’t seem to be what the heavy hitters want to do.

    So I still think the best avenue is to continue calling out both the Left and Right for not following through on their “agendas”.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Bubbaquimby
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      says:

      @Bubbaquimby, There is a lot of complaints on the lib/left said about O’s more on exec power and some aspects of foreign policy. I think what many people don’t want to recognize is that there is a large percentage of Americans ( D’s, R’s and independents) that are just plain hawkish and are for a aggressive foreign policy. It will take a long time, and many leaders, for that to change.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to greginak
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        @greginak, Right, and the one area where a significant number of doves and civil libertarians are politically organized at all is on the Left. Moreover, while those folks are basically ignored right now by most Dem politicians, they are not usually outright mocked and derided (well, except by that dude from Connecticut) in anything resembling the fashion that the handful of doves and civil libertarians on the Right are outright mocked and derided by the rest of the Right.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Farmer
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    You make a lot of assumptions about the Republican Party not changing, and the Democrat Party not going further left. You might be right, but I choose to stand outside both parties, even if it’s lonely, and point in another direction. There’s a good possibility that the Republican Party will be influenced by libertarian ideas in the coming years — it won’t be called libertarianism, but the principles are basically the same. I see a dropping of social issues, a non-interventionist stance, and a greater focus on individual rights and a free market. I see the Democrats becoming more and more socialistic and bombastic, especially when we’re forced to cut back on social programs. The moderate Democrats will not have a home in the party, and I believe that if the Republican Party shifts away from moralisitc social issues and militaristic leanings, you’ll see moderate Democrats defecting. I believe this is a more likely scenario — otherwise, we’ll see pressure for a legitimate third party with enough support to be politically competitive, especially with a charsimatic leader.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Mike Farmer
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      says:

      @Mike Farmer, I don’t agree Mike. Social conservatism is where the voter base is within the right wing. The hawks and the (marginalized) fiscal conservatives have money but they don’t have the boots on the ground. If anything we currently are looking at a domination of the GOP by social conservative issues.Report

      • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to North
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        says:

        @North,

        North,

        Which socal issues do you have in mind?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Farmer
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          says:

          @Mike Farmer, at this point, I’d have to guess legal recognition for gay marriage and, ahem, “immigration issues”.Report

          • Avatar Bubbaquimby in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            @Jaybird,
            Which is why I agree with Farmer, because gay marriage will eventually get accepted since it’s opposed by older people and if immigration issues don’t get decided than it’s the end of the GOP. You can’t be without Hispanics in your party in the future,Report

          • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            @Jaybird,

            Immigration is legitimate government concern, not so much a social issue. Marriage is a legal issue, but the Democrats don’t want to touch that either, so conservatives don’t have to worry about gay marriage anytime soon. I’d like to see marriage be a private sector decision, unregulated by the State, but neither Republicans nor Democrats are so enlightened.

            If we’re down to disagreements about gay marriage, then we’re close to having two choices — limited government or statism.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Farmer
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              says:

              @Mike Farmer, Dude. Immigration is legitimate government concern, not so much a social issue.

              Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

              Look at Arizona. “Immigration” is *HUGELY* a social issue. It’s likely to be the new “Protect Traditional Marriage” for the next few elections… all to the benefit of Republicans in the *VERY* short term (and, in the medium/long term, have them wondering why there are so many social conservative Blacks and Latinos out there who wouldn’t vote for a Republican if you paid them).Report

              • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                @Jaybird,

                The federal government will have to resolve the immigration problem, plus it’s local and not something you can hang around the necks of conservatives — there’s not a conservative movement to dicriminate against hispanics — it’s all built up. Both Democrats and Republicans in Arizona want to do something about the immigration problem. I hope you aren’t buying the conservatives-hate-Mexicans argument. You are freaking out over this issue.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I hope you aren’t buying the conservatives-hate-Mexicans argument.

                No, not at all. However, it’s hard not to buy into the whole “conservatives are willing to abandon small government power at the drop of a frigging hat when it comes to people who do not speak English entering the country” thing.

                For what it’s worth, I think that the pushback against “Immigration Issues” is not racist but based in cultural, specifically language, issues.

                With that said, the whole “small government” thing is quickly and efficiently abandoned the second that we start talking about immigrants who don’t speak English… to the point where it’s hugely popular in Arizona to give the cops the power to ask for papers.

                And conservatives are jumping on that bandwagon like it’s a canoe about the cross the Rio Grande.Report

              • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                @Jaybird,

                Plus, Jay, you can call anything a social issue since most government issues affect us all — the immigration issue is not about hispanics, per se, but about property rights and border security and law and order/safety– yes these are all issues that affect society, so they are social issues, but not in the way North means.Report

              • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                @Jaybird,
                Come on, Jay, you can’t equate throwing away limited government principles with Arizona acting in the absence of federal inaction on something that’s their responsibility within a limited government view. You are exaggerating, and this is not a conservative issue — it’s an American issue regarding our borders. The PEOPLE of Arizona, 70% of them, want something done about illegal immigration — it’s not difficult to understand.Report

              • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                @Jaybird,
                In the absence of federal action, I meantReport

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                The PEOPLE of Arizona, 70% of them, want something done about illegal immigration — it’s not difficult to understand.

                Ah, “The People”.

                I don’t mind them trading their own rights away. It’s when they trade mine away that I really start getting ticked.

                Anyway, the “immigration issues” will be picked up by the Republicans and, much like with the War On Drugs and the War On Crime, the Democrats will yell “ME 2!!!” for a few elections.

                Immigration Issues will be associated with the Republicans, specifically the Social Conservatives (that is to say: those who care most about maintaining the cultural status quo), for ever.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Mike Farmer
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          says:

          @Mike Farmer, What energizes the right? Social issues. Anything homosexual related. Anything religion related. Anything Abortion related. That’s what gets the butts in the pews and the voters to the polls. How many districts do the fiscal conservatives command? None? The neocons? Certainly they have an appeal but they’ve taken a rather bad drubbing lately courtesy of our middle east quagmires. There are three legs to the GOP stool. Neocons, Social Cons and Fiscal Cons. The last of those are in full on revolt. The first of them are badly discredited. Only the Social conservatives have emerged from the last 8 years or so relatively unscathed and they’re calling the marching orders for the GOP.Report

          • Avatar Bubbaquimby in reply to North
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            says:

            @North,
            Are you insane? Unscathed? The party has been doing all it can not to even mention social issues. The Tea Party doesn’t even mention social issues because it has two wings Palin and Paul. And Kagan is having a very weak opposition because she likes executive power (neocon thought) and they don’t want to press the abortion issue.

            Also which stands is the most taken by Democrats and Obama? That would be the neocons, on national security and foreign policy they have taking more from that leg than either fiscal conservatism or social conservatism. That isn’t to say Obama is a neocon or does things in different ways but ultimately neocons have very little to be pissed about these days.

            Why do you think neocons like Frum doesn’t object to any foreign or national security issue?Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Bubbaquimby
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              says:

              @Bubbaquimby, Bubbaquimby you ignorant slut (I’ve always wanted to say that) I suppose I should have said comparatively unscathed. If we want to switch the conversation to Obama’s policy cowardice/pragmatism then we can chat that up. Obama pretty much had two choices on the foreign policy issues; try for some kind of controlled draw down or replicate ‘Nam. He understandably chose the former. On the executive power/torture issue he’s been mincing around in the manner of a dude who knows he’s walking in a mine-field because he doesn’t want to consume his entire term on the subject (and I don’t like this for the record but I understand it). As to whether neocons have complaints about Obama; one word for you: Iran. A neocon would have swooped some jets in and dropped bombs on them by now.

              Now certainly the GOP is soft peddling social issues right now. But again where is the passion in the party among the rank and file? Sure they are still gung ho on neoconservatism between themselves and when preaching to the choir but they sputter and fizzle when talking to anyone else. As for fiscal conservatives, I think there are a couple of the poor charred buggers curled up in a fetal position in the corners of the GOP tent, poor bastards. Most of them bolted like Bartlette.

              As for Frum, well he’s hardly representative of the movement considering he’s nigh a pariah on the right.Report

              • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to North
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                says:

                @North,

                North, I don’t care what conservatives personally believe, it’s a matter of what they expect to achieve through State power. The reverse of what Mark said is true, there are no more conservative positions to attack except limited government and fiscal responsibility. No one expects abortion to be outlawed, and no one expects laws passed which violate the rights of homosexuals, and no one expects to bring the Church back into government or classrooms. Conservatives realize those wars are lost, and most no longer have the passion to pursue them through State power — they are tired of State power. They just want the State to quit passing laws which violate individual rights. Most conservatives I know have accepted homosexuality as a reality, and they’d just as soon let it be. Hell, even the Democrats would just as soon let it be — they sure as hell aren’t pushing for the legalization of gay marriage. As for the wars, everyone’s tired of wars — bring the troops home, build a strong national defense, and let’s get to work — that’s what they’ll say.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
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                says:

                @North, Good for them Mike, I hope you’re right (but I doubt it). From your lips to Sarah Palin’s ear. But the GOP has a lot of course correcting to do before they’re ready for your proscribed policy.
                As for the Dems, well we’ll see what the Prez tries to tackle next. Though soon it’ll be bunker down for the election time.Report

              • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to North
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                says:

                @North,

                I believe Frum is unpopular for reasons which are contrary to the popular idea that th conservative base is closing their minds to views that don’t fit their ideology. I believe Frum is irrelevant. He has no ideas outside of strategic suggestions regarding compromise and working to improve liberal policies. He represents the faction of the Republican Party that lacks a vision for a new direction — they seem to want to muddle along and work on perception and image in order to get a few more young votes and minority votes. It will take something drastically innovative, reality-based and inspiring, something that can change mental models regarding the relationship of the State to the private sector, to get the youth and minority vote. Right now, the Democrat Party is like a lump of clay that youth and minorities can mold in their dream-world to fit a desire for something different, but they will get tired of their clay creations being private pacifiers while the party pursues its power-plays (that’s a lot of Ps)Report

              • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to North
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                says:

                @North,

                North, what State power is Palin proposing to be used to enact social changes? Everyone is making assumptions based on what conservatives have supported in the past, but change is possible — The parties are like two alcoholics — the Republicans hit bottom and are now in AA trying to take the 12 steps — the Democrats are drinking like every day is New Year’s Eve.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to North
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                says:

                @Mike, I trust conservatives with my individual rights to about the same extent I trust my cat with an open bag of kibble, a half-dead bird and a blanket. Conservatives may not have any coherent program for what to do with state power, but they sure know they’re in favour of it. And while I’m fairly confident that average Republican legislator has not intention of outlawing abortion – if nothing else because their wives would make their lives hell – I have no confidence that they wouldn’t go all the way to the edge if they thought there were votes in it. And if you go all the way to the edge, there is a risk of falling off it.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to North
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                says:

                @Mike,

                > No one expects abortion to be outlawed,
                > and no one expects laws passed which
                > violate the rights of homosexuals, and no
                > one expects to bring the Church back
                > into government or classrooms.

                On the contrary, I think there’s a solid %age of the electorate that does believe all these things, and they’re actively pushing to make these things happen. They are changing state political party platforms to reflect precisely this.

                You can of course argue that these people aren’t conservatives, but they certainly self-identify as such. Of course, as illustrated by the taxonomy post a while ago, the terms “liberal”, “conservative”, et cetera are becoming increasingly muddled.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
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                says:

                @Mike,
                Well Mike I’m not an expert on AA meetings but I do believe that the first step in recovering from being at rock bottom is admitting you have a problem. When Democrats in power are proposing bigger cuts than the GOP is willing to commit to when out of power you know there’s a problem going on. Sarah Palin, when one is able to pry anything concrete out of her vague and vacuous pronouncements, generally is a retread of Bush Minor with amped up social issues. None of her jingo nativism or aggressive foreign policy plans are going to be cheap and neither she nor anyone in the GOP* is willing to lay out how they would actually cut the budget. They just lay into “waste and corruption” with the old beating stick. Well great, you’ve eliminated a couple billion there, whatcha gonna do about the rest?

                *An honorable mention goes out to Ryan but if you want to find a Republican free zone (and Republican Leadership especially free zone) then stand anywhere near his concrete plan for reducing the budget. Not a GOPer in sight.

                Now Obama is no paragon of budget control, yet. But he did win the election which means he gets to have four years to try. He’s been at least gesturing towards getting the budget under control and some of those gestures have contained actual real cuts. Add into this the fact that the Democrats are willing to not only cut spending but also raise taxes which is something that no Republican can countenance lest they find themselves in a pot of boiling oil being poked with a meat fork by Grover Norquist in pair of red devil pajamas. So one of the parties is able to use both strategies to balance the budget; the other only has one strategy but refuses to use it. I know which one of those two options have longer odds.

                Now I’ll concede up front that the Dems are not covered in glory in this budget mess. But frankly the way you’re going on makes you sound like a beaten libertarian wife. “Oh sure he hit me and ignored me and wiped his ass with my opinion on foreign policy, social policy and fiscal policy but he’s at rock bottom now so that means he’ll treat me better.”Report

              • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to North
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                @North,
                No, North, I have no confidence in the republican establishment — you misunderstand me, but that’s okay. I think many of you are missing the public beneath the political class and the effect they’ll have on coming elections. I’m not arguing in terms of the status quo — the status quo is dysfunctional, and it’s just as delusional to defend the Democrats — this is not a contest for which party sucks the less, it’s a mtter of the public choosing a route to turn things around — right now, the best bet is the Republican Party and a peaceful coup — the Dems are delusional with power — if it doesn’t work with the Repblican Party, there’ll be a third party created — the public is not satisfied.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
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                says:

                @Mike, Okay Mike, I think I follow your reasoning now. I don’t agree but I can respect projecting. I project like crazy onto the Dems to see what I hope to see, I think you are projecting what you hope for onto the public. I’m skeptical myself. I don’t see any coups for spending cuts and limited government arising out of this generation when they’re about to bank in on their social security and medicaid. I’d think we’d see better polling for specific cuts if that were in the cards.Report

              • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to North
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                says:

                @North,

                I don’ think we have to cut Medicare or SS for those who’ve paid in for a long time, but we can create a new system for those coming online, so to speak, and with inspiring leadership, I think most young people will accept the necessity — especially if a private solution is offered which will be much better in retirement than what we have — I say “we”, meaning old farts like myself. I think a large portion of society is ready to take matters into their own hands and start coming up with innovative solutions.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Bubbaquimby
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              @Bubbaquimby, Well Mike you’d best get on the horn to the GOP and tell em to roll some of these substantive proposals out for consideration because they only thing they seem to be peddling right now is economic supply side voodoo and populist teaparty nonsense. Hell, Obama stole the entire 1994 GOP healthcare playbook. If the idea is good he might steal it too.Report

  5. Avatar Tim Ellis
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    says:

    Two looming issues that I think will really push the movement Left and the libertarians closer together – the gay marriage fight, and the growing discontent with Obama from the left flank calling into question his executive power overreach. Bush-era executive power grabs are still on the books, and Obama has shown zero interest in taking them on. Most of us on the left have given him a pass so far, but that’s beginning to change.Report

  6. Avatar Jason Kuznicki
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    says:

    that we do not live in a Coasian world….

    I’m not sure if you know this, but Ronald Coase would not recognize the imaginary world you’re speaking of as his own.

    Coase envisioned a world without transaction costs purely to illustrate that these costs are omnipresent in the real world, and that they guide many forms of behavior in the market, even though many of these influences were unappreciated before him. Calling a world without transaction costs “Coasean” is like calling a world with purely Newtonian physics “Einstein’s world.”

    The implication here is that we should craft policy to minimize these costs. Such policies tend to be consistent with libertarianism, particularly in that they recognize property rights (sometimes unconventional ones) and the freedom of contract.Report

  7. Avatar North
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    says:

    Great post Mark. I agree with a lot of it. It seems to me, though I’m center left so there’s probably a lot of projecting involved, that the Democratic party especially and the left in general is more fluid on their points of departure with libertarians than the right is.Report

  8. Avatar Simon K
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    says:

    Interesting post Mark. I hadn’t picked up on the idea that there’s a difference between short term liberal/libertarian coalition building and the longer-term philosophical liber-al-tarian project.

    I agree that there is a difference, but I guess I’m a little more optimistic than you seem to be about the possibility of short term coalition building leading to liber-al-tarian policies being adopted. Broadly libertarian ways of achieving liberal goals have a compelling advantage at the moment – they’re cheap. From a libertarian viewpoint that’s not their main advantage, but from the perspective of someone trying to push a progressive agenda in an environment where raising taxes or increasing borrowing requirements are politically hard, its a big deal. Fundamentally having the government do less, and having it do what it does in a fairer way is much cheaper than having it do more, and discriminate in favour of various interests. There’s so much scope here – reducing the harm done by drug prohibition, reducing health costs, normalizing immigration, stabilizing government revenues and spending, are all better done by having the government do less rather than more.

    This is one of the key attractions of libertarianism – the thing that really keeps pulling me back towards it, in spite of many reservation. When you respect people’s autonomy, it turns out that what happens to be right, from that perspective, is also efficient, because people are generally much better at looking after themselves that politicians think, especially when you’re not constantly forcing them to do things that aren’t in their interest.Report

  9. Avatar Koz
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    says:

    Leaving aside the philosophical affinity between libertarianism and modern liberalism, one problem with Mark’s thesis is that it is becoming increasingly clear that liberalism cannot sustain the status quo. I’m a little amused by Mark and Yglesias that the stance of liberalism is “We’ll finish health care, then we’re done.” I don’t think they’re going to get anywhere near that.

    Here’s one little tidbit that’s mostly flown below radar except for a few mentions in the financial blogs. Some time not too long ago, Moody’s issued a report that said that US Treasury debt is in danger of losing its AAA credit rating much sooner than some had anticipated. According to its credit standards, 18% is the maximum that a nation can spend on debt service and still remain AAA. Under Moody’s mainline assumptions that will happen in 2018 but under an adverse scenario it occurs on 2013.

    Around that time, the SEC sent Moody’s a Wells notice, ie a nastygram signalling the start of SEC sanctions and punishments. The financial blogs have assumed this is simply a tit-for-tat revenge scenario, though I can’t believe anybody has actually admitted to that.

    In any case, people who think like Mark should take a long look at this. Not only is the government in horrible fiscal shape but under President Obama it’s responding by shooting the messenger. The overall size of government is building as a political issue, not falling, and it’s going to be that way for a while IMO.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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      @Koz, Is it your position that the years 2000-2008 had nothing whatsoever to do with that? I know you want us to pretend those years never happened, so let’s look at since then. A year ago, the GOP responded to Obama’s proposed $17 billion in budget cuts in one year by proposing to cut $375 billion over 5 years….except that they weren’t. Instead, it turned out they were proposing only about $20 billion in budget cuts spread out over 5 years. http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2009/06/04/the-gop-not-serious-about-spending-cuts/
      This year Obama proposed $20 billion in budget cuts. The GOP promptly lost its shit over the fact that the cuts included cuts to NASA. Now, the GOP is pushing a gimmick allowing voters to choose one out of five programs to ask the GOP to cut every week. Except that the combined total of the programs the GOP wants voters to choose from is less than $6 billion.
      If the Dems’ interest in cutting the budget is minimal at a time when they’re in power, but the Republicans’ interest is even more minimal when they’re out of power (and thus have nothing to lose by proposing bigger cuts), what reason is there to think that Republicans are actually more interested in cutting the size of government when they return to power than the Democrats?
      Conservatism is inherently an ideology of the status quo and of preserving the status quo, whatever the cost. It is thus a very poor vehicle for undoing the status quo. Especially when it played a rather large role in creating that status quo.
      In 1999, we had a budget surplus. We had an opportunity to pay down the deficit. The Republicans then obtained a stranglehold on power and decided that “deficits don’t matter.” We did not have a budget surplus in 2008. Or 2007. Or 2006. Or….you get the picture.
      Now the Republicans and conservatives want us to think that they’re not only serious about preventing Dem-proposed spending increases, they’re also serious about cutting existing programs and about not increasing spending in other areas. They want us to believe this because they have proposed cuts to existing programs that are even smaller than the (already minimal) cuts that Obama has proposed. They want us to believe this because, apparently, “securing the border” will not be expensive, nor will doubling down on the War on Terror (since Obama has apparently endangered the nation’s security by failing to expand the War on Terror while also failing to contract it). They want us to believe that they can do (or, in the case of spending cuts, not do) all of this, plus cut our taxes, and still drastically cut the budget deficit enough to prevent the scenario you describe. Oh, and a pony.
      Wake me up when the Republicans start actually listening to the Paul Ryans and Jeff Flakes of the world rather than just using them as convenient props to prove what anyone who has lived through the last 10 years should know to be false: that the Republicans do too care about government spending.Report

  10. Avatar Koz
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    says:

    “Is it your position that the years 2000-2008 had nothing whatsoever to do with that?”

    Not at all, though I don’t see how that affects my original point very much.

    As far as political accountability goes, since the 2008 elections the Republicans have had 40 or 41 Senate seats and 180 seats in the House of Representatives. Given that level of representation, GOP proposals do not get any traction in the legislature, nor are they expected to. Thanks to people such as yourself, the Congressional GOP places its markers in the political arena by reacting to Democratic proposals, and there record there is much better. Btw, let’s recall the supposed alternative (suggested by several people here, among others) was that the GOP was horse trade big government for a little bit of marginal influence and an invitation to the signing ceremony. And the fact that the GOP has more or less refused that deal has been characterized as “obstruction” and all the rest of it.

    Btw, this is also the same problem with your complaints about the Ryan plan. The Ryan plan is a attempt to create a very long term scenario for our fiscal health. Of course the more difficult fiscal choices are going to occur well before the end of the Ryan plan. In any case, it’s not like we’re going to have hearings on the Ryan plan and vote on it any time soon. What did you want the GOP to do?

    The reality is, the people with reality credibility on spending issues, like Tom Coburn, understand the GOP’s failures as much as anyone but still find better things to do than spend their energy complaining about it. The complainers are posers like Arlen Specter, where fiscal conservatism is a useful dodge for being able to dissociate themselves from mainstream conservatism and the mainstream GOP. This is a major reason why the flintier libertarians like you and Jaybird don’t have any credibility. Btw, you’re still standing behind your opposition to Governor Christie in New Jersey, right?

    I personally do wish that the GOP has taken a more aggressive line wrt fiscal policy, for propaganda purposes if nothing else. But even if they haven’t, that doesn’t change the reality that the GOP is still the best hope for limited government today, even if that fact makes Jaybird uncomfortable.

    As this relates to my original point, your scenario isn’t very likely for the political center for the reasons I mentioned before. Libertarians could go either way. Maybe they will check out of the mainstream political dialog for the sake of medical marijuana or gay marriage, maybe they won’t.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Koz
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      says:

      @Koz, I think it’s cute that you reference the Ryan plan considering that no one ran away from said plan faster than the GOP party leadership. Hell even the tea party nabobs wouldn’t endorse it .Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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        says:

        @North,

        “…..no one ran away from said plan faster than the GOP party leadership.”

        Really, like who?Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Koz
          Ignored
          says:

          @Koz, A shorter list would be who didn’t? The entire GOP minority leadership shunned the thing. Would you like to cite the GOP political leaders who endorsed the Ryan plan and said “that’s what we’ll do when we get re-elected”? Feel free to name some names.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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      says:

      @Koz, Here’s the thing – you keep saying this: “But even if they haven’t, that doesn’t change the reality that the GOP is still the best hope for limited government today, even if that fact makes Jaybird uncomfortable.”

      But you haven’t offered any actual evidence to support it. I get that the Dems are bad on spending. I do, I really do. I even get that on the state level in the state of New Jersey, the Dems are even worse on spending than the average Republican. But there is no evidence that on the national level the Republicans are ultimately actually interested in cutting spending. You have offered a lot of assertions that they are. You have offered evidence that the Dems are bad on spending. But you have offered no actual evidence to support the notion that the GOP is actually trustworthy on spending. No evidence that the GOP has realized that defense spending is not magical.

      Indeed, the one GOPer who made a real effort to reform healthcare while also cutting government spending on health care just lost his seat for doing so. Not because he supported TARP, but because he committed the unconscionable offense of Working with a Donk on Health Care.

      As for Christie, there are things he’s doing that I approve of (unfortunately, I’m professionally not at liberty to comment on my two favorite things). I’m happy that he’s been “confrontational.” But, despite what’s been reported, much of what he’s doing on the budget does nothing to solve the underlying problems and instead just shifts them to the areas with the least flexibility to solve them.
      I also continue to hold that the fact that Christie almost blew the election due in part to a strong third-party candidate smacked some sense into him. But from what I’ve seen so far, not nearly enough.

      Turning back to national politics – the other day, SecDef Gates asked that politicians stop inserting funding for various programs into Defense appropriations bills because they are unnecessary. We are talking here about funding items over which Republicans actually have a certain amount of direct control since they’re quite often the ones who put them into the bills. Should I expect that Republicans will heed Gates’ request this year since they are now, like, totally serious about spending?

      I stand by my prediction: should the Republicans return to power (by which I mean get at least two of the three elected branches of government), they will make only a half-hearted attempt to repeal HCR. To the extent they do, they will make it even more of a problem for the deficit. They will not seek budget cuts to other programs of any real significance. The cuts they seek will be more than offset by the increases they seek in defense and border security.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:


        “I stand by my prediction: should the Republicans return to power (by which I mean get at least two of the three elected branches of government), they will make only a half-hearted attempt to repeal HCR. To the extent they do, they will make it even more of a problem for the deficit.”

        Well if that’s the case then you really blew it because apparently we’ve lost the opportunity to stop the collectivist health care train (I don’t accept that premise btw). More later on the other points.Report

        • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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          says:

          @Koz, “you really blew it”

          I blew it because I opposed a strategy that failed? I wonder, what if the GOP had actually tried to push for something resembling Wyden-Bennett? Would the results have been worse?Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Mark Thompson
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            says:

            @Mark Thompson, Mark, if the GOP had pushed for Wyden Bennett you and I both know that Obama at least would have jumped on it like Oprah on a baked ham. We’d likely have had some altered and negotiated version of Wyden-Bennett signed into law probably in September-November. But Obama probably would have gotten most of the credit for it and his ratings would probably be higher.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to North
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              says:

              @North, Indeed. And yet, government would be more limited. Methinks “limited government” is not the top item on the agenda.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to North
              Ignored
              says:

              “Mark, if the GOP had pushed for Wyden Bennett you and I both know that Obama at least would have jumped on it like Oprah on a baked ham.”

              You and Mark must have crystal balls then because I don’t know that at all.

              “We’d likely have had some altered and negotiated version of Wyden-Bennett signed into law…..”

              Yeah, but which version. IIRC Wyden-Bennett essentially puts most of the health care economy on the federal budget. That might be defensible if as a transition measure to portable health coverage, ie phasing out the employer health care deduction. But Obama and the D’s want to collectivize health care. In particular, Obama specifically repudiated the idea of government-based minimal or catastrophic coverage, so it’s hard to say Wyden-Bennett would be any better for limited gov’t than Obamacare, and certainly much worse than the status quo.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson
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            says:

            Blew it meaning you needed to support the GOP last election before it was too late and their strategy would have worked instead of failed. Like I said I don’t accept your premise anyway. Many or most prominent Republicans tend to like to keep the status quo. In a different time that might imply keeping Obamacare but that’s not going to be a credible option for very long.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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              says:

              @Koz, I wonder if you know who I voted for Congress last election? I wonder if there is reason to believe that McCain would have engaged in actions that I would find, on the whole, as bad or worse than what Obama has done to date? (I didn’t vote for either, by the way). I also wonder if the miniscule number of votes that third-party candidates got was enough to swing the election.
              To be sure, I’d probably be happier with divided government if McCain had won. But, well, he didn’t. Generally speaking, incumbent parties that have presided over 8 years of disastrous rule don’t do very well in elections.
              In fact, if conservatives’ vision of ‘limited government’ is reconcilable with the GOP and a reason why the GOP lost was that movement conservatives didn’t show up as much at the polls as movement liberals, I’d say that they’re the group you should be blaming. Blaming someone who has a very different conception of “limited government” for the fact that your conception of “limited government” failed to win an election when some large number of people who share your conception didn’t vote at all strikes me as a bit silly.
              Exit question: in 2008, what reason was there to believe that Republicans had learned from the mistakes of the Bush era, when the Bush era had not yet concluded?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson
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                says:

                “I wonder if there is reason to believe that McCain would have engaged in actions that I would find, on the whole, as bad or worse than what Obama has done to date? (I didn’t vote for either, by the way).”

                I don’t wonder about that at all, because there’s surely no way in hell McCain would have gotten that health care bill (or tried to). We probably would still have a stimulus bill, much smaller much better.

                GOP, the present hope for prosperity and limited gov’t, yada yada, etc. etc.Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Mark Thompson
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                says:

                @Mark Thompson, I’m kind of thinking of “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson
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                says:

                “I’m kind of thinking of “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.””

                Great, so how’s that working for you? Obama is doing the same things that Bush was criticized for, only not accomplishing anything.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Koz
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              says:

              @Koz, Bur Mark the bombs would have been greeted as liberators. Plus with a war in Iran we’d have three geographically contigous wars. We could merge them and save on administrative overhead. Plus the media could consolidate them into “The war in Iranaqistan”.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Koz
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      says:

      @Koz, “But even if they haven’t, that doesn’t change the reality that the GOP is still the best hope for limited government today, even if that fact makes Jaybird uncomfortable.”

      Assumes facts not in evidence.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        I mean, seriously. I *AM* uncomfortable… but it’s because I feel like I’m talking to someone who insists that I name my favorite televangelist.

        “One of them *MUST* be the best one!!!”

        And this is asserted even after Bakkers, the Swaggarts, the Hinns, and the Tiltons are pointed out. “So what about Jerry Falwell?”

        Dude. You are making so many assumptions that I do not share that I don’t know that we are capable of having a real and meaningful conversation.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          “I mean, seriously. I *AM* uncomfortable…”

          Yeah, facts not in evidence … as if.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          “I mean, seriously. I *AM* uncomfortable… but it’s because I feel like I’m talking to someone who insists that I name my favorite televangelist.”

          Ugh. We’ve got the Ryan plan, we’ve got Tom Coburn, we’ve got John Kasich, we’ve got Mitch Daniels, we’ve got Chris Christie.

          As we look at the prominent actors in the political arena, the people with credibility on fiscal issues are Republicans, period. And with the exception of Ron Paul, Republicans who have good relations with the rest of the party and the mainstream conservative movement. The rest are posers, eg Arlen Specter. I don’t think anybody who takes a remotely objectively look at contemporary American politics can conclude anything else.Report

  11. Avatar Koz
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    says:

    “The entire GOP minority leadership shunned the thing. “

    Like who? Yes, name names.

    “Would you like to cite the GOP political leaders who endorsed the Ryan plan and said “that’s what we’ll do when we get re-elected”? “

    That’s not the same thing, for the reasons I mentioned before.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Koz
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      says:

      href=”#comment-52219″>@Koz, Well then John Boehner for one won’t endorse it, just to give you something to chew on.

      Now this isn’t surprising considering that the plan involves slashing taxes on the top ten percent of income earners while raising taxes on the other ninety percent and also running large deficits. No wonder ol’ Boehner gets coy when the subject comes up.

      So… got any GOP leaders who’ve endorsed the plan? Or you could lay out your reasoning for how this doesn’t matter and isn’t the same thing?Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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        says:

        “So… got any GOP leaders who’ve endorsed the plan? Or you could lay out your reasoning for how this doesn’t matter and isn’t the same thing?”

        Okay. There’s two reasons, one political the second has to do with the nature of the Ryan Roadmap itself. Taking the second first, the essence of the plan is to say, if we are committed to fiscal balance come hell or high water, this is what we have to do wrt entitlements to make that happen. Therefore the Ryan plan has directives for things like Medicare growth in 2060. This is useful as a Roadmap to contextualize the decisions we have to make, but it doesn’t have to be taken literally. In fact I don’t think it was meant to.

        And politically speaking, the only negative thing you can say is that various members of the GOP haven’t endorsed it or sponsored it, which is not at all the same thing as opposing it or running away from it. If the Democrats want to reform entitlements, they don’t need John Boehner’s endorsement anyway. They can negotiate with Ryan or some cohort of the GOP without his blessing. But of course they don’t. They just want to do the usual throw-granny-on-the-street demagoguery dance. Unfortunately for them, that doesn’t work because the economic environment is different and the Congressional agenda is driven by what the D’s propose, not what the GOP proposes.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Koz
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          says:

          @Koz, So because the Republicans have some backbenchers rattling around who talk a good game about reducing the size of government when they’re not in any position to do so we’re to simply accept that the GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility? This requiring additionally an intentional amnesia of the behavior of the same party with the same leadership when it was in power over the last decade? Meanwhile GOP leadership wails and cavils about every budget cut (see NASA and New York for instance) but we’re to pay no attention to the leadership behind the curtain.

          Now I’ll be the first to concede the Democrats have a long way to go before they can claim the positive title of fiscal grownups for themselves. But the idea that by default the GOP is the fiscal libertarian party is risible. Especially when it’s coupled with these fever swamp hallucinations that the Democrats would ever allow a treasury default or a bond rating downgrade. Did you stop looking at the Dems in the 1979 or something? The entire economic wing of the party is run by bankers. The very idea is laughable.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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            says:

            “Especially when it’s coupled with these fever swamp hallucinations that the Democrats would ever allow a treasury default or a bond rating downgrade.”

            Ok, let’s start with this. Pray tell, what do you think you know about our economic situation the led you to write this? Frankly, it’s difficult to see this as anything other than the expression of significant ignorance. But that’s not the whole story because we don’t know necessarily what it is that you are ignorant of. It could be the current economic situation, the influence of various people within the Lib-Demo establishment, the amount of control public policy has on the economy (or some combination).

            Among other things, was your comment supposed to be in response to my original comment to this post, or just gliding past it? To wit, the SEC sent a Wells notice to Moody’s a couple of months ago, but that fact has only been recently disclosed to the public. It’s been widely assumed among people who’ve chosen to comment on this matter that the feds are simply retaliating against a statement by Moody’s that Treasuries might be downgraded in as soon as three years. Was there some other context that you had in mind?Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Koz
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              says:

              @Koz, Koz, I imagine I know roughly as much about the national fiscal situation as you do. Well minus the conspiracy theories. It’s not exactly like the ratings agencies have been rolling in glory themselves in our recent fiscal disaster. But feel free to expand on your theories if you wish. What the discussion boils down to is pretty fundamental.

              The GOP had slightly under a decade at the helm. They screwed the nations finances quite impressively. Their term has ended and now the book is closed on that administration. They were an unmitigated disaster.
              Now Obama is two years in. He hasn’t done any particular good for the nations finances himself but he isn’t finished yet. Maybe he’ll be bad as Bush Minor and his GOP lackeys. Maybe he’ll be worse; but maybe he’ll be better. Obama is still a work in progress. The GOP isn’t. They were neocon, social conservative clowns who mouthed impotent platitudes about fiscal conservatism. The fact that the tea party exists is testament to how badly the GOP has failed fiscal conservatives; they aren’t even willing to stay inside the movement (though doubtlessly they’ll come home, where else do they have to go?)

              The GOP has crapped all over their reputation for being the party of fiscal sanity. You can’t rewrite the history there and they are the same party. Virtually no jobs have changed hands since the Bush era in the GOP. So when Jaybird or Mark sneer at the idea of the GOP claiming the mantle of fiscal responsibility that makes perfect sense. Now I know you’re a strong GOP supporter and they’re the party of faith but faith based belief in their fiscal probity? Well that’ll probably work as well as all the other faith based things they tried like faith based wars, faith based science and faith based economics. Ya shouldn’t be surprised when anyone who isn’t one of the GOP faithful is skeptical.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                “..stuff.. “

                Yeah yeah yeah, yada, yada, got it, got it.

                I’m really interested in what motivated you to write this:

                “Especially when it’s coupled with these fever swamp hallucinations that the Democrats would ever allow a treasury default or a bond rating downgrade.”

                If you really want to know why or to what extent we can hope that the GOP will help the nation’s economy I can help but I have to know more about your frame of reference.

                I suspect at least part of it is misunderstandings about “conspiracy theories” and how public policy affects the economy but for now I’m just guessing until you clarify.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
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                says:

                @Koz, You’ll need to be more specific as to what you’re looking for Koz. I understand how public policy affects the economy. I know the economic rules of the impact of taxation, court rulings, trade policy, spending and borrowing. But what I don’t know is whether you base this GOP economic conviction of yours on anything beyond blind faith.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                “Especially when it’s coupled with these fever swamp hallucinations that the Democrats would ever allow a treasury default or a bond rating downgrade.”

                Ok, what specific premises were behind your train of thought when you wrote that?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
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                says:

                @North, You routinely allude to the US’s national debt or credit rating as if you honestly believe that the Democrats are indifferent to either and would default on the one or permit a downgrade of the other. It’s an area where I think you’re utterly disconnected from reality. My own observations and experiences with the party suggest to me that Obama et all would flat out cancel the War on Terror and would slash spending and raise taxes however much was necessary to prevent a default or a credit rating downgrade.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                Okay, do suppose that the lack of indifference on the part of some prominent Democrats is sufficient to prevent a default or ratings agency downgrade on our gov’t debt? Because surely the Greek finance minister and the rest of them were surely indifferent to their nation’s credit rating and/or likelihood of default, right?

                From what you know about debt finance and in your own experiences and observations of the Democratic Party, what do you believe is necessary to guarantee that we will never default on our gov’t debt or see it downgraded by a ratings agency? In particular, do you suppose cancelling the War on Terror sufficient for this?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
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                says:

                @Koz, Okay well firstly the US economy is not the Greek Economy and that the US lacks some of the serious social and legal problems that are aggravating the Greek crisis (a rioting union dominated public sector, no control of their currency, massive tax evasion, a weak tourism and agriculture dependant economy for instance).

                A lack of indifference is a pretty good place to start if a pretty soft-pedaling way of describing it. You also seem to be implying that the US is in significant danger of having either happen which frankly is a big exaggeration considering the size of our debt to GDP or debt per capita.

                Now to literally guarantee that the US could –never- default or have a ratings downgrade would require that the government essentially run in surplus in perpetuity which is of course economically and politically impossible (and inadvisable). To guarantee in practical terms that neither of those calamities happen is not an immensely difficult task. Assuming that Summers and Geithner came schlepping in and said “We’re in danger of a default/ratings downgrade” the fact of the matter is that there is a ton of places that the Dems could cut and there’s a ton of room for increased taxes and they would of course do both. In defense especially there’re billions of dollars that could be saved with very little political pain at home. Closing foreign bases, ending Afghanistan and Iraq (and damn the casualties to non-Americans) for instance would save hundreds of billions a year. That alone would shut up any ratings agency that was threatening a ratings downgrade and it’d happen in an instant if there was a serious danger of a ratings decrease. This is without touching on domestic issues where again there are a lot of things that Democrats could and (while they wouldn’t want to) would cut in order to balance the books. If there was one thing that Clinton taught (and his party learned) it was to keep the economy in order. Letting a default or a ratings change occur would be political malpractice of mind boggling idiocy. Not even that loon Kutchnich would go for it.

                But again this is mostly specious and imaginary. Inflation is prostrate right now so if there was ever a shortage of money, a real one, then the Fed would simply print more and there really is not any serious threat of a ratings downgrade. For goodness sakes, all of Europe is closer to a ratings downgrade than the US is. I assume you understand just how much worse things would have to get here in the US before the credit rating of the American T-bill actually started to shake. Yes we can draw out our scary projections about spending and the growth of structural entitlements. That’s an issue that has to be dealt with. But frankly the Dems at least have two engines to use to deal with those issues (spending cuts AND tax increases) and the GOP only has one.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                “Now to literally guarantee that the US could –never- default or have a ratings downgrade would require that the government essentially run in surplus in perpetuity which is of course economically and politically impossible (and inadvisable).”

                Of course, but you told us yesterday or the day before that it was a paranoid conspiracy theory or whatever that such a thing could ever happen given the number of prominent bankers in the Democratic party.

                That’s why I’m trying to sort out what you actually want to stand behind (and the factual premises behind it) versus something you may have written for rhetorical effect.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
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                says:

                @Koz, I called your Moody’s/SEC retaliation story a paranoid conspiracy theory. But perhaps it was merely overwrought hyperbole. As a connoisseur of the latter I can appreciate it for its entertainment value.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                “You also seem to be implying that the US is in significant danger of having either happen which frankly is a big exaggeration considering the size of our debt to GDP or debt per capita.”

                Really? What in particular do you know or believe about that?

                Did you read that Moody’s anecdote? Part of the story is, that we are going to be spending over 18% of federal revenue on debt service starting in 2018, before any crisis having to do with peak oil, health care, retirement demographics, climate change or some environment issue to be named later.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
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                says:

                @North, Well setting aside that the story didn’t move me tp much outrage; I cynically think that if there was any oomph to the story I’d hear it being howled like mad from more GOP and rightwing organs than just you. Then again maybe you’re ahead of the pack. Have your written NRO about it?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                “I called your Moody’s/SEC retaliation story a paranoid conspiracy theory. “

                Ok, do you accept that Moody’s underlying economic scenario, that the feds are going to be spending more than 18% of revenue on debt service in the near to medium term to be distressingly plausible? Or is that part of the conspiracy too?

                Fwiw, I’m with you on the retaliation part. It’s seems a little too crude to actually be true. I was a little surprised that among the commentary I saw that no one seemed to think it might be a simple coincidence. Otoh the other hand the Obama’s handling of the Chrysler bankruptcy was completely real and not a conspiracy so maybe people have reason to be paranoid.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
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                says:

                @Koz, Yes, but since I’m already on record as not approving of the fiscal behavior of the country at the moment this isn’t any departure from me. Neoliberal remember, I’m all about money.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:


                “Well setting aside that the story didn’t move me to much outrage;”

                There’s no reason it should. It’s one (or two) scenarios from one ratings agency, and it’s not like ratings agencies haven’t been wrong before. But it’s the cumulative weight of a hundred smaller pieces of evidence that paints a pretty clear picture of what’s going, and I don’t think you’re seeing it.

                “I cynically think that if there was any oomph to the story I’d hear it being howled like mad from more GOP and rightwing organs than just you.”

                This is what I thought. You’re outsourcing your understanding of our economic conditions to where they fit in the context of political maneuvering that you might understand better. Now which one of us is really the enthusiast of faith-based economics here?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
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                says:

                @Koz, Sticks and stones Koz. I’d say I’m equally conversant in politics and economics (though is that an indictment or praise?) I described in detail at 8:55 exactly why I do not think our economic conditions are as dire as you’re suggesting (and why the Democratic party wouldn’t permit them to get as bad as you think it would) in economic terms.

                Also I’m not the one asserting that the Democratic Party is the only true hope for the fiscal future of the USA. Let alone asserting that is is just because I say so.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                “Assuming that Summers and Geithner came schlepping in and said “We’re in danger of a default/ratings downgrade” the fact of the matter is that there is a ton of places that the Dems could cut and there’s a ton of room for increased taxes and they would of course do both.”

                So if Geither and Summers said that we have to eliminate or substantially cut Medicare and Social Security to prevent a default or ratings downgrade then Maxine Waters and Tom Harkin would do it, all while successfully collecting the same revenue streams?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
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                says:

                @Koz, maybe they could shake their heads sadly and point out that there’s no fat in the budget to cut.

                Then you could point out how they’re just being realistic and, truly, the only possible hope for fiscal restraint.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                “Inflation is prostrate right now so if there was ever a shortage of money, a real one, then the Fed would simply print more and there really is not any serious threat of a ratings downgrade.”

                And inflation would stay prostrate too if that happened?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                “maybe they could shake their heads sadly and point out that there’s no fat in the budget to cut.”

                Maybe. That seems at least as likely as the idea that they would cut Medicare or SS to prevent a ratings downgrade.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                “But frankly the Dems at least have two engines to use to deal with those issues (spending cuts AND tax increases) and the GOP only has one.”

                Finally, what are you assuming about the availability of tax revenue? Isn’t it plausible that the available tax revenue might vanish or significantly decrease either because economic activity has shrank or because economically productive people have moved to another jurisdiction?Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to North
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                says:

                “Maybe. That seems at least as likely as the idea that they would cut Medicare or SS to prevent a ratings downgrade.”

                Oh boy. Really? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34258944

                From the article, date December 3, 2009:
                “Unflinching on a critical first test, Senate Democrats closed ranks Thursday behind $460 billion in politically risky Medicare cuts at the heart of health care legislation, thwarting a Republican attempt to doom President Barack Obama’s sweeping overhaul.

                The bid by the bill’s critics to reverse cuts to the popular Medicare program failed on a vote of 58-42, drawing the support of two Democratic defectors. Approval would have stripped out money needed to pay for expanding coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans.”

                I’d say that, at least on the national level, the Dems seem to have a far greater willingness to cut popular programs than do the Republicans. Nor was the above a purely political ploy to derail health care reform by the Republicans – it was indeed one of the primary bases upon which they opposed HCR from day one. Or have we forgotten the infamous “Keep your damn government hands off my Medicare”?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                “Oh boy. Really? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34258944

                Yes, really. The D’s would have never have proposed cutting Medicare Advantage if they didn’t want to spend ten times more on an expanded entitlement.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
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                says:

                “Sticks and stones Koz. I’d say I’m equally conversant in politics and economics (though is that an indictment or praise?)”

                And I’d say you’re not. But the point is not to call you names, but to illustrate, at maybe a more concrete level than you’re used to dealing with, that some of the things you’re taking as givens are in fact highly contingent circumstances and should thought of that way.Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to North
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                says:

                And yet the Dems on a national level were willing to cut Medicare as part of the price of achieving a policy goal, while the GOP was not.

                The point isn’t to show how the Dems are far more willing to cut programs if they see it as a fiscal necessity; it’s to show that they are certainly no less willing to do so than the Republicans; or, if you will, that the Republicans are certainly no more willing to do so than the Democrats. Had the GOP amendment succeeded, would it have killed HCR? I’m not at all sure it would have. But it certainly would have succeeded in making HCR a much worse deal for the American people. Point being that there was a political cost involved in voting against that amendment, but little to no political cost in voting for it. Yet the Dems voted against it and the Republicans unanimously voted for it.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                “And yet the Dems on a national level were willing to cut Medicare as part of the price of achieving a policy goal, while the GOP was not. ”

                Maybe yes, maybe not. Clearly the GOP was not willing to cut Medicare Advantage for the sake of accomplishing the Dems’ policy goal.

                Would the GOP be willing to cut Medicare Advantage by itself? I don’t know really, they’ve never got the chance.Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                “Would the GOP be willing to cut Medicare Advantage by itself? I don’t know really, they’ve never got the chance.”

                So, what we know is that under some circumstances, the Democrats are in fact willing to make cuts to popular entitlement programs, and Medicare in particular. We do not know whether Republicans would be willing to do so because “they’ve never had the chance,” but we do know that they are perfectly willing to enact large entitlements (Medicare D) and get us into unnecessary and expensive wars, etc.

                Therefore, the clear and unavoidable conclusion is that the Republicans are the only hope for fiscal sanity and limited government?

                I started this debate convinced that we are fiscally screwed no matter who is in power. Right now, I’m leaning towards the conclusion that there’s a lower chance of us being fiscally screwed (at least on the national level) if the Dems are in power because there’s at least some evidence that they’re willing to make politically unpopular budget cuts, as compared to none with regards to the Republicans. This is not a conclusion I expected to reach, but here I am.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
                Ignored
                says:

                @Mark , I share your confusion Mark me lad. I started out the conversation thinking Koz was on the GOP’s payroll. Now I’ve ended up thinking he’s being paid by the DLC.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              “Yes we can draw out our scary projections about spending and the growth of structural entitlements. That’s an issue that has to be dealt with.”

              Ahh, but you just told us yesterday that was a paranoid conspiracy theory pipe dream. Isn’t possible that before the wise Demo poohbah bankers wake up and and figure out the scale of the problem that we’ll have lost the opportunity to address it?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                @Koz, Well not you’re straw manning. I only accused your carping about Moody’s and the SEC as a conspiracy theory pipedream. If your reading comprehension is going Koz it’s probably time to throw in the towel.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                @Koz, The US has significantly lower taxes than much of the West and even compared to its own tax history. They could easily be raised. And as for skipping jurisdictions? What you’re thinking all the wealthy will move to Somalia or something?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                “Well not you’re straw manning. I only accused your carping about Moody’s and the SEC as a conspiracy theory pipedream. If your reading comprehension is going Koz it’s probably time to throw in the towel.”

                Uhhh, no I’m not. You clearly said that the whole idea that Treasuries could default or suffer a downgrade was a fever swamp hallucination. Check the tape.

                But frankly I don’t care about that anyway. Isn’t it possible that before the wise Demo poohbah bankers wake up and and figure out the scale of the problem that we’ll have lost the opportunity to address it? Or are you supposing that the bankers in their omniscience will always have a firm grasp of where the point of no return is?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                “And as for skipping jurisdictions? What you’re thinking all the wealthy will move to Somalia or something?”

                Or move their economic activity there. You have heard of globalization I take it. That’s a little harder to do now that we’ve had a global recession so more jurisdictions are more aggressive about collecting revenue. But, the flip side of that is the capital base is smaller so it produces less profit to for taxing entities to get a piece of.

                Tax rates can undoubtedly be raised. But what assumptions are you making about tax revenue to think that you can collect it?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                @Koz, Well considering that we went the entire Carter, Regan and Clinton term with tax rates higher than they were once Bush Minor cut them I’d say that tax rates could be raised quite easily and there’d be very little expectation that the assorted wealthy would skip town without paying. The US is very lightly taxed compared to our peer countries. But frankly you’re just batting around semantics.

                I sure did say that was fever swamp idiocy, but it ain’t no conspiracy theorizing. You’re blurring different arguments together and binging from one quibble to the next like an over-charged pinball machine. Look, the Democrats are far from indifferent to the cost of government. Screeching that they are and that we’re about to default or be downgraded in our credit rating is just unhinged. Beyond the point that it makes ya look kindof silly when it doesn’t come to pass like you’ve said it also means you’re weak manning the GOP’s opposition and making it harder to accurately gauge what your own party has to deal with.

                Now certainly just laying out unanchored assertions that “the GOP is the only hope of fiscal control for the country just ‘koz” certainly works well with your handle but I don’t think it really is very persuasive.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                @Koz, Well certainly the economists could be wrong. But we have a lot of people ahead of us in the line of nations on the road to disaster. Setting aside the question of whether the entire field of economists can predict the point of no return (I generally think they can). Maybe when something bigger than Greece keels over that’d be a good warning. Ireland at least though I’d think England would make the ideal canary in the coalmine if you wish to completely ignore the economists.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                “Well certainly the economists could be wrong. But we have a lot of people ahead of us in the line of nations on the road to disaster. Setting aside the question of whether the entire field of economists can predict the point of no return (I generally think they can). Maybe when something bigger than Greece keels over that’d be a good warning.”

                Then I take it you’re supposing that the professional economic consensus is that the sovereign debt of the US (and Europe) is not a serious issue, or at the very least not an imminently dangerous one. If that’s the case I think you need to read up on what people are saying. I can cite links if it helps but frankly I don’t who you read that leads you to believe that. Paul Krugman comes to mind right away but after that the it gets real thin real quick.

                One other thing worth mentioning about the macrointerventions. We’ve seen two of them in the last two years. The first was TARP (and the stuff associated with it) and the second was the PIGS sovereign debt bailout we saw in the last week or so. You should think about this in terms of what we’re talking about. Bailouts or interventions can work, but when and if they work, they prevent the economic equivalent of plane crashes. They don’t solve any real economic problem, which has to be done in any case. So we might as well start now.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                “Well considering that we went the entire Carter, Regan and Clinton term with tax rates higher than they were once Bush Minor cut them I’d say that tax rates could be raised quite easily and there’d be very little expectation that the assorted wealthy would skip town without paying.”

                There’s lots of things that people or companies (wealthy or not) can do to avoid paying taxes short of skipping town.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
                Ignored
                says:

                “Screeching that they are and that we’re about to default or be downgraded in our credit rating is just unhinged.”

                I think I’ve been pretty judicious all things considered. In any case, it’s not so much when we will default or be downgraded, it’s the severity of the consequences when and if that happens which I don’t think you have any idea for.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to North
            Ignored
            says:

            “So because the Republicans have some backbenchers rattling around who talk a good game about reducing the size of government when they’re not in any position to do so we’re to simply accept that the GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility?”

            No, no, no. There are Republican budget hawk backbenchers but the only one in the bunch is Ron Paul. The reason they can’t do anything about our fiscal crisis is because they are in the minority party, otherwise they would.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Koz
              Ignored
              says:

              @Koz, “The reason they can’t do anything about our fiscal crisis is because they are in the minority party, otherwise they would.”

              Remember when they were in the majority party?

              Good times.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Ok, let’s think about what might be different:

                1. GWB was President of the United States then. He’s a rancher in Texas now.

                2. We were in an expansion then, we are in a recession (sort of) now. If you have hope of restoring a high-growth economy, you could always vote Republican.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                @Jaybird, Wait, so you’re saying that Obama and the Democrats caused the economy to tank before they even took office? Time travelling donkeys? That is scary, to the catacombs!Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m saying the recession wasn’t Obama’s fault but the current economy, ie the “recovery” is. And in business-cycle terms, we are in a recovery-expansion now. Look it up.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                @Koz, uh that’s flat out contradicting what you just said. Your item #2 said that we were in an expansion then and are in a recession now. Now you come out and admit that we are in the beginnings of an expansion now (and logically we were going into a recession then under Bush).Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Uhh, no it’s not, and it’s important to understand the difference. We had a classical inventory-based, aggregate demand, negative growth, etc., recession. That part is over.

                What we are in the middle of (and what’s left over now) is much more important. Ie, fundamental changes to the economy that are deeper than one business cycle. We are entering an expansion now. The problem is that the good news from the cyclical expansion is getting dwarfed by negative secular reconstitution of the economy.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                @Koz, Well we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out but I’m skeptical that it’ll adhere to any partisan framework very well.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to North
            Ignored
            says:

            “Meanwhile GOP leadership wails and cavils about every budget cut (see NASA and New York for instance) but we’re to pay no attention to the leadership behind the curtain.”

            Frankly I suspect Obama might be right in a couple of those cases. But, most of these are fights about policy more than spending anyway, precisely because the spending impact that they’re arguing about is so small.

            Let’s have a bill in Congress that stops all civilian public employees from acruing any more defined benefit pension and let’s see who lines up where.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    I suspect that it’s true that Republicans offer the best hope for fiscal responsibility in the same way that Republicans offer the best hope for repeal of Roe v. Wade.

    Technically true, but not interesting given that the difference is the difference in how quickly ground is lost, rather than in how quickly ground is gained.

    The Republicans spend spend spend spend like Republicans.
    The Democrats spend spend spend spend spend like Democrats.

    If you are looking for “Responsibility” and your vocabulary is limited to “Republican” or “Democrat”, you might be tempted to say that Republicans are better.

    If, however, your vocabulary is somewhat larger than that, you might be tempted to say that the Republicans are not a realistic option.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s like if the Democrats proposed burning down the Capitol building in a great conflagration, the Republicans would say “no, no… we propose burning down the Capitol building over a period of 2 weeks” and Kos wants to point out that the Republicans are our best hope for sustaining the Capitol over the longest period of time.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        @Jaybird, I’d say it’s more like the Republicans saying “no, no, we propose drowining the Capitol building in an epic flood,” and Koz wants to point out that the Republicans will prevent the Capitol from burning down.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        Uhhh, no. Really, no. This is kind of a silly analogy, but taking it for what it is, it’s like the GOP is going to prevent the fire in the next two weeks, and in those two weeks marshal our water hoses and all the rest of it so that when the fire comes back two weeks later we’ll be in a position to beat it.Report

      • Avatar Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        @Jaybird, Am I correct in assuming the proper mode of thought is to locate that group who would really, really, really cut both federal spending and the federal monolith as well?
        Let’s see, Is there any chance in hell that the Obamacons are going to reduce anything? I don’t think so! Is there a chance the TP phenomenon is going to result in a congress of ‘people’ who may truly reflect the prevalent attitude that “they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore?” And, that this ‘new’ congress may actually repeal Obama’s abortive ‘health care’, and actually reduce spending and begin to cut away gummint fat?
        This weekend my wife and I recv’d a phone call from Bill Johnson, the Republican candidate for the 6th Ohio Congressional District. Not a member of his staff, not a phone bank, but a call from the candidate himself. We talked for twenty minutes or so and he gave us his ‘home’ phone number and said to call if we had any questions. He said he wants to repeal not reform Obama’s health care, reduce federal spending, and reduce the size of gumint.
        I’m 63 years old, kids. I’ve never, ever talked with a candidate for congressional office before. I’m getting the feeling that somethings afoot! Maybe we’re going to put ‘Americans’ in the Congress, and maybe we’re finally going to get a representative congress?
        But, I have a little hope now!Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Bob Cheeks
          Ignored
          says:

          @Bob Cheeks, Well Bob if the TP prompts the GOP to “come home to Jesus” on fiscal issues then maybe all that ruckus will have been worth something.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob Cheeks
          Ignored
          says:

          @Bob Cheeks, if we weren’t so close to watching the excesses of the previous administration becoming the new baseline of acceptability, maybe I’d shrug and abandon the point.

          However: I spent a good couple of years on Redstate and one of the things I noticed most is the fact that people were defending Bush *NOT* because Bush was particularly defensible but because they found his opposition to be so odious.

          Bush issued a brief on behalf of The State for the Heller case. ON BEHALF OF THE STATE!!! And people started defending Bush using stereotypical anti-gun arguments. Like “does a private citizen *REALLY* need an AR-15?” kinda arguments.

          If there are so many people out there more than willing to pick up and abandon arguments because they are convenient or because they are playing enemy of my enemy of my enemy of my enemy of my enemy of my enemy games, it’s fair to ask whether the arguments being given by Republican Politician and Republican Partisans are not just lying.

          What might help me is a fairly straight-up and forthright admission that the Republicans, under Bush, don’t look anything like the party being talked up.

          “Yes, Bush screwed everything up. Yes, we defended Bush too often for too many mistakes. We’ve learned our lesson.”

          Something like that.

          As it is, this denial that the last 8 years happened and under whose agency they happened results in me wondering exactly how freakin’ stupid Koz thinks I am.

          Which, let’s face it, ain’t the best way to kick off an extended conversation.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            “As it is, this denial that the last 8 years happened and under whose agency they happened results in me wondering exactly how freakin’ stupid Koz thinks I am.”

            I don’t think you’re stupid as much as petulant, which of course isn’t the same thing at all. This brings me to something underlying my assertions about the GOP, etc, something that I should have made more explicit before.

            That is, the things that we really want in life are the things we take chances to get. When an opportunity arises, an attempt must be made. Sometimes it succeeds and sometimes it fails but if no attempt is made you never really wanted it in the first place. Instead, it’s a different thing, ie, I would be happy if some desirable thing fell into my lap.

            As this applies to our prior discussion, limited government is not a sure thing. But, it’s not just that the Republicans are better than the other team, but forgetting about them for a moment we’re in with a fighting chance to navigate our way out of this economic crisis and bring sustainable government to the United States. Which is not at all the same thing as saying that it’s guaranteed because it plainly is not. There’s been a lot of votes cast for Democratic candidates for a long time and we’ve got to pay the piper. Nonetheless, these are the cards we have and if we’re too petulant to play them, then shame on us.Report

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