Let’s not bicker and argue about who killed who…


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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39 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    Good stuff Eric. I have really appreciated living in America’s Saudi Arabia the past few years. I would add that the drumbeat about the evils of gov, public unions and cutting spending are absolutely no different in a state relatively flush with money and resources.

    I don’t want to get off the point of the post but i have question about your view on public employee unions. I understand the concern about them but doesn’t arguing against them lead to essentially saying public employees have fewer rights then other people. What justifies public employees losing protections and rights others have?Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      @greginak, Not at all, greg. I think public employees should have the exact same rights as anyone else. I just think it gets very complicated when a certain sector of society suddenly has the right to retire at 55 with a pension nearly equal to their salary. Cops in California can retire at 50 with 90% salary. This is simply not on a par with most workers outside of government, and it’s not sustainable. I also think that when the employees of government wield too much influence over the elected officials within government that this becomes a very murky situation – and special interest politics are special interest politics. Big government unions that hold too much sway need to be reformed. I’m not saying we should do away with them entirely.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        “This is simply not on a par with most workers outside of government, and it’s not sustainable.”

        And the reason why things like that happen is because public sector compensation agreements are not set in arm’s length negotiations and everybody with three brain cells to rub together knows it.

        That’s why we have to we have to work aggressively to end those things and that’s gonna hurt some people’s feelings (and pocketbook). There’s just no way around it.Report

  2. Avatar Koz says:

    “Whether Chris Christie is up to the task of fixing all of this is impossible to say.”

    That’s exactly right. This is going to take more than one governor, and more than one election. But when people like Mark can’t bring themselves to vote for him, it really makes things harder. That (among other things) is why the Republicans are the legitimate hope for limited government in America today and the Libertarians aren’t.Report

    • Avatar Travis says:

      @Koz, anyone who lived through the Bush Administration and isn’t a blind ideologue knows exactly how committed the Republican Party is to “limited government.”

      That would be “not at all,” by the way.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        What the hell? The Republicans’ commitment to limited government wasn’t as strong as it should have been, especially under GWB. But “not at all”? That’s ridiculous.Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          @Koz, can you name a single way in which government was limited under the Bush II Administration?

          Invasive airport searches and unaccountable no-fly lists? Check.

          Secret prisons and illegal kidnappings? Check.

          Massive expansion of military spending? Check.

          Starting aggressive wars under false pretences? Check.

          Vehement opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians? Check.

          Support of Internet censorship? Check.

          An FCC staffed by Christian fundamentalists investigating every use of the word “fuck”? Check.

          “Faith-based initiatives” that amounted to government entanglement with religion? Check.

          Ridiculous escalation of deficit spending? Check.

          Oh, but he did cut taxes on the rich. I forgot, the Republican definition of “limited government” begins and ends with cutting taxes.Report

          • Avatar Koz says:

            “can you name a single way in which government was limited under the Bush II Administration?”

            Among other things IIRC, the Administration supported the plaintiffs in the Michigan affirmative action cases, though again not as strongly as some would have liked.Report

  3. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    I think at a certain point referencing the Bush administration whenever speaking of Republican’s commitment to limited government becomes not only ineffective but inaccurate. Bush was not the only Republican president nor will he be the last.Report

    • Avatar lukas says:

      Is there any reason to believe that the next Republican president will be much better than Bush on these issues?Report

    • @E.D. Kain, The record of Nixon and, for that matter, Reagan, wasn’t exactly stellar on this front either. Like I said in the other thread, Obama is even to the right of Nixon on economic issues, to say nothing of other things.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      @E.D. Kain, my take is that it’s *NOT* about Bush.

      It’s about those who defended Bush.

      If people are willing to defend Bush’s excesses, they’ll be willing to defend Romney’s.
      Or Guiliani’s.
      Or Huckabee’s.

      If there’s no demonstrated principle on the part of Republicans when it comes to libertarian inclinations, why should libertarians vote for Republicans for any reason that isn’t tactical (and thus, abandonable the second the Republicans prove to not have any principle, again)?Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        @Jaybird, Yes, but the other option is the Democrats. I see room to hope in people like Mitch Daniels and Gary Johnson and maybe even Chris Christie. I don’t have similar faith in the Democratic party, though I admit to really liking Ron Wyden if only because I thought his health care plan was very good.Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          @E.D. Kain, I really think you underestimate the degree to which George W. Bush has poisoned the Republican brand, long-term.Report

        • Avatar Koz says:

          @E.D. Kain,

          You put those two together (and I don’t disagree with either one) but let’s note that to say the GOP is better than the Demos and that the there is a subset of the GOP in whom we can place hope are not exactly the same thing.

          Jaybird is right to argue that the GOP is epsilon better than Demo ignorance and depravity is not going to motivate anyone. That’s why, for me at least (and the exasperation of some), it’s important to emphasize the hope part, that the GOP represents real hope for prosperity and limited government in America.Report

        • Avatar lukas says:

          @E.D. Kain, what about Dems like NM Gov. Bill Richardson?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @E.D. Kain, Yes, but the other option is the Democrats.

          Not necessarily.

          Most of my elections beyond Sheriff have 3 names. The bigger ones sometimes have 4 or 5. And the guy I voted for for President came in 16th.

          There are usually other options.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        “….why should libertarians vote for Republicans for any reason that isn’t tactical…”

        To establish credibility that libertarians will actually fight a battle for limited government instead of SWPL class solidarity.Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          @Koz, as enumerated, the Republican record on “limited government” is abysmal at best.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Koz, Republicans are for limited government in the same way that Democrats are for Racial Equality.

          It makes for a nice commercial but, honestly, when given the opportunity to change things, there’s more money to be made in keeping the carrot danging in front of the faces of the rubes than in actually, you know, doing something.

          Kinda like the Republicans are with abortion.Report

          • Avatar Koz says:

            Sort of but not really. To a large extent it works just like you say it does. But there is a difference in that limited government is a real goal where we can make concrete progress if the political stars lined up in the right way.

            The prob with the D’s racial agenda is that there is no comprehensible point to it, except the vague sense that they want to be on the same team as downtrodden minority groups and against bourgeois America.Report

    • Avatar Travis says:

      @E.D. Kain, if Republicans wish to disassociate themselves from the big-government conservatism represented by the epic failure of George W. Bush’s presidency, it would behoove them to introduce policy proposals which would roll back the worst of his excesses.

      Call me when John Boehner sponsors a bill which would immediately close Guantanamo, abolish the no-fly list and allow gays and lesbians to serve in the military.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        While we can just criticize the Republican’s for failing to uphold limited government while they were in power, there are a few tricks they don’t have. Here’s a funny paragraph from Kevin Williamson at National Review:

        “The state of Illinois — broke, overleveraged, and still refusing to get its accounts in order — is up to something interesting: selling bonds to meet its pension obligations. As one of the many states that refuse to set aside adequate money to fund its public-employee pensions, Illinois is headed to the debt markets to raise $3.7 billion for pension liabilities to get it through the year. This is a double dip: In January, Illinois sold $2.4 billion in bonds for pension obligations. Actually, make that a triple dip: It sold $10 billion in bonds to fund its pension liabilities in 2003. “States don’t traditionally fund their pensions with debt,” says CNN in a nice bit of understatement, “but the practice frees up other money that can be used for operations.” The double whammy here is that Illinois’s pensions are in trouble because it already spent the money it needed for its pension contributions in past years on other spending: Which is to say, Illinois is borrowing money it will have to repay eventually to repay the pension money it already spent to pay for other spending it couldn’t afford then and can’t afford now. If you’re wondering where Barack Obama developed his fiscal finesse, you don’t have far to look.”

        Unfortunately, I fear that stopping crap like won’t be sufficient for the economy to recover. But, failing to stop crap like this is a guaranteed disaster scenario because nobody is going to ever going to believe there’s anything good happening in government finance while it continues. This is worth bearing in mind as I talk about punishing public sector unions like in the other thread.Report

  4. Avatar Koz says:

    “Is there any reason to believe that the next Republican president will be much better than Bush on these issues?”

    Well, yes actually, because the mood in the country is different and the Tea Parties are one (big) manifestation of that. Brink-Lindsey-style liberaltarianism is especially disappointing in this regard because the Tea Parties are actually doing the things that the liberaltarians are talking about.

    Ie, that they can have meaningful political activism in the service of limited government while still maintaining arm’s length distance from the GOP. Unfortunately the real point of liberaltarianism is SWPL class solidarity, of which there is frankly very little good to be said.Report

    • Avatar Travis says:

      @Koz, “yes, actually.”

      When the Republican minority (majority?) in Congress proposes a major rollback of a Bush II anti-freedom initiative (warrantless wiretapping, airport strip-searches, secret prisons, military expansion) and the Democrats shoot it down, then I’ll believe things have changed.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        In that case, your problem is with the people in general, not the GOP.

        Maybe if we could be confident that unemployment is going to be below 10% for any sustainable length of time, we could consider the D’s on economic issues. As it is, the GOP is the limited government way to go.Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          @Koz, I’m sure the people locked up in Guantanamo without trial, the American citizens who can’t travel because of an unaccountable “no-fly list” and the gay and lesbian Americans who can’t marry are very impressed with the GOP’s record on limited government.Report

        • Avatar Travis says:

          @Koz, is your argument that “the people” support those enumerated non-limited-government policies?

          But I thought conservatives were all about a government limited by the Constitution, regardless of a policy’s popularity?

          How do you square warrantless wiretapping and airport strip-searches with “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”?

          How do you square Guantanamo Bay with “no person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury… nor shall any person… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” and “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury”?

          How do you square the fact that *none* of the policies I’ve enumerated (government telling people who can marry, government censoring the airwaves and the Internet, correspond with anything remotely resembling “limited government?”

          Please define what the Republican-dominated government from 2001-2008 achieved in terms of limiting government.Report

          • Avatar Koz says:

            “is your argument that “the people” support those enumerated non-limited-government policies?”

            Sort of, but not quite. This actually has to do with something Jaybird brought to my attention a couple months ago. That is, the fight for limited government, if it exists at all, will be fought on terms that the American people want, not that you want.

            That is, that the welfare state gets smaller instead of bigger. Or that the number of Robert Byrd named buildings in West Virginia become fewer instead of greater.

            Or in terms of your list, they may care about invasive searches at the airport but they don’t care about no-fly lists.

            You might rather fight this battle on different policy territory, but that’s your problem. You won’t win any limited government battles without republican legitimacy if you can’t fight them with.Report

            • Avatar Travis says:

              @Koz, the Republican-passed and signed Medicare Part D is the biggest expansion of the “welfare state” since the Great Society.

              Sorry, but reality simply doesn’t square with your ideology.Report

            • Avatar Koz says:

              Or at least it was until the Obama health care bill, or you could argue that it still is on the ground that the main provisions of the Obama bill are never going to go online. But in the main you are absolutely right.

              The mainstream Right opposed Medicare Part D back then (and so did a significant part of the Republicans in Congress, which is why Tom DeLay had to twist arms as hard as he did to get it through).

              But most importantly, Greater Red State America is in a different place now than it was then, and limited government is higher on the agenda. If you really favor limited government you can join them.Report

            • Avatar Travis says:

              @Koz, yes, I favor limited government.

              Please square this plank of the Montana Republican Party platform with “limited government”:

              Homosexual Acts
              We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.

              The GOP not only doesn’t want “limited government,” they want a Taliban-style sex police in the U.S. of A.Report

            • Avatar Travis says:

              @Koz, the Texas Republican Party platform:

              Marriage Licenses – We support legislation that would make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple and for any civil official to perform a marriage ceremony for such.

              Texas Sodomy Statutes – We oppose the legalization of sodomy. We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.

              Limited government, you say?Report

            • Avatar Koz says:

              “That is, the fight for limited government, if it exists at all, will be fought on terms that the American people want, not that you want.”

              Is this somehow opaque for you? Could I restate this in a different way so might be able to understand it better?Report

    • Avatar lukas says:

      @Koz, If I remember correctly, a majority of Tea Partiers now approves of Bush. The movement may have been independent and libertarianish in its beginnings, and in some places it still is. But overall, it has become a tribalist, populist branch of the GOP that pays little more than lip service to limited government.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        “If I remember correctly, a majority of Tea Partiers now approves of Bush.”

        What do you want? Electing Barack Obama as POTUS will do that.Report

  5. Avatar Bo says:

    The reason why the GOP of the future isn’t going to make government smaller is simple: The GOP is old and getting older, and the lion’s share of entitlement spending goes to seniors. For any GOP constituency, you can line up the federal spending that Republican politicians will never cut. Rural voters -> farm subsidies, evangelical christians -> faith-based initiatives, active duty soldiers and defense contractors -> military spending, etc. Constituency consistently trumps ideology and seniors are a large and growing constituency in the GOP. The GOP is well on its way to becoming the “Keep Your Government Hands off my Medicare” party, endlessly talking about smaller government while demanding 90% of the actual government be allowed to expand unchecked. Oddly enough, all this just means that the future GOP is going to act a lot like the GOP of the past 30 years.Report