Occasional Notes: Allaying Fears Edition

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. Avatar North
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    says:

    It’s the closet methinks Jason. Homosexuality is, like it or not, rather egalitarian. Acquiring a gay grandson/daughter/niece/nephew does wonders for one’s attitude to homosexuals. Having a close friend who experiences the same generally produces similar results.

    Thawing attitudes towards gays make it easier to come out of the closet; coming out of the closet makes attitudes thaw. It’s a powerful feedback loop now that it’s actually going.

    But I personally can’t feel remotely self congratulatory about it tho. At 32 I pretty much have just walked comfortably across the bridge the preceding generations of gays died and suffered to build. My younger associates mostly don’t even realize the bridge is there.Report

  2. Avatar Christopher Carr
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    says:

    A friend of mine said around 2006 that Myspace was about showing off how cool you are; Facebook was about showing off how smart you are. Of course, this comes from the days when Facebook was confined to college students and radiating out from the Ivies. Since the Myspace riffraff migrated over to Facebook, it’s been going through a weird schizophrenia that manifests as the disagreeable mess you describe. I think it shows that an all-encompassing social network is unsustainable, but I don’t know what niche Google+ is trying to fill.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I suffer from cross-pollinization of friends as well.

    I have friended high school friends, co-workers, internet friends, and my mom. I backspace a lot. If I backspace too much, I just say “heck with it” and dump the post.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    What I know of the possible default comes from my father-in-law and the Economist- neither of them think it would be a good thing either; not at all. Actually, neither of them seems quite clear on why the US is having this debate, or at least going about it in this way. Luckily, there’s the blogosphere, where I get the sense that the US defaulting on its debt would have a bright side because Obama might get blamed with the inevitalbe economic pain the country would experience and the Republicans could, as a result, get the White House and start acting responsibly. Conversely, it could be good if the Republicans take the blame and the public might hate them and then the Democrats would have a permanent majority. So, you know, it’s a win-win. (Except for whatever comes from convulsing the world markets and permanently damaging the US credit rating.)Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Rufus F.
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      says:

      I haven’t really been following it so much, but I think there’s a bit of Washington Monument Syndrome going on. Check this site out for a more colorful variation of the phenomenon: http://www.savetoby.com/

      I’m not sure going from Aaa to Aa1 is that big of a deal. Not to say that insolvency is a good thing, but we are the default power.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Christopher Carr
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        says:

        Nobody seems to know for sure what’s going to happen. It might be manageable, aside from convulsing the world markets, which might settle soon enough. Can I just suggest that this really is not the time for us to try it and see what happens?Report

        • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Rufus F.
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          says:

          Rufus, I don’t think the GOP or the president will default & see what happens. Polls say the GOP will be blamed for any shutdown ala 1995. Been there done that, and there’s no Gingrich in sight among the GOP leadership.

          It would not be BHO’s style to risk being blamed either. He’s the passive-aggressive president. Even Carter was more aggressive.

          Larry Tribe, an authority acceptable to the left side of the aisle.

          http://volokh.com/2011/07/16/prof-larry-tribe-on-the-constitutionality-of-the-debt-ceiling/

          BTW, Rufus, I couldn’t find the thread to respond to a burr you stuck under my saddle perhaps a week ago. Epistemological nihilism was too strong. What I was looking for is “epistemological solipsism,” that no fact or argument or truth exists outside the lefty bubble.

          Thx for yr Jiminy Cricket insistence on clarity and precision. It was worthy and not in vain. I think solipsism holds, but pls do feel free to demur.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to tom van dyke
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            says:

            Yeah, solipsism works perfectly. The problem with nihilism is it suggests that these people you’re describing don’t believe it’s possible by means at all to gain accurate knowledge of the world, which is a lot more pessimistic than just saying you don’t believe any information coming from outlets you don’t like or agree with.

            Bruce Bartlett has said the President can override Congress pretty easily if he wants to on this one, although lately Bartlett’s sounding unsure that that’s going to happen. I think, if that’s possible, that’s what’s going to happen, especially because that allows them to absolve themselves of responsibility, and it’s not like the economy is going to thrive because of this. Incidentally, that ‘imperial presidency’ that everyone here hates? I’d say it’s pretty closely connected to this populist drive to make our non-Presidential elected officials do everything they can to absolve themselves of any responsibility for governing.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Christopher Carr
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        says:

        If the US government defaults its credit rating will fall a lot more than that. Overnight it would become effectively impossible for the US government to borrow (try borrowing money with a credit rating of D), that means closing the primary deficit immediately. I may think its necessary for the US government to cub its spending, but a handbrake turn like that is never good for an economy, no matter the direction in which the change occurs.Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James K
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          Yeah, but why does everything suddenly change on August 2nd? I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, just that the date of August 2nd kind of seems like December 23, 2012.Report

          • Or that it’s being marketed that way.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Christopher Carr
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            Chris; per Treasury on August the 2nd they run out of accounting tricks to use to allow the government to pay everything it has committed to pay on the day it committed to pay it. Accordingly after August the 2nd something has to go unpaid.
            There won’t be a default of course, no one is mad enough to even consider not paying the debt. It obviously gets paid first. But other things won’t be paid whether that be social security checks, soldier wages or something else.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
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              says:

              Obviously, more light rail would give us a government that didn’t need to rely on accounting tricks to pay its bills.

              Out of curiosity, isn’t money for Social Security and Medicare still coming into the gummint via everybody’s withholding? Surely that money is earmarked for Social Security and Medicare in cases like this one, right?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Jay am I missing something? I don’t get where light rail comes into the matter.

                With regards to your question: the government has revenues coming in dailey of course but they’re irregular whereas the expenses are generally the opposite. On some days the receipts are bigger than the costs for the day but often they are smaller and of course ultimately the expenses are more than the receipts since the US government runs a deficit annually.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
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                says:

                I believe that Obama was still calling for more money for light rail fairly recently. I was being snarky.

                If the receipts for some days are bigger than others, I think that it’d be best to use the funds earmarked for Medicare/Social Security for Medicare/Social Security and then see what we can buy with the money left over.

                If there’s any, of course.

                There should be. I suspect that there’s more money than just that being taken out of folks’ checks.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Can anyone link to a site that layout all the Social Security spending?
                I’ma guessin’ there’s a ton of people who should be suckin’ the welfare teat on another commie-dem program rather then ss.
                Also, didn’t LBJ unlock the ‘lock’ box and throw ss money into the general fund? Ya gotta love those progressive, commie-dems.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Jay, that makes sense to be; both sides remain quite firmly in support of their respective pet spending projects.

                Mcardle and a couple others crunched the numbers on the question of spending recently and guestimated that after August 2 the revenues will generally be enough to fund debt servicing, most military spending (Wages and support yes, but not non-vital defense contractors), social security, Medicare/Medicaid and that is about it. Obviously it wouldn’t be that simple; they’d have to spend less on the top 4 and spend more elsewhere since without say at least some payments to civil servants there wouldn’t be anyone to cut the various checks.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
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                says:

                Assuming we do that, wouldn’t we be able to do that *WITHOUT* harming either Senior Citizens or our credit rating?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North
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                says:

                Yes, we could pay Social Security and Medicaid first and thus probably not impact seniors much. It might be politically a good idea to let them be impacted slightly; it’d be a way to get voters actually paying attention to the issue which currently is very low profile.

                As for credit ratings; some of the agencies have fussed that even if the debts are paid on time they’re going to say nasty things about the US’s credit worthiness unless a deal is struck to establish credibility in the long term finances but that seems like a stretch. They might say something pithy in their addenda’s but it doesn’t seem likely they’d actually downgrade the credit rating. It’s not like there are a bunch of economies like the US floating around.Report

        • Avatar Lyle in reply to James K
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          says:

          Al the fed has to do is to issue currency which you are required by law to accept (legal tender for all debts public and private) This is how the confederacy financed itself. In addition history shows that borrowers have short memories it did not take long after Argentina defaulted for people to loan it money again.Report

          • Avatar James K in reply to Lyle
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            says:

            Here’s the thing, bond markets aren’t stupid. If you inflate your currency that will pay your current debts, but subsequent debt will be charged at a higher interest rate to account for the inflation. Or, if you go really nuts with inflation, people will start denominating your debt in another currency; most countries don’t get to borrow in their own currency.

            It’s true that default doesn’t mean never borrowing again, but your credit rating won’t recover quickly. That means debt is going to be a lot more expensive for the US for quite some item after default.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James K
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              says:

              It’s a little more complicated in the real world. You’d think, all things considered, that everything you’ve said is true, and that’s how it’s taught.

              But the bond market is sorta like that bit of Men in Black: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. All the stupid people are panicking. Breathless reporters who don’t know a bond from a bill are out there, dutifully carrying water for the rumormongers — and guess what — the bond market isn’t buying it. They know this is all theatrical bullshit from the GOP. Obama’s giving them everything they ought to get and August T Bills are moving through the pipe like shit through a goose and absolutely nobody believes there will be any problem.

              This isn’t to say that some people aren’t moving out of bonds. They are, but where are they moving? Chinese paper? That’s a joke: the Chinese markets are the worst-regulated in the world. The stock market, for all its paper gains, is anemic.

              And Moody’s is chock full of maniacs. I don’t believe a thing those assholes say and haven’t for many years. These are the same jackasses who graded all those tranches of mortgage-based instruments. They should have been shut down in 2008, there had to be some chicanery going on in all that mess.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I’m generally in agreement with you, BlaiseP, that this is all overblown.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Christopher Carr
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                says:

                Overblown? How so? I’ve been trading for many years now. I watched, horrified, as the equities markets deregulated themselves by dint of chicanery and much happy horseshit from our so-called leadership.

                After seventeen trillion dollars or so of paper profits had blown away and the USA stood like Atlas, re-shouldering the debt of the world after the Hercules-es of the banking industry tricked the government into absorbing yet another blow caused by their criminal stupidity, I should think I’m understating the real problem. Save that useful adjective for the reporting on this subject. I call ’em like I see ’em.

                At some point, probably around 2004, I realized the market reporting was not to be trusted. I was watching one of those Flip This House episodes on television, where some telegenic couple would buy a dowdy old property, put in a few appliances, daub on a coat of paint, then turn a big profit on the resale. I was at Citigroup as they jiggered their loan approval system to route what had been denials into a pricing tree I constructed for them. Suddenly, it all came into focus and I bought as much gold as I could afford, knowing what was coming.

                The cute little floppy-eared Tobys of this wicked world were not saved from the consequences of the bankers’ colossal idiocy. They were cooked and eaten and evicted from their homes and lost their jobs and their kids aren’t going to get Pell Grants. No, I do not think I’ve overblown the issue at all. I have a working copy of TradeStation assiduously poring over my positions on the other monitor, and I have ever profited from the stupidity of others. Along with hydrogen, they are the most abundant elements in the universe, but stupidity has a longer shelf life.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Let me rephrase: the hooplah over the world coming to an end unless we do something by August 2nd is overblown. Nothing fundamentally changes on that date. We still have the same problems. No matter what politicians do, we’re still massively in debt, the economy is still broken.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Christopher Carr
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                says:

                I have a strange outlook on the world, admittedly, and cannot reasonably expect folks to agree with me on very much. Yet here is what I see:

                The world economy is not broken. It’s just grown more efficient, an intrinsic quality of capitalism itself. The very wealthy are doing quite well indeed. Though disasters arise in the world, opportunities abound: enterprising souls are wiring up Africa for cell phones, India’s coming to terms with its own prosperity. My industry, software, is still woefully short of qualified talent and there’s no end in sight from the demand side. The USA is still a safe haven, both for people and capitalism.

                I’m not even sure the problems are the same from day to day. We’re faced with a structural problem: as the bolus of the Baby Boomers passes through the pipeline, they continue to consume resources all out of proportion to their actual numbers, as they’ve done all their lives, the selfish gits.

                See, all this thinking about the Same Problems got us into this mess. We’re unwilling to look at national health care and education with any emphasis on cost savings and managing results. It’s a symptom of our lack of vision as a nation, that we worry about debt and not about investing in our future.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Christopher Carr
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                says:

                And Sen. Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2006, CC. It’s all political theater but that doesn’t mean there’s not an underlying truth in poetry or fiction.

                Christ, this blog just did Harry Fucking Potter. Theater is all we understand.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Christopher Carr
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                says:

                And I understand your POV, BlaiseP. But Obamacare is an a priori proposition. Socialized medicine fits a monoethnological ethos, where “we the people” is synonymous with “our” government.

                Not ours. Since perhaps the Federalists’ Alien & Sedition Acts, gov’t has been the people’s enemy, at best a necessary evil, never a necessary good.

                This is the American vibe, and for better or worse, God Bless America. The rest of the world cleaves to Alexandre Kojeve’s vision, of a UN, of an EU, leading to the Universal and Homogeneous State.

                Fuck that, said Leo Strauss. A Universal Philosophy is the End of Philosophy. Vive la différence! I’m not a Straussian, but of all I’ve taken away from him, Uncle Leo got this one damn right.

                America, for all her creative destruction and willingness to embrace the new day, remains the world’s last and best hope. Systems are the end of wisdom. In the end, Kojeve offers only tyranny.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Christopher Carr
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                says:

                The more I look at Kojève, the weirder he gets.

                As for health care, Tom, I’d urge you to think through what might be possible if we’d apply economies of scale to the proposition. Look at what Walmart can do with the price of prescription medicine. Now if Walmart can do it, why can’t the government manage this stunt? When I was over in the Twin Cities, they’d have bus tours headed to Canada to buy prescription drugs. Even Sarah Palin availed herself of Canadian health care.

                I don’t believe there are American Values. There are only human values. We have not always been a particularly good exponent of the rights of man at any time in history, though we’ve certainly believed we were somehow superior. I believe in this country, not because I believe all the self-congratulatory rhetoric, but because it’s a work in progress.

                Systems are not the end of wisdom: they are the working axioms. Systems manage rule sets. People manage the exceptions.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Christopher Carr
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                says:

                I don’t believe there are American Values. There are only human values.

                I’ll take this up at the appropriate time, BlaiseP. Modern “human values” and “human rights” per the UN and the EU are simulacra of the real thing as limned in the Declaration. Rorty and even Maritain made a stab at it, but they failed. Modern “rights talk” is a Tower of Babel.

                As for universal health care, it’s of the same fabric as Kojeve’s Universal and Homogeneous State. Like Strauss, I do not doubt that it will be imposed, but it will perish because it’s not coherent with human nature, and esp not our American ethos.

                I’ve seen the math, and your and BHO’s and the Eurostatist’s argument makes sense on its face. But wisdom is not facial. Reality is more than skin-deep.

                RomneyCare in Massachusetts was a great and principled experiment under federalism, that the states are our laboratories, and I was all for it. Would that it had worked!

                But Obama has doubled down on yet another losing hand, or if that be too strong, another roll of the dice or spin of the wheel.

                No. It is foolishness to play the Martingale.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Christopher Carr
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                (wearily) Just you do that, Tom. Me, I see the world as it is and work toward what might be. I have heard all this crap about Socialized Medicine since Reagan was doing his harum-scarum record for the AMA. I know what it costs to run a rough and ready dispensary in Niger Republic, the poorest nation on earth, at the back of beyond and it costs peanuts to treat the vast majority of human illnesses. We did charge a nominal fee, for what is free is of no value, but all I see from you is the endless regurgitation of the same crap I’ve heard since I was a little boy from the Republican Party.

                Human rights is not a Tower of Babel. It is simple geology. As mankind grows out of his ancient ignorance, he will be forced to eventually make the right choices, once he’s run out of options.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Christopher Carr
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                says:

                I’m weary, too, Blaise. Should you engage any of my points instead of bury them, I’ll respond. Good night.Report

              • There are pragmatic reasons for universal health care; some might even say the most compelling justification is pragmatic (me).Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to Christopher Carr
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                says:

                The bond market’s current reaction (or lack thereof) to the approaching debt limit expiry is the product of two separate probability estimates: 1) The probability of default and 2) the implications of default. If the bond markets think 1 is small, it doesn’t matter if 2 is large.

                That’s my take on the bond markets – they’re predicting that a deal will be struck in time. The Republicans have nothing to gain from a default, any more than the Democrats do.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to James K
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                says:

                I agree. You know, I’d like to be sanguine about this, but my issue is that the debt’s so global now. Chinese own about 1.1 trillion dollars worth of treasury bonds and there are entire currencies now that are backed up by treasury bonds, which are supposed to be a rock solid investment. If the US tells them to go fish themselves and destabilizes their economies in the process, I don’t get how that’s supposed to be cool with everyone. And, hey, I agree that the dollar could easily remain the world’s sought after currency even if this does happen, but why is now a swell time to fish everyone else?Report

  5. Avatar kenB
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    says:

    Supposedly one of the advantages of Google+ is that it allows you to create different “circles” of friends and control what gets shared with which groups, without too much effort.Report

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