It’s the Party, Stupid, Ctd. : How we deal with the peccadillos is actually pretty important, too

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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236 Responses

  1. Michael Cain says:

    #3. The vast majority of Americans at all levels of the economy “want stuff”. Eg, Larry Ellison wants more America’s Cups wins. And the vast majority of Americans, again at all levels of the economy, want to earn stuff. The Republicans’ problem is that the wealthy among them, the ones that are tagged as job creators, don’t want to be saddled with the social responsibility of helping anyone else earn stuff. Manufacturing jobs went to China? Not my fault. Automation requires that a higher level of training is required for all workers? Not my fault, let them pay for it (or let their parents loan them the money, as Mr. Romney famously said). One of the Republicans’ problems is that they’ve embraced rich folks who don’t see an “us” that includes any except the rest of the wealthy.Report

    • Remo in reply to Michael Cain says:


      The GoP is looking more and more like a party for the wealthy. And the wealthy are few. If they want to stay relevant on a country where there are only 2 relevant parties, they need to have a broader appeal than ‘the wealthy’Report

      • Roger in reply to Remo says:

        Did the wealthy break with the pattern of the last election and vote Romney then? Does anyone have stats on this?Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

          The wealthy don’t form a united constituency. We do know which way Wall Street went: firmly into the Romney camp.

          Forget Karl Rove. The man with his hands on the levers of the really big money is Carl Forti at Crossroads and Restore our Future. And they’re not done yet: they’ll be running anti-Obama anti-Democrat PR campaigns for the next four years. People get this idea PACs are about elections: they’re not. They’re money engines for lobbying and PR of all sorts. We haven’t seen the last of Carl Forti, whatever may be true of Karl Rove.Report

          • Roger in reply to BlaiseP says:

            I am just trying to distinguish myth from fact.

            Remo says the wealthy vote red. Is this a myth (for 2008 it was) or is it now a fact?

            To your point I’d also be interested in seeing how subsegments voted.Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to Roger says:

              I’d love to see those numbers.

              But if I were a betting man, I’d wager that votes from the wealthy and the working poor are somewhat split. I’d bet this year that identifiers such as geographic location and industry are a far better indicator about whether someone who is very wealthy or “working poor” voted Romney or Obama.Report

            • Remo in reply to Roger says:

              I said the wealthy vote red. My intention might have been mistaken.

              My intention was to say that the red is starting to only look appealing if you are wealthy. It is a very big difference. Not that all wealthy will vote red – only that it is not appealing to vote red unless you are wealthy.Report

        • Katherine in reply to Roger says:

          CNN’s exit polls have 60% of people making under $50,000 going for Obama, and 53% of those making over $50,000 going for Romney. 54% of those making over $100,000 went for Romney, while 54% of those making less than that went for Obama.

          For context, the median income in America is around $50,000. People making over $100,000 constitute the top 20%.

          So, yes, the rich tended to vote for Romney and low-income people and the middle class tended to vote for Obama. And this wasn’t a “break” from the pattern of the last election, where votes had a similar income distribution.Report

        • Katherine in reply to Roger says:

          In 2008, 60% of people making under $50,000 went for Obama, while those making over $50,000 were split evenly between Obama and McCain, as were those making over $100,000. So Obama did less well with the rich in 2012, but he’s doing just as well with voters making up the half of the country under median income, and improved his performance with the middle/upper-middle class.

          If that raises questions as to why his margin of victory wasn’t bigger, it’s because the rich turn out at higher rates (e.g: people making over $100,000 are about 20% of the population, but were 26% of the voters in 2008).Report

          • Tod Kelly in reply to Katherine says:

            Nice work, Katherine. Thanks for posting.Report

            • Roger in reply to Tod Kelly says:


              But we still haven’t answered the question. The question came up on our pior discussions on voting trends in 2008. The data revealed that the highest breakout group of over $200k voted left even as the upper middle class voted right.


              Has anyone seen how the over $200 k voted Tuesday?Report

              • Katherine in reply to Roger says:

                You’re defining “upper middle class” poorly; it takes some stretching of the term to call people who make more money than 80% of Americans “middle class”. How I generally use the terms:

                Lowest 20%: Lower class/low-income
                Second-lowest 20%: Lower-middle class
                Middle 20%: Middle class
                Second-highest 20%: Upper-middle class
                Highest 20%: Upper-class

                Also, the more we break things down in the exit polling, the more the margin of error rises (in 2008, 6% of voters made over $200,000). Broadly, lower-income people and the middle class were more likely to vote Obama and rich people were more likely to vote Romney in both 2008 and 2012.

                Checking CNN’s exit polls, they don’t seem to have a more detailed income breakdown for 2012.Report

              • Kim in reply to Katherine says:

                This doesn’t seem right:
                Sextiles, at the very least:
                1/6 Lower lower class
                1/6 Working class
                1/6 blue/pink collar
                1/6 upper middle
                1/6 lower upper class
                1/6 upper upper class.

                I don’t think most of America is middle class anymore, judging by historical measures of what the middle class was.Report

              • Katherine in reply to Kim says:

                Nobody measures income in sextiles, though; most use quintiles, some use deciles.

                It seems to me, that logically, when we define a group as “middle” class, they should be around the middle of the income distribution. We can say middle-income instead, if you consider “class” too tied up with areas of profession (blue/pink/white collar).Report

              • Katherine in reply to Roger says:

                These data also show that the richer people were in 2012, the more likely they were to vote Romney:


              • Kim in reply to Roger says:

                No, but everyone except “college grad” voted democrat. (c: dailykos)Report

              • Katherine in reply to Roger says:

                However, for your convenience, MSNBC has a more detailed income breakdown for 2012:


                As income rises, Romney support rises and Obama support falls. Obama wins all income categories under $50,000; Romney wins all income categories over $50,000. Romney gets his highest level of support (55%) among people making over $250,000.

                However, people making $200,000-$250,000 – though still breaking for Romney 52-47 – are more likely to support Obama than people making $100,000-$200,000.Report

              • Roger in reply to Katherine says:

                Nice job Katherine!

                Remo’s statement appears to be a fact. The wealthy voted for Romney and/or against Obama, and this is a reversal from the last presidential election.Report

              • Kim in reply to Roger says:

                I don’t blame them. Did you see McCain’s economic plans?Report

              • Aaron in reply to Katherine says:

                I’m not sure why anyone suggests that this means anything more than it does, although I do appreciate the discussion and information.

                People under $50,000 “get stuff” and supported Obama.

                People over $50,000 tend to be paying for that “stuff”…sometimes noticing that those who are receiving are better off then they are.

                $2-250,000? Several explanations, guesses, come to mind.

                Could depend on the professions which generally end up in that income category.

                Could be they have high enough incomes to feel that they can still afford what they want and pay taxes.

                Just off the top of my head.Report

  2. Burt Likko says:

    When someone is held up as being a leader, a role model, an exemplar, someone from whom we should take our cues, the instinct of that person, and those around and supporting her (“him” in O’Reilly’s case) is to present the subject as some sort of superhuman avatar of impeccable intelligence and wisdom, in whom absolute and infalliable trust may be placed, and generally who has a variety of other highly desirable qualities as well. Witness the periodic jibes about how conservative women pundits and politicians are physically attractive while liberal women pundits and politicians are not, as if that mattered at all.

    You see it with celebrities too — when they fish up their personal lives, their PR people proffer preposterous proclamations portraying the events in question as totally and completely innocent in every imaginable way and their clients as either utterly reasonable and blameless, or in the grips and throes of Forces Too Large For Anyone To Control and therefore also utterly blameless.

    But the fact is, we’re all falliable human beings. Tap-dancing around a verbal turd like this isn’t going to polish it all that much and even if you could polish it it’ll still stink. And having offered up a turd and called it roast beef is substantially more objectionable than having deposited it in the first place, because now not only did you just shit on my lawn, you lied about it too and you probably also accused me of some sort of horrible behavior just to put me on the defensive.

    Better to call a turd what it is, and dispose of it properly, quickly, and decisively.Report

    • When someone is held up as being a leader, a role model, an exemplar, someone from whom we should take our cues, the instinct of that person, and those around and supporting her … is to present the subject as some sort of superhuman avatar of impeccable intelligence and wisdom, in whom absolute and infalliable trust may be placed, and generally who has a variety of other highly desirable qualities as well

      The awesome, talented, and devilishly handsome Burt Likko is exactly right, as always.Report

    • MikeSchilling in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Tap-dancing around a verbal turd like this isn’t going to polish it all that much

      Maybe if you did a mazurka.Report

  3. Sierra Nevada says:

    When I first started coaching kids soccer, I ran into a problem. Running up the score. It happened to my teams sometimes, and sometimes my teams did it. When the score gets run up on you, you wonder “How hard is it to refrain from scoring goals when you are up 8-nil already?”

    Then you play a game, where the other team just keeps kicking the ball to your team right in front of their wide open goal, and your question is answered.Report

  4. Brandon Berg says:

    the social responsibility of helping anyone else earn stuff

    It’s not entirely clear to me what you think “earn” means.Report

  5. bookdragon says:

    Yes. Also, this:

    I’ll add my own 2 cents that it’s not just the policy – it’s how you talk about it.

    If instead of ‘want stuff’, Bill-o had said that people want politicians who ‘serve their interests’, he wouldn’t be getting any flack for it.Report

  6. DRS says:

    Well, there’s also the possibility of Response #4: “You know, I care about my country, I work hard, I volunteered for Romney and I’m getting sick and tired of overpaid sock-puppets like O’Reilly making my efforts look bad because they get paid to sit in front of a camera and insult people. People who are otherwise known as ‘my fellow Americans’. How much phonebanking for the Republican cause did O’Reilly do? How many doors did he knock on? How come the leaders of my party care what he thinks? And don’t even get me started on that gasbag Limbaugh. My wife and daughters were not happy, let’s just leave it at that, okay? Why do these guys get to claim they’re speaking for my party? Okay, it would help if my party leaders would stop deferring to them as the voice of the people. They might start by listening to me for a change.”

    It got too easy for Republican party leaders to believe that Fox was some kind of portal into America’s living room and forget that ratings don’t mean much outside the studio.Report

    • Sierra Nevada in reply to DRS says:


    • Remo in reply to DRS says:

      Then perhaps you should consider that the GOP isn’t the right party for you?

      I don’t mean go Democrat – far from it. But if you disagree so veemently from the position of the leaders of your parties, then why do you belong to it?Report

      • DRS in reply to Remo says:

        Well, my imaginary Responder #4 would say:

        “Positions? The leaders of my party have abdicated the responsibility of taking positions because they’re so busy chasing the electronic headline-of-the-day on Fox or Limbaugh’s radio show, or covering up for the next anti-vaginal-American comment that some nominated idiot spouts off. Geez, does no one vet these guys?”Report

    • Katherine in reply to DRS says:

      If the Republican base would start answering in that way, and its politicians would respond likewise, I’d like them a lot better (even if I still wouldn’t agree with their policies).

      The reason Limbaugh and his ilk get attention is that they have real, major pull within the conservative movement; politicians need to get their approval and can’t afford to censure them.

      Whereas there aren’t people with a similar status and equivalently offensive attitudes in the Democratic party, which is why I roll my eyes when people try to hold up “Maher’s a dick” as a false-equivalent for the ubiquity of this sort of thing in the GOP. Sure, Maher’s a dick, but Obama hasn’t given any particular indications of caring what Maher says or being influenced by him.Report

  7. zic says:

    Door #3.

    But really. Bill, he knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t give a shiz about the Republican Party, about who wins elections, or about who get’s ignored by the parties.

    He cares about who turns in tonight. That’s all. Gotta stir ’em up, gotta make ’em afraid.

    He’s committing acts of terrorism by TV. Mongering fear.Report

  8. Jesse Ewiak says:

    I don’t know if it was somebody on this site or somewhere else, but someone made the point that forty years ago, Nixon or Eisenhower could shut up the crazies by making a few calls and maybe getting a guy to unplug a Xerox machine. Forty years later, each crazy has a fiefdom that’s keeping them warm and dry in their home and sending their kids to college. That’s the problem the GOP has in the short term.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      Indeed. And the fact is, it’s hard to see anything the right did wrong, except not predict the future.

      The plan was obvious…keep stirring up the crazies with the newly invented cable news and talk radio, and keep gutting and criticize the mainstream media so the media doesn’t report on this. Appear moderate to the public, appear far right to the base, and govern as basically moderate plus low taxes, ignoring the deficit, which was just something to yell around the Democrats about.

      This actually seems like a perfect plan. It got them into power in 1994, and while it didn’t get rid of Clinton in 1996, it did manage to get frickin George Bush in office in 2000.

      And they managed to move the Overton window to the right, where suddenly we’ve all realized we need welfare reformed framed how the right says it. So the left moved away from their crazies (And plenty of sane leftish people), and into, functionally, a center-right party _barely_ to the left of the Republicans, which were also center-right.

      But Al Gore had his revenge: The internet.

      Suddenly, the crazy had a platform, and, worse, could _compare notes_. And realized that the Republicans were actually standing pretty close to the center, except for a few things like hurting unions (Which helped them politically) and lower taxes on the rich (Which also help them politically in donations). None of the Republican actually _cared_ about the lunatic issues that the far-right had been feed for two decades. Yes, that was somewhat obvious to everyone, but the far right had a lot of, to be blunt, fucking morons, and more importantly they were able to talk to each other and gin up the outrage.

      Fox news then said ‘Holy shit, right wing outrage, That’s ratings gold!’ (Insert video of a controlled detonation to take down a building.)

      At this point, the right had two ways to jump. One option was to the left (On top of the Democrats) and disavowed their crazies, likes the Democrats did. Except the Democrats did that slowly, with the help of the media, the right had no time at all and the media had picked the other side. So they jumped rightward, a jump which half of them didn’t manage to pull off and got replaced anyway.

      That was _really_ the wrong choice. Well, perhaps the right choice for any individual’s political career, as jumping to the left or even staying in the same place got people primaried out already. But it was _really_ the wrong choice for the party because of one simple fact:


      • Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

        The problem for the Right is that the racists/socons hate everyone else, and everyone else hates them.

        That’s the demographic problem — they can’t compromise, and they can’t tiptoe.

        I’m praying for a third party, personally. more fun that way.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Kim says:

          Well, yes, the demographics problem is sorta on top of the crazy problem. And, yes, it’s actually the demographics that will kill them.(Or, rather, _have_ killed them.) The crazy problem is just why they are unable to solve the demographics problem.

          In fact, they almost _did_ solve part of the demographics problem, with Bush’s rather reasonable immigration reform…and the first major success of the crazies was to destroy that.

          The crazy problem happened _right_ as Republican party was ready to pivot on immigration, expanding their tent _just_ wide enough to keep a majority. So it is the reason they fell down…but it’s sorta just random, that was the first thing they got caught up on.

          If we look into an alternate universe where the internet was ten years later, we’d see a universe where the Republicans were still in charge, and the crazies were just now taking over in blogs…and in ten years the Republicans would lose because crazies held them steady on the LGBT issue while the rest of the country moved on.

          And an internet (And fox news) ten years earlier than our universe, the 1992 blogs would be full of crazy about flag burning and how Clinton was secretly a Soviet spy or whatever. (The Soviet union’s breakup obviously being some sort of liberal trick.)

          So, basically, whatever issue destroys a party taken over by crazy is whatever issue comes up next that the crazies think crazy things about. Currently, that appears to be racial minorities. Admitted, the Republicans would have had a hard time pivoting on that _anyway_, but probably could have managed it.

          What’s also seriously helped is the Republicans continuing to demonstrate that both parties _aren’t_ the same by having all sorts of crazy local people and laws.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Kim says:

          And we really need another party of some sort.

          I’m rather hoping that classic liberals end up in one and the progressives end up in another, and we can run around debating _how_ to accomplish basically the same goals, and whether or not, for example, we should ‘play favorites’ to redress past wrong, or instead come up some other way to help people. And whether restricting people’s ability to do drugs helps society, and even if it does, should we do it? Aka, a ‘freedom’ party vs a ‘making society work’ party, with both sides having to compromise to some exist, and both of them having basically the same goals. That would be an interesting and useful discussion.

          Instead of this idiotic discussion we’re apparently having about the delusional idea that cutting taxes increases revenue, and the delusional idea we should decrease spending during a recession, and the delusional idea that voter impersonation is an issue, and all the other delusional ideas that the Republicans keep coming up with.Report

          • Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

            +1. What I tend to hate about libertarians is that when I ask, “alright, show me”… they don’t have anything to put down on the table. “End the welfare state!” … alright, show me charities able to pick up the slack (here’s a hint: NOT the united way).Report

            • Roger in reply to Kim says:


              The answer in three words..,

              Complex Adaptive System. When government monopolies crowd out market solutions, then there will be no market solution. A market that tries to solve a problem that it is prohibited from solving or which is already solved via a non market mechanism is illogical.

              The solution is in the process.Report

              • Kim in reply to Roger says:

                All due respect, but this is total bullshit.
                You want a market solution to charities? MAKE ONE. Can’t (mostly) be worse than the 1930’s model we’ve got now.
                You do that, and I’ll give you room to talk about something else.
                Show me the efficiency improvements, show me the adjusted metrics that measure administrative “costs”. And show me where you’ve weeded out the fake charities.

                … I’m giving you an easy problem. a very, very easy problem. One that you might even be able to make money from. You should thank me.Report

              • Roger in reply to Kim says:

                If it is total BS, then I no longer stand by it.

                I was just answering your question of why we can’t point to a solution for a problem that has already been addressed via a government monopoly. I am not at all convinced that market solutions would be adequate, especially considering the path we have already taken.

                In other words, I am not convinced the anarchists can get to there from here either. At least not for a long time. I certainly would not gamble with the lives of those depending upon our aid to pursue anarchist visions. I do think it is great that they explore smaller scale tests in this direction though. Cultural progress is always a possibility.Report

              • Kim in reply to Roger says:

                I figure there’s enough places where government monopoly need not be the only solution, and where folks could carve out new solutions and test them on the small scale.
                But the important part, at least on my end, is that when libertarians say the market will fix everything, I at least want them to say “and here’s how I made a profit doing Just That!” (example gratis, from my “liberal” friend: The Consumerist)Report

            • DavidTC in reply to Kim says:

              I tend to hate the implication that _taxes_ have anything to do with _freedom_. The GOP has managed to brainwash a large percentage of the electority, _including Democrats_, that such a thing is true. And, what’s more, that it is the _most important_ freedom.

              How much you pay on your goddamn taxes is actually pretty unimportant to _everyone_. Almost everything the government does is more important than paying 3% more income tax. If you actually _ask_ people this, they will willingly agree. Aka, would you rather have roads than the 2% of money that goes towards roads?

              Incidentally, the few things that people _don’t_ agree they’d rather have more of than a corresponding cut in their taxes are the military, which we can never ever cut. And the rest is entirely made up bullshit. (Yes, I _would_ like to spend $1 a year to fund public television, you assholes.)

              It’s like the entire nation is convinced that the most important thing about a movie is how many times people said ‘the’ in it, or the most important thing about a car is whether the radio antenna is perfectly straight. It’s completely insane.

              Taxes _are not a political issue_. Period. Taxes need to match spending on average, slightly higher in good times and slightly lower in bad. There is no actual ‘politics’ there, besides who should pay what percentage. If the right thinks the government should spend less, they need to MAKE THE GOVERNMENT SPEND LESS.

              There’s a quote going around about how a Democracy is doomed once people learn how to vote themselves free stuff. Well, that’s wrong. A democracy is doomed when people realize they can just _vote themselves no taxes_ and keep getting the stuff that they had been purchasing, but are free now.

              Which is, incidentally, counter-productive to reducing spending. If people are _paying_ for spending, and they are spending too much, and they are _paying_ for it, they might actually cut back on it. But if they aren’t feeling it, why would they cut back?

              The problem for Republicans is that, as I said, taxes _are not actually hurting people_, they were not too high, and wouldn’t be in normal circumstances even if we taxed enough to cover spending. (Doing it now would be a bad idea, though.) People were basically happy with the level of government, so to reduce it, Republicans had to embark reducing taxes to start with, and hope, at some point, the government just falls over.Report

              • Roger in reply to DavidTC says:

                I agree with much of what you say, David.

                The problem is spending. One caveat, though I am happy having modern infrastructure for two percent of my lifetime earnings, I would be even happier if competition would give me even better infrastructure for even less. government really does solve problems like education and taking care of the poor and elderly. It isn’t always the most efficient solution though.

                Just saying….Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Roger says:

                And, see, in a sane world, we could sit there and argue about what it actually makes sense for the government to do, secure in the fact that once we agree to that, we would _actually set taxes to allow us to do that_.

                But we can’t. Because the Republicans have picked as a ‘policy goal’ something that isn’t even a political question to start with, namely, ‘What amount of taxes do we need to take in?

                The problem is what actually happened is for about two decades the right pretended to care about less spending, while actually only caring about lower taxes. Meanwhile, they brainwashed _everyone_ into caring about both of them (While everyone somehow failed a spot check on who was actually doing the spending. Apparently, it’s only spending if Democrats do it.)

                This was stupid enough…but then they got overthrown by their own brainwashed base who actually _tried_ to reduce spending down to the idiotic level that would match the idiotic level of taxes. (And everyone else said WTF?)

                You know those countries that have just been introduced to democracy, and don’t really understand it, and have to have a decade or so learning how it works?

                Well, thanks to the Republican brainwashing, us Americans need a decade or so to (re)learn how taxes actually work and what the correct level of them is. Hint: It’s roughly the amount we are spending, regardless of whether or not you politically agree with that amount of spending.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to DavidTC says:

                You’re quite right. There is NO reason to hold down spending if you’re just cutting taxes and paying for it with debt.

                And the Democrats are the sane ones on this — they keep instituting PAYGO, whereas the GOP tosses it. (Bush put two wars and a prescription drug bill with the stupidest limiter — no bargaining for bulk discount s– on the nation’s charge card).

                Only thing Obama didn’t pay for up front was the stimulus, because that would have rendered it pointless. ACA? Paid for — and assaulted by Republicans for doing it.

                The GOP has convinced it’s base it can have everything they like about government, and less taxes too. But they can’t. So they bitch and whine about taxes that are at historic lows, and act like rolling back the tax rates to the 90s is gonna kill America and turn us into Soviet Russia.

                Plain fact of the matter is, when you poll the public on what they want to cut from government? There ain’t much, really, that has broad support to slash.

                And there’s no reason to force politicans to make hard choices — to cut into things like the military (do we really need to spend as much as the entire world combined?), or agricultural subsidies, much less anything truly difficult. (Cutting the military or agriculture hurts lobbyists more than Americans. Cutting in Social Security or Medicare tends to get the masses involved).

                The public won’t press them, because the public is either voting for Democrats — who have, by and large, moved to paying for what they spend (even if they spend more than some might like) — or they’re voting for Republicans who tell them “Less taxes means more revenue! Party forever!”Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Morat20 says:

                The GOP has convinced it’s base it can have everything they like about government, and less taxes too. But they can’t. So they bitch and whine about taxes that are at historic lows, and act like rolling back the tax rates to the 90s is gonna kill America and turn us into Soviet Russia.

                Luckily, that’s going to happen anyway, at the end of this year. Well, partially.

                Plain fact of the matter is, when you poll the public on what they want to cut from government? There ain’t much, really, that has broad support to slash.

                Actually, there is stuff that has ‘broad support’ to slash by _completely misinformed_ people. For example, if you poll people, foreign aid has broad support to slash, and people think it should be slashed way down to 5% of the budget or so. The obvious problem there is that foreign aid actually totals 25 billion, or 0.8% of the budget.

                And, of course, there was Romney’s public television insanity. To fight the dreaded half a billion dollars we’re spending on it. Oh noes! That’s enough money to give everyone a tax reduction enough to buy a single item off the dollar meal at McDonalds! That’s worth giving up PBS and NPR for!

                Likewise, when you ask people how much different income groups should be taxed…there’d for ‘lowering’ the amount of tax the rich pay to almost Sweden levels! Seriously. They want to ‘lower’ the rich’s taxes to much higher than they _currently are_.

                The problem is, frankly, people seem to have no idea where money goes, or how much goes where, or where it comes from. Checking other countries, educating people about such things is supposed to be the job of a system called ‘the media’, and someday this country might actually get one.

                But, yes, there’s nothing with broad support for cutting that actually would _do_ anything, except for the military. Especially the wars. Which is, of course, treasonous to talk about cutting.

                And there’s no reason to force politicans to make hard choices — to cut into things like the military (do we really need to spend as much as the entire world combined?), or agricultural subsidies, much less anything truly difficult. (Cutting the military or agriculture hurts lobbyists more than Americans. Cutting in Social Security or Medicare tends to get the masses involved).

                That is the real problem with living on borrowed money. If the spending matched the revenue, and people could see ‘Oh, I’m spending $100 dollars a year on this, is there a way to trim it?’ and ‘Well, that’s $200 a year, but it seems like it’s a big program, so I guess I understand that.’

                (Not that the revenues should exactly match spending, of course. I’d suggest varying by up to an extra 20% spending in bad times, made up for by an extra 20% revenue in good.)Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to Morat20 says:

                (do we really need to spend as much as the entire world combined?)

                Depends. If conservative rhetoric is to be believed, the world essentially consists of the US and Israel vs. the socialist hellholes of Europe, the Nazi regimes of Africa and the Middle East, and the communist regimes of Asia and South America. We need our military budget to be larger than all of theirs combined to make it a fair fight.Report

  9. O’Reilly is just one of the talking heads guarding the inhabitants of Bullsh*t Mountain from rejoining the world of the sane. Fox News is a propaganda machine which dumbs down America by the day through disinformation and their slanted agendas. See their anchors spewing forth feces from their mouths in my visual homage to the network on my artist’s blog at

  10. Tom Van Dyke says:

    It’s good to see O’Reilly directly quoted here. Although we don’t know what he said before or after, for once we have a whole paragraph to consider instead of a sentence fragment or two.

    His point is of course more complex than the unsympathetic listen will yield here. It is not precisely that minorities and women are on the schnorr*, lazily looking for handouts. It’s that the Dem Party and the left-lib establishment has sold a program of resentment,

    if you will—that the deck is stacked against you, and any “handout” you get from the system is not charity, it’s justice. Take it, you deserve it. You are Owed.

    The problem being that then our own country, our own government, our “system,” is the enemy, and should be taken for whatever you can get. This is contrary to a true communitarianism, where we take only what we need from the public store. If you recall, some of us took a look at a BBC special on Sweden, which found not the non-judgmental Santa Claus state atall, but one that although heavily communitarian, is highly judgmental about the slackers on the schnorr.

    *schnorrer: goes to the soup buffet with rubber pocketsReport

  11. Scott says:

    Hannity said this way, the ‘Allure And Appeal Of Socialism And Redistribution Of Wealth Has Taken Hold.’ What do you expect when Barry said he viewed welfare recipients and “the working poor” as “a majority coalition” that could be mobilized to help advance progressive policies and elect their champions. Just hand out the Obama phones and they will vote.

    Read more:

  12. John Howard Griffin says:

    In a development that will come as a surprise to anyone that has lived in a sensory depravation tank for the past three decades, Democrats are calling O’Reilly’s statement racist and sexist. And although I do not actually believe that he meant to say that blacks, hispanics and women vote the way they do because they’re parasites and white people vote the way they do because they’re not, I have to say it’s a little too easy to see why so many people are hearing it that way.

    I agree. O’Reilly didn’t mean to say that.

    What he meant to say was “The Sheriff is near.”

    You’re letting him off the hook, Mr. Kelly. Don’t.Report

  13. Sierra Nevada says:

    Tom, the problem is that O’Reilly is selling a narrative as well, which is describable in its entirety as ressentiment to the class that constitutes his audience. You cannot possibly indict the Democrats for selling a “a program of resentment,” without noting that O’Reilly is doing the same damned thing here. Note that I am not saying that you are wrong.

    Timing is everything. To extend the own goal analogy from a post above, kicking a ball in a soccer game is a laudable act. Kicking the ball to the other team right in front of your own goal is not. O’Reilly saying crap like this to his audience is normally rational; on a night like this, it just makes it harder for minorities, women, and hispanics to join his audience’s team. And those folks need some more teammates, in a big way.Report

    • Here I’m just translating Faux Newsish to MSNBCese, Mr. Nevada. 😉

      I agree with you somewhat, but I’d like us to look at this further sometime, how much of this Inside Baseball ever gets to the general public—and in what manner. It’s to the point that anything can be demagogued, that nuance is impossible these days: I happen to speak Republican and occasionally succeed in slipping in a dispatch before being buried, so I’ll just AAAAAAAAAARGHReport

  14. DensityDuck says:

    “Poor nonwhites voted for Obama because he promised them government handouts!”
    “That’s racist and anti-poor!”

    “Rich whites voted for Romney because he promised them tax breaks!”
    “That’s exactly right!”Report

    • Glyph in reply to Kolohe says:

      Wow. That was something else.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

        Those are folks who think “going Galt” is to run away and hide out in a mountain shack with lots of guns and ammo, instead of going off somewhere where you can productively build something.

        (No, this is not a pro-Ayn Rand statement.)Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

          That is, get away from all those damned workers hassling you for more money and better working conditions and build things that require a manufacturing base.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Mike, I almost laughed, but it’s not quite true enough. In her Galt story Rand was really focusing on gummint, not labor (which isn’t to say she wouldn’t like labor). And in truth there are cases where management treats labor well enough that the workers are happy. The book Good to Great talks about Nucor steel, where the employees slogan is, something like, “work like 1 1/2 men, get paid like 2.” The employees have consistently rejected outside efforts to unionize them.

            But of course that’s rare, and your quip is true enough in so very many cases. Which is why I almost laughed. (And then sucked all the fun and humor out with this didactic response.)Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

              In my professional experience, there is a very definite reason why some companies’ employees explore union options and some never do. An exception here or there, but for the most part it’s pretty cut and dry.

              It’s usually not even a question of money.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Agreed. Two things have always stuck with me.

                1) Employee satisfaction studies generally show that wage levels are less important to employee satisfaction than how they’re treated.

                2) Most of the business profs I know say that a company that faces unionization pressures is a company that is run poorly.Report

              • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

                1) well, yes. being worked 80 hour weeks, and sitting through 15 minute tirades (actual shouting) on the tele doesn’t tend to balance out, no matter how well you are being paid.
                Plus, money isn’t everything.

                2) Yup. Or a company that’s being pranked.Report

            • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

              re: Nucor
              That’s the employees’ slogan? Impressive!
              Yeah, good management doesn’t fear unions — they’re competition, and competition is good (if nothing else, it keeps your rivals from being total scumbags).Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Kolohe says:

      Is that satire, ir at least tongue in cheek ?Report

    • I note that he mentions the possible option of relocation to Hong Kong. Can I set up a PayPal account so we can all chip in for his ticket?Report

      • No. This is a terrible idea. Were DONDEROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO to leave this country, access to unintentional comedy in this country would drop by a solid 1.5% (approximate). To the contrary, we should all be doing what we can to make sure he continues to blog.Report

      • david in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        Ah, yes, the quadrennial cycle of “I’m leaving! No, this time I mean it, I’m really, REALLY leaving! Don’t reply by telling me you love and care for me, I’m LEAVING (after I make 300 additional posts through the com-box)!” poli-posts…Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        Easier said than done. I’ve been trying for a year to get sponsorship for a working visa in Hong Kong. It may be the world’s freest economy for those who were born there, but apparently everyone else can just piss off.Report

        • Stop me when I’m wrong.

          Hong Kong is part of the PRC now, right?

          While it presently enjoys “special autonomy” to continue its kind-of-free-market capitalistic ways, it does so strictly at the pleasure of the leadership of the Communist Party in Beijing?

          So one who opted in to that society would be opting in to one in which one’s economic and political freedoms were immediately and without prior notice subject to revocation at the hands of a distant military dictatorship with a proven track record of brutal, bloody repression of its own subjects when they get a little bit too uppity?

          This is something a libertarian would choose?Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Kolohe says:

      Shorter Dondero: “My favored candidate did not win the election. So I’m going to throw out some big talk about doing dramatic things like moving to another nation or starting a revolution. But since actually doing those things would have significant actual costs to me, I’m instead going to be a gigantic asshole to pretty much everyone who has the misfortune to come in to even casual social contact with me.”

      What are the odds that this announced shift in position isn’t all that great a leap from the status quo ante?Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko says:

        “And next time I go to a football game, I’m going to go up to the owner’s box and scream at him for being a welfare queen! Unless he, you know, voted for Romney.”Report

      • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Having actual plans to switch countries does take work. And it’s not as damaging as you might suspect, provided your skills are any good.
        Australia is hiring away a good deal of our hydrological engineers, for example.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko says:

        heh. The part in that post I was most struck by was this bit:

        When I’m at the Wal-mart or grocery story I typically pay with my debit card. On the pad it comes up, “EBT, Debit, Credit, Cash.” I make it a point to say loudly to the check-out clerk, “EBT, what is that for?” She inevitably says, “it’s government assistance.” I respond, “Oh, you mean welfare? Great. I work for a living. I’m paying for my food with my own hard-earned dollars. And other people get their food for free.” And I look around with disgust, making sure others in line have heard me.

        I read that and all I could think was: Wait, this is what you normally do when you go to the store? And you actually have friends you can unfriend?

        I’m assuming they must all be friends that never, ever go to the store with him.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Dondero sends me emails periodically when I write a blog post about getting the hell out of the mideast — he tells me that I want terrorists blowing up NY again. I just ignore him. Saying you are a Libertarian Republican is a little loopy to start with. It’s one thing to create practical alliances with factions in the GOP, but to be a party member of the GOP establishment is totally un-libertarian.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Kolohe says:

      Actually, does anyone know if this is an actual thing?

      The day after the election John Cole wrote that an army buddy he still loved had unfriended him for voting for Obama. This morning I got an email from a friend saying that a guy from our high school (that he didn’t actually talk to on FB) unfriended him for voting for Obama, which made me go on FB and see that a lot of people I know were saying either that they were unfriending everyone they knew that had voted for Obama, or had been unfriended for that vote.

      Then Kolohe links to this blog where someone is actually calling for such a protest.

      Now I’m starting to wonder… is this just syncronicity that I’m running into all of these instances the day after the election, or is there an actual internet/email-chain grass roots mini-movement to do this?Report

  15. Roger says:

    Response # 4

    “And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff.”

    Once you change the nature of the game from a positive sum one to a zero sum one (or deceptively portray a positive sum game as a zero sum one), the path to success is to screw others and avoid being screwed oneself.

    The left has convinced certain groups that they are getting screwed. The BS kerfuffle over equal pay for equal work is a perfect example. The right has done the same with low skilled whites. Thus the parties attempt to further their own political interests by convincing people that the game is stacked against them. They respond by stacking it “for our side.” Thus it DOES start getting more and more stacked on both sides. We thus enter an arms race of zero sum politically motivated interactions.

    Thus the decline of nations.

    If you (the reader) have a dog in this fight, may I suggest you are part of the problem and not the solution?Report

    • Kim in reply to Roger says:

      *Yahn* I hope you didn’t just vote for the candidate who “screwed others and avoided being screwed himself.” Once a hedge fund guy, always a hedge fund guy — whaddaya know.

      Mitt Romney, now $50 million richer than before his candidacy, courtesy of betting against himself winning.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Roger says:

      Roger’s comment is exactly right.Report

      • Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        One of the things that freaks me out about… lay economists… is their obsession with the idea that things are either zero-sum or positive sum, and so everyone has to be operating under the assumption that one or the other is the case.Report

        • Roger in reply to Chris says:


          Please do elaborate….Report

          • Chris in reply to Roger says:

            Roger, do you think it’s possible to have a situation in which some people get screwed and some people benefit, but it’s not a zero-sum game?Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Chris says:

              Aren’t these trivially easy to find?

              Litterers passing through a neighborhood gain a tiny bit of utility from not having to put trash in a trashcan. The rest of us get a huge amount of disutility from living in a trash-strewn neighborhood. Negative-sum, and a few people benefit.

              So I guess I have to ask, what are you getting at here?Report

              • Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Roger said, and you endorsed, the idea that the “left” takes a positive sum game (which our economy certainly isn’t) and turns it into a zero-sum game (which most certainly don’t believe). He doesn’t admit the possibility that they turn it into something different, or that the world we live in might not be either.

                That’s all I’m getting at: people get screwed. That doesn’t mean it’s a zero-sum game. And pointing out that people get screwed is not the problem. Nor is working to make it harder to screw people.Report

              • Kim in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, our economy is not a positive sum game right now, we’re in a depression. When we come out of it, we can return to a minimally positive sum game.

                The problem is when positive sum games like FIRE go aft over agley, and become negative sum games for most people — and positive sum games for a few. After all, the richest folk got richer when they crashed the fucking markets (and me. I’m not rich, but I’ve got a house now because of that crash).

                Is this fixable? Some parts of it, I suspect. The fact that people are greedy sons-of-bitches is probably not fixable (along with the idea that most people persistently misvalue items). [Game theorist is a more polite way of saying “con-man” I sometimes suspect]Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Chris says:

                If you are asserting that our economy “certainly isn’t” a positive-sum game, then you are also asserting — necessarily and by definition — that we would on the whole be better off if no one performed any economic work at all.

                I, on the other hand, assert that in general, people gain something by participating in the economy. Not always, but typically, and if you summed the utilities, they would be positive. Call me crazy — call me a “lay economist” even — but I suspect it’s better to have an economy than not to have one at all.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Jason, do you believe that, in the economy, even in the economy aggregated, it’s possible for someone to win at someone else’s expense? If so, it’s not a positive sum game. This doesn’t imply, to me or I suspect to most people, what you say it does. You’ve essentially said exactly what I said you were saying: it’s either a positive sum or a zero sum game. But it’s neither. Work can improve things, but some people get screwed while other people benefit, and in many cases, some people get screwed precisely because (that is, directly as a result of) other people benefiting.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, you’re oversimplifying way too much. If someone somewhere can benefit at another’s expense in our economy, that doesn’t make the whole thing a zero sum game. It’s just one exchange within many billions of daily exchanges.

                Is our economic system on net zero sum or positive sum? If it’s zero sum, then in fact we can’t do worse by simply shutting it down. But if simply shutting it down would make us, collectively, on net, worse off, then the system as a whole must be positive sum. Even if there are elements of it that are negative sum.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                James, I’m not trying to argue that it’s a zero sum game. I’m trying to argue that it’s neither. I don’t think everyone benefits, but I don’t think the sum of all outcomes is negative or zero.

                I’ll put it this way: like Jason, I think we’re better off now than we were 500 years ago, or even 100 years ago (hell, 20 years ago), at least in most cases, if only because of improvements in medicine. Whatever system we have (and it’s not just the market that has led to better medicine, but the market is part of it) has resulted in that improvement, even if there might have been other ways to get here from there. But that doesn’t make it a positive sum game. And the problem I have is with the binary thinking, which leads to a distortion of what people think.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                To be clear: positive sum game: win-win (or at least possible win-win), in which your benefits do not affect mine.

                Zero-sum game: whatever benefits you get have to be balanced by an equal deficit for me.

                Neither is true. In reality, sometimes your benefits aren’t related to mine, sometimes they are, and sometimes yours result in deficits for me, sometimes we both benefit, sometimes we both lose, sometimes we both end up where we started. Sometimes, the amount you benefit lessens the amount I benefit. Sometimes it lessens my deficit. There are a bunch of these possible scenarios, but none of them are strict (or even approximate, really) positive or zero-sum.Report

              • Roger in reply to Chris says:


                Your ability to condense 452 posts into such a summary is laudable. Talk about zero sum, by the end of the inequality week I was afraid Kimmy and MA were going to send a hitman to my house to take me out. I still blame JH for the whole affair.

                “Neither is true…There are a bunch of these possible scenarios, but none of them are strict (or even approximate, really) positive or zero-sum.”

                When I use the phrase positive sum*, I am implying that all parties directly involved benefited from it. I make no attempt to compare and calculate utilities, because it is pretty much impossible to do so in most cases.

                Theoretically, it is possible that a win/lose interaction is still positive sum from some godlike utilitarian perspective. Big objective gains for one and insignificant losses for the other. In general though win/lose activities are messy and outrageously subjective. Even worse, the dynamic of win/lose interactions leads to arms races of attack and defense that self amplify into waste and destruction.

                Therefore, I am a big fan of voluntary interactions where all participants expect to benefit from the activity and are capable of learning from the event. This is a positive sum interaction, and as James mentioned somewhere, the vast majority of free market interactions are of this kind. These create value. Every day we engage in billions of these positive sum actions and interactions. That is the source of most human prosperity.

                With the advent of free markets about two hundred and fifty years ago**, we went from about a billion people living off the equivalent of two bucks a day living for about 35 years to what we have today. We gained prosperity, health, freedom, opportunity, literacy, and waxed dental floss. This is positive sum process. It is pretty much the most positive sum process in all of history, and is probably the most significant event to affect humanity.

                * I refuse to ever use the term Pareto in polite company, as doing so makes me no longer sound like a “layperson”
                ** It is more correct to say partially responsible, as science, cultural progress and institutional learning of various types all contributed.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

                I was afraid Kimmy and MA were going to send a hitman to my house to take me out. I still blame JH for the whole affair.

                Great, point them my direction. Some friend, you are.Report

              • Roger in reply to Chris says:

                I can’t believe you cut and pasted his name. Warning absolutely nobody type it or paste it a third time. We all know what happens if we say it three times.Report

            • Roger in reply to Chris says:

              Yes. Also as mentioned to Kimmi, it is possible to have zero sum dimensions within larger positive sum games. Science, sports and free markets are loaded with zero sum dimensions. However, the rules in all three systems can be set so that the competition is fair and the process is constructive overall.Report

              • Chris in reply to Roger says:

                The simple fact, Roger, is that the market, by its very nature, makes our fortunes connected. Cheaters, of course, make it a non-positive sum game, but even the rules make it such. But no one, that I know of at least, thinks it’s a zero sum game. It’s a straw man, something that I’m coming to see characterizes libertarian thinking as much as it characterizes the critics of libertarian thinking.Report

              • Roger in reply to Chris says:

                I once wrote a guest post suggesting that economics was a positive sum game that many mistakenly view as zero sum. I got three or four comments that this was a straw man argument that nobody really believes and about a hundred comments that I was wrong and it really is zero sum.

                To be more nuanced, one game of politics is to exaggerate the zero sum dimension (women are not paid fairly, the wealthy are taking advantage of us, dark skinned people want our jobs) and thus convince people to shift toward zero sum solutions in favor of “our side”. I am not even suggesting that markets are totally fair, any more than there is such a thing as a perfect circle. The moderate libertarian solution is to pursue the path that ensures it is as fair as practically possible. The zero sum path is to put our thumbs on the other side of the scale. The problem with the latter approach, is of course that pretty soon you’ve got thumbs everywhere and no working scales at all.Report

              • Chris in reply to Roger says:

                Can you link to the post? I’d be interested in seeing who was saying it was a zero sum game.Report

              • Roger in reply to Chris says:


                It was at the start of the inequality symposium.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Roger, it looks like people aren’t saying it’s a zero sum, but more of what I’m saying: it’s neither. A Teacher, for example, says exactly that.

                That is, unless we’re interpreting this as an either/or situation, which was my complaint at the start of this subthread.Report

              • Chris in reply to Roger says:

                I think calling it zero-sum rhetoric distorts it. The fact is, people get screwed, often by the government, and by the government’s connection to business in particular. This isn’t a zero-sum thing, but it sure as hell isn’t a positive sum thing either. And I see no reason why the left, or the right, shouldn’t talk about it.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Ugh, this was supposed to be a response to Roger downthread.Report

            • Kim in reply to Chris says:

              Isn’t this what James has been saying with Free Trade? (at least in a first-order view?)Report

        • Kim in reply to Chris says:

          I haven’t noticed that, but then again, I suppose a smart person might contend that a game theorist isn’t exactly a lay economist.

          Fifteen different strategies on the board, some of them zero-sum, some actively negative-sum, and some positive-sum. The super-game is to set the rules so that the positive-sum strategies work out better than the negative-sum or zero-sum strategies.Report

          • Roger in reply to Kim says:


            I would add that most progressive positive sum games have zero sum dimensions. The key is to set up the institutional rules so that the game stays constructive and does not become destructive.Report

            • Kim in reply to Roger says:

              We get the most positive-sum type games when smart people get rewarded for their efforts. But this is just a fancypants way of saying that “risktakers” ought to get rewards for good bets.

              Our system right now is starting to crowd out those risktakers at the top. (there has always been some drag from the bottom — people who are clever, but have too much trouble amassing the requisite funds to put their money where their mouth is. I think this drag may actually be decreasing, judging by crowdsourcing, etc.)Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Chris says:

          I don’t find either of us to have asserted that things are necessarily one or the other. Only that going from productive work to welfare is an example of a transition from one to the other.

          Which again, I find is exactly right.Report

          • Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            Once you change the nature of the game from a positive sum one to a zero sum one (or deceptively portray a positive sum game as a zero sum one), the path to success is to screw others and avoid being screwed oneself.

            This sentence certainly implies it’s either/or, or at least that’s the way the thinking goes. It skips a lot in between.

            Also, much of the “getting screwed” rhetoric on the Left has nothing to do with welfare. Hell, even Roger lists “equal pay for equal work” as an example.Report

            • Roger in reply to Chris says:

              Just to be real clear. I am condemning the excesses of politics on both sides of the aisle. I am not suggesting that all politics is zero sum, or that one side is zero sum.

              And yes, I skipped a lot of stuff in between.Report

          • Kim in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            I think that’s a bit oversimplified, and perhaps shows how our economic theory devalues motherhood. Okay, that last bit was throwing pineapples…Report

      • Not necessarily. The line about things being stacked against the little guy is certainly the chief complaint of crony capitalism, which I expect neither you nor Roger say we should allow because it’s not a zero sum game.Report

        • Roger in reply to Tod Kelly says:


          I lost you in all the negatives. Could you please rephrase?Report

          • Tod Kelly in reply to Roger says:

            Sure. And I should preface this by saying that I am making an assumption that you and Jason are against crony capitalism (well, no assumptions for Jason, I know he is); if I’m wrong, than this will certainly fall on deaf ears.

            That being said, what I mean is this:

            What I believe you saying is that when individuals complain that current laws favor those economically well off and disadvantage those on the bottom rungs, you dismiss such complaints because the economy is not really a zero sum game. That, perhaps, even if laws do favor one class over another, a rising tide and so forth.

            But I note that those that argue this on an individual level tend to balk at the same argument on an organizational level. The argument against crony capitalism – using legislation to fix outcomes in favor of well off, established high-donation organizations at the disadvantage of smaller, less established organizations, is the same as the argument above.

            Does that make more sense?Report

            • Roger in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              “What I believe you saying is that when individuals complain that current laws favor those economically well off and disadvantage those on the bottom rungs, you dismiss such complaints because the economy is not really a zero sum game. That, perhaps, even if laws do favor one class over another, a rising tide and so forth.”

              I think it is pretty safe to say the libertarians on this site do not knowingly favor institutions and rules that favor some over others (at either an individual or institutional level). Our mantra tends to be for impartial, consistent rules that are not used to favor some over others.

              That said, we could be wrong on just how impartial and fair the basic rules would be. Also it is important to state that I agree the current rules are not impartial enough for us.Report

              • Kim in reply to Roger says:

                I’m pretty sure I could find someone saying that the government shouldn’t tax unearned (non-salary) wealth at the same rate as salaried wealth. I’m pretty sure I could find someone around, who is willing to say that SS should continue to be capped at $100,000 (on the input end… so people making more money than that effectively get a tax break).

                The estate tax is something that Adam Smith would support (Though I do give Tester credit — there ought to be some exemption for family farms! someone making under the poverty line ought not to have their estate taxed at the same rate as billionaires)Report

              • Roger in reply to Kim says:


                I would not put much faith in that Adam Smith guy. They say he was a fan of disco and that German techno rock stuff, so his judgment is suspect.

                As for things like income caps on social security and tax rates based upon types of income…. These are not free market rules. They are interferences with markets by government entities. Whether they are fair or not runs into Kazzy’s squishy issue.

                Once you come up with a system to solve a problem based upon a coercive entity saying that “you will pay such and such, and you will pay this and that” and then allow and encourage the such and suches to fight it out with the this and that’s, then you have a zero sum game.

                I can share the libertarian solution to this dilemma. Basically, it is to, where ever possible, make entering the game a voluntary affair, preferably one with lots of competing alternatives. James referenced it as Tiebout. The other libertarian solution is to keep the extent of political solutions as “thin” as possible.Report

              • Kim in reply to Roger says:

                I like the idea of keeping political solutions as “thin” as possible.
                Do you see Planned Parenthood as an example of it?
                (bearing in mind that PP is the best run large charity…)Report

              • Roger in reply to Kim says:

                Is PP a government organization? I have no clue to be honest.Report

              • Kim in reply to Kim says:

                It might as well be, receiving a lot of funding from the gov’t. But it’s run about as well as a large charity can be (and that’s saying something!)Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              ” The argument against crony capitalism – using legislation to fix outcomes in favor of well off, established high-donation organizations at the disadvantage of smaller, less established organizations, is the same as the argument above.”

              What? No it isn’t!

              A neutrally-written rule which permits some persons to benefit more than others is not the same thing as knowingly and intentionally giving benefits to a specific person. It’s the difference between a ground-rule double, and a rule that says “if A-Rod hits the ball and he doesn’t fly out then he automatically advances to second base no matter where it goes”.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Roger says:

      The left has convinced certain groups that they are getting screwed.

      Fishing abolitionists. Don’t they realize how much worse off they’d be in Africa?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

      “The left has convinced certain groups that they are getting screwed.”

      Do you think anyone is getting screwed? In a way that is unfair and that the state would be justified in correcting?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        “Unfair” is a squishy word. Ugh. What I meant is that folks are being screwed in such a way that justifies state intervention. Using extreme examples:

        1.) Legal protections for slave owners is the type of thing that would justify intervention.
        2.) Short people having little future in the NBA would not.Report

      • Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

        Of course some are screwed. They are not screwed via voluntary and honest interactions between consenting adults without negative externalities though.

        That said, people can still be HARMED by lost opportunity as per above, just as every eligible woman on earth was harmed when Brad decided to marry Angelina ( and just as every eligible male was helped by taking Brad off the market).

        But I think James’ series on economics will get to this issue.

        Let me just say that the art of politics often devolves into convincing people they are being screwed even when they are not, thus enlisting the “victims” patronage in return for justice.Report

        • Kim in reply to Roger says:

          So who’s not being screwed again?
          The average black person with a tenth of the wealth of the average white person?
          (possibly correct answer: “he was screwed way before he was born!”)
          That said, to have an even playing field, every citizen ought to have (or be able to make within a reasonable timeframe — three years? ten years?) enough wealth to be able to take risks and start businesses.Report

          • Roger in reply to Kim says:

            There is nothing in fair rules that ensures equal outcomes. Indeed, guaranteed equal outcomes pretty much defines a staged game.

            There are quite a few possible explanations on why Jewish and Chinese Americans make more than “whites”. Different goals. Different values. Different cultures. Different time horizons or tisk tolerance. Different genetic dispositions. Different backgrounds. Institutional racism against whites, or for Jews and Chinese.

            I would not be too hasty to jump to the institutional racism explanation without at least first considering the others.Report

            • Kim in reply to Roger says:

              Roger. I am not asking for Equal Outcomes. Merely a fair playing field [can I say “at birth”? that’s not exact, but it characterizes (and caricatures) my point]

              Jews make more than whites because they’re more urban. Same reason physicists make more money than doctors.

              I’ve seen the institutional racism research, and it’s at least decent (if a lot of people’s wealth derives from racist policies instituted well over 30 years ago… you’ve still got institutional racism’s residue.)Report

              • Roger in reply to Kim says:

                I am sure you are right, there is an institutional racism residue.Report

              • Kim in reply to Roger says:

                This provides a drag on the economy, through not giving talented blacks the same opportunities that whites have.
                I think that’s at least some argument for “maybe we ought to consider this a problem worth fixing– in whole or in part”Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

          “They are not screwed via voluntary and honest interactions between consenting adults without negative externalities though.”

          I find this to be either inaccurate or based on really skewed definitions of “voluntary” and “honest”.Report

        • Chris in reply to Roger says:

          They are not screwed via voluntary and honest interactions between consenting adults without negative externalities though.

          This pretty much makes it impossible to argue otherwise.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

            Yes, true statements are sometimes pretty much impossible to argue against. I don’t get how people can think that a voluntary and honest exchange without negative externalities could possibly result in someone getting screwed.

            So instead of focusing on how that’s just a tautology or something, if you want to make any fishing headway you need to present a good case for why one of those three conditions (voluntary, honest, no negative externalities) doesn’t hold.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to James Hanley says:

              I don’t get how people can think that a voluntary and honest exchange without negative externalities could possibly result in someone getting screwed.

              I think Chris’s point was that there’s a lot of Scotsmen in those weeds.Report

              • Chris in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Yes, that was my point. I’m not sure that it’s possible to define voluntary, honest, and no negative externalities in such a way that it isn’t simply tautological, and in such a way that, with all the cases it excludes, we’re left with only a small portion of the “market.”

                The “negative externalities” part is probably the worst. I assume, for example, that any case in which the two parties are participate in an exchange voluntarily and honestly, but don’t have all the information, would be explained away with that (otherwise, it can never be the case that an exchange could have any risk associated with it, for example).Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

                I’m not sure that it’s possible to define voluntary, honest, and no negative externalities in such a way that it isn’t simply tautological,

                Of course, but my point is that’s a criticism that wholly misses the point. We’re talking about an ideal type. It’s a basic assumption for the purposes of building a model of how an economy works. And then you relax the assumptions as you further develop it.

                The fact that most things in the world don’t quite meet the standard of the assumption does not, however, either prove the invalidity or lack of value of the assumption, nor demonstrate that most of those things are so flawed as to not be practically representable by the ideal type.

                If you actually began to keep track of all the economic transactions you engage in each week, and then analyzed them for their degree of involuntariness, dishonesty, and externalities, I think you’d find them extremely low on the first, pretty damned low on the second in most cases, and, well, difficult to calculate on the third, but where you’re most likely to get an uncomfortably high score, depending on what product you’re purchasing.Report

              • Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, yeah, I get that it’s an ideal gas approach, and I don’t have any problem with it being used as such. Where I take issue is with using it to criticize people who point out that we live in a world with no ideal gases, which is what I take Roger to be doing.

                Also, I sent you an email yesterday, but I’m afraid it was to an old email address (only one I had was from a few years ago, I think), so I just wanted to make sure it went through.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

                I think Roger’s probably seeing it as I’m seeing it. People who are looking at the reality of no ideal gases and seem to be saying, “there’re no gases at all!”

                That is, it’s not binary, but I get the impression a lot of people are treating it as binary.

                Re: Email. No, didn’t get it. Try my first initial and last name at That’s the only email I check daily (and I didn’t find your message at the one I don’t check daily, either).Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Yeah, saying there are no gases are stupid. I’m not sure many people actually say that, though. I mean, even in the ideological circle I run in, which is one that isn’t fond of the very idea of property to begin with, everyone admits that there are gases. They just think that you get closer to an ideal gas if you change things in certain radical ways.

                Ah, I see what I did… I screwed up the address. I was a bit sleep deprived yesterday.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

                Yeah, I think they’re pretty wrong about the effect of those radical changes. I’ve got no problem with truth in advertising laws and the like, but the radicals usually work to hard to create particular outcomes as opposed to ensuring a proper process.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Chris says:

                “there’re no gases at all!”

                After hearing people go on at length about the wonders of the free market, that’s the last thing I’d say.Report

              • LWA (Lib With Attitude) in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                That was my point on a previous thread, that nearly any encounter can be termed voluntary if you trace the line of decisions far enough back:

                Child support payments are voluntary…because 18 years ago you freely chose to have sex;

                Taxes are voluntary….because you chose to live in this city, knowing they might enact a tax.

                So when the definitions get so easily pliable, they start to lose their ability to actually define things.Report

              • Roger in reply to LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:


                I’m sure there is a name for the fallacy of logic you are using, but the name doesn’t spring to mind. What you are arguing is that there are tough cases or shades of gray, therefore the distinction in total isnt useful.

                There is another cultural institution which evolved alongside relatively free markets. It is called common law, and it is designed to answer these types of tough questions.

                That said, it is really not too hard to determine whether most interactions are voluntary or not. It is also usually easy to identify the inverse — actions where an individual was prohibited from doing something, or was required to do something against its will.

                If the rules of the road are that the father of a child is responsible for child support, then the act of fathering a child bears responsibility, just as driving a car entails responsibilities for damages incurred by doing so. The voluntary act of moving into a community entails accepting the responsibilities of paying the taxes that go with it. Furthermore, the existence of alternative tax districts via freedom to enter and compete with the tax district is also a signal of freedom. The problem with freedom isn’t the existence of taxation, it is the act of establishing a monopoly on taxation by prohibiting voluntary cooperation.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Roger says:

                No, I’m going to take LWA’s position and run with it. Ultimately there are no voluntary actions. Whatever may seem like a voluntary action at the time only leads down the road to involuntary actions.

                So everything, ultimately, is voluntary. Therefore everything is regulable, because we’re only making more things that are involuntary, and everything else is voluntary.

                Ergo, all government actions are legitimate.Report

            • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

              So I come in and ask for a loan. You take note that I’m X Y and Z, and assign me a loan rate based on that. Since I want it, I decide to take it.

              If your X Y and Z are discriminatory, in such a way that the exact same person with say, a different gender/skin color, would get different loan rates… what principle here is being violated?Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Kim says:

                None. It’s a voluntary transaction. You obviously wanted the loan at that rate. They obviously wanted to lend you the money at that rate. You’re both better off. End of principled discussion.

                If you find out later that a man would have gotten the same loan at two points less, well, so what? You’re no worse off than you would be if he paid the same rate as you. You’re only mad because the liberals have got you so worked up with that gender equality crap.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

              I suppose my objection is that Roger ignores all the interactions that are not honest and/or voluntary and/or devoid of negative externalities.

              Those do exist, you know.Report

              • Roger in reply to Kazzy says:


                I do not.

                They are called theft, fraud, rape, murder, embezzlement and so on.

                Significant externalities need to be accounted for in the rules or via property rights and courts.

                There is also the issue of imperfect information, aka “making mistakes.”.

                I am in absolutely no way, shape or form suggesting that zero sum or exploitative relationships are rare. They are commonplace. That is why we recommend a “thin” set of consistent, impartial rules which prohibit win/lose interactions and which foster voluntary and honest ones.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Roger says:

                No, no. Following LWA again, being defrauded is voluntary because you initially voluntarily agreed to make an exchange with the defrauder.

                Or theft. You didn’t like it that somebody stole your car? Well you voluntarily chose to have a car that somebody else would like enough to steal.

                The free market position, as outlined by LWA, is that every exchange that ever happens, in any way whatsoever, is ultimately voluntary and therefore totally legitimate.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Roger says:


                Let’s use a real world example: the folks who would be granted citizenship via the DREAM Act. These are folks who, if deported, people on the left might identify as being “screwed”. Their offer to these folks is legislation like the DREAM Act.

                It is easy to determine the level of screwing that happens in some situations. But in others, like this, it is much harder.Report

              • Roger in reply to Kazzy says:


                Yeah, I would agree that coercively deporting someone who is intending to be productively engaged here is bad.

                In fact, now I am not sure what we are arguing about at all…. Lol.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

                It seemed to me that you were saying that everyone “the left” claims is being screwed is not really being screwed.

                (You also seemed to give the impression that those who “the right” claim are being screwed are also not really being screwed, but you seemed to focus on “the left”.)

                If I misunderstood this, than I’m not sure we are arguing.

                I am definitely “of the left”. I think there are a number of people being screwed. I think some of these screwees can and should be supported (not necessarily financially, but with things to minimize/eliminate the screwing) by the government; others would require broader societal shifts that I’m not sure the government can or should be involved in.

                Personally, I think one of the biggest issues we face is the extent to which the “greed principle” has become a foundational value for our society. The problem is… most any government “solution” to this scares me far more than the status quo.Report

              • Roger in reply to Roger says:


                To restate my initial comment in different words….

                Political parties thrive on convincing people to see themselves as victims in a zero sum game. Thus they accentuate and exaggerate the zero sum dimensions of life. They present free enterprise as a zero sum game, they present prosperity as a struggle between classes, they tell women they are paid less than their fair rate and actually get people to think this makes sense.

                Then they fix all this with top down master plans and rules. We will require equal pay. We will make this group pay more and let this one pay less. We will protect jobs. We will make sure your race gets what the other race has.

                The net effect of this is to convert greatly positive sum processes between consenting adults an converting it into zero sum, win lose political micromanagement. The process self amplifies. The more they assume control or meddle, the more it does become zero sum.

                This is the path to long term demise. The way to kill prosperity is to convert positive sum processes into zero or negative sum processes. Both parties are guilty. Though perhaps not equally so.

                I am not suggesting there are no victims. People are stolen from, lied to, taken advantage of and so forth. This should be prohibited of course.

                I used the analogy though of fixing outcomes by placing ones thumb on the scales. This contributes more to the problem than it does to the solution. If I was to guess this is where you and I most part ways.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

                Confessing to have not FULLY digested this, I think I can get behind the broader sentiment expressed here.


    • LWA (Lib With Attitude) in reply to Roger says:

      All the discussion about zero sum/ positive sum seems to rest on this assumption:

      IF only we have a level playing field, neutral regulations and laws, equal opportunities and purely voluntary engagements so on and so forth, THEN the outcome- any outcome- would be acceptable.

      That is pretty flawed, both from a utility and moral standpoint.Report

      • Roger in reply to LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:


        You knew I would disagree, right?

        The game needs to be a productive one. It is not enough that it be fair.

        Free markets are productive problem solving systems. Insert token Hayek quotes and links here. The point of markets is that they are indeed net positive sum processes that create value such as higher standards of living, longer lives, more freedom and so forth for the participants collectively referred to as consumers. If the system led to massive poverty, illiteracy, death and Internet spam, then there would be no point to supporting it.

        We owe our lives, our existence and our happiness to free markets. All hail free markets, for moral and utilitarian reasons.Report

        • Kim in reply to Roger says:

          I see Americans as headed toward a large elderly population, in deep or extreme poverty (or, alternately, taking all the jobs and never retiring…).
          I can explain to you how markets are aiding and abetting this, and how the fallacy that “good clean decisions” automatically lead to “good results in the future…” plays out.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:

        a level playing field, neutral regulations and laws, equal opportunities and purely voluntary engagements so on and so forth, THEN the outcome- any outcome- would be acceptable.

        Explain why it’s so flawed from a moral or utility standpoint.

        And explain how we can be certain that a system of intervention will enhance the morality/utility of the entire system, rather than diminish it. Because surely no matter how flawed system X is, system Y has to be better than it with some certainty–not just some possibility–before we adopt it.Report

  16. MFarmer says:

    Are you upset how he said it, or do you disagree that at least half the nation, or lightly more, expects something in the form of “welfare” from government? This includes Big, Protected Corporations, the defense industry, Banks, receivers of grants, subsidies of all sorts for gree energy, subsidies to media networks, poor people, middle class people, old people. I’m just asking — is it true or false that more and more Americans are becoming dependent on government, and the party that best gives the most Americans what they want will stay in power?Report

    • Ryan Noonan in reply to MFarmer says:

      Given that America spent most of its history under either slave or apartheid regimes, it’s pretty ballsy to suggest that MORE people are becoming dependent on the state for things.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to MFarmer says:

      Assuming that your assertion is correct (and I certainly argue that it is), than what I would say would be that how he said it is counterproductive.

      I think if greater fiscal responsibility is to come, it will only come from getting buy in from people across the board – and in order for that to happen, I think something along the lines of what you say here is the winning argument. “Look at all of this people and organizations across the spectrum that are getting “stuff” (to use O’Reilly’s word). It’s nice but we can’t afford it in the long term.”

      I think ignoring huge swaths of those recipients and instead pointing fingers at a single subset will fall on deaf ears to the unconverted – and I think trying to demonize any one group on the other side while rhetorically pretending groups on your side aren’t equally to blame actually makes getting a consensus on fiscal responsibility exponentially more difficult.Report

    • Sierra Nevada in reply to MFarmer says:

      It is a stupid thing to say. Full stop.

      There are two possibilities. One possibility, it is true. It still is a stupid thing to say, because it alienates the voters that O’Reilly’s viewers would like to attract to their vision for America, thus making that vision harder to realize.

      The other possibility, what O’Reilly said is false. In which case it is stupid to the second power.Report

      • Sierra Nevada in reply to Sierra Nevada says:

        And another thing – my focus on demographics is not cynical. I really believe that democracy works best, especially for liberals, when all demographic groups are well represented. The dumb dead end that O’Reilly et al. are leading their demographic into is isolating them, and will ultimately leave them far too marginalized.

        In other words, I hate O’Reilly not because he helps my political adversaries, but because he wounds my political adversaries.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to MFarmer says:

      1. Whether “the party that best gives the most Americans what they want will stay in power” is a tautological question. By definition, the party that best gives people what they want wins an election in any democracy. The question is what do the people want.

      2. In no small part, the reason the Right is in such deep trouble is that its answer to this question is, in effect, “those people want handouts and nothing else; our people want to keep the fruit of their labor and nothing else.”

      3. We are all dependent on government in at least some respect, and always have been, whether we’re talking about infrastructure or protection of property rights, or whatever. What has perhaps changed or increased over the years is the scope or nature of what we depend on government for. But for most individuals in this country, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or, yes, political affiliation, depending on government for as little as possible is a goal to be striven for. It’s just that, for many, it’s not a realistic goal or is a goal that plays second or third fiddle to more pressing interests and goals. The fact is there aren’t many people on welfare who run around thinking about how awesome their lives are because they can just sit at home and do nothing. Are there some who do? Sure, but not many.

      Of course, the calculus is different for corporate welfare and subsidies – corporations exist to make a profit, and for no other reason (though they too often act as if they exist solely to make short-term profit rather than sustainable long-term profit, but that’s another story); for corporate entities, the party that will best serve them often really does boil down to a question of which party will give them the most free stuff. But corporate entities don’t vote, even if they can try to persuade people to vote in their interests.

      The assumption of so many on the Right that the reason most individuals vote for Democrats is that they just want more free stuff is absurd and condescending, to say the least. The fact is that most folks who vote for Democrats do so because they have interests that go far beyond how much free cash they get from the government, not in spite of those interests. Until the Right understands what those other interests are, they will continue to find the size of their tent shrinking a little bit every year.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to MFarmer says:

      I’m really sick of all those senior citizens living on Social Security and not paying income taxes! They make up, what, a third of the 47%? And we all know how well Obama does with those old fogies!

      Also, sick of soldiers. Not paying income taxes because they’re not paid enough! Screw those guys!

      And kids! Where the hell do kids get off, not paying income taxes?

      There you go — well over half the “47%” — old people, soldiers, and kids. Those lazy good for nothings.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to MFarmer says:

      People want something for nothing? STOP THE PRESSES!

      Or don’t, because it’s not news. Almost all the railroad builders of the 19th century got subsidies. Every factory that’s near an interstate is effectively getting a subsidy. Every business that’s gotten a special tax break to locate in a community has gotten a tax break. Heck, the American shipping industry in the early 19th century got a subsidy by having the Marines take on the pirates at public expense.

      And I’m pretty sure that MFarmer would agree with all, or at least most, of that. My point is that there’s nothing new here. 2012 (or 2008-2012, or 1994-2012, or any other time period) is not fundamentally different than any time period in the past. All that changes is who manages to have enough political clout to manage to get some o’ the something. Roll back the clock and we don’t eliminate the handouts, we just restrict them to those who got into the game earlier.Report

      • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        Do you bet the way you speak?
        or do you lack the knowledge (or funds) to know which way to bet?Report

      • LWA (Lib With Attitude) in reply to James Hanley says:

        Not only is there nothing new here, but the notion that subsidies and public benefits are a one way transaction is just incorrect.
        Oftentimes they do exactly what their boosters claim, that they act to stimulate and fund things that end up paying for themselves.

        Again, like tax cuts, this argument is easily subject to overuse.

        But in the main, “getting stuff” is not necessarily freeloading.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:

          ” the notion that subsidies and public benefits are a one way transaction is just incorrect. Oftentimes they do exactly what their boosters claim, that they act to stimulate and fund things that end up paying for themselves.”

          oh hi there arthur laffer, supReport

          • James Hanley in reply to DensityDuck says:


            As LWA says, “like tax cuts this [subsidies] argument is easily subject to overuse/”

            But I do think some public benefits more than pay off–sewage systems, at a minimum.Report

            • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

              People run studies on this sort of thing: public parks tend to pay off too (in a lot of ways).

              Public transportation pays off.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to James Hanley says:

              The problem is that many people arguing against Laffer treat his argument as prima facie invalid, like it’s totally impossible for the government to provide benefits to a private citizen and have the result be a net positive.Report

  17. Mumbles says:

    What I find most interesting is the assumption that the chance of response #1 being spoken (or written) to others is low. The truth is, it’s actually something that’s said frequently, in front of cameras and microphones. And Bill O’Reilly is hardly the most high-profile person to say it – newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both voiced similar views while at the height of popularity in the GOP primaries. Mitt Romney stated it outright in a infamous leaked video, and implied that the audience at his NAACP speech wanted “free stuff”. And of course, it’s a very popular sentiment among the AM radio crowd – Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and the like love it.

    I won’t say that all republicans are racist or sexist, but I also won’t state that such bigotry is uncommon among high-profile republicans.Report

  18. MFarmer says:

    “2. In no small part, the reason the Right is in such deep trouble is that its answer to this question is, in effect, “those people want handouts and nothing else; our people want to keep the fruit of their labor and nothing else.” ”

    So, this is what the Right is saying. I was wondering what they were saying.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

      Yep, I googled “What is the Right saying?” and the search results confirm that they are saying “those people want handouts and nothing else, nothing else at all, not a thing, and our people want to keep the fruit of our labor and nothing else, nothing, nada, zero, squat, just the fruit of our labor and that’s all.”

      It’s reported that they are saying it in the south, nowhere else, nowhere, not anywhere else, with a slang, and nothing else, nothing but a slang.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to MFarmer says:

        The key phrase was “in effect.”

        Then again, what distinguished O’Reilly’s comments above, Newt Gingrich’s comments during the debates about the NAACP and Romney’s 47% comments is that they didn’t beat around the bush but instead make this claim pretty explicitly. I could find plenty more examples, including claims made by commenters at this very site, doing the same, so maybe I didn’t need to use the phrase “in effect.”

        Simply put, if you’re dividing the electorate into roughly half of the folks who are deemed “takers” and half who are not while insisting that the “taker” half will always vote for a single party because they are the “taker” half, you’re quite explicitly saying that the only thing they care about is getting handouts.Report

        • As self-professed socialist allowed 100 years ago,

          “A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul.”

          This is not an opinion or a politics, it’s a law of nature. I don’t even see why we’re litigating it.

          Roger’s argument on the other thread is the only reasonable alternate avenue to Peter v. Paul.

          I have nowt to add.Report

          • MFarmer in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Even socialists like Michael Harrington warned against this type of dependence in the 70s — he knew it would ruin socialism.Report

            • Mark Thompson in reply to MFarmer says:

              So it is seriously your contention that we are currently doing more to rob Peter to pay Paul than we were in the 1970s? That is going to need a giant citation. Last I checked, Obama wanted to go back to the Clinton era tax rates, not the Carter era tax rates.Report

              • Returning to Clinton era tax rates raises $~70 billion, chicken feed. It’s a cosmetic issue.


                The argument is there, should you wish to engage it. Which would be nice, MarkT, because not a single fishing person has.

                Communitarianism cannot work alongside ressentiment. You want to have a principled exchange, we need to get the scalpels out and drop the hammers. As long as there’s a disconnect between giving and taking—and there is—the fiscal cliff awaits, and our disconnect is that “handouts” aren’t seen as charity or fellow-feeling, they’re seen as justice.

                You Are Owed.Report

              • See below. You are missing the fishing point here.Report

              • Same point as George Bernard Shaw had. Tell us where he’s wrong or not applicable here. You believe you have a right to free contraceptives, you vote Obama. Peter, meet Paula.Report

              • Reread my comment that started this part of the exchange above, no. 196. I get what you’re saying; it just has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m saying, unless it is your position that those on the Right are inherently Peter and those on the Left are inherently Paul, in which case you’re not refuting my point, you’re proving it.Report

              • No, MarkT, many on the left are Robin Hood, and freely give away other people’s money with no thought of keeping more than a modest transaction fee for themselves.


                And there have been exit poll splits flying around LoOG today that BHO nailed the under-$50K vote, no? And @ $40K or below, regardless of the quibbling about paying no income tax but still paying payroll taxes, do such folks really think of themselves as Peter, complaining about their tax burden? I mean really?

                I guess we’ll settle this on TV, my fellow Republican, unless you have some helpful stats. I’m open to the argument that “Peter” doesn’t real exist, nor “Paul” for that matter. I surely do recognize that there are beaucoup GOP voters on welfare and food stamps and what-have-you. Still, the stats flying around here indicate they’re the minority of the “Paul” vote.

                So I’m agreeing that there’s not a one-to-one correlation between people on the dole and Democratic voters. That would be too facile. Still, a Dem is not going to win her party’s nomination campaigning on entitlement reform whereas a Republican can’t win his without it.

                “The era of big government is over.”—President Clinton, STFU SOTU speech 1996Report

              • Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Obama won the working class and poor votes, therefore it’s the moochers who like Obama. There are no other possible explanations.Report

              • Russell M in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                In my opinion as one of those making less than 30k a year, Obama won among the lower income folks because we can see what he is going to do for us and our descendents to make it possible for us to move up the ladder. looking at the R ticket and their philosophy i could not see how they were going to make it possible. cutting taxes, deregulating everything in sight, and cutting college loans while spending more on DOD does not give me a path. unless I can con the DOD to spend some of that green on my secret anti-terrorist weapon program.

                Just wanting gov to provide ladders when the private sector has failed does not make us takers. it makes us human. If we cant help the sections of society that is hurting/disadvantaged through gov, then through what? the fairy dust of privatization has yet to lead us all to paradise.Report

              • Roger in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


                I didn’t vote GOP either, but I pretty much disagree with just about every comment you made.

                First, and most importantly, it was indeed the “fairy dust” of free markets which blessed you and me with incomes in the $30 k range. These levels of income, which are lowest quintile in America for a family of two or three, are still ten to fifteen times higher than the pre free markets standard of living for the average person. If you knew what life was like for 99.9% of humanity, you would discover that your standard of living is virtual paradise to them. Please do not take this for granted.

                The left talks a better game than the right, I will grant you that, but it is no better for those of us such as you and I at providing a ladder.

                College loans and grants seem like a great idea, until we realized that the way they are structured just feeds the administrators and faculty of colleges to extract higher rents. It is a game of pretending to subsidize artificially high prices which were caused by the loans themselves. Some ladder.

                On education, the left has done nothing for decades at driving net improvement in cost effective education. Scores have frozen in place for over a generation, while costs have doubled as schools became a haven for rent seeking activity under the guise of teachers unions and administrators. This is pathetic exploitation. Reverse robin hood, with inner city kids being the ones robbed of a future.

                Government workers have designed a similar exploitation scheme by demanding unfunded pensions which taxpayers — especially those of the left– are being snookered with. Two or three trillion in ladder destruction. To pervert Thatcher’s line, “Giggle, giggle, we haven’t run out of other people’s money quite yet!”

                Income taxes as a share of income were cut more for us than for the wealthy. I no longer pay any income tax at all….nada.

                As for lower capital gains taxes, these are essential at ensuring capital investment and entrepreneurial activity necessary for creating jobs for us and our kids. The problem with deficits isn’t too low of taxes it is too high of spending, and failure to address the spending side will eventually cut off the wealth producing stream of free enterprise. The left certainly has not been better than the right at curtailing spending, especially at state levels. The Blue states are among the worst in school inefficiency and government worker pension obligations. I live in Illinois, and I have no clue how we are going to pay for these shenanigans.

                Big government and excessive regulation and us vs. them rhetoric is the source of our stagnation. A vote for the left is every bit as much a vote for the problem as is a vote for the right.Report

              • Russell M in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


                I think i may quibble a bit here with you.

                the first point on how it is the fairy dust that makes my level of income possible: I think it is the march of tech progress that makes my life better than the finest middle ages king or Arab sultan. and most of the shiny magic boxes i use and enjoy exist because the gov funded the research. most drugs we take? started with gov funding. hell the internets come from darpa.

                Point 2: the collage loans and such. and the offhand teacher bashing. I agree that the current way we fund college is insane. i much preferred when we funded state university’s just out of the budget so individual cost is low. sure private college can charge whatever they want but for mass education just funding it up front like primary and secondary education makes the most sense, cost wise and good of society wise.

                As to the backhand swipe at the educators tell me why is it their fault when a kid does not learn. all education reformers ever seem to do is tell us teachers unions are the problem, all we have to do is break their union, make them take lower pay and slash the benefits the have fairly negotiated, and poof! due to the magic of incentive all our schools will be halls of knowledge. I seem to remember that you get what you pay for. how can making the job of educating our children less rewarding possibly attract better talent? how does teaching to the test instead of teaching kids to think make education better? rote memorization in not education.

                Point the third:Gov Pensions. mostly empty whining on this one i think. the pensions you don’t like used to be the standard in the private sector too, until corporations realized you can clear more profit if you switch to a 401K instead of good old defined benefit pensions. mostly because they figured that because SS was there, why not hose the work force? bigger profits now and the poor suckers who end up paying for it don’t have a seat on the board. the government is just less dickish on their retirement pay than the private sector.

                Point the Fourth: Cap Gains taxes
                I really don’t see why using money to make more money deserves extra special tax treatment Vs. Me using my physical body and time to make money. I really don’t. the carried interest loophole is a particularly bad example. A hedge fund manager get paid to do his job but because his job is to pick stocks he deserves special tax treatment? And the notion that having the capital GAINS rate at 30% instead of 15% will cause investment to dry up is hogwash. It did not cause investment to die off in Clinton’s term. it will not now. there is just no evidence that constantly lowering taxes makes the economy grow. the CBO said as much before the Senate Republicans had a sad and forced them to retract the report.

                As a last point i don’t think big government is a real problem. we have a big a government as we want and need. it sucks but this is a large diverse country and we need a Big government to run this country. I also don’t think that most regulations are excessive. the government does not just pass new regulations for the fun of it. most regulations are in response to a crisis or a massive business failure.

                us Vs. Them rhetoric being the cause of our problems? i think the problem is that you cant get both sides to work with the same facts on any issues. i know there are people on the left fully convinced that 9-11 was an inside job by President Bush and co. and some on the right that are convinced that President Obama is a keynan marxist islamofascist. I think a great deal of that is the mass public distrust of our own government and a willingness on the part of the public to disbelieve any facts that don’t support their view. it’s sad that most people have no faith in government.

                And thinks for the response. I think that why i like it here. even when ya disagree with some one you can talk without poking too many sticks in ones anothers eyes.Report

              • Roger in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Hi Russell,

                Thanks for the response.

                I agree that science, technology and markets advanced together to create modern prosperity. Indeed. They self amplified each other. Furthermore all three progress via the same basic and greatly decentralized process.  Experiment to solve problems, then replicate and spread the solutions, then combine, ratchet and build upon them. Lather rinse and repeat.   

                That said, the question then shifts to how much government funded R&D contributes to the process.  I agree with OECD’s 2003 study SOURCES OF ECONOMIC GROWTH where the data reveals that the net effect of government R&D is negative. It is cost ineffective and actually crowds out the remarkably cost effective private research.  The best narrative on the issue historically and by country can be found in Terrence Kealey’s brilliant book, SEX, SCIENCE and PROFITS.

                On schools, I have no issue with teachers, just rent seeking government run and coerced monopolists. All the teachers I know are great people. I will blame the institutions.  My issue is simply that unlike private industry in relatively unregulated industries, there has been negative net efficiency gains in education.  This is pretty much expected though in any field that has been captured by special interest groups by cutting out competition.  Despite massive gains in computers and telecommunications, somehow it costs twice as much adjusted for inflation to educate a kid today as thirty years ago. This is wrong in so many ways, and the left is as complicit as any in the crime. 

                Your comment that the three trillion in underfunded pensions is proof that the government is “less dickish” than private firms is kinda funny in a Scrooge McDuck sort of way.  Longer term profit rates are established via competition between rival firms in the marketplace. I don’t care which version of pension firms offer to their employees (which they compete amongst themselves for), as long as they adequately disclose the liabilities and are reasonably assured of meeting their obligation.  And this is exactly what is wrong with government pensions, indeed it is worse.  Politicians, especially on the left, gave political rewards to workers in exchange for their political support by hiding the cost under bad accounting tricks. Politicians screwed you and me to get votes and sweet retirement packages for those that helped them fleece us.  

                I agree that constantly lowering taxes is silly, especially when we keep constantly spending more on all the government befuddled health care, schooling, college loans, pensions and military crap. That said, capital gains is totally different than labor. Capital is an investment in productivity. It has to be adjusted for time and inflation and risk. I believe workers would be better if capital gains were taxed at zero than at 30%. Economists are not in total agreement on this though,especially since some believe in using taxes to redistribute income. For the record I do not believe hedge fund managers salaries or stock options should be taxed as capital gains either. 

                Obviously  I do not agree that “we have as big a government as we want and need.” I do not believe we need to spend twice as much on Education for the same results as thirty years ago. I don’t want to owe three trillion dollars so politicians can hand out the goodies to stay in power. I don’t want or need to enlighten the people of the middle east with representative democracy as delivered at the tip of a bayonet. My son, a medic who just returned from Iraq, feels the same.

                As for the comment that “most regulations are in response to a crisis or a massive business failure,” this is wishful thinking.  I will agree that some regulation is a result of business failure, but most of that backfires and leads to even more failure. All I can think of is the entire libraries full of stupid ass insurance regulations that we had to negotiate to operate in 50 states.  It was Rube Goldberg device that did nothing but add costs and reduce real competition and efficiency. 

                By the way, I really like your responses too. You will find that we snipe at each other a bit, but over time we secretly get to like and respect each other. I especially like your arguments on capital gains and government R&D (which is my way of saying these are my arguments which I am least confident of and thus most value push back on). Last week there was a big discussion on voting ID.  Even though I argued with the left the whole time, they were able to extensively educate me on how naive I was on the topic.  Report

          • Ugh. You’re completely missing the point. Or you’re proving it. I haven’t decided which. Probably a little of both.Report