Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Sunday, April 10, 2011


In the Harry Potter story, The Prisoner of Azkaban, Hogwarts students practice dispelling a Boggart with the spell Riddikulus! which transforms the Boggart's representation of the thing most feared into something silly that can be laughed off.

The thing I most fear is a degeneration of society into the new feudalism.   To paraphrase my source (below) it may be tedious to just keep repeating, over and over, that this is where Austerians, Rethugs, and Tea Party buffoons are taking us. But this is the dominant political trend in the country this century, and when the dominant political events consist of overwhelming, repeated drives toward feudalism, there's not much to do but keep futily pointing out how feudal it is.  (Or as the greatly-missed Molly Ivens reminded us, IIRC: "Keep rattling the pots and pans.")

Alas, in the real world there is no effective counter to the legerdemain of unicorn-riders like the sainted Ayn Rand, Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan (possibly shorted to Ayn-Ryan?) There is no Riddikulus! counter spell to ward off the budget-cutting insanity.  These cuts not only shrink economic activity directly, they also diminish the future by curtailing programs with paybacks that often go far beyond dollar for dollar.  This includes proposed (or perhaps real, since I don't know the details of the the bridge CR) cuts to the research programs at the National Institutes of Health.

And for what? Once again, and for the umpteenth time: the United States faces a serious debt problem on the order of trillions of dollars over a 20- to 30-year time frame. This debt problem is overwhelmingly driven by rising Medicare and Medicaid spending due to rapid cost inflation in the medical sector. Other significant budget problems include a substantial but demographically limited increase in Social Security expenditures, and immense and spectacularly wasteful defence spending. The final serious budget issue is that American taxes are set at a level that remains several per cent of GDP lower than expenditures throughout the business cycle, a problem either created or severely exacerbated by the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. Every other federal spending category apart from the ones I have mentioned is, from the point of view of our debt problem, trivial, and cutting any other category has a negligible effect on the debt. Cutting peer-reviewed research funding in order to generate trivial savings that will have no measurable effect on the debt problem is just ridiculous.

It may be tedious to just keep repeating, over and over, that these cuts are ridiculous. But they're the dominant political event in the country this spring, and when the dominant political event consists of overwhelming, repeated ridiculousness, there's not much to do but keep pointing out how ridiculous it is.

As the unidentified author points out above, there is another side to the budget - revenues, if you recall.  By simply closing corporate tax loop holes, rolling back individual tax rates to the Clinton levels, and removing the ceiling from Social Security payments we would come very close to eliminating all the budget problems, and also take a couple of small steps toward reducing the wide and growing wealth disparity that is a key enabler for feudalism to take hold.  But neither party has any willingness - or even awareness - that the revenue side holds the most sensible solutions for the current difficulties.



The Arthurian said...

In your Money Illusion Delusion you wrote:
The thing to do, I'm convinced, is go after their basic assumptions, and refute them with actual facts. That will be my goal...
I liked that. I also think they're vulnerable because their economic concerns are so limited (inflation, deficits, that's it).

I'm sure it's just politics, and everybody does it, but do you think that calling people thugs and buffoons will make them stop and listen to your ideas? I think that if my economics is the better mousetrap... eventually... my argument will win. I say the same thing, over and over again, trying to say it in a way that makes sense to somebody.

I think, if I can just convince ONE tea-party guy that there is something to what I say, that I could turn the whole brigade my way.

But, God, they're hard to talk to!


Jazzbumpa said...

Art -

You will be surprised to find out that I am not only a Dale (not Andrew) Carnegie Program graduate, but I've been a grad assistant well over a dozen times. I actually do know how to win friends and influence people.

But there has to be something there to work with. If Rethugs had the slightest concern for doing what is right for this country, they could not be associated with what the modern Repugnicant party has degenerated into.

Look at Kyl's admission this week about his flat-ass lie about Planned Parenthood. Why should I give him credit for having even the slightest increment of basic human dignity?

If all those sincere American citizens who apparently care so much about the fiscal health of the country were reachable by facts, data, or logic, they wouldn't be in the tea party.

I've conversed with them in several on-line forums and reluctantly discovered that they simply aren't worth any serious effort. Its a big, big job withNO chance of a reward. So - I've given up, and settle for spouting off and pot rattling.

When I disagree with someone who deserves my respect, I do it respectfully. But tools, fools, and liars get the contempt they so richly deserve.