Does “the Left” Care About Prosperity?

Maybe it’s because I rarely read anything at Townhall.com but it’s been quite a while since I’ve read anything quite as foolish as this item from Dennis Prager. Here’s his central thesis:

They [ed. “the Left’] don’t care because the left is not interested in prosperity; the left is interested in inequality and in the environment. Furthermore, the worse the economic situation, the more voters are likely to vote Democrat. The worse the economic situation, the greater the number of people receiving government assistance; the greater the number of people receiving government assistance, the greater the number of people who will vote Democrat.

Therefore, both philosophically and politically, the left has no reason to be troubled by bad economic news. And it isn’t. It is troubled by inequality and carbon emissions.

I should preface my remarks with the reminder that my eyes tend to glaze over as soon as I read either “the Left” or “the Right”.

I wouldn’t presume to tell anybody what “the Left” wants any more than I would tell them what “the Right” wants. I don’t think either term is particularly meaningful and probably never has been in the United States and any such pronouncement is a tremendous exercise in over-generalization.

However, I do think there are different views of what constitutes prosperity and intelligent people can differ in their views on this subject. Minimizing downside risk and maximizing upside gain are two different strategies. Neither is correct. Neither is wrong. Which you prefer depends on your appetite for risk and what you might expect to gain.

I think that for the last forty years as a matter of national economic policy we’ve been rhetorically supporting minimizing downside risk while pragmatically favoring maximizing upside gain. I’m more interested in optimizing risk or gain. That requires thought and judgment and won’t energize either voters or campaign donors which explains its lack of popularity.

58 comments… add one
  • steve

    Yes. The left wants the country to fail. They want it to be weak. Etc, etc. So tiresome. In reality, the left supports most of the things that the right does, it is usually just a matter of what is emphasized and to what degree. I have yet to read a single left of center economist who doesn’t understand and agree with the idea that we need some inequality. That is how capitalism works. What they are questioning is whether at extremes, inequality becomes bad. If a tiny group of people controls 80%, 95%, 99% of our wealth, at what level, if any, does that cause problems? Instead of having an honest talk about the topic, you get the strawman argument that the left opposes all inequality.

    If one wanted, and some on the left make the argument, you could claim that the right only cares about prosperity for the wealthy. However, if you actually know and talk with conservatives, that is not true either. Most really do care, they just have different ideas about why problems exist and how to improve them.

    Query- Do you really think we have a national economic policy? It is difficult for me to see that, at least as an organized plan. We have an accumulation of individual policies that change every few years, The sum of those policies seems to favor socializing risk and privatizing gain, but I dont think anyone ever sat down and thought or wrote that out as explicit policy. I guess this could just be quibbling, but what do you think we could get if we had a detailed overall economic policy written out by either party? (Probably only possible in a parliamentary system, or a dictatorship anyway.)

    Steve

  • Do you really think we have a national economic policy?

    Like our foreign policy, it’s an emergent phenomenon.

    The sum of those policies seems to favor socializing risk and privatizing gain, but I dont think anyone ever sat down and thought or wrote that out as explicit policy

    Yep. That pretty much covers it. A policy doesn’t need to be explicit or even understood to be a policy and, as has been pointed out, the character of our foreign policy as an emergent phenomenon has been remarkably durable over a very long period of time, much longer than the more top-down explicit policies of some of our enemies or allies.

  • whatnonsense

    Oh for Pete’s sake, what Pager says is deeply true, and has been profoundly true of “The Left” for over 100 years. It is scarcely debatable, and in fact have not countered hos point in any rational way. All we are getting is mild invective followed by even milder cant.

    In fact he does not go deep enough.

    Likewise, to say “I don’t think either term is particularly meaningful and probably never has been in the United States”, is absurdly off the mark. This crisis point indeed reach by the apotheosis of the Left in America, and in more field than economics.
    If you truly believe otherwise then you have not been paying attention, not to mention being laughably ignorant of the history of the Left in this nation or this civilization.

    The Left is out to destroy not just this nation, but this civilization. They would rather rule in Hell then serve in Heaven.

    You are either a propagandist or a “useful idiot”–I suspect the later.
    How your masters chuckle at your foolishness.

    You imagine yourself “on the Left”, but you have no real idea of what the Left is actually about.

    (Hint: the Left have absolutely nothing to do with and sort of strategy that deals with “minimizing downside risk and maximizing upside gain are two different strategies. ” This is downright risible.

    They are a the usual viper pit of Oligarchical Collectivists: Marxist Leninists, Maoist, accidental Peronists and Proudhonists “Chavezistas”, “Castroites”, generic Communists and countless other variations on the same disastrous schemes. Their predecessors literally where indoctrinated by the Soviets decades ago, and nothing much has changed other than the generations, tactics and appearances. They most certainly want to crash the system and then hate the middle classes, along with their prosperity, to a point that is beyond sanity or reason. It is shameful that you do not understand this. It is clear as the light of day.)

  • ...

    Yes, steve, I’m sure the Soviets didn’t plan on collapsing their nation, but they did, because their primary motivation was staying in power.

    And there is no reason to think the left or Democrats (if you want to put it that way) give a damn about prosperity for anyone but their own elite. Obama’s economic performance has been dismal. And yet, Dems say they want more of this. He didn’t get challenged in his own party. Instead, they have said everything is awesome! Carter got challenged in 1980 and Ford in 1976 under far less trying circumstances economically, and during much more dangerous times diplomatically.

    But no one in the Democratic Party has had anything but the most effusive praise for Obama on this front. (Is Chris Matthews done orgasming yet? Has Barbara Walters gotten off her knees from in front of the alter yet?)

    They’re not protesting the crappy economy because they’re getting what they want.

  • ...

    One of the emergent phenomenon of Obama’s domestic policy has been a huge increase in “food stamp” usage during a recovery with nary a peep of concern (save when some idiot Republican claims they want to cut the program). And in fact they ran on this economy being a big win back in 2012.

    At some point, when they tell you they’re proud of the fact that this recovery sucks and that they want exactly more of this kind of recovery, you have to believe them. And that’s been their position for years now.

  • steve

    No. Actually the left of center economists keep saying that the recovery is too slow and keep pushing for more intervention. Believe what you want, but that is what they actually say. I think the cheerleaders are prone to saying that things are better (they are when compared with last quarter 2008), but that is a political response to criticism. No one has a good idea on how to make things work better right now that can make it through Congress anyway. (Bush didnt get challenged in 2004, so I dont really get that argument.)

    Who is this Democratic elite that are the only ones they care about? Would those be the people who can now obtain health insurance with the ACA?

    Steve

  • michael reynolds

    That requires thought and judgment and won’t energize either voters or campaign donors which explains its lack of popularity.

    Indeed.

  • michael reynolds

    Ice:

    Yeah, we would hate to be running in 2016 with 4% unemployment and rising wages. Gosh how we would hate that! We would carry 45 states and both houses of Congress. And that would be such a burden.

    Good grief.

  • ...

    So why are you so goddamned happy with the state of affairs now? This IS the economy that you want more of, and that you voted for., and that you tell me is so goddamned wonderful that I can only be complaining because I hate black people.

  • ...

    And let’s look at recent Presidential election results for some guidance.

    1992 Crappy economy (or so it was portrayed) Dem win on a split vote
    1996 Great economy, charismatic Dem President fails to win majority of popular vote
    2000 Decent economy, Dems lose a close one that should have been an easy win
    2004 Decent economy, Dems lose handily
    2008 Economy being flushed into spetic tank, Dem wins easily
    2012 Economy still in toilet, Dem wins easily

    When the economy is doing well, Dems struggle, even with a charismatic campaigner like Bill Clinton at the top of the ticket. When the economy fails, they win, even when their guy has been in office for years. You’ve got to go back to 1980 to see a Dem lose during a bad economy. And in that time frame they’ve only won once during good times.

    What incentive do the Dems have to fix the economy before 2016?

  • ...

    And yes, absent Perot, Clinton would have gotten that popular vote majority win in 1996 that proved so elusive for Dems in recent decades. But the point is, with the economy doing as well as it was, he should have won with numbers like Reagan had in 1984. But he didn’t, and those voting AGAINST him got more votes than he did.

    Think that lesson has been lost on Dem strategists? Especially after the 2012 win in a crap economy?

  • michael reynolds

    Ice:

    No, I think you’re complaining because your life is fucked up right now. But that’s not helping you to understand politics.

    Politics is the art of the possible, it’s not magic. Harry Potter is not president. I’ve been following politics like normal people follow sports for almost 50 years now, and I have never, ever, at any time, thought everything was wonderful and perfectly managed. And I read a lot of history, which also helps lead me to the conclusion that perfect doesn’t exist in politics. So being a realist, I grade on the curve.

    Lincoln obviously didn’t forestall the Civil War, he helped to precipitate it. Our greatest president helped start our worst war. He didn’t prosecute the war perfectly – he allowed lousy generals to kill lots of men before he found the magic trio of Grant, Sherman and Sheridan. He violated the Constitution in several ways. He’s still our greatest president. If he were magic he could have avoided the war, or failing to do so, could have won it in a few months. But he was just a man, so he did well enough.

    FDR didn’t save us from the Depression, he saved us from the extremism the Depression could have caused. For that he’s a great man. He didn’t ‘lead us into WW2,’ he lied us into WW2, and for that, too, he’s a great man. Neither of those is optimal, both were far better than the alternative, and that’s the way the game works. In politics ‘good enough’ is fucking great.

    Politics is not engineering. The tolerances are measured in giant yawning valleys not in millionths of a meter. We are sitting here in a country that went from a few tobacco-growing plantations huddled on the eastern seaboard, to the world’s sole superpower and in 238 years we have suffered zero coups, zero successful civil wars, and the number of times the army has moved against civilians is zero. Throughout it all we have widened the scope and reach and depth of human liberty in the US and the world. That is an astonishing record. None of it executed perfectly. Every single piece of it was a damn mess.

  • I don’t agree entirely with Michael on this. I agree with him that political outcomes are not perfect barometers of intention. I do, however, think that you can discern relative priorities by examining outcomes and the processes that produced them.

    For example, Ellipsis and Mr. Prager are correct to the extent that for many Democrats prosperity (especially prosperity as defined by Warren Buffett earning an additional million dollars) is a lower priority than a laundry list of other priorities. To construe that as Democrats hating prosperity is agonistic, excessive, and wrong.

  • ...

    No, I think you’re complaining because your life is fucked up right now.

    I think that is the most tired and triter thing I’ve ever heard. It isn’t just me, fuckwad. Last I checked (a month ago) there were 3,872,000 fewer full-time jobs NOW than there were six and a half years ago. The working age population has actually grown in that time by a fair amount, though I don’t have those numbers handy.

    Median wages are down. You can look up median for yourself, but that is a bad thing for a lot more people than those of us out of work.

    SNAP usage is way up during a recovery. What is it, something like a 50% increase since Obama took office? SSDI usage is up too, and a lot of that is people looking for their last life line.

    That’s way more than just me, by a goddamned long-shot. And the only reason Obama held on last year is because people are giving up on both parties, and right now they’re giving up on Rs faster than they are Ds. (They should be giving up on both equally.)

    But please, keep doing the same thing you’ve been doing for six years now, and claim that the only reason I don’t think the world is fucking wonderful is because I’m the only person in America that isn’t making million.

    Seriously, do any of you on the left have any sense of shame or decency or honesty remaining? Because it certainly doesn’t seem like it when you tell me bullshit like that.

  • ...

    Schuler, Dems seem thrilled with Warren Buffet making an extra billion or two. Look at how often the likes of Reynolds has cited the booming stock market as a sign of how fucking wonderful it is. Warren makes billions, SNAP usage goes up, and they tell us this is the economy they love and want more of, as in 2012. Not only that, they say over and over again that the only reason anyone dissents is because they hate blacks and want to put Jews in ovens. I’ve had Reynolds accuse me of that often enough that I suspect he has a macro for it. THAT tells you what they prioritize.

    That bit with the racism, repeated ad infinitum since 2007, also tells me that they’re acting in extreme bad faith. And it isn’t like there isn’t precedent for it. How many leftists covered for Stalin for how many years? Up to and including institutions such as the NYTs?

    And it is also telling that they never have any complaints about a bad economy and what their side is doing about it when they’re in power. Never. Hell, as brain-dead and soulless as the Republican voters are, they occasionally show that they get tired of their own pols. (E.g., various immigration “reform” revolts, the existence of the Tea Party.) After 2000 you don’t see any of that in a meaningful way from the Democratic side. They all agree with everything their bosses are doing, or they get excommunicated. (E.g., Ralph Nader, Glenn Greenwald.)

  • ...

    To construe that as Democrats hating prosperity is agonistic, excessive, and wrong.

    But to construe that the only reason anyone ever opposes ANYTHING Obama does is because they’re a closeted Klansman is okay. Got it. Perfectly clear now.

    If they do not allow for any honesty in the opposition, that is telling. If they do not allow for any decent motives from the opposition, that is telling. It tells me that they’re dishonest at heart, and have no decency in their motives. So much so that they can’t even believe the possibility of honesty or decency can exist anywhere. And the next time I hear steve or Reynolds admit that it is possible to have a principled objection to anything Obama does will be the first time I have ever heard such an admission from an Obama supporter.

  • michael reynolds

    I never denied that lots of people are unemployed and hurting. (I’m a Democrat, you may remember us as the folks who are trying to extend unemployment benefits, and trying to get Medicaid extended to more working poor.) I said that you, specifically, are upset because of what’s happened to you. I’ve never seen any evidence that you give a damn about anyone but yourself and those you can easily identify as being like you. There’s a difference.

    What I suspect is that if someone offered you your ideal job tomorrow at 100k you’d flip easily back to thinking and acting like a conservative Republican. I could be wrong about that. I’ve just never seen any evidence that your politics is anything but an extension of your narrow self-interest. And on the flip side if Drew lost his job and home and wine collection and the rest of his ornaments of class, he’d be a raging socialist within a week.

    By contrast, I think if you dragged Schuler straight to a homeless shelter we’d never know it from what he wrote. I often think he’s wrong, but I’ve never thought his politics were just a screen for narrow self-interest.

    Nor are my politics, unless you can explain how it benefits me to keep voting to raise my own already-considerable tax bill.

  • ...

    I never denied that lots of people are unemployed and hurting.

    What bullshit. You always make these discussions about my circumstances, even if I don’t bring them up. Even if I make a point of showing nothing but broader statistics. In part, no doubt, because you can’t think of anything except in terms of stories, a sign of your complete lack of analytical training and ability. And in part because you always paint opponents as evil – insult and derision are primary tools for you. Thus you call me a racist all the goddamned time.

    Not so different from your days of mocking Bob-in-a-Bag for laughs, is it? Insult and derision, it’s all you’ve got. Well, that and a heaping load of dishonesty. I shouldn’t overlook that, now, should I?

  • michael reynolds

    Ice:

    You’ve said before that I called you a racist. I asked you for any evidence that I’d done so. I may have, my memory is far from perfect, but I can’t find that back-and-forth easily, so I don’t know if you ever responded.

  • michael reynolds

    As for you complaining about insult and derision, either you’re joking or you are utterly un-self aware. It’s like me complaining about someone being wordy.

  • michael reynolds

    By the way, accusing me of dishonesty when I provided the Bob-In-A-Bag reference which obviously does not speak well of me, is contradictory. I wonder, if I’m dishonest, why I’m the one using my real name, and offering up useful ammunition like that?

  • amspirnational

    Prager is for socialized single payer military care as long as the military fights Israel’s wars. Not so much health care.

  • ...

    What I suspect is that if someone offered you your ideal job tomorrow at 100k you’d flip easily back to thinking and acting like a conservative Republican.

    I wasn’t aware that I had stopped, at least on the conservative part. Seriously, are you claiming I’m some sort of leftist now? Or centrist? Or what? ‘Cause I’m sure as shit opposed to you and your party.

    What’s happened is that I’ve finally stopped holding my nose to vote for the Republicans. They’ve sucked pretty much since I started voting, and certainly by 1995 when I swore I’d never vote for a Democrat again. (Thank you Lawton Chiles for demonstrating just how much of a scumbag a Dem pol could be and still be called a saint by all the other Dems.) Republicans have been crappy to vote for, and I’ve been at pains to vote for the bastards in the last three elections.

    But I’ve finally had enough, mostly because of Republican voters, who are only about half as bad as Democratic voters, but that’s still pretty bad. I’m done with the lot.

    And it isn’t, nor has it been about my circumstances. It’s more about looking at all those around me, and how they’re being treated. Dems are positively gleeful of the misery, because it means votes for them. Republicans are unhappy about the misery, because they’re afraid someone somehow might be forcing them to pay slightly more in taxes.

    Honestly, I have never seen the Democratic party actually act in a concerned manner about the poor for anything other than show. They grandstand and thump their chests and tell us how awesome they are, and they ultimately do nothing but line the pockets of government workers, a ket constituency. When was the last time a Dem pol said “This Democratic policy isn’t working, we need to fix it. Or stop!” Mid-1990s, arguably, with welfare reform, but I think that was more about Clinton being scared of the 1994 mid-term results. You’d have to go back to Moynihan I think. And nothing was done.

    Republicans used to at least run on the premise that if the economy does well, everyone should do well. They don’t even do that any more (save for Newt Gingrich when he’s either sober/drunk, I can’t tell which is the ‘Good’ Newt), and there’s scant evidence they ever were. Just another rhetorical flourish.

    But please, tell me what I am now, what I was, and where I’m headed. I’d like to get this great insight. I’m not libertarian, because I actually think that government is a necessary evil, and that the necessary part is damned important.

    I’m not strictly conservative on taxes, as mostly I’ve voted in favor or tax hikes at the local and state level. (Only to be defeated by all those liberal voters moving here from places like Michigan and New York and New Jersey.) At the federal level I’ve stated that we need to decide what we want and need to pay for it. I DO favor taxes being as low as possible, but I also favor paying the bills. And I’m adament that the tax code needs to be vastly simpler than it is, as a matter of civic cleanliness.

    All those positions were ones I held when things were going well, and ones that I hold now that things are going well. And not just for me.

    I’ve become decidedly more conservative on social issues through the years. That’s partly age, partly my circumstance, and partly a distaste at seeing government being used to beat the culture into what the few want at the expense of the many. And shockingly, that has nothing to do with slavery or segregation. That’s not what the Constitution was designed for, and using it that way is perverse and ultimately destructive of the kind of government I want to see function in this country.

    That was true when things were going well for me, and is true now that they aren’t going well for me.

    The biggest change that I’ve gone through in recent years is my belief that the US government’s trade policies are inherently and purposefully destructive of the US economy. That covers a vast swath of territory. And the biggest change is more that I feel it is intentional, not that I think it is happening.

    Absent changes to US trade policy at a deeply fundamental level, I don’t see my opinion changing on that matter.

    I hold the same position on immigration that I’ve had since about 1992, with one minor change. I now think that letting in skilled professionals from ‘overseas’ acts as more of a detriment to the US economy on the whole than as a possitive, as it is used mostly to keep wages down in the professional ranks here, which acts as a disincentive to people going into harder fields. (Sorry, Simon. Besides, I hear you did well back in Malaysia.)

    That isn’t going to change.

    So please tell me where my positions have changed because of my poverty, and how they would magically switch back if I won the lottery and actually got that job at McDonald’s.

  • ...

    The big change in my political thinking in the last six or seven years is that I no longer believe that the ruling class in this country care about anything other than raping the country for their own gain. I used to think it was only some of them that felt that way, the odd Michael Milken and such, but now I feel that most of them do. And that cuts across party, and I no longer care to hear your excuses. And I’m also no longer willing to forgive. Probably won’t matter though. You guys have won, you have trashed the nation, and you’re changing the nature of the people into one that is much less likely to rebel. No guillotine for you lot, though you desperately deserve it.

  • Cstanley

    The relative priorities that Dave mentions are the relative priorities of VOTERS who identify as left or right. The priorities of the politicians on both sides, is to formulate the propaganda to appeal to these voters.

    Many, perhaps most, of the politicians may have started out believing their own bullshit, in that way that humans have of rationalizing. When we were prospering, it was easy and perhaps not even untrue for them to have convinced themselves that their own self interest aligned with the country’s interests. That hasn’t been true for quite some time. And primarily it has become untrue because the ruling class overreached and their greed has crashed the system.

    So at this point in history, I find it hard to believe that anyone who is reasonably intelligent and paying attention could possibly believe that our politicians-right or left- care about the country’s future.

  • Ben Wolf

    I should preface my remarks with the reminder that my eyes tend to glaze over as soon as I read either “the Left” or “the Right”.

    Yeah, I feel that way myself. What does “the left” mean in this particular case? Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Barack Obama are The Left? I find that very difficult to believe given I am likely further to the left than any person here is likely to encounter, and I disagree with these politicians on most things. From an outside perspective the Democratic leadership is center-right, moderately conservative and governs in line with the political traditions which prevailed through most of the 20th Century.

    Political labels no longer have any meaning in the U.S. as they seem to be dependent on where the one casting judgement believes themselves to be on the left-right scale. It’s entirely subjective.

  • Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Barack Obama are The Left?

    That’s the critical point, Ben. There’s nobody in high office who’s “the Left”. Center-left at most. I would also contend that “the Right” are mostly hiding up in the hills in Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.

    And that’s just relative to U. S. politics. Practically everybody you hear about at all in U. S. politics is center-right or right-wing from a world politics standpoint.

  • michael reynolds

    Ice:

    Simple question: if I’m out to destroy whatever it is you think I’m out to destroy, why do I vote to raise my own taxes?

    And don’t hide behind some “you rich people don’t actually pay,” nonsense, because I’ll happily fax Dave a copy of my tax returns. And no, I don’t have so much that I don’t need or want more – I’m a genius at spending money.

    So, explain why a wealthy white guy rapidly nearing retirement age, supports politicians who vow to take my money and give it to people who can’t buy food or see a doctor. What is my nefarious plan?

  • Guarneri

    “And on the flip side if Drew lost his job and home and wine collection and the rest of his ornaments of class, he’d be a raging socialist within a week.”

    Um, no. But some time you must teach me this mind reading trick.

    I have a philosophical question for everyone. I seriously doubt liberals want a poorly performing economy. (Just the small fraction dependent for their own livelihoods on continuing poor conditions or narratives. Similar to the race baiting industry.) However, when the same nostrums are tried over and over and yet bear poor outcomes, when does culpability begin? Objectively, food stamp usage is sky high. Public schools stink. The War on Poverty is monstrously expensive and largely mis-targeted and therefore ineffective. Income inequality is rising even in the face of a tax burden born by the well off more disproportionately than ever in my lifetime, surely my working lifetime.

    To use a more strident example. I don’t think someone fooling around with a loaded gun intends to shoot someone. But if they do they still get charged, not with first degree murder, but manslaughter. Same with the DUI types. And most everyone knows you shouldn’t fool around with a loaded gun, or drink and drive. But they still do, despite bad experiences.

  • However, when the same nostrums are tried over and over and yet bear poor outcomes, when does culpability begin?

    That’s a really good question and one to which I do not have an answer. There are many, many policies which have been tried over and over and over again without huge success. Why are the same mistakes repeated again and again? I can give examples that would gore both right-facing and left-facing oxen.

    Let’s look at the education example again. How do you ensure that everybody’s kids get a decent education? Nobody has an answer to that. Vouchers sound good and are appealing in a pseudo-market sort of way but I think it’s pretty obvious that the end state of a vouchers system isn’t much different from the present obviously inadequate system: poor kids won’t get what they need; rich kids will get more than they need.

    How do you ensure that everybody gets the healthcare that they need? A pure market system will maximize the amount of healthcare available and optimize “welfare” in the economic sense but it won’t ensure that people don’t die in the streets of treatable conditions because that’s not how the market allocates resources. A fully socialized system will produce surpluses and shortages.

    I think the answer to a lot of these questions is “something in between” but the only way to decide on that something is through the political process.

  • michael reynolds

    However, when the same nostrums are tried over and over and yet bear poor outcomes, when does culpability begin?

    You mean like trickle down and tax cuts for the rich and loosening controls on banking and ignoring health care?

    Let me explain something to you, Drew: we have been trying it your way. The result was 2007. Now we’ve been trying a half-assed version of “our way.” The results are mediocre, but we’re not shedding 700,000 jobs a month.

    Your way is really just your way. It’s all down to what’s good for you, personally. It’s narcissism masquerading as economic policy.

  • steve

    Drew Same applies for you guys. When you get right down to it, your only answer is to cut taxes. With those lower tax rates still in place, we had the Great Recession. If they work, they don’t work very well.

    Steve

    Ice I really don’t know who you read. Where are all of these people saying the economy is great?

  • michael reynolds

    Dave:

    Exactly.

    I would add that I seriously doubt we have any idea what will actually work. The last downturn this big was the great depression and that required a world war to fix. The closest thing we have to a historical precedent is pretty scary.

    We don’t understand the economy, we just pretend to. We fiddle around hoping something works. We’re pretty sure a completely controlled economy isn’t the answer and we’re pretty sure complete laissez-faire doesn’t work. We’ve eliminated the two extreme poles, but that has not given us an actual solution.

  • Where are all of these people saying the economy is great?

    Obviously, I can’t answer for Ellipsis but let me try one answer out on you. The Obama Administration has never produced a plan that would put more than a fraction of those who lost their jobs in the Great Recession back to work. Even if their plan were completely implemented. Even if their plan worked perfectly. Just a fraction.

    I think a reasonable interpretation of that is that they think the economy is a lot better than it actually is. Add to that the various happy noises they’re making, e.g. “steady progress”. The harsh interpretation is that they’re lying and don’t give a damn. The kind interpretation is that they’re mistaken.

  • steve

    Dave Agreed. We know that pure socialism does not work. No one really wants that. We know that the libertarian ideal of no govt fails. Look at Somalia. What we have come to realize is that a hybrid works best, we just argue about where on the spectrum we want to live. What values are important and how to achieve them.

    Which gets back to the original. Everyone wants prosperity. We just argue about how to get there. If there were an obvious solution we would already be doing it.

    Steve

  • Cstanley

    I think the answer to a lot of these questions is “something in between” but the only way to decide on that something is through the political process.

    I generally disagree with the “in between” because the politicians who are deciding the middle ground approach aren’t incentivized to cobble together middle ground policies that make sense. As a result, we end up with the worst of both systems.

    I think the ideal would be a lot more collectivism than conservatives favor, but done with a lot more accountability and decentralization than liberals will accept. It would be a lot harder for conservatives to make the case for shrinking government if that government actually worked well. It’s just a hell of a lot easier to attain or keep power through demagoguery.

  • PD Shaw

    Here is some clue to what Obama thinks or at least thought:

    “At an off-the-record lunch at the White House in June 2012, President Obama explained that he had to win re-election or Mitt Romney would get credit for an inevitable recovery during what would be his second term.

    “I’m not going to let him win … so that he can take all the credit when the economy turns around,” Obama said, according to Glenn Thrush’s new book “Obama’s Last Stand.”

    According to the book, Obama’s advisers knew by 2011 that a positive campaign based on the improving economy “just wasn’t in the cards” and planned early to hit Mitt Romney with a negative campaign.

    “You can’t run on the economy,” an Obama adviser told Thrush. “You can only tell people that you’ve saved them from something worse.””

  • PD Shaw

    IOW, Obama believed the policies put in place his first year would take a while to bear fruit. And then its waiting . . ..

  • michael reynolds

    I think the idea that a group of politicians with very minimal and very indirect “control” of one quarter of the global economy, can somehow make magical things happen for that economy when Germany and the rest of the EU, China, Japan all have their own meddling politicians, and the world energy supply is largely controlled by thugs, is absurd on its face.

    If you just count the major economic powers we are driving a car with at least four sets of hands on the wheel. We’re talking about hitting a perfect shot down the middle under those circumstances? Think of the specific governments that would end up having a defacto veto over such policy. Us, China, Japan and Germany, sure, but also the UK, the EU as EU, maybe even Canada. That is one hell of a committee to wrangle.

  • michael reynolds

    But I have a catchy name for that group.

  • michael reynolds

    PD:

    I think he probably looked at the thing and thought, “Well, as a rule recessions work themselves out and whoever is there on the upswing gets the credit.” In other words he probably believed in the magic of the marketplace and intervened only minimally. It was the smart, small ‘c’ conservative way to handle it.

    Didn’t work, but I’m still waiting for someone to supply a real world case where anything was proven to work.

  • Guarneri

    Actually, the Dems have been winning the war since the 60’s. If we look at the presence of government at all levels, spending, regulation, progressive taxation etc its been a route. I know you don’t want to believe it. But look at objective statistics.

    And we have what to show for it?

  • I think it depends on how on how you define victory, Guarneri. Forty years ago, the Democrats routinely introduced bills to create a single payer system. Now a single payer system is politically impossible. How did that happen?

    I think that what has happened is that Republicans won the ideological war. Nobody introduces big tax increases, bills to create single payer, expansion of the VRA, major military cutbacks, etc.—all things pretty common forty years ago. It would be suicide.

    Lately there’s been a bit of pushback, e.g. the Obama Administration has tried to relax the work requirements implemented during the welfare reform enacted during the Clinton Administration. They’ve been slapped down pretty well.

  • steve

    1) In the 60s, the government set the rates for airfare, a lot of truck transportation, telecommunications (legal monopoly), energy (indirectly) and a few other things. Interest rates in your bank accounts were controlled. Stock broker fees were controlled. Banks were rigidly controlled on where they could do business. They even controlled how many brands of beer we could have, getting down to about 40 IIRC. Top tax rates were in the 90% range and cap gains rates were higher. All liberalized. Mostly for the better too, except for the changes to finance. You can never have too many regs for them. (Not that they will work.)

    2) Dave- That is your interpretation. I interpret as there was not much that could be done after the fact. None of the GOP proposals would have added jobs either. Yes, govt could have just directly hired a lot more people and created more jobs than it did with the stimulus, probably. But, you know that is not going to fly, for the same reason you note in the comment above. The GOP has won the ideological war in some areas. If the govt started directly hiring large numbers that would be declared socialism. That party would be dead for 20 years. You couldn’t get it through either house of Congress. (Banks should have nationalized but werent for (sort of)the same reason, so we ended up bailing them out and leaving the same folks in charge. Well, that plus the money that flowed in to the Dems in 2008 and 2009 from the banking sector.)
    Steve

  • That is your interpretation

    No. It’s a fact. The number of jobs claimed by the White House for its jobs plan during the president’s re-election campaign was 2 million. The number who remain out of work is about 4 million. 2 is half of 4 and half is a fraction.

  • ...

    Was it two million? I thought it was less than that.

    Regardless, what we have now is an economy where children go to their political masters in supplication, begging for their fathers to be given jobs. Absolutely revolting to see Americans reduced to such circumstances.

    And the defense of the Administration not having a plan is that the other guys don’t have a plan either. Well, then, a pox on both your houses.

    But that’s not true, because there was a plan. A plan that involved, among other things, pumping $85 billion a month into the financial markets to make certain that the financiers would recover. My God, what if Warren Buffet only had to make do with $30 billion in assets? The horror!

    So the financiers got bailed out (Big time!*), poor people got food stamps, the Dems congratulated themselves on their good works, and the Republicans grumbled about taxes spent on poor people. Job well done, ruling elite, job well done! Take four more years and get back to us later about cushy speaking engagements for which we will pay you for exorbitant sums for all the graft, er, good works!

    * Trademarked phrase of Dick Cheney; I’ll probably have to write him a check.

  • ...

    It would be easier to stomach the government not doing anything meaningful to help the poor and the unemployed if they hadn’t spent so much money making certain the rich recovered their losses. But they did, and now we’re supposed to believe that Obama helping Buffet get his billions back was a sign of Obama giving a shit about the unemployed.

    They certainly knew how to help out their friends.

  • ...

    Obama believed the policies put in place his first year would take a while to bear fruit. And then its waiting . . ..

    How lpong are we going to have to wait before he decides it isn’t working? steve is telling me we can’t have an opinion on Obamacare until 2020 or thereabouts. Do we need to wait until Elizabeth Warren is running for her second term before passing judgement on this?

  • ...

    As I’ve said before, it took a long time to get into this mess, it will take a long time to get out of it. But nothing has been done to get out of it. Not one thing that I can think of.

    The Administration is encouraging the young to rack up huge amounts of non-dischargable debt while simultaneously pushing for more skilled workers to be let into the country from abroad to reduce the number of jobs and the wages for college educated folks here.

    Glass-Steagall remains dead, while SOX and Dodd-Frank live on. And forget addressing any other kind of actual useful financial market reforms and regulations. That shit just ain’t happening. I think it’s because Frank was gay, or something, which makes his law fabulous, I guess.

    The banks have gotten bigger. By a lot. And they say that none of them are too big to fail now because magic!

    Environmental regulations continue to encourage industries to off-shore to places without such restrictions.

    Trade policy remains in place to favor the Third World at the expense of American workers. (Because, of course, every American wants to be out-of-work but able to buy the absolute cheapest crap imaginable from Vietnam.)

    Immigration policy continues to favor creating a surplus of workers at all levels (except government workers and the rich, of course) at the expense of jobs and wages for American workers. That’s doubly bad as it is taking place here.

    And neither the Administration nor the opposition nor any of the likely candidates to replace the jackass in charge now have anything approaching an idea about where to begin.

    Instead we have the President telling us in great depth about his NCAA brackets. (Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Obama meticulously analyzes game tape to gamble more effectively while America rots. No, not as catchy.) We have the President intensely concerned about whether or not some old cuckold was worried about the brothers banging his girlfriend, and also so very pleased that Michael Sam is gay. He can’t be bothered with economic policy, because racism.

    We have Republican opposition that argues about the best forms of spray-on tan. They sniff around at real scandals without actually doing anything, and have no idea what to do about all those pesky unemployed people. But man, they’ll be ready for the Congressional Softball season!

    We have Dem leaders in Congress who are frankly delusional. Say one thing today and tomorrow state that they never said any such thing.

    We have a press corps(e) who follows all the trivia above assiduously, with the occasional side-line to see what shocking thing Alec Baldwin has done recently, or to celebrate the world’s worst drag queen winning a singing contest in Europe.

    All squirrels all the time, and the best defense anyone can offer is that the other guys suck worse. Good work!

  • ...

    The people saying the economy is great? Seriously? You called this a B+ economy in 2012. The President and his people raved about the great job they had done putting people back to work. (Although they tended to quickly change the subject to Romney’s binders full of women.) Every Dem pol since the summer of 2009. Biden, who called Recovery Summer back in the summer of 2010, stating how wonderful things were. Every fucking Dem leaning economist whenever a new jobs report comes out stating (on the Establishment Survey) that 180,000 jobs were added. (Never mind the 800,000 people that drop out on the Household Survey.) The White House always states that such reports show steady progress. No, with this many people out of work, they show stagnation. But Obama and his minions always mention how great things are now and how awful things would be if the Great Man hadn’t come along. Wonder how we’ll do without him?

  • ...

    How many names have you used online, Reynolds? How many of your old blogs did you disappear? And how about writing more of this stuff under your nom de plume? (Chosen for the most anti-Semitic President the country ever had, laughably enough.)

    You mentioned Bob-in-a-Bag, just like you mentioned your lying, as ways to humble brag about how wonderful a person you are now. Big fucking deal. If you’d been worth a damn as a person you’d have never abused old Bob like that in the first place.

  • ...

    I said that you, specifically, are upset because of what’s happened to you. I’ve never seen any evidence that you give a damn about anyone but yourself and those you can easily identify as being like you.

    Okay, that’s funny. I’m always going to the stats, I am. And I get mad because of the people I know who are better than I am at so many things who have seen their lives fall apart in this economy, often much worse than my life has. I know a man who is as upbeat, positive and energetic as anyone I know. A man who along with dealing with his own work life collapsing worked to help others in the same situation, while dealing with a grown child forced to move back home and his wife’s cancer. I only once saw him even show signs of weariness, much less the kind of anger or bitterness that I have.

    But him? He’s been out of work for years, so all the Republicans out there say he must be lazy, he must be a malcontent, there MUST be something wrong with him. That infuriates me to know that such as him get treated that way.

    I’ve got a friend who lost her job. And then her husband lost his job. And then her health collapsed. (The rarest form of Crohn’s Disease, she has.) They’ve both been out of work for years, with a few brief interruptions for him when he’d go to the site of disasters to pick up work on the quick. (Let’s here it for the up side of oil rigs exploding in the Gulf!) Recently they seemed to get back on their feet when he finally got a really choice job again. It fell apart after a few weeks when they discovered he had cancer and his boss fired him. (Luckily it seems he’s going to beat the cancer.)

    They get treated as though they were welfare queens. That would piss me off, but I am amazed at their fortitude against all that (and much more I didn’t mention), fueled by their faith. I am envious of that, for I don’t understand it. But not only do they get lumped in with the welfare queens by the Republicans, the Dems spit on them for their evangelical beliefs, and insist that pretty much everything they believe in is either a myth or evil. Like I said, that doesn’t piss me off, but it does stick in my craw.

    I’ve got another friend who’s fortunes have gone south. At one point in his life he was the hardest working man I knew, and I’ve never known anyone that worked harder. So much so that he wrecked his health. He’s on SSDI now, and missing a little more in the way of his body every year. But he’s a grifter, you see, who doesn’t want to work.

    I can see all the empty houses in my neighborhood. Didn’t know any of the people that lost their homes (save the idiots next door with the pitbulls). I wonder, where can they have gone too? This is as cheap a neighborhood as there is in the Orlando area (okay, maybe Bithlo is cheaper), and they’re gone. Where did they go? What misery is being heaped upon them if they can’t afford here?

    The house adjacent to mine to the east has been empty almost two years now. We’ve had three sets of squatters live there in the last eight months. The bank wants me to call 911 on those folks. I haven’t. The first set (who I believe got scammed by someone posing as a rental agent) actually replaced the broken sliding glass door on the back of the house. Yay! And they cleaned up the yard. Yay! More than the bank had done. And then they left one weekend. I guess someone told them they couldn’t live there.

    The third set that lived there (not a skip, I’ll get back to the other set) also did a good job keeping the place picked up, and seemed to fix up the inside as well. They told me they had signed a lease with someone and were paying $900 a month to live there, but I didn’t believe them. And save for one minor incident, they were quiet, well-behaved and didn’t give anyone any trouble. Good neighbors, and I didn’t do a thing to tell anyone they were there. (The bank would have known if they checked the property more often.)

    But the second set. I think I saw them the day they moved in. Small, maybe Hispanic or maybe poor white trash with deep tans. A man and a woman, and when I saw them next door in their pick-up truck one day I assumed they were bank agents. (They looked the type, trust me.) Turns out they weren’t. Instead it was a couple with a newborn. They had turned on the power (something I now know how to do for an abandoned property), and set up some bedding on the floor in a back bedroom, a little bed for the baby and had a fresh box of diapers in the room along with a heater when the real bank agents showed up. The bank agents threw all that out, alerted the power company of the power issue, told me that the people next door had filled the toilets with waste (or kids had, I didn’t tell the agents that though), and asked that I call 911 on anyone that showed up and went into the house.

    Now, how the Hell am I supposed to call the cops on those folks? I guess I should have if I had seen them (they must have been there about two weeks) for the child’s sake, but Florida’s DCF gets a lot of things wrong, and putting the child in their care may or may not have been an improvement. Hell, I would have probably left canned food on their doorstep if I had know they were over there.

    Now those folks at the end probably would be doing poorly anyway. But there are an awful lot of people in similar circumstances down here living in the old motels off 192 in Kissimmee. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, especially when you know that a lot of them had their lives somewhat together a few short years ago.

    Perhaps I can only envision people like me being in bad circumstances, but what I imagine to be people like me has nothing to do with your vision of me.

  • ...

    Did I mention that I’ve had more friends lose jobs in the last six months? Besides the guy with the cancer? Both at a company that has been quite profitable, and for whom they had made a lot of money.

    And my wife’s company reorganized a few months back and let a lot of people go. The profit margins what quite what the new CEO needs for his stock options to kick in. That ran the gamut of people from clerks to engineers that I had some passing knowledge of.

    I’m not seeing the economy get better for anyone I know. At best I’m seeing it go sideways.

  • ...

    Oh, and for the record, Reynolds, I’m not referencing your insults and derision at me, but rather your insults and derision for anyone out there that dares not support Obama.

  • jan

    Ice,

    Once you mentioned the neighborhood you lived in, and I looked it up. As you’ve described, it’s kind of an arm pit. When I read your stuff, I feel helpless, because you are in an area that’s dripping with sadness and human fatigue. I don’t really know how I would deal with what you’re taking in, on a daily basis. However, what I have learned, from my own disappointments and set-backs, has been to try to move through the pain and frustration without getting too embittered.

    I don’t know why some people have the short end of the stick, while others seem to have magic dust sprinkled on them. But, maybe that’s where “Higher Power” beliefs rescue people in having them synchronize their thinking into believing that the hand they were dealt was meant to be. And, that they are deemed strong enough to be able to carry it.

    When I was actively working as an RN, I would see all ages and stages of people coping with devastating illnesses and family crisis. At first it overwhelmed me, and then it begin to inspire me as to how these ordinary people would find some kind of inner strength which made them prevail over circumstances in which they had no power over. To me, such people become the “masters of the universe,’ in their ability to overcome almost insurmountable odds, and somehow survive (or not), while still being able to retain some kind of positive perspective.

    For sure, having money is a convenient vehicle to live a life. But cultivating an indomitable spirit, one that won’t be crushed by all the garbage around them, is what it’s all about. Those are the people who have it the hardest, and who I admire as having gleaned the most out of this life.

  • michael reynolds

    Ice:

    So you were a conservative Republican to begin with, now you’re a broke conservative who occasionally calls for the world to be burned down (an unusual position for a conservative) and you’re angry that not enough is being done for the long-term unemployed. And that’s all Obama’s fault and mine for supporting Obama.

    Do you support a WPA type approach? Do you think we need more at the top so more can trickle down? Do you think unemployment insurance payments should be extended indefinitely? Do you think cutting immigration will solve the problem?

    I don’t see your solution. I absolutely agree there’s a problem. But if you’re going to accuse people of not doing enough, you need to tell us what they should be doing more of.

    The Republican solution is to cut Drew’s taxes and mine as well. That’s what we were doing when the bottom fell out of the economy, so I’m not seeing how that would be helpful to you. The Democrat solution is to put a floor under you with direct payments and health care. Neither gets you a job. The GOP plan just gives me money, and the Democrat’s plan takes some of my money and gives it to you.

    Personally I favor the second inadequate approach over the first. Because I don’t want you to starve or die from lack of medical care.

    But if your point is that none of it takes us back to status quo ante when we were riding a wave of phony wealth from inflated real estate, yeah, obviously.

    My point is that despite a lot of chin-stroking bullshit on all sides, we don’t know how to get you a job. We don’t know how to crank up the economy. Again, the closest thing we have to a historical precedent is the 1930’s. You know what worked then? We stripped the UK of its reserves, borrowed massively to buy stuff we then used to kill Germans and Japanese. And after it was all done we had a monopoly on industry.

    We rode that wave from the late 40’s through the 70’s. It’s great having a head start against competitors who have been burned to the ground. Once the Germans and Japanese and the UK recovered we started slipping in relative terms. Once the Chinese came out of self-imposed ideological exile, we slipped further. Pretty soon we were relying on bubbles to feed our illusion of invincibility.

    Is all that correct in the essentials?

    So, we have a situation with only one historical precedent that we cannot possibly duplicate. And you’re mad that we haven’t fixed a situation that has been developing not just in the US but in the entire developed world for decades. The entire developed world now has high unemployment. UK: 7.5%. France: 10.9%. Netherlands: 7.0%. Spain: 26.7%. Sweden 7.9% Only Japan has low unemployment, and they manage it with societal norms that spread the cost of unproductive make-work jobs across the whole society – effectively welfare. I wonder what Japan’s UE rate would be if they started cutting the jobs of the old men paid to stand around doing nothing in department stores.

    So, what do we do? Inflate a new bubble or start a new world war?

    You’re like a guy who has cancer and is furious that there’s no cure. You move from that emotion to imaginary conspiracies. There’s no conspiracy, there’s just the probably inevitable results of mature capitalist economies. And no one is doing anything to cure your cancer because no one knows what to do. The GOP wants to do the same things that got us here in the first place. The Democrats want to offer palliative care.

    Show me the cure, I’ll support it.

  • ...

    First, I already stated that it would take a long time to fix things. Second, above I laid out a few starting points. In the past I’ve said more.

    Third, you claim that since your side has no idea how to fix things that things can’t be fixed. In other words, since you can’t think of anything easy to do, we should keep doing nothing. That’s one hell of a sense of compassion – we suck, poor and unemployed people, so you need to remain poor and unemployed until you die. But keep reelecting our side, because, uh, because we care!

    If you have no idea about what to do, shut the fuck up and move out of the way. That goes for all your goddamned pols too.

    But the truth is that you and your side didn’t do nothing. You did a lot. $85,000,000,000 a month for years to make certain that George Soros and Warren Buffet were made whole. You consolidated the too big to fail banks into even bigger banks. You’ve done plenty for the rich people in the country, and your telling the rest of us, “Sorry, we got nothing.”

    Oh, that isn’t entirely true. You are telling those of us that are unemployed that we need to compete with tens of millions of Third World peasants that you want to import. That’ll help median wages and unemployment, I’m sure.

    And you wonder why I think that you and your party are completely full of shit and in the pockets of the uber-wealthy. (Too bad I can’t do umlauts on my screen.)

    But here’s another thing that the government could do to help out many of the poor – change the bankruptcy laws to allow for the discharge of student loan debt. We won’t get that. The money was already ear-marked for making certain the billionaires get theirs.

    Yeah, there’s no conspiracy, none whatsoever.

  • ...

    Oh, one last thing before we let this thread rest in peace.

    You aren’t demanding that your pols do anything except get elected. That is all you are doing, that is all you reward. None of you on the left have said, “This isn’t working, we need to do more!” and then actually worked against the people doing nothing but getting fat off their positions. You haven’t done jack shit except say, “Well, the others guys are worse.”

    Supporting the status quo in this case means you are supporting the unemployment of millions, the impoverishment of tens of millions, and all because you value winning over everything else. That is a position of pure, unadulterated evil.

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