Does “the Left” Care About Prosperity?

by Dave Schuler on May 14, 2014

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… read them below or add one }

... May 14, 2014 at 8:55 pm

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.

... May 14, 2014 at 9:24 pm

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.

... May 14, 2014 at 9:27 pm

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.

... May 14, 2014 at 9:29 pm

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 May 14, 2014 at 10:26 pm

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 May 15, 2014 at 1:08 pm

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.

... May 15, 2014 at 3:08 pm

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.

... May 15, 2014 at 3:14 pm

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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