Have They Lost Their Minds?

In a Wall Street Journal symposium nine prominent Democrats present

their recommendations for an Obama second-term agenda, assuming that Republicans control at least one house of Congress.

Those in the symposium include SEIU president Andy Stern, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. The proviso gets short shrift.

Their prescriptions range from addressing climate change to introducing new programs (in addition to existing Social Security) for providing retirement income.

Have they lost their minds? There are more than 20 million people who are unemployed or underemployed. The Social Security Disability roster has grown so rapidly over the last half dozen years, largely from individuals who have lost their jobs and are unable to secure new ones, that the program is, essentially, bankrupt. Half of those who are unemployed have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks.

There’s only one agenda item for the next presidential term: increase the rate of job creation. If they don’t believe that, they don’t have any ideas for what could be done, or they don’t believe that anything can be done, they should get the heck out of the way in favor of people who do believe that, do have ideas, and do believe that something can be done.

Without more people getting jobs we won’t have a robust economy. Without a robust economy none of the bright, shiny objects that have captured their attention will come to pass.

15 comments… add one
  • Icepick

    Have they lost their minds? There are more than 20 million people who are unemployed or unemployed.

    They haven’t lost their minds. You just don’t understand. They don’t see that as a bug, they see that as a feature. That’s why they want amnesty for illegal aliens, which only encourages more people to come here illegally for the next round of amnesty. What sense is their in encouraging more poor peasants to come to this country to add to the employment and wage problems we have? They want this to become a shitty Third World country. Everything they’re doing and not doing points to this outcome.

    They want an impoverished, easily led populace that will let them loot and pillage like a Third World plutocrats. They aspire to be like Carlos Slim and Vladimir Putin’s billionaire cronies. They want a populace whose concerns do not matter save in very broad and easily manipulated terms. They want poverty that they can exploit to get the people riled up or to keep them easily repressed as desired. (Intramural fracases are the usual reasons for such distractions in countries too powerful to fear external enemies.)

    And when I say “they” I mean our ruling elites in both parties.

    Ignore my paranoia. Schuler, you pride yourself on looking at data and making observations, inferences, deductions and so on. So look at how the elites are running the country now. (As has become the norm, I refuse to think of it as a nation anymore.) You’ve observed the consistency in policy across Administrations and Congresses of varying political combinations. Remember that the only reason that Amnesty wasn’t granted during the years when the (R)s dominated the House, Senate and Presidency was because of popular revolt from the base – the voters still have a little bit of sway with one of the parties. That is the only reason millions and millions of Mexicans aren’t voting for the US President this time around. (Actually they wouldn’t vote in such numbers anyway, as Latinos just don’t care as much about voting. That’s because more of them already know that voting doesn’t matter.)

    Just look at what both sides are doing and have been doing for the last few decades. What are the results of the policies? What are the realistic potential outcomes? If these policies won’t work as advertised, why do they keep advocating them? You’re left with the options that they’re either too stupid to realize what their policies mean _and_ too stupid to learn from observation over time, completely insane, or that this is what they want.

    They can’t ALL be both too stupid to realize what will happen and too stupid to observe what has happened over time – that defies probability. Where are the internal dissenters in the Parties? Where have they gone? I mean those that dissent from both Parties, not just those opportunistic party switchers like Charlie Crist. That leaves you way out on the fringes with the Pat Buchanans and Ron Pauls of the world, and they don’t really have any power. (Are there dissenters on the Left? The ones I can think of mostly just want more of the same stuff that isn’t working.) Find me an eminence grise that says “This won’t work.”

    They COULD be completely insane as a class – insert old trope about insanity-in-parties-etc.-being-the-rule here. Seriously, all of them being insane is more improbable than all of them being mental defectives.

    That leaves that they mean to do exactly what they’re doing.

    Just look at the problem and observe. Tell me what you see. You’re already doing that. You just don’t like the conclusion.

  • Icepick

    There are more than 20 million people who are unemployed or unemployed.

    PS Typo alert. You clearly meant unemployed or unDERemployed.

    But don’t forget the millions that have “dropped out” of the work force.

    And don’t forget the millions and millions who DON’T count as underemployed because even though they lost their $80,000/yr jobs and now work the WalMart checkout counter, they work that counter FULL TIME, thus not counting as officially underemployed. (The story has been all over the place in the last week about how most of the jobs “gained” during the “recovery” have been low-wage. The story pops up every few months.)

    And don’t forget the couple of million or so people now working as “consultants” without clients, because they don’t want the shame of having a gap on their resumes.

    And don’t forget the millions and millions more who are just making less now than before because of lost hours and slashed wages. (The story about median incomes falling more during the “recovery” than the “recession” was big a week or two ago.)

    And don’t forget the millions and millions more who are nominally making the same, but they’ve seen their healthcare benefits get more and more expensive, effectively cutting their pay. (This happened to my wife on her previous job.)

    The problem goes beyond those looking for work and those already working. Don’t forget the millions and millions who are effectively making less on fixed incomes because inflation is outpacing increases to revenue streams. (That being kind of a bug in the whole fixed income idea – that the income is fixed.)

    Maybe I am being too paranoid. (I believed most of the stuff I’ve written above long before I lost my job, BTW.) Maybe the rulers really are just completely insane. After all, Obama has a reasonable chance of getting re-elected even though he is PROUD of the results outlined above. In a sane nation he would have been forced to step aside by his own party in favor of someone else. In a sane nation the citizens would have made it clear he had no chance of re-election. But not even a hint of a primary challenge. Disgusting.

    Perhaps the whole nation really is just plain crazy.

  • Andy

    They haven’t lost their minds, they are trying to get elected. To do that they have to throw reality out the window and ensure all the appropriate demographics get some “love.” It’s the natural consequence of a population that seemingly places little value on community or societal benefit and sacrifice compared to “what’s in it for me.”

  • Icepick

    Andy, by your logic they’re ignoring over 20,000,000 single issue voters by adopting this strategy. (The UE and their adult relatives who are taking the matter to heart.) Given that Florida has a lot of those people, and is THE swing state (thank you Algore for failing to win your home state), this issue would seem like the dominant issue.

  • Practically everybody has a friend, neighbor, or relative who’s lost his or her job as a consequence of the recession and phlegmatic recovery. My belief is that there’s much more than a majority of people for whom that’s a primary issue. Gallup backs me up. So does Pew (just one example from its site). Other issues pale in comparison.

  • Without more people getting jobs we won’t have a robust economy. Without a robust economy none of the bright, shiny objects that have captured their attention will come to pass.

    That is what I thought too. I thought, if Obama puts his agenda on hold in favor of getting the economy back on track why that would be the sign of a good President. But he didn’t. He realized that a good crisis is something a politician should never pass up on. So he used the crisis to pass a bunch of legislation (attempted some that didn’t pass) that had nothing to do with the crisis or attempting to remedy the situation.

    Have they lost their minds? Of course not. They realize that they can use this situation to get even more power. Things like Social Security being bankrupt is, to them, a feature not a bug.

  • steve

    I find it kind of odd that you believe the govt can create jobs or has that much of a role in job creating. As you have noted, much of our job creation over the last 20 years is bubble growth. That covers Dem and GOP admins. Higher taxes and lower taxes. More regs and regs that were ignored. I have a hard time seeing how our environment has changed that much since 2007-2008 when unemployment was 4%-5%. I dont think people stopped wanting to work. I dont think we suddenly got a lot of new regs. (The ACA doesnt really start until 2014. Dodd-Frank is mostly still being written.)

    We have had a 30 year long credit driven bubble. It has, for now, ended. Are we capable anymore of sustained growth not financed with excessive credit?


  • Icepick

    steve, Schuler has been clear that he believes the government has contributed to the mis-allocation of resources for decades. (He mentions housing, finance, healthcare and education all the time, other sectors less frequently.) Such actions have long term deleterious effects, and we are experiencing them now. (Amongst other things, purchasing with credit pulls future demand into the now. What happens when the future gets here and no one has any money left?) Schuler has been clear that the best thing the government can do long term is to stop picking winners and losers and let the ‘invisible hand’ do its thing.*

    In some circumstances government can take direct action (wars, WPA programs, building infrastructure) to increase employment, and he has been in favor of certain infrastructure build-ups. But mostly he favors that for the ROI down the line, as he doesn’t see much in the way of an employment boost from those projects. I can’t remember if he has been in favor of policies strictly to mitigate the impact of the current economy or not.

    * Please note that this is not strictly, or even necessarily, a call for de-regulation or no regulation, nor is it a call for anarchy.

    Not everyone cares about the next election as a thing in itself. Schuler cares about policy, and it is clear he thinks the policies are off the rails. I agree with him in general, though obviously there will be some differences between any two people you care to choose. Steve Verdon feels the same way, as well as TastyBits, Ben Wolfe and probably some others. Others prefer one flavor or another of status quo. (That would be Drew, jan, Michael Reynolds, et cetera.)

    Whether or not we can get sustained growth without without excessive credit is an open question, but we can look to the past for some guidance. There is ample evidence that if we let things develop largely on their own we will get growth over time. (It will be bumpy, though.) People are always tinkering with things, looking for better ways to do this or that. Some of those ways actually work and catch on, creating more problems and thus opportunities. It’s similar to how we got from single-celled prokaryotic life to this wild ecology we’ve got now.

    But to do so we need to quit propping up sectors for political reasons, stop favoring consumption over investment, and stop doing the same things that got us into this mess. We need capital formation to start new shops, stores, factories, engineering and design firms, and less capital formation for the latest financial craze du juor (derivatives!, HFT!) and for people to buy stuff they can’t otherwise afford (the $330,000 house on an ARM, instead of the $150,000 house on a FRM).

  • TastyBits


    … Are we capable anymore of sustained growth not financed with excessive credit?

    Yes or no depending upon how “sustained” and “excessive” are defined. This will quickly bring fractional reserve banking, money supply, and gold standard into the discussion. It also will depend upon conditions in the rest of the world. Europe collapsing or China contracting have impacts on the US that are usually not taken into account.

    Stable world conditions could cause US taxes to affect money moving offshore, but unstable conditions could lessen the effects.

  • TastyBits


    I am looking for the “Leave Me the Hell Alone” candidate.

    The Republicans will stay out of my pocketbook more than the Democrats, and the Democrats will stay out of my bedroom more than the Republicans.

    The courts have kept the Republicans out of my bedroom, and as long as that does not change, I am nominally Republican leaning.

    I am in the middle-middle class/income bracket, and I expect to get screwed by both parties. The Democrats will give me a kiss and tell me they love me. The Republicans will lube me up. Personally, I would rather the lube. (I apologize if this is too graphic, but this is the best way to describe how I feel.)

  • I find it kind of odd that you believe the govt can create jobs or has that much of a role in job creating.

    I can’t give birth to a baby, but I sure could kill somebody if it was necessary…..

    The point is that just because government can’t create jobs doesn’t mean they can’t destroy them.

    Example: The Great Depression.


  • Andy

    Ice, Dave,

    You guys misunderstand me. Of course the economy and jobs are the most important issues. But they aren’t the only issues. (If the economy was the only issue we wouldn’t have seen Romney and the President “evolve” on a variety of social issues like gay marriage. ) With the election this close, they have to cover all the bases and make sure the single-issue voters get a bone. Otherwise they might whine and cause problems and maybe pee on the carpet. This is particularly true for the President since he is obviously in the weaker position when it comes to jobs and the economy, so him and his allies are going to try to shore things up in other areas. Also, reading the actual proposals in the linked piece, most claim some tie to economic issues.

  • Andy

    And what happened at the convention today? I’m just reading the details now, but to me this is just an example that there are other things people care about in addition to the economy and jobs.

  • Andy, my observation has been that politicians, regardless of ideology or political party, share a number of characteristics. Among these are being thin-skinned, a predisposition to rake up old scores, and the chronic inability to walk and chew gum at the same time. When they say “X is not the only thing that is important”, I see that as saying “X is not important”.

    The reason that this occurs is sub-prioritization. If A, B, and C capture their attention, even though X may actually be more important, since A, B, and C are important, too, X never seems to get on the agenda. Especially if it’s difficult and the only way to change what needs to be changed is unpopular.

  • Andy


    I think your A,B,C,X example is a good one. I just think that in an election year politicians have to give A,B, and C some attention even if X is the dominant issue. In fact, I don’t think it can be avoided because politicians will be asked their positions on those issues and they will make the rounds to the various A, B and C advocacy groups in order to raise money. Politicians who want the money need to say the right things.

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