Excuse Me, Do You Have a Permit For That Tea Bag?

Re: The “tea parties” today:

There will be no tea-dumping in the Potomac River — that’s illegal — but organizers of today’s national tea party tax protest found out this morning that so is their plan to dump a million tea bags in Lafayette Square to demonstrate displeasure at government spending and tax policies.

Protesters, using a rented truck to haul the million tea bags, began unloading their cargo at the park this morning but were told by officials that they didn’t have proper permits and must move the tea. They complied with the order but are still considering what to do with the load…

The protesters got more bad news this morning when security officials also told them that they did not have proper permits for a rally in front of the Treasury building.

Samuel Adams would have dumped the tea, man. I suspect wherever he is, he’s doing a bit of snerking right about now.

220 thoughts on “Excuse Me, Do You Have a Permit For That Tea Bag?

  1. Since the original protest was against taxation without representation, he’s probably wondering what they’re protesting about. I’d be inclined to answer: they want all sorts of services but they don’t want to pay for them. They want free healthcare, social security, a strong government, roads, bridges, a space program, scientific and medical research, funding for education, arts, and a few billion other things, but they’re pissed off that they’re then expected to shell out money for it.

  2. Yup, I’m afraid I’m not seeing the guys at the Boston Tea Party worrying about whether they had permits to dress as Indians and throw crates of tea into the harbor. Although, going to some poor clerk somewhere and *applying* for such a permit has its own appeal.

    Obligatory Far Side Quote:
    “Well, I’ll be darned. He *does* have a permit to do that!”

  3. Wait ’till they find out that they need a different permit for each kind of tea.

    Well, Glenn, it appears that your permit is good for black, green, orange pekoe, and Constant Commons – but the Earl Grey comes from a socialist country, I’m afraid that’s not on your permit. You can either drink it or put it back on the truck and take it home.

    Man, they’re gonna be pissed

  4. “They want free healthcare, social security, a strong government, roads, bridges, a space program, scientific and medical research, funding for education, arts, and a few billion other things…”

    Now I thought these ‘teabaggers’ (you’re right, John, I’ll never get the meaning out of my head), were conservatives – the ones who DON’T want services. They just want no rules or regulations so they can do whatever they want with “business” and then get bailouts when they screw up.

    But they don’t want us raising taxes to pay for the bailouts!

  5. Maybe they could be arrested for littering …. Anyone for a round of “Alice’s Restaurant?” :-)

  6. “They complied with the order but are still considering what to do with the load …”

    [pause] Teabagging. [pause]. And they don’t know what to do with the load. [pause]

    I am *so* not going there.

  7. Shouldn’t they actually be raiding a merchant vessel of some sort and dumping its cargo (X-Boxes?) into the harbor? Maybe disguised as illegal immigrants or something? I think they’re missing the point.

  8. oh boy, this is a dangerous comment to post here, but here goes…

    The teabaggers (and yes, I sympathize with them but that is too funny a name to pass up) don’t want the government to pay for the bailouts. They want the auto companies and banks to go bankrupt and for there to be no bailouts. It is a conservative/libertarian movement that thinks failed companies should be allowed to fail, and that recessions should be ended by lowering taxes to promote consumer spending rather than raising taxes and having government spending.

    Yes, yes, I am quite aware of all the hypocrisy in the Republican Party that runs completely contrary to the points I laid out above. But I think this movement has good points, and may even be right.

  9. Say, are there any reports of ACORN activists infiltrating the tea parties to, I dunno, murder people with chainsaws while shouting “Ayn Rand made me do this!” or “I’m a Republican!”

    Because I heard those ACORN people are highly organized and dangerous!

  10. It is so juvenile to point out, but I don’t feel the teabaggers quite deserve the courtesy of a mature response, so here goes.

    I still find it funny that there are articles about teabaggers, especially articles that contain the phrase “what to do with the load.”

    In a more mature sense, I do find it mystifying that a bunch of people whose taxes are going down under the Obama tax plan are out there protesting that a small number of people’s taxes are going up 3%.

  11. @11 Christopher

    The right mockery angle is down here…

    …just below this really low bar…

    …down in the gutter.

    They were teabagging in public until the cops caught them and found they didn’t have the right permit to dump their load. Who knew Lafayette Square was AYOR? Better check my Damron guide.

    And Scalzi’s right. Adams would have been a trooper and got the money shot anyway.

  12. Matthew in Austin: There’s something to what you say, but as it’s endlessly pointed our by people with some kind of deep-seated aversion to giant puppets, it really does matter how one presents oneself.

    This is a farce. I’m actually wondering if these people were intentionally set up, for some nefarious purpose beyond my ken.

  13. And they aren’t protesting their own taxes so much as the increase in government spending. The amount of new debt our country is taking on this year is outstanding. Yes, they do carry some signs saying things like “no taxation without representation” which is nonsensical, because they do have representation (assuming they aren’t from Puerto Rico, Washington DC, or some other 3rd world protectorate of the US). But the primary focus of the movement is on the increase in size of government, increase in spending and increase in debt. Which is a very legitimate concern to have, even if you believe (probably rightly) that increased spending is helping us get out of the recession more quickly.

  14. I just have to wonder why they bothered to pay for bagged tea instead of getting loose-leaf tea in bulk, which would be cheaper.

    Also: the original tea party wasn’t dumping tea they’d paid for.

  15. “But the primary focus of the movement is on the increase in size of government, increase in spending and increase in debt.”

    Except most of them didn’t care when it was George W. Bush’s debt.

    It’s a tantrum thrown because they lost in November.

  16. Bearpaw – Well yeah, that is a problem. I think the issue is that conservatives are complete rookies when it comes to public protesting. The American Left has decades of protesting experience, and understands the importance of good marketing, catchy slogans, and perhaps most importantly – hot, protest chicks. The American Right still has a lot to learn on the protest front, and until they get some coeds out there with red, white and blue body paint, I don’t think anyone is going to take them very seriously.

  17. Jon H @22: “Also: the original tea party wasn’t dumping tea they’d paid for.”

    That’s a very valid, and humorous, point.

    Come on though, the whole point of a protest is to PROTEST. If you want to make a point, go dump it, how bad can it really be? So you have to bail yourself out for littering… I would rather do that than to look like a fool with his thumb up his a$$. “Sorry Mr. Police Officer! I’ll stop!”

  18. I’ll also point out… maybe that’s why I am very liberal… I have a backbone…

    Silly conservatives.

  19. @ Jon H: Well, to be fair, the debt rung up by Bush st al was for important things like cutting the taxes of the wealthy and invading and occupying a country that was no threat to us, not some silly thing like trying to keep the economy from punching a big hole in the ground.

  20. “Since the original protest was against taxation without representation…”

    Yeah, well, not exactly. As b2108mortars pointed out in the last Tea Party thread, the original Tea Parties (of which Boston is only the most famous – there were Tea Parties in many Colonial ports) protested the fact that the government lowered the tax on East India Company tea but enforced its monopoly, to enable the EIC to sell tons of surplus tea in the Colonies (which would result in a chunk of money going to the exchequer – a significant amount of British government revenue at the time in fact came from the EIC). Many of the instigators had motivations that were, at best, mixed, as they were involved in what you might call extralegal importation of tea from other sources (or, if you choose to be uncharitable, “smuggling”) – which would have had no market had the EIC tea been able to be sold.

    If anything, the tea parties were more akin to protesting the dumping of imports at below market prices. Maybe the tea partiers should dress up as Al Qaeda terrorists, go to the port of Long Beach, and dump Hyundais into the bay?

  21. And this is why the original tea party took place at night.

    @23: Look up what people were saying about No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, no-bid contracts for shoddy logistics work in Iraq, the Iraq war itself, the KatrinaFail boondoggle, every pork-stuffed agriculture and transportation bill for the last eight years, hell, look at last year’s bailouts of the finance and auto industries. A lot of people have been hacked off about excessive government spending for a long time.

  22. @Matthew in Austin. The other issue this protest has is that it’s coming handily pre-mocked. When it’s not obliviously advocating oddball sex acts (no pun intended), it’s also Godwinizing itself.

    I don’t doubt the sincerity of most of the people actually participating in these protests (I do doubt the sincerity of some of the people organizing it, but that’s kind of besides the point by this time), but they’re coming off about as convincing as Free Mumia protestors on a college campus.

  23. My favorite part of the original article is this (emphasis mine):

    “[Lead organizer of the local demonstration Rebecca] Wales said they are among 700 such rallies scheduled today across the country. “This is the largest grass-roots demonstration in history,” she said.”

    …Really?

    I mean, really?

    I almost feel like the Washington Post was being mean when they decided to go with that quote.

  24. Apparently, there is a massive teabagging war going on with Libertarians who started the movement swinging their teabags at the Republicans who are trying to co-opt the thing. So at some of these tea parties, groups are shouting at each other, and one local politician got booed for mentioning the Republican party positively in his speech.

    Yes, there’s something to be said for how much we should rescue failing businesses and banks in the bailout. But these people aren’t protesting the bailout per se. They’re protesting the stimulus package, which, whatever its faults, is about getting people jobs, fixing the roads, getting health care, etc. And in particular they are protesting the return to 1990’s levels of taxes for people who have over $250,000 of income, while taxes for people of lower incomes would be lowered. I’m pretty sure that most of the people participating in these things aren’t in the tax brackets that are getting raised. Essentially, corporate clients of Dick Armey’s lobbying firm had the firm organize the events to use the protestors to build pressure on Congress about the tax hikes, which effect them, not the tax protesters.

    I’d laugh, but it makes me sad too to see people actually working against their own interests.

  25. Matthew @ 24: I like your argument as well. I work in downtown Chicago and one of the protestor’s signs was made out of two pieces of cardboard taped together and black sharpie marker. The homeless guy on the corner at least used white posterboard, colors, and a picture of Jesus Christ. Maybe the conservative protestors can pay the homeless to make their signs for them.

  26. Matthew, it’s all very idealistic to say we should allow failed businesses to fail, but in the real world these businesses have been allowed to grow to such a scale that they dominate the day-to-day livelihoods of millions of people.

    Rather than complaining at this late date about our society’s common fate with a few gargantuan private industries, perhaps it would have been wiser to argue for more effective regulation of these industries so that their eventual self-destruction didn’t take the rest of us down with them.

  27. @ Matthew in Austin
    Where were these people when Bush was doing the same thing? I’m cool with thinking the banks and auto companies shouldn’t have been bailed out, as a legit economic case can be made against bailouts. However, these protests aren’t really against the bailouts. The protests are against the bailouts not being rubber stamped by their “team.” This is divisiveness for the sake of divisiveness. All the talking heads (Beck, Limbaugh, Oberman, O’Reilly, etc.) love this crap, and thier automatons lap it up.

    The same can be said about the people who made a lot of noise about Bush hiding stuff from the public. Now that Obama is doing it the outcry isn’t quite as high. I must say, as someone who voted for Obama, I’m very disappointed he is going against the law on this issue.

    Anyway, I got a little off the post topic…Adams would have dumped the tea.

  28. Hehe I’m just really confused as to why they’re protesting taxation WITH representation.

  29. @ Matthew in Austin: Well, the American Right can take comfort in the fact that they still have a huge advantage when it comes to leading most of the major media around by the … nose. Which helps, for example, when it comes to getting sympathetic coverage. Or any coverage at all, sometimes.

    Heck, in this case, a certain subset of the major media was essentially recruiting for this event. Somehow I can’t see that happening for, say, a peace rally, no matter how babe-alicious (*) the participants were going to be. Or whatever the likelihood of a few out of a few hundred thousand breaking windows, burning trash, or doing something else counter-productively mediagenic.

    ((*) used in the gender-neutral sense, of course.)

  30. that thinks failed companies should be allowed to fail, and that recessions should be ended by lowering taxes to promote consumer spending rather than raising taxes and having government spending.

    This was exactly Herbert Hoover’s logic in 1929-32 and it made the Wall Street crash into the Great Depression. I’d rather not return to the days of 30% unemployment, thanks.

  31. @ Annalee Flower Horne @ 31: Well, that’s true … if you leave out all of the larger demonstrations. Which I’m sure she has an excellent reason to do.

    Hrmph. I’ve been at demonstrations where the *counter-demonstrations* may have been larger than this looks to be.

  32. @ charles @ 34: Yes. “Too big to fail” is too big to exist. At that size, they’re not competing in the marketplace, they’re deforming it to serve their own short-term benefit.

  33. An awful lot of the posters here are listing leftist big government programs as things the teabaggers (snicker) want, like free healthcare, social security, corporate bailouts, federal funding for the arts and education…and then castigating them as fools for not wanting to pay for them.

    Do you really not know that the teabaggers (snicker) primarily and manifestly DON’T want those things? That they generally want the government OUT of those areas? And are you really unaware that since most of the people protesting make less than 250K a year that COULD mean that they’re thinking about the larger principles, and honestly think that government bailouts and MASSIVE government spending on social programs is a bad idea, whether or not they stand to immediately benefit personally?

    Please don’t confuse the teabaggers (snicker) with the people who showed up at Obama rallies, some of whom apparently thought he was going to pay their mortgage. As fractured, disorganized and downright silly-looking as they are, the teabaggers (chortle) simply disagree with you, they’re not stupid.

    As for me not paying higher taxes because I make less than 250K a year, well, who does pay those higher taxes? My employer.
    You really think my employer is just going to take the hit? You think he/she/it/corporation isn’t just going to pass all that tax burden on to me and on to the consumers who buy their product? Really? (LOL)

  34. Another bright side—if they are buying the tea, they are at least feeding money into commerce. However little that may be.

  35. honestly think that government bailouts and MASSIVE government spending on social programs is a bad idea, whether or not they stand to immediately benefit personally?

    Maybe. I also think that creationists honestly believe in creationism. That doesn’t mean I don’t make fun of them.

  36. Having just watched HBO’s John Adams I will note not only did the people involved in the Boston Tea Party not have a permit, the British were annoyed by it enough to pass the Coercive Acts, which shut down the entire port of Boston until such time as the East India Company was compensated for the value of the tea that had been tossed into the harbor.

  37. One wonders how much of that money spent on teabags so far could’ve been used on, say, actually engaging the government and working out a viable alternative to the current policies set for the economy so far.

    It’s easy to criticize, but when are those libertarians, fiscal conservatives and teabaggers of all stripes and shapes actually going to get around to presenting a provably superior course of action?

  38. @ AnthonyX: Real news at Instapundit?

    Glenn Reynolds has been so wrong so often about so many things that I’m surprised he doesn’t have a regular syndicated newspaper column.

  39. Instapundit being a friend of mine, I’m inclined to suggest that his opinions should be treated as opinions, not fact, just as every other opinion should be.

  40. Mark at #3: Sam Adams and the other founders wouldn’t be dumping tea, they’d be getting violent. To quote Ben Franklin (paraphrased) “It would be a hard government that taxed its citizens 10% of its labors.”

    Matthew at 21: You are correct. The tea parties are not being run by the establishment Republicans, though they are trying awfully hard to co-opt the movement.

    Silbey at 38: You facts are largely incorrect. Hoover’s first response to the Depression was to do nothing. When that didn’t work, his second response was to raise tariffs (taxing foriegn goods) which resulted in a trade war as foriegn countries retaliated against American products (costing American jobs). As to the tax issue, Hoover did cut taxes prior to the Depression taking root BUT in 1932 he raised the income tax to combat the federal deficit and pay for federal programs to combat the Depression (from 25% to over 60%). Hoover’s reaction to the Depression was ultimately a Democratic wish list (he was accused of being a socialist near the end of his term), which only served to prolong the Depression, not shorten it.

  41. Skar @42: While I’m certain that many of these people do just honestly disagree with me, I am also certain that they have chosen a stupid way to get their message across, and as evidenced by the “largest grassroots” comment, they are allowing stupid people to do their talking. I believe that thinking, rational people owe it to the public discourse to mock them into trying harder next time.

    And for the record, I feel exactly the same way about idiotically-executed demonstrations for causes I support.

  42. Instapundit being a friend of mine, I’m inclined to suggest that his opinions should be treated as opinions, not fact, just as every other opinion should be.

    If not more so!

  43. No, my favorite WTF Teabagger goes to the guy who compared the teabaggers to Rosa Parks.

    That said, I am highly entertained that these bozos were stopped by a lack of permits. This suggests one of two things:

    1) they were too stupid to check ahead of time for a permit, which anybody who ever marched in a Fourth of July Civic Parade knows about, or

    2) they knew they didn’t need permits but chickened out of actually breaking the law by saying “Screw your permits, we’re going to protest”.

    But maybe it was the infiltration of the Far Left that led to this sad failure?

  44. Annalee@54: Oh, I largely agree. Mockery has its place. It simply shouldn’t be mistaken for substantive response.

    As for the way the tea-parties are being run, I suspect our good host plucked out an amusing and quite possibly anomalous example upon which to grind his axe.

  45. Skar @57: Are you saying that any teabagging that is silly or counter-productive should be quietly ignored, as it may be assumed without further proof to be “anomalous”? I assume you believe such opinions ought to be consigned to the memory hole.

  46. Skar:

    Considering the story is highlighting the protest at the actual seat of our government, and therefore can be reasonably expected to be one of the highest profile of these protest actions, I’m not sure the event it describes qualify as “anomalous.”

    I do agree they’re amusing, however.

  47. You facts are largely incorrect. Hoover’s first response to the Depression was to do nothing. When that didn’t work, his second response was to raise tariffs (taxing foriegn goods) which resulted in a trade war as foriegn countries retaliated against American products (costing American jobs). As to the tax issue, Hoover did cut taxes prior to the Depression taking root BUT in 1932 he raised the income tax to combat the federal deficit and pay for federal programs to combat the Depression (from 25% to over 60%). Hoover’s reaction to the Depression was ultimately a Democratic wish list (he was accused of being a socialist near the end of his term), which only served to prolong the Depression, not shorten it.

    No, my facts are entirely correct, thanks. Hoover cut spending and taxes in his initial reaction to the Wall Street crash and downturn. This helped turn it into the Great Depression. When Roosevelt came in, he reversed most of Hoover’s policies and started spending hand over fist, which was exactly the right thing to do (though he wasn’t actually spending enough). Despite the ongoing Republican anti-New Deal meme (cf Amity Shlaes), it was FDR’s programs that brought us a long way out of the Depression, a cure that was finished off by WWII (there’s government spending for you; anyone want to talk about the deficits from 1942-45? No?)

  48. That said, I am highly entertained that these bozos were stopped by a lack of permits. This suggests one of two things:

    Actually, it suggests to me that they don’t know what the hell protest is all about.

    Back in MY day, protesters like would have dumped the bags anyway and gone to jail and paid the fine. That’s the POINT.

  49. Yes, gwangung, that was point #2.

    The “anomalous” protest that Skar wishes we wouldn’t talk about was not only in Washington, DC but was apparently not “anomalous” in the way s/he would like:

    That noon-time protest had been expected to provide a national stage for speeches by such figures as Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform; former presidential candidate Alan Keyes; and Thomas A. Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

    Tch, who was coming to see THOSE no-names speak? I suppose the real action is happening in Fresno.

  50. I suspect that they didn’t know that they “needed” a permit; after all … “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” They just forgot all of those other sovereigns that have been established who could abridge the freedom to peaceably assemble.

    Besides, it’s not a law, so it’s allowed.

    Probably be busted for terrorism by pollution, rather than (as it was in the day) loitering and littering. (And when you gave Officer Friendly the fake DL, paid the $10 fine, and left with no other consequences.)

  51. Paying a bunch of sales tax to protest taxes, that makes sense. I’m surprised there’s no “protest tax” yet.

  52. Thomas A. Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

    I for one am heartened to see that Citizens Against Government Waste have nothing against any other kind of waste. For example, wasting a million perfectly good bags of tea.

  53. Mythago@56: Skar @57: Are you saying that any teabagging that is silly or counter-productive should be quietly ignored, as it may be assumed without further proof to be “anomalous”?

    Nope. Neither what I said nor what I’m saying. I’ve simply heard of plenty of teabagging going on around the country (haha!) in an orderly and well-run fashion. I was pointing out that to draw broad conclusions upon the truly mock-worthy event in D.C. is less than rigorous. And, to be clear, I’m aware our host has never claimed to be either impartial or rigorous.

    “I assume you believe such opinions ought to be consigned to the memory hole.”
    Please refrain from making asinumptions about what I believe. Thank you.

    John@59: Considering the story is highlighting the protest at the actual seat of our government, and therefore can be reasonably expected to be one of the highest profile of these protest actions, I’m not sure the event it describes qualify as “anomalous.”

    Actually, the fact that it’s the one happening at the seat of our government, as you point out, _makes_ it anomalous, since there’s only one place in the country with that significance. And, since these events are not the manifestation of some central organization, the one in D.C. is no more likely to be representative than any other.
    Though, as others have pointed out, the powers that be _are_ trying to co-opt them. But that simply makes the one in D.C., as the one most likely to be co-opted by the powers that be, even less likely to be representative of the majority of the teabaggings. Those teabaggings in less politically charged locations are less likely to have been taken over by loafer-wearing professional political flunkies of any stripe.

  54. Skar:

    “Actually, the fact that it’s the one happening at the seat of our government, as you point out, _makes_ it anomalous”

    I doubt seriously that the folks having conducting these exercises would wish to suggest so; they would rather suggest that it was just one of many, I would assume, and all of reasonably equivalent importance (your suggestion that these are not in fact astroturfed events to greater or lesser extent is not one I need to take very seriously; if they hadn’t have been co-opted and co-ordinated, no would have paid any attention to them at all).

    Be that as it may, if this was the one they hoped would be the exemplar, they sort of humped the bunk on it.

  55. Some of the posts here are perfect proff that the left really does not understand mainstream America one bit.

    Hint:
    Libertarians, Republicans, Conservatives, and George W. Bush supporters are not the same, and in fact the overlaps on the Venn Diagram are awfully thin.

    Most of the folks protesting are protesting the so called “stimulus” bill, which is nothing more than a giant steaming pile of pork for far-left causes, and will do nothing to help the economy. (and will actually make things far worse)

    The same folks were up in arms about the TARP bailouts as well, they aren’t partisan, they don’t CARE if its Republicans or Democrats wasting the national treasury bailing these yahoos out, they see the Fed spending the greatest amount of money in the history of the planet, and the prospect of an inflation that would make the Carter years look like the golden days in comparission, and want is stopped.

  56. John@69: (…astroturfed…)

    So, they were co-opted and coordinated on a national scale? By whom?

    “Be that as it may, if this was the one they hoped would be the exemplar, they sort of humped the bunk on it.”

    Oh, indeed. The bunk is holding itself and crying softly.

  57. a cure that was finished off by WWII

    I’ve noticed there’s a meme at the moment that WW2 solved the last Great Depression. The people spreading that one don’t seem to notice that that was government spending on a scale which makes today look pretty minor.

    So, one must assume that the problem with FDR and the New Deal was _he didn’t spend enough_.

    I don’t see them saying that GE and Ford ended the depression :)

  58. Am I the only one taking a great deal of satisfaction in the fact that the right wing crack-pots who have gotten us into this mess are now the ones with no better recourse for their grievances than standing around holding stupid signs and making fools of themselves, while those of us with intelligent ideas for how to make government work are now implementing those ideas rather than holding up stupid signs about them?

    I take this rampant teabagging as a very good sign, folks. The smart folks have taken the wheel, and the bastards are now in the backseat. Now who’s whining?

    By the way, I’m hoping the phrase “T-BAGS FOR D-BAGS” — intended as a description of these events — will gain some traction here and elsewhere. Tell a friend.

  59. I think they’re missing the whole point of “civil disobedience”: standing up for what you believe in (whatever that may be) to point out that the punishment for it is, in some sense, unjust.

  60. The most charitable thing you can say about the numbers is that they’re baby steps. They’re not a patch on the 2003 anti war numbers or the immigration marches from a couple years back.

  61. The “taxation without representation” refers to the tax burden of the next generation, as yet too young to vote, who are going to get nailed for a lot more than 3% based on the current an proposed spending. [Presuming, of course, that monetization and large-scale inflation will remain unthinkable, a fair assumption considering that the holders of dollar-denominated debt will continue to have strong political power and/or nuclear stockpiles.]

    That said, I agree with Scalzi. And was equally disappointed in the antiwar protestors in SF who dispersed the second the police appeared. Civil Disobedience 101, people: if you don’t spend at least an afternoon in jail, you’re not doing it right.

  62. Silbey at 61: We have a disagreement.

    It is a historical fact that Hoover signed into law the Smoot-Hawley Tarriff Act in 1930. It is a historical fact that Hoover signed into law the Revenue Act of 1932 which dramatically raised the income tax from 25% to over 60%. The tax cuts you are referring to occurred in 1929, BEFORE the Depression’s commonly identified starting point of October 29 (called Black Tuesday).

    Hoover also started the NCC, later the RFC to make loans to failing banks. He also started the ERCA, a government funded public works program. All of these were continued by FDR.

    Hoover’s reaction to the Depression, when he acted, was to raise taxes and increase spending. This shouldn’t come as a shock as he was pro-regulation as Commerce secretary. The Democrats are reacting the exact same way as Hoover, though they are doing so faster and in amounts that make Hoover look like a piker by way of comparison.

    But what is really funny is that FDR, when he has running against Hoover, was blasting him for raising taxes, spending too much, and running deficits. When elected, FDR jumped on the Hoover bandwagon with gusto. The parallels to the present crisis and the Bush and Obama presidencies are ridiculously similar, and would be laughable if they weren’t so depressing.

  63. As for what to do with the tea, I wonder how compostable it might be. It might make wonderful fertilizer for the gardens around where they are protesting if it was composted.

  64. Faith: tannic acid is good for some plants, bad for others. Tea is loaded with it. Depends on what they’re growing in the parks.

  65. The parallels to the present crisis and the Bush and Obama presidencies are ridiculously similar,

    Um, not by my calculator. The effect of 25% to 60% are not going to be the same as 35% to 38%. That’s arguably not similar at all.

  66. Another non-parallel is the banking sector. For a period in the 30s, it was considered that only by letting bad banks go to the wall could the bad debt be removed from the system.

    This effectively paralyzed the banking sector and make capital impossible to move around. We appear to have learned that that was a bad thing.

  67. Just for the hell of it, I’ll say this about that:

    There are a whole bunch of people who are fed up with government spending so they have rallied around an American symbol of protest that is related: They do not believe that the people who are spending all this money represent them.

    Now the crowds a pretty good but does it mean political change? Who knows. Thousands came out to protest the War on Terrorism (since renamed to something less memorable) and Bush got re-elected anyway.

    But I will point out a few things:
    Republicans won control of Congress on a platform of fiscal reform.

    Then they got thrown out. Some would say because they betrayed that promise.

    Obama got elected by saying things like

    But there is no doubt that we’ve been living beyond our means and we’re going to have to make some adjustments.

    Now, what I’ve done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut.

    then went on to double the deficit with the CBO projection for the outyears showing that the budget will not even get back to the worst of the Bush years.

    And that’s projecting out to 2019.

    There’s lots of people who understand that they do not deal in their own lives by paying off their American Express card with their VISA.

    It’s not really a Party thing except for the fact that many vote Republican under the belief that Republicans were fiscally responsible. When that turned out to be so much BS, the people who are interested in such things either stayed home or voted for the other guy.

    And when the other guy got in, things got much, much worse from this perspective.

    So now these people are just fed up. So they want to be heard.

    Recall that in his plea to Republicans to give the Democrats a chance in 2006, Sclazi said

    By voting Democratic, you’re letting the GOP know that you think it would be nice if it stopped being the party of swelling deficits and shrinking individual rights and got back to what it says it believes in.

    Well we have the same amount of individual rights and the deficits grew with Democrats in control of Congress and then doubled in the four months of complete Democrat control.

    So there is some evidence that those who have participated in this situation will pay a price politically.

    But who knows? Again, we’ve seen large protests before that amounted to no more than a tempest in a teapot.

    This might turn out like that.

    I hope not.

  68. Now the crowds a pretty good but does it mean political change?

    Again, I think that’s very charitable to say that. We’re talking barely six figures, total, for the country.

  69. Frank:

    Did you LOOK at the photos of the protest in the nation’s capital? “Out of control spending” is and always has been a peripheral concern of these protestors.

    Obama’s an evil black foreigner!
    Obama is osama!
    Evil wetbacks stealing our jobs!

    This is what the signs at the protests say. There are photos. It’s beyond argument.

    Your initial premise is therefore false. This is about conservatives that can’t handle the fact that the political tide is turning, and want to vent bile, anger, racism, and conspiracy theories in public. “Out of control spending” is just one (and probably not the primary one) of a number of scary liberal boogymen they’re railing against.

  70. I think it’s more accurate to say that a lot of people used the protests to vent on issues that bothered them, and some of those people happened to be bigoted dicks and brought their signs with them. I would be wary of saying that these folks represented all or even most of the protesters.

  71. Point taken. Could be like the anarchist dicks that go along to anti-war protests. I think you’re giving more benefit of the doubt than is warranted, but that is of course your prerogative.

    *grumbles*

    [tongue in cheek] I know you say you reserve the right to be unfair in your own place, Scalzi, but as a rule I think you’re annoyingly scrupulous on seeing both sides. Its fine when it you’re forcing people to be fair to ME, but its not as much fun when you call up my sweeping generalisation. [/tongue in cheek]

  72. When elected, FDR jumped on the Hoover bandwagon with gusto

    Oh, good lord, no, he didn’t. Hoover disapproved of almost everything that FDR did, and FDR was very careful to distance himself from Hoover’s policies.

    You’re stuck in a weirdly contradictory position: the New Deal didn’t work! But if it did, Hoover really started doing it.

    Well, no, he didn’t, and yes it did.

  73. As I said more politely in the other thread, when you tolerate fellow-travelers at your assemblies they speak their own truths. This is a good thing; being on-message is a trait of those who are echoing someone else’s message, not proclaiming their own.

  74. Just came back from a tea party. Many of you are missing the point. I went to protest the way the Federal government has been violenting the U.S. Constution. These actions are not new. The terriost and war criminal Abraham Lincoln, started this process by invading the states that made up the Confederate States of America in 1861. Is iy any wounder that “honest Abe” is the current President’s hero. What I was protesting was that this nation should go back to its roots as a Republic with the rights of both the central goverment and the state governments respected. This is not a republican or democratic issue. Both parties are guilty of getting us in this mess. Every American should read our Constutuion!!! It is our supreme law!! NO MORE BAILOUTS FOR ANYONE!!!

  75. Skar — organized by FreedomWorks, a lobbying organization run by Dick Armey who works for conservative monied clients. Armey is currently working for the insurance industry, finance industry and others — you know, the people who have benefited from the government bailouts. These events are being used by lobbyists and Republican politicians to try to further their aims in Congress and locally. FreedomWorks provided talking points for speakers at the event so that they could “stay on message,” i.e. stay on Armey’s message. I don’t have a problem with people speaking their minds, but this is just plain propagandizing. They are using these people, plus making some money off of selling them T-shirts.

    These people aren’t stupid, but they are misinformed and are being fed a lot of false information. A lot of them do believe in conspiracy theories that Obama is a communist, socialist, fascist, and/or Muslim and will turn the country into some form of the Soviet Union.

    And while they may be trying to think about their kids’ future with a giant deficit, they aren’t thinking about what’s going to happen if the ranks of the homeless, unemployed, and the uninsured swell to large, tent city proportions and swamp the government with much higher costs than we’re looking at now and which could well keep the economy from re-starting for quite a long time. Instead, they’re proposing that we leave all the solutions to the same businesses that got us in this mess in the first place, and to consumer spending, which also got us into this mess, and which is quite impossible for consumers losing their jobs, homes and savings.

    There are incentives in the tax plan for large businesses not to pass the slight tax hike on to employees, but even if they do it, we don’t have a lot of choice at the moment. It’s a minimal tax adjustment for a small percentage that corrects Bush’s tax breaks to his wealthy backers, back to 1990’s levels that did not seem to stop a bull market from happening then. I realize there are a lot of people who want government to shrink, spend less and stay out of lots of sectors. But these people also want the government to fix everything. They may not want a health plan for their kids but they want the roads, they want cheap gas, they want public schools, they want credit and banks making loans. Long term, trickle down economics doesn’t work, has been proven not to work and is not going to work now.

    Obama did not spend our surplus on an illegal war with Iraq. He did not instigate a campaign of de-regulation and gutting of regulatory agencies that ballooned the size of the financial meltdown. He did not create the bailout, though he now must manage it. The stimulus package is an attempt to refocus some of the government money to not just the financial sector, but to actual citizens and communities. And he cannot magically shrink the government and have the government fix the economy at the same time. He’s only been in office for 100 days, but he’s being accused of causing the economic problems of the last fifteen years. He’s also being accused of trying to completely change the government into some futuristic totalitarian dictatorship because of the same sort of tax increases that past presidents, Republican and Democrat, have had to do.

    But I will say this, I think it’s actually sort of impressive that when confronted with a lack of permits, they decided not to dump the tea anyway. It was a peaceful demonstration, excepting the idiot who threw a package on the White House lawn. They said their piece, or rather Dick Armey’s piece, without smashing windows (at least haven’t heard of any so far.) But I also have to say this, the posters of Obama as Hitler, with prominent use of his middle name of course — not so peaceful.

  76. John,
    I love your books, but you need to read and learn your American history. Not that stuff they spread around in the public schools. I know what I’m talking about because I teach in those schools.

  77. “I realize there are a lot of people who want government to shrink, spend less and stay out of lots of sectors. But these people also want the government to fix everything. They may not want a health plan for their kids but they want the roads, they want cheap gas, they want public schools, they want credit and banks making loans.”

    Are you sure about that? You presume that they do, but in my experience there are plenty of people who don’t actually give a damn about the condition of their roads, schools, credit, banks or (to a large extent) money, but who are vehemently opposed to interference with what they do have.
    People, basically, who would gladly have ten dollars all to their own than have a twenty dollar bill and have to give the government two dollars from it.
    Then again, I do live fairly close to Appalachia…

  78. “some of those people happened to be bigoted dicks and brought their signs with them”

    Actually, those were highly coordinated undercover ACORN operatives, working in conjunction with the liberal media establishment to portray wholesome teabaggers as a bunch of dangerous kooks. Well played, ACORN, well played…

  79. htom – so the less organized something is… the more… honest? … it is?

    In the imortal words of Monty Python

    “My Brain ‘urts!”

  80. Charles

    Wow. Confederate apologist, conspriacy theorist, anti federal government (though celarly not anarchist)….

    Got any other fun ideologies for us?

  81. John:

    I agree with Charles K Bradley.

    You need to watch out for the Gnomes of Zurich and the Illuminati as well. Oh and probably the Rosicrucians and Reverse Vampires as well.

  82. Xopher,

    You need to wrap you brain around the fact that a large number of the “tea party” protestors are the exact same folks who showed up to the anti-war protests.

    Left vs. Right is a false dichotomy.

    How do you catagorise someone who want’s to eliminate the income tax, eliminate all wellfare programs, including Social Security, get out of foreign entaglements, legalise marajuana, and homosexual marrage. That’s not Left, Right, Up or Sideways, it’s just common sense.

    Left vs. Right has never applied in American politics.
    Us vs. Them on the other hand, has a fine, fine tradition.

  83. I pity Charles’ poor students.

    Mark…you characterize Social Security as a Welfare Program and I’m supposed to take you seriously on other topics? Excuse me if I take that with a grain of salt the size of Mt. Everest.

  84. Eliminating income tax is “common sense?” What, pray tell, does common sense dictate we replace it with? Rainbow ponies and their pots o’ gold, perhaps?

  85. As I said more politely in the other thread, when you tolerate fellow-travelers at your assemblies they speak their own truths. This is a good thing; being on-message is a trait of those who are echoing someone else’s message, not proclaiming their own

    So wait, you’re actually arguing that having insane people at a rally is a *good* thing?

  86. John:

    I would agree that the “tea parties” are a bit of a gimmick…I live in Cincinnati and I didn’t show up on Fountain Square this afternoon.

    While poking fun at the tea parties, you have been very sketchy in your assessment of what they are criticizing: President Obama’s fiscal policy.

    Can I take your recent posts as a sign that you agree with the Obama/Pelosi spending plan? Are you not concerned with the level of government spending that we now see?

    The CBO estimates that the debt will rise by $9.3 billion over the next ten years under the Obama plan. A number of very moderate sources (not only Fox News–but also CNN and MSNBC) have interviewed economists who point out the flaws in the Obama economic plan: The debt will rise to dangerous, unprecedented levels. The value of the dollar will decline, and there is a significant chance of hyperinflation.

    The other day I saw an interview of an economist (on MSNBC) who openly compared the Obama spending plan to that of the German Weimar Republic—which did spiral into hyperinflation.

    Even the governments of Germany and France have expressed concern about the level of spending in the Obama plan. So if opposition to the Obama plan is a vast right-wing conspiracy, the governments of Europe are apparently in on it. (Are you going to suggest that *they* were brainwashed by Glenn Beck as well?)

    I know your response is going to begin with, “Well Bush…!” Yes, Bush was a failed president and we’re all glad he is out of office. But two foolish presidents do not add up to a wise one.

    If I am wrong about the fundamental flaws of the Obama plan, please tell me. Explain how printing money at the levels required by the Obama plan is a good idea. Tell us why bailing out mismanaged automakers and mortgage speculators is wise public policy.

    Then we can all have another guffaw at the expense of the tea partiers, who have the effrontery to question the Great One.

    It is easy to stand back and laugh at the tea partiers….but can you defend the Obama plan on economic grounds?

    If you cannot defend it, will you admit that it is foolhardy? Where do you stand?

  87. John @94, a sufficiently bizarre wingnut is indistinguishable from a troll, and vice versa.

    Skar: your “I was pointing out that to draw broad conclusions upon the truly mock-worthy event in D.C. is less than rigorous” – well, no, you weren’t. In @58 you accused John of cherry-picking an ‘anomalous’ example to ‘grind his axe’ – an anomaly being an unusual and odd occurrence, the suggestion is that John hunted through teabagging stories until he got an oddball. When it was pointed out to you (multiply) that this was the Big Wahooni of teabag parties, set in Our Capital and the centerpiece of the organized teabag protests, you then decided it still counted as ‘anomalous’ because it was more special than all the other ones.

    Bottom line is, people aping the Boston Tea Party were askeered of a government bureaucrat who told them they didn’t have the right forms filled out, and timidly packed up their truckload of Lipton. I bet Zombie Patrick Henry is impressed.

  88. Charles K. Bradley:

    “I love your books, but you need to read and learn your American history.”

    You know, what I really love is people coming on my site and condescendingly implying I’m ignorant. However, speaking as a graduate of some truly excellent private schools, at which I did rather well in American history, which is also a subject I’ve written about in a professional capacity more than once, I’m pretty confident I’m sufficiently schooled in the topic.

    It’s also pretty clear you’re not aware of my opinion that the CSA was pretty damn lucky Lincoln didn’t buy its jackassed argument that it was an actual country, since if he did, the Union well and truly kicking the CSA’s ass would have been a clean and simple invasion scenario, without all that annoying “no, no, they’re still all really states” crap.

    So to sum up: Condescending to me + peddling CSA revisionism = troll. Thanks for playing, Mr. Bradley, you can go now. You’ve lost comment privileges on this thread.

  89. Mark Horning:

    “eliminate all wellfare programs, including Social Security”

    I call that someone who doesn’t care if poor people starve. I don’t know what other interpretation one can have of it. Are you seriously advocating the elimination of basic subsistence unemployment benefits?

  90. Edward Trimnell:

    “Can I take your recent posts as a sign that you agree with the Obama/Pelosi spending plan? Are you not concerned with the level of government spending that we now see?”

    1. Unless I’ve said something about a subject, you should not assume you know what I think about it;

    2. I’ve spoken before on this site of my personal trepidation about the current level of spending, as well you know, since you frequent the site.

    Neither of which, incidentally, is either here or there regarding my light regard for these tea bagging protests, which, as noted yesterday, I find both largely pointless and harmless.

    In the future, please don’t use a position you assume I have to make a strawman argument that has essentially nothing to with me. It’s vaguely annoying.

  91. John,
    I apologize if I sounded that I was condescending to you on the matter of Lincoln and the War for Southern Independence. I was raised as a Southern Gentelman and am not in the habit of being condescending to anyone with a dfferent point of view from my own. In my view, secession was legal when the Confederate States were formed. It was only the might of the Union forces that drove these states back into the union. This is one of the reasons that the government did not wish to put President Jefferson Davis on trial for treason. They felt that they would lose in the courtroom what they won on the battlefield. I would suggest that you consult “The Real Lincoln” by Thomas J. DiLorenzo, “The South Was Right!” by James and Walter Kennedy, and “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” by Jefferson Davis.

  92. Charles K. Bradley:

    Thank you for the apology. That said, I prefer not to discuss to issue of Confederate Succession on this particular thread; it’s really quite wildly off topic.

    That’s a hint for everyone else, too; any more discussion of the CSA/Civil War will get snipped right out of the comment thread.

  93. Stevem – Hoover’s reaction to the Depression, when he acted, was to raise taxes and increase spending. This shouldn’t come as a shock as he was pro-regulation as Commerce secretary. The Democrats are reacting the exact same way as Hoover,

    MY taxes were lowered Were yours raised? By how much?

  94. Jeff @ 79:

    “Disobedience 101, people: if you don’t spend at least an afternoon in jail, you’re not doing it right.”

    Bingo. I have always said that if you are engaging in “social resistance” and nobody is doing anything to try to stop you, then you should take that as a sign that you are wasting your time…because if you were truly doing anything to upset the status quo, those invested in the status quo would be protecting their interests by trying to stop you.

    The T-Bag D-bags are making fools of themselves. They are doing for conservative economic policy what PETA does for animal rights. Lots of publicity, no impact on public consciousness.

    Charles K. @ 93 and elsewhere — Thanks very much for illustrating our collective points. Hope you enjoyed the teabagging session.

  95. Mark Horning @71 “Some of the posts here are perfect proff (sic) that the left really does not understand mainstream America one bit.”

    You define people who support Obama and specifically the stimulus bill as the “left” and teabaggers as “mainstream America”.

    Let’s see. Obama was elected by an overwhelming majority and still enjoys a >60% approval rating.
    >50% of the US public explicitly approves of the stimulus package
    (reference: http://www.gallup.com/Home.aspx)

    So, let’s redefine terms here. I think the numbers verify that Obama’s supporters ARE mainstream America. So… let me helpfully edit your statement:

    “Some of the posts here are perfect proff (sic) that mainstream America really does not understand right-wing nutjobs one bit.”

    There. A good editing job always makes me feel happy.

  96. Silbey at 90: I disapprove of both Hoover and FDR’s handling of the Depression. Both were more or less the same and both were detrimental. I’ve provided “proof” based on Hoover’s legislative enactments. You have provided opinion. It’s fair to say our opinions diverge.

    Josh at 114: I have no idea how much my taxes went up or down. I earned a $141,000 in 2008. Per the return I filed today, I am receiving a refund (state and federal) of about $10,000 as I make it a habit to overpay. This has more or less been the pattern for the last several years.

    It is my understanding, however, that in aggregate Obama’s tax plan is decided to bring more revenue (net) to the federal government by taxing the rich, even as it gives breaks to the non-rich. Pleae correct me if I am wrong. It is also my understanding that Obama’s plan projects much greater spending, and deficits, than the Republicans ever enacted, despite fighting two wars and the expansion of Medicare and prescriptions. Again, please correct me if I am wrong.

    The government running deficits under Bush was bad. It is worse, as a quantative measure, under Obama. Unemployment will increase. That will lead to an adverse domino effect as to other economic indicators.

    Congratulations. Democrats have elected a president and Congress who will, long-term, make Bush look good. That is quite an achievement.

  97. “Congratulations. Democrats have elected a president and Congress who will, long-term, make Bush look good. That is quite an achievement.”

    Well said. My goal is to find the most tax shelters I can and keep my money out of gov. hands.

  98. Eddie @ 110, there are those who believe that robbing Peter to pay Paul is simply wrong. Social Security is not just wrong, it’s Evil. I’d have no problem with it if it were voluntary.

    I do agree the tea bag protests are silly. After all, if protests could accomplish anything, they would be illegal.

  99. Steve @ 117:

    “It is my understanding, however, that in aggregate Obama’s tax plan is decided to bring more revenue (net) to the federal government by taxing the rich, even as it gives breaks to the non-rich. Pleae correct me if I am wrong. It is also my understanding that Obama’s plan projects much greater spending, and deficits, than the Republicans ever enacted, despite fighting two wars and the expansion of Medicare and prescriptions. Again, please correct me if I am wrong.

    The government running deficits under Bush was bad. It is worse, as a quantative measure, under Obama. Unemployment will increase. That will lead to an adverse domino effect as to other economic indicators.”

    All of that was right up until “Unemployment will increase.” There is no basis for that statement at all. In fact, increased government spending is a sure-fire way to create jobs and decrease unemployment, if it is done competently. Which, under Obama’s leadership, it will be.

  100. After all, if protests could accomplish anything, they would be illegal.

    Yes, protests never accomplish anything. That whole civil-rights movement thing they told you about in high school? Fabrication, all of it. The same PR agency who came up with that nonsense also wrote the BS piece about putting a man on the moon. (They’re really proud of that one.)

    And illegal? You know the Framers just threw in that whole peaceable assembly thing as a joke. We don’t know why because they didn’t record it for posterity, but whatever it is, John Adams spent the rest of his days muttering about that goddamn Madison thinking he’s so goddamn funny.

  101. stevem @#117: “The government running deficits under Bush was bad. It is worse, as a quantative measure, under Obama.”

    See, here’s the thing that gets me – it’s not just a case of “deficits bad” or “deficits good” or “your deficit is worse than our deficit was.” That’s like saying “borrowing money is bad” – if you want to buy a house, should you have to start saving when you’re 22 so you can afford to buy a starter home when you’re approaching 40?

    Running deficits when you are facing a recession or depression is reasonable, whether you come by those deficits through spending or reducing taxes, because the point is that someone needs to spend money – either the government, industry, or consumers, preferably all of the above – in order to regenerate growth.

    Running deficits during a boom is irresponsible political pandering, whether it’s through overspending (usually the fault of Democrats) or undertaxing (usually the fault of Republicans).

    So the government running deficits under Bush – at least for the years 2002-2007, when the economy was growing strongly – was qualitatively worse than the government running deficits under Obama, at least while we’re sitting at negative GDP growth.

  102. Mark:

    At least your position is intellectually consistent.

    Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that “Tax is robbery” is a Completely Insane position. But its one you’re perfectly entitled to hold.

  103. ET @ 107 — “It is easy to stand back and laugh at the tea partiers….but can you defend the Obama plan on economic grounds?”

    I certainly can…though you aren’t going to like/agree with what I say.

    First, it’s fairly common knowledge amongst economists that deficit spending is a necessary and appropriate component of any anti-recession plan. Government spending, when done competently, can function as a great shock absorber for the economy — when times are good, reduce spending, and when times are bad, ramp up spending. The logic behind this isn’t difficult to understand. Government funded projects create jobs. Jobs put money into the hands of consumers. Consumers spend said money on products. Demand for said products therefore increases, creating more jobs, which puts more money into consumers’ pockets, and so on. You get the idea. It’s not rocket science.

    You say:

    “A number of very moderate sources (not only Fox News–but also CNN and MSNBC) have interviewed economists who point out the flaws in the Obama economic plan: The debt will rise to dangerous, unprecedented levels. The value of the dollar will decline, and there is a significant chance of hyperinflation.”

    First off, it’s laughable that you would characterize either Fox News or MSNBC as “very moderate” — both are partisan to the point of being flat out dishonest. (I tend to think Fox is worse, but perhaps that’s only because I tend to disagree with them more often). CNN is moderate-ish, but CNN, like all merchants of “the News,” is biased toward hyperbole. Most stories have to be exaggerated to be sufficiently interesting to compete — which is why you see doomsday economists on all of the 24 hour news cycle networks.

    If you ask Paul Krugman, he’d tell you Obama’s economic recovery plan doesn’t go far enough.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Economy/Story?id=7161203&page=1

    …and Krugman also weighed in on these silly “tea parties” recently:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/opinion/13krugman.html?_r=1

    …but I digress. The hyperinflation you are concerned with is not going to happen because the plan is not, as you put it, to just “print money.” The United States is going to invest money in real, tangible things. Development of infrastructure. Renewable energy resources. Greater access to better educational opportunities. Improving public facilities. This isn’t printing money. This is giving people jobs. And what happens when you give people jobs? They work. They produce things. Things that others will pay for. And then they use the money to buy other things. That’s how we stimulate economic growth — not by lowering taxes on the wealthy (who, by definition, hoard their wealth rather than spending it, making their spending far less income-sensitive than the middle class), but by generating work, and paying people to do it. (And, as a nice side benefit, we actually get some valuable things done, too! As opposed to war spending, where we just get people killed for no good reason.)

    As far as the “bailouts” are concerned — no, it is not anyone’s idea of money well spent to hand billions of dollars of loans to companies that have demonstrated incompetence sufficient to need billions of dollars of loans to survive. But that isn’t a situation created by Obama, or by a liberal economic agenda. That is a situation caused by de-regulation policies, pushed by neo-conservatives, fueled by the misguided notion that whatever is good for big business is good for the American economy. We took a hands-off approach to the financial industry, and not surprisingly, they made short-sighted, selfish decisions that screwed the rest of us. But the right question to ask is not whether they deserve to be bailed out…the right question to ask is how we wound up in a situation where we were dependent on these companies for our economic stability. And the answer to that question is that the government permitted these companies to do whatever the hell they wanted, with virtually no oversight — and “whatever the hell they wanted” turned into merging and growing to the point that the entire economy depended on a few banks, and those banks were making very short-sighted, very unwise bets that would result in enormous short-term financial benefit to a select few decision-makers. And when the bubble finally burst, the house of cards fell, and the nation’s economy fell along with it. Credit markets froze. Small and mid-sized businesses couldn’t function. Then big companies. Then you get layoffs. Unemployment rising. More and more people have no money to spend…so demand for products falls…which results in more layoffs…and so on, and so on. And this easily could have spiraled into a massive shrinkage of the economy from which we may have never really recovered.

    So what could we do? Really, there was only one alternative. Annoying as it was, we had to sack up and put money into the credit markets to induce banks to lend money, so that businesses could get their credit lines, and keep doing what they do — produce goods, and employ people. Stop the bleeding, at least.

    The good news is, the “bailouts” were loans — and if everything works out as it should, the loans will be paid back. With interest. And I expect that the TARP loans will be paid back, for the most part. So it isn’t as though the plan really “costs” us $700 billion…it simply takes that money out of the taxpayer’s hands, for now…to be replaced later. Which doesn’t make it that much easier to accept…but to the extent people are considering the bailouts to be “spending,” that isn’t really honest.

    We had to do what we had to do. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was indisputably necessary. It shouldn’t have been necessary, but the fact that it was necessary was brought about by the culmination of many years of terrible fiscal policy, whereby we ran on faith in the free market, the assumption that big business would make decisions in its own interests, and that what’s good for big business is good for us all. Liberals have been screaming about the foolishness of this for many years. Now, we’re cleaning up your mess. Somehow, we always knew it would come to this…

    Now, what should we have learned from this? We should have learned that it is untenable for our nation’s economy to rely on a credit market controlled by a small group of banks. We should have learned that it is unacceptable to have private institutions with such a high level of unchecked power and influence over the aggregate of our national economic well-being. We should have learned that the free market doesn’t function properly when left alone, that some government interference is necessary, even if it slows things a bit, because there are situations in which public and private interests diverge, and we need to make sure that financial institutions cannot pursue short term private interests at the cost of the public interest (or, even better, we need to make sure that their pursuit of private interest cannot adversely impact the public interest, i.e. that they do not become “too big to fail”).

    Are we learning these things? To some degree, yes. But unfortunately, a lot of people appear to be less interested in the problem, and more interested in the unpleasantness of the solution. And seem to be focusing their animosity at the person charged with solving the problem, rather than the people who created it.

    Fortunately for those of us with common sense (as well as the rest of you, though you don’t realize it yet), the Reagan nightmare is over. Hopefully now we can move on to electing government officials whose goal is to improve the government, rather than to demonstrate how incapable it is.

  104. mythago @ 121 :

    “Yes, protests never accomplish anything. That whole civil-rights movement thing they told you about in high school? Fabrication, all of it.”

    Umm…mythago…did they tell you about the part where civil rights demonstrators were routinely arrested and/or got the crap beaten out of them by law enforcement?

  105. LB @ 125: Yes, but law enforcement in many of those cases was either a) actively disobeying the law or b) obeying unconstitutional law, which isn’t really law at all (If you have an issue with the last bit, I suggest you take it up with John Marshall.)

  106. LB @125: And your point is what? That protest is really illegal? That it doesn’t work? That the civil-rights movement collapsed in failure after television showed the whole nation that peaceful protesters were being attacked by cops with attack dogs and fire hoses?

  107. You know, social disobedience just ain’t what it usta be. A good protest diffused by the conservative need to please those in authority.

    And Sam wouldn’t have dumped the tea, he would have driven the truck into the reflecting pool and then dumped the tea.

  108. Stevem : Josh at 114: I have no idea how much my taxes went up or down. I earned a $141,000 in 2008.

    You don’t *know*? Then what are you complaining about? If your taxes went down, you should be thrilled, given how important this is supposed to be to conservatives.

    It is my understanding, however, that in aggregate Obama’s tax plan is decided to bring more revenue (net) to the federal government by taxing the rich, even as it gives breaks to the non-rich. Pleae correct me if I am wrong.

    You’re incomplete. Taxes on income under $250,000 were *lowered*. Most Americans, yourself included, got a tax break. The upper few percent saw an increase in the income they made above $250,000

    And all the anti-Obama posters here are squealing like stuck pigs about how their taxes are going up. Do any of you make more than $250,000 a year?

    It is also my understanding that Obama’s plan projects much greater spending, and deficits, than the Republicans ever enacted, despite fighting two wars and the expansion of Medicare and prescriptions. Again, please correct me if I am wrong

    You’re right, but as people have said, it’s infrastructure spending in a recession, which is known to slow recessions and allow for a recovery.

  109. LB @ 125:

    The fact that protesters were beaten and arrested was the whole point. Dr. King and the other movement organizers knew that nothing would arouse people’s sympathies faster than seeing peaceful, non-violent protesters being attacked with dogs, beaten with clubs, and sprayed with hoses. It’s a point that seems to be lost on political protesters on both sides of the spectrum today.

    Chanting slogans and waving cleverly-worded signs is fun, sure, but it’s not going to get anyone’s attention. You have to do something attention-getting to do that, and that’s probably going to get you arrested. If these people really were passionate about the points they’re trying to make, they would have dumped their stupid tea bags, consequences be damned.

  110. Eschaton blog had this link to a Granny Tea Bagger profile

    She said she retired on disability from M&T Bank three years ago after undergoing knee replacement and back surgeries. She lives on her Social Security and disability benefits. Last year, she petitioned the bankruptcy court for protection from creditors.

    She said she did not have to pay federal income taxes last year because her income was too low.

    “I don’t want to see this country turn into a welfare, nanny state, where we stand in line for groceries, and we’re in welfare lines, and in socialized medicine lines,” Wilder said.

    (syracuse.com link)

    Could this woman possibly sound less informed about what’s going on in the world, or more hypocritical? But wait, it gets better!

    Divorced and raising a teenage son, Smith, 49, owns a driveway sealing business.

    He is organizing the protest in Liverpool even though the National Tax Day Tea Party Coalition is not sanctioning or promoting it on its Web site.

    The national coalition thinks the Syracuse community is too small to support two events, said Amy Kremer, the nationwide event coordinator. She said she pushed Smith to join forces with Wilder, but he declined.

    Smith said he became involved because Obama is causing class and racial divisiveness by promoting policies that benefit select groups of Americans.

    Americans need safety nets, but Obama and Congress are pushing programs that foster dependency and weaken capitalism, said Smith, who acknowledged he collected food stamp benefits for a few months last year.

    “Obama is horribly divisive,” Smith said.

    Obama is pushing racial divisiveness? By what? Being black? Half these nitwits probably think Obama is a secret Muslim as well.

    99% of these people got a frigging tax *cut*. In states that refused the stimulus money, they’re running out of unemployment funding. So if you get laid off, tough cookies.

    Meanwhile, the economy real people live in has real problems that no amount of Grandpa Simpson impersonating tea baggers seem to notice, except to blame Obama.

  111. Here’s the fundamental question about taxation– is it moral to require your neighbor to help you? Not to ask and hope for the best, but to require it of him and to form a government to coerce him to do so if he’s not willing on his own.

    Add to this the possible split between liberal and conservative– liberals seem to fear exclusion, while conservatives fear contamination. The notion of everyone working together in one big pot through the mechanism of taxes therefore makes the left feel happy (no one’s left out, common cause, etc), but makes the right cringe because they can’t choose who to not associate with.
    This explains why heavy spending for warfare or prison doesn’t bother the right as much– shuffling people off the mortal coil or into a jail cell is about as much distance as you can put between you and them.

  112. #132 Cicada,
    “Here’s the fundamental question about taxation– is it moral to require your neighbor to help you?”

    Yes.

    But you have phrased the question wrong.

    You are implying that you are helping your neighbor while your neighbor is doing nothing to help himself. That is not what taxes in a just society are all about. In a just society Taxes are not about you being compelled to help me, they are about us both contributing to the common good. Those who can contribute must take care of those who can’t ,and those who won’t should be excluded from the group.

    Those who don’t contribute are not part of society. So until we can come up with a way to shun folk who think they don’t have to contribute to the common good and really cut them off completely from the benefits of living inside our society, or until all humans change enough to be altruistic on their own, we need a means to compel contribution to the common good. If we don’t there will always be people who think ” I have mine, screw you” or “If you don’t have it, you don’t deserve it, you can’t have mine.”

  113. comments @ 126, 127, 130:

    I was commenting on this:

    “Yes, protests never accomplish anything. That whole civil-rights movement thing they told you about in high school? Fabrication, all of it.”

    …as a response to this.

    “I do agree the tea bag protests are silly. After all, if protests could accomplish anything, they would be illegal.”

    While civil rights protests weren’t in fact illegal (in most cases), they were treated as such by law enforcement. Why? Because they were effective.

    As a general proposition, I agree that protests that are effective are generally also illegal, or, at least, are treated as though they are illegal. If you are really upsetting the status quo, there will be people there trying to stop you, and using the force of law to do so.

    Permitting dissent in the manner authorized by those who you are dissenting against is an essential part of social control in a democracy. They can’t just overtly oppress you — at least, not publicly — so they let you express yourself in a non-threatening manner. Once your expression becomes legitimately threatening, it tends to become illegal (even if constitutional — and I understand the point that calling protest permitted under the constitution “illegal” is improper in a sense, but that intellectual debate doesn’t do a lot of good to the people who are on the receiving end of the hoses, dogs, and rubber bullets).

    I fully agree with EB @ 130, who said:

    “Chanting slogans and waving cleverly-worded signs is fun, sure, but it’s not going to get anyone’s attention. You have to do something attention-getting to do that, and that’s probably going to get you arrested.”

    That’s exactly my point.

  114. Cicada @ 132 – Here’s the fundamental question about taxation– is it moral to require your neighbor to help you? Not to ask and hope for the best, but to require it of him and to form a government to coerce him to do so if he’s not willing on his own.

    If it’s the law of the land, yes. He has the option to find a country where that’s not required if he can manage it. US Citizens are not compelled to stay in the USA. We’re not North Korea.

  115. Helping other people is moral.

    I for one don’t think that forcing one’s morals onto other people is acceptable. Anybody disagree?

    Heinlein said: “The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.”

    Seems pretty clear which side of that divide most of in this thread fall. Of course, it depends on which issue we’re talking about.

  116. Heinlein might have been able to tell a good story but he was politically naive.

    That quote is just an excuse to abdicate responsibility. It is typical of “I got mine, screw you” school of Libertarian thought. What it really means is “I don’t want to share, you can’t make me, and people who share are morally bankrupt”. It’s just dressed up in a little red-white and blue glitter. That might be OK worldview when you are two, but it is pretty pathetic in an adult.

  117. Your opinions on Heinlein are fascinating but don’t really have any bearing on the substance of his statement.

    So I take it that you think people SHOULD be controlled, for their own good, of course. And that it IS acceptable to force your morality on others?

  118. I for one don’t think that forcing one’s morals onto other people is acceptable

    The ludicrous nature of this statement becomes clear upon reflection: what do you think representative government is about, if not enforcing a generally (but not universally) accepted moral code? Want to go out in public naked? Illegal. Want to pee on the street? Illegal. Want to take someone else’s stuff? Illegal. And on and on and on.

    As to taxes, who was it who said that freedom isn’t free?

  119. Skar – I for one don’t think that forcing one’s morals onto other people is acceptable. Anybody disagree?

    The entire US Justice system, the framers of the Constitution, Jesus … It’s a pretty big list. Pretty much everyone who’s not an anarchist.

    Heinlein said: “The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.”

    Seems pretty clear which side of that divide most of in this thread fall. Of course, it depends on which issue we’re talking about.

    Same goes for the framers of the US Constitution. They wanted a system by which certain elements of morality were enforced by laws. Personally, I’m going with that side of the divide. If you’re an anarchist, be proud and call yourself one. Don’t dance around the issue.

  120. @133-Mary Fitz- Nope, no implication of any sort– whether the neighbor is helping himself or not, why am I responsible for his wellbeing, or he for mine? This isn’t even a case of “I’ve got mine, screw you”, but, as I read Libertarianism, actively not wanting the ties that social security nets and such use to tie one person’s fate to another’s.
    Perhaps a good question to ask is this– I’m going to presume you have, when contemplating society, a sense of being a part of a thing greater than yourself, an organic whole, or whatever you’d wish to call it. What if you looked at the same scene, and all you saw was a group of individual people, none of which necessarily have anything in common? No forest, just trees, in other words. Would you still feel as you do about contributing to something that you had no notion existed?

    @135- Dodge– legal and moral aren’t the same thing.

  121. @140- A rephrasing is probably in order here to make this sensible: try, “You should force your morals on others as little as possible, provided they agree to do the same”.
    Normally this would be nearly impossible to determine, except where government spending comes into play: “I want a billion dollars spent on tolerance education” “I want a billion dollars spent to make sure no one sees breasts on the internet”.
    One billion dollars of imposition from both sides…

  122. Cicada – so you’re literally choosing not to see the forest for the trees?

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can’t help but see the forest. I can’t put myself in that position. “I am involved in mankind…the bell tolls for thee” and all that jazz, I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

    Since you’re a completely individual tree and you don’t need the things that a society provides, I assume your water comes from a private well, you don’t go to the hospital if you get sick, and you simply teleport yourself wherever you want to go rather than using highways.

  123. Cicada – In any collection of humans, there exists the potential for one of them to dominate another by force. In any group without a set of rules on how the group collectively agrees is an acceptable way for that to happen, we don’t have a society. Instead, we have a life as described by the philosopher Hobbes (not the cartoon tiger) as having

    “[...]
    consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

    -Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan

    Thus ends the Political Theory intro lecture you should have already known about. You can read the entirety of The Leviathan here.

  124. It’s not an yes/no, Control/Controlled issue. In the real world most things are shades of grey not black and white.

    I was wrong when I said it was an issue of morality, it is an issue of basic common sense. People should control themselves, but groups of people are more than an accumulation of individuals. The common good requires different standards of behavior than needed for an individual. This is all basic interpersonal dynamics it is true for families, workplaces, communities and nations.

    When people live in groups the group will develop some sort of consensus about what that control means. There are a variety of ways that can be done. In a group everyone needs to look after each other. If a group member isn’t willing to do that, then they should not get the benefits of being a member of a group.

    In the best situation the group looks after itself, it controls itself. In the worst control isn’t imposed from the outside by some entity that is not part of the group.

  125. Cicada #142

    You can’t not see the forest. It is as real as the trees and just as important. With out the forest the individual trees have a harder time existing. That is why forests exist.

    Sure you can talk about the individual as separate from society in a philosophy 101 thought experiment sort of way, but you can’t ever exist that way in the real world.

  126. Re # 146 that should be

    “In the best situation the group looks after itself, it controls itself. In the worst control is imposed from the outside by some entity that is not part of the group.”

    Damn that dyslexia, Damn spell check for not reading my mind…

  127. 1) The tea parties protested bailing out the corporations with government money but failed to protest business tax cuts and loopholes such as off-shore tax havens that benefit corporations and wealthy citizens, but not regular citizens. Obama’s tax plan closes a lot of those loopholes and tax cuts. Which is another reason why FreedomWorks organized the tea parties to try to build opposition to the government’s plan, which would make businesses, their clients, less able to hide their income while letting taxpayers bear more of the tax burden. Not surprisingly, executive pay in businesses has risen substantially in the last year.

    2) The protestors are accusing Obama of being both a fascist (far right) and a communist (far left.) It is philosophically impossible for him to be both. The confusion seems to be that they don’t really know what fascism is.

    3) The protests took place mainly in public parks and squares, funded and built by the government. If the protesters really lived their doctrine, they would have rented private space in which to hold the events, not used public spaces paid for by the government they think should stop spending money on public services and facilities. Like parks. And cops. And firefighters. And garbage and maintenance crews for the cities which then had to clean up the mess the tea baggers left behind.

    4) A large part of the protests focused on Obama making a diplomatic bow to the Saudi king, with protest speeches and posters, so much of it does seem focused on the idea of Obama as a communist Muslim. I’m still not sure how that works, but I’m dead tired of it and the racism that surrounds it.

    5) The tea baggers will come out to play on July 4th as well, apparently. Luckily, they will be able to do so because the government ensured that they could have a paid holiday that day.

  128. “…what do you think representative government is about, if not enforcing a generally (but not universally) accepted moral code? Want to go out in public naked? Illegal. Want to pee on the street? Illegal. Want to take someone else’s stuff? Illegal. And on and on and on.”

    Exactly.

    It is, in fact, appropriate to force one’s morals on others in some cases. I agree entirely with this.

    (Reading back I realize I misspoke/typed when I said exactly the opposite above, I meant to state the belief as a hypothetical, the phrasing was a hold over from a first draft of the comment, my apologies, the fault is mine.)

    What we have here is two different sets of morals, not unassailable universal truth on one side and sheer fallacy on the other.

    On an off topic note, it does make all those yahoos who were earlier and on other topics loudly complaining about the religious right “forcing their morals on the nation” as though forcing one’s morals on others was somehow inherently wrong, sound a little stupid.

  129. Like John Scalzi, I support the rights of same-sex married couples to carry concealed firearms.

    I also oppose the war on some drugs, and the more authoritarian aspects of the “war on terror”. Bush and Obama are both opposed to nearly everything I believe in. In the last presidential election there was no candidate for whom I could vote, and still maintain a modicum of self-respect. If I had written in the name of a candidate whom I could support, it would not have been counted.
    I have no representation in this government. My state, like many others, goes out of its way to insure that no one who would represent me can get on the ballot, much less get invited to debates.
    I would have no problem paying a fair price for legitimate services from government or the private sector. My problem is being forced at gunpoint (not hyperbole, if I don’t pay up men with guns will eventually come to get me) to pay for the worlds largest prison system, and the bloated bureaucracy that supports it.
    Sure, there were protesters who can rightly be derided as hypocrites who are simply upset that the conservative fascists lost to the liberal fascists. But for many, if not most, of us there our grievance’s are very similar to those of the Sons of Liberty.

  130. The upper few percent saw an increase in the income they made above $250,000

    And it’s worth noting again that income has a specific meaning. The money you get from your paycheck (however fat) is not taxed in the exact same way as the money you inherited from Great-Grandpapa, or from your stock investments back when those actually resulted in profits, or from selling property.

    That’s why all of those flat-tax proposals have a “please ask your doctor if this is right for you” speed-mumbled addition that, oh yeah, we should cut the capital-gains tax and get rid of the estate tax. If you’re actually rich or rich+, the money shot (sorry) is not in anything Obama does with taxes on people’s paychecks.

  131. I have no representation in this government.

    Yes, you do. Your Congressperson, your Senators, and the President are your representatives. That you did not vote for them and that you do not agree with them does not change that fact.

    I would have no problem paying a fair price for legitimate services from government or the private sector

    That’s not up to you alone to decide. Part of living in a society of any sort is that you may have to accede to policies and decisions that you don’t like.

  132. Just wanted to point out a few things…

    131 is a perfect illustration of the peasant’s mindset that is so firmly a part of this teabaggery.

    For a wonderful examination (which this lovely site actually linked me to):

    http://trueslant.com/matttaibbi/2009/04/14/americas-peasant-mentality/

    Taibbi for all his flippant humor actually has a great point well-illustrated there.

    Now granted, there are some folks who might actually be into this thing for understandable, perhaps even admirable reasons – Fitz @ 151 for example seems to have his or her head on straight and I can salute that even if I don’t necessarily agree with those opinions.

    But, and I hasten to add, this tea business does not seem representative of those kind of individuals, of a genuine populist, non-partisan movement seeking real reform of government.

    And I say that because, listening to messages being touted, I hear simplistic parroting of mainstream media outrage as voiced by frothy-mad Glenn Beck and others.

    What sickens me is that the more I learn, the more it seems to me that this movement has been manufactured by the same pundits making pseudo-libertarian populist outcries, the same pundits that undermined the campaign of Ron Paul and earlier touted the re-election of Bush as all that was good and holy. Tell me, if a movement is heavily advertised and promoted by the same media engine that supported the previous administration and its utter obliteration of conservative government spending, how can I give it ANY credence at all?

    Where were they for the past 8 years? Where were our tea parties for Medicare Part-D and the private contracting in Iraq and Enron and the rape of New Orleans, the butchering of the constitution and the NSA’s illegal wiretapping? Where were these concerned citizens THEN?

    To those who actually were outraged by these things, I leave you one final suggestion: stay as far away from this movement as you possibly can. Because it has squandered any possible hope of legitimacy with everything I’ve seen of it thus far. The more I learn about it, the more transparent and false it rings.

  133. Scar@73

    “So, they were co-opted and coordinated on a national scale? By whom?”

    The tea companies, obviously.

  134. Charles@98

    “Actually, those were highly coordinated undercover ACORN operatives, working in conjunction with the liberal media establishment to portray wholesome teabaggers as a bunch of dangerous kooks. Well played, ACORN, well played…”

    Don’t forget the reverse vampires.

  135. Yes, you do. Your Congressperson, your Senators, and the President are your representatives. That you did not vote for them and that you do not agree with them does not change that fact.

    Represent – verb, to serve as a sign or symbol of ; to serve as the counterpart or image of : typify ; to correspond to in essence; to act in the place of or for usually by legal right

    None of the people you have referred to as my representatives speak for me. Perhaps there is a newspeak definition of the term which applies. It is akin to having been apointed a defense attorney who argues that you are guilty.

    That’s not up to you alone to decide. Part of living in a society of any sort is that you may have to accede to policies and decisions that you don’t like.

    Part of living in a Constitutional Republic is that policies and decisions which violate our inalieanable rights or which are not permitted under the powers delegated by said Constitution are null and void. Yet I still pay for countless laws and policies which have no place in a free society.

  136. People who think that government spending is influenced by D vs. R, well, there seems to be slightly more fiscal conservatism on the D side (check actual historical deficits), but neither side is really good at it. This is because deficit spending is not a major concern for most of the electorate, so why should they care?

    If the teabaggers manage to change this, more power to them. I personally think this may not be the best time to tighten the purse strings, but tighter purse strings in general would be a good idea overall, so I’d be happy to make that compromise.

    However, from what I can see, a *lot* of teabaggers were just R folks protesting that the current bout of deficit spending is being done by a D, or just Rs protesting Ds. This doesn’t surprise me much – as I said deficit spending isn’t really a big issue for most – but it certainly hurts the core message by associating it with blatant, occasionally wingnutty, partisanship.

    As for libertarians defaulting to R, well, I hate to say it, but the Rs haven’t given anything better than lip service to libertarian thought for a long time now. They slid from being in favor of free market capitalism to being in favor of those with capital. Not the same thing, unfortunately.

  137. None of the people you have referred to as my representatives speak for me

    Yes, they do. They are your elected representatives, whether you like it or not. They represent you. This is only a newspeak definition if you consider the Constitution “newspeak.” I don’t, personally.

    Part of living in a Constitutional Republic is that policies and decisions which violate our inalieanable rights or which are not permitted under the powers delegated by said Constitution are null and void

    That’s true. Luckily for you, we have a Supreme Court that decides on the Constitutionality of the laws. I’m betting that nothing you object to has been declared unconstitutional by that body.

  138. Flix, you seem to be confusing a “Constitutional Republic” with a “Flixian Republic” In a constitutional republic, things like “how shall citizens be represented” and “who decides what laws and policies have a place” are spelled out in the Constitution. It’s only in a Flixian republic where you’d get to decree by fiat who represents you, and what policies and laws should be allowed.

    Unfortunately for you, but fortunately for our country, we are the former not the later.

    Also, did you read that definition of “represent” you quoted? There’s absolutely nothing there that says your representatives should in agree with you or think as you do. You can legitmately argue that you disagree with them, that they do a poor job of representing you, that you’d be better off if they didn’t represent you, etc. But they do represent you, and your insistence otherwise is at odds with reality in a very Orwellian way.

  139. Cicada @ 142: “What if you looked at the same scene, and all you saw was a group of individual people, none of which necessarily have anything in common? No forest, just trees, in other words. Would you still feel as you do about contributing to something that you had no notion existed?”

    I understand where you are going with this, but you are asking the wrong questions.

    We look to government to manage issues or provide services when it is in our collective benefit for that issue/service to be managed/provided by one uniform public entity (as opposed to multiple private entities) that is charged with the task of pursuing the public interest, rather than self-interest, i.e. profit. These are thought to be “public goods.”

    We look to the private sector to manage issues or provide services when it is in our collective benefit for those issues/services to be subject to market competition, so that we get the benefit of innovation, competition for price, etc., and where we don’t mind that those managing the issue or offering the service are seeking profit, rather than trying to benefit the public.

    The most obvious example of a public good — one that even libertarians agree with — is national defense. It is in our collective interest that each of us chips in for a military that prevents our nation from being invaded, and protects our interests abroad. It would make no sense for each of us to have to hire private security to serve this purpose. Nor should we have to rely on others to hire private security to ensure our own security. Nor should our national defense agenda be driven by an indefinite number of independent private actors.

    Less obvious to some is things like medical care. On one hand, it benefits us all to have a basic level of health care provided for, not just for ourselves, but to promote the public health and well-being, keeping people productive and able to benefit our economy, inhibiting the spread of disease, etc. On the other hand, there is something to be said for doctors being required to compete with one another, good doctors getting more business and making more money, bad doctors getting less business and being forced to make a career change. And there is something to be said for permitting individuals to select their own level of health insurance based on what they are willing to pay for (though, sadly, it tends to really be based on what they are able to pay for). So there is some legitimate debate over whether medical care has enough “public good” quality to merit having it universally provided by the government. At present, we have something of a mixed public/private system for providing and granting access to medical care.

    Medical care is less public than, say, education, for which there are both public and private options. But we understand that it is in the public benefit for all individuals to be provided with a basic level of education, and for further educational opportunities to be afforded to those who wish to pursue them. People who don’t have kids might be grumpy about the fact that they subsidize the education of other people’s kids, but they don’t think about the benefit they receive from living amongst a more educated population. (One might sneer at the notion that we have an “educated population,” but absent the existence of compulsory public education I assure you it would be far worse). We also permit private institutions to provide education that competes with other private institutions, as well as the public institutions, under the theory that such competition improves the quality of available education, even if the highest quality education isn’t available to everyone. There is value in that as well, and no particular reason to permit government to monopolize education — whereas there may be good reason for the government to monopolize law enforcement, since we want to be absolutely sure that those involved in the enforcement of law to be operating with the public good, not profit, in mind.

    A more interesting example might be social welfare. The government paying the chronically unemployed enough to survive without having to work. This is a classic example of a government program conservatives would point to as a hand-out, something that is entirely for someone else’s benefit, whereby money is taken from me and literally given to someone else simply because they need it. But consider what would happen in the absence of social welfare. Sure, some on welfare might find a way to get a job and be productive…but for the most part, if people on welfare could get a job and be productive, they would be doing so already. A certain level of unemployment always exists, and in fact is healthy for a capitalist economy. Individuals who could not survive through independent means wouldn’t just die, or let their kids starve. Most would resort to unlawful and/or violent means to get what they need to survive. They would very likely band together and steal food, clothing, shelter, etc. by any means they could. Providing for social welfare is a relatively inexpensive way of providing the have-nots with just enough to keep them peaceful, and is a far more pleasant (and ultimately probably less expensive) way of dealing with the fact that a capitalist system, by definition, must have “losers” as well as “winners” than rounding up all the “losers” and tossing them in jail when they resort to theft, violence, trafficking of unlawful items to survive. (In fact, you see some level of that behavior even with the social welfare we presently provide — raising the level of welfare available would decrease this, but taxpayers will only tolerate paying so much for their security and peace of mind).

    (Please note, everyone, that I don’t mean to imply that people on welfare are “losers” in any sense other than in the economic sphere — that is to say, capitalism is a complex system of economic competition for wealth, and some competitors, by definition, must lose the competition and fail to obtain wealth at the expense of others. I fully understand that most of the people who I am referring to as economic “losers” start off with such stark disadvantages that the idea of them “winning” is absurd. I’m not making value judgments — I’m just trying to use simple terminology, fully recognizing that reality is more complex than this analysis suggests, but also acknowledging that complexity isn’t relevant for purposes of this discussion).

    So we don’t pay taxes for services to help others — or, at least, that isn’t the primary reason. We pay taxes for services to help ourselves. Taxation is not forced altruism. Rather than live under a government that provides all goods and services — a communist model — or a government that provides most of the goods and services — a socialist model — we live under a capitalist model in which our government provides goods and services only when we collectively agree that the individual taxpayer benefits from the government’s involvement.

    Now, there are legitimate disagreements about when and to what extent we do, in fact, individually benefit from the government’s involvement. And there is inevitably some blurring of lines here — many government programs are sold to the public, in part, on the basis that we should “have a heart” and “do what’s right” to help our neighbors and the less fortunate, etc. But at its core, the function of government is not to force me to help my neighbor, but rather to provide me with a system by which I can maximize benefit to myself.

  140. Yeah, lucky for me. Nine folks who are part of the problem are here to make that determination for me. Morally bankrupt criminals claim to speak for me and folks like you agree that they do whether I like it or not. You’re doing a great job of affirming that our complaints are not too far off from those of The Sons of Liberty.

    As to whether that august body of black-robed ….persons…. are the sole arbiters of what is constitutional, might I refer you to “Sixteenth American Jurisprudence, Second Edition, Section 177.” or Justice Marshalls Marbury v. Madison statement, both of which affirm that there is no obligation to obey any act of congress which is contrary to the Constitution regardless of whether it is declred unconstitutional. Also, check out fija.org for the method by which the people may enforce this fact. Yet many of those who you say speak for me whether I like it or not would have me imprisoned for exercising that right.
    Tell me again how there is no valid comparison with the grievances of the Founders?

    Jon Marcus, my argument is that what policies and laws should be allowed can be found in the delegated powers section of the Constitution, and my problem is with those acts of congress which violate that section and the Bill of Rights. I’m not claiming the right to decide what should be allowed, I’m saying the existing rules about policies and laws are being violated by congress. Nor do I object to the Constitutionally mandated method of selecting representatives, but rather to the rigged system which insures no one who TRULY represents me can be elected.

    You both mis-characterize my objections, suggesting that the existing system is in accord with the rules under which it was established. In a system where my only possible “representatives” are those whose policies are an anathema to myself and the Constitution, I do not have true representation in the government. Your claims to the contrary are disingenuous at best.

  141. Fitz:

    “In a system where my only possible ‘representatives’ are those whose policies are an anathema to myself and the Constitution, I do not have true representation in the government.”

    This position of yours is edging into “the flag in the courtroom has a fringe on it, therefore this an admiralty court, therefore it has no jurisdiction over me” territory, Fitz. And while of course you’re free to believe what you want, I don’t think you’re going to get any further with your definition of representation than those folks get declaring a fringed flag means a court has no authority over them.

  142. Objecting to the glaring flaws in the way our elections are run is comparable to that nonsense about gold-fringed flags? Perhaps my objections to acts of congress not covered by their delegated powers is akin to espousing the idea that Adam Weishaupt killed and replaced George Washington, thus making our government a branch of the illuminati. I had no idea i was so close to that level of insanity. Thanks for pointing that out John.

    No wonder we have reached this point.

    I am mis-represented.
    1.To give an incorrect or misleading representation of.
    2.To serve incorrectly or dishonestly as an official representative of.
    Perhaps my grasp of the language is flawed, but it seems to me that this is nearly the precise opposite of being represented.

  143. Adam Weishaupt killed and replaced George Washington, thus making our government a branch of the illuminati

    Shhh. They can hear you even here.

  144. Touche, Scalzi.

    “Of course I’m crazy, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong” — Robert Anton Wilson.

  145. See? It’s better when we get along! Let’s never fight again.

    No promises on that count. I am crazy, you know.

  146. @ MaryFitz and Great Big Nerd– I think you mistake my meaning. I’m not denying that one person needs other people for the basics of survival, I’m denying that that aggregate of people has recognition as a “thing”, basically.
    There are interactions between individuals– you can certainly be kind or generous to other individuals as you wish and as you encounter them, but when and why do you make a leap to saying “We’re all part of something”?

  147. @LB- The devil’s in the details. Would we, for instance, be unsafe from invasion if we spent only as much of the budget on the military as, say, France does? Bearing in mind that the cost of the last three months of someone’s life tend to be the most medically expensive, why does Medicare pay for end-of-life care– there is no greater return from that.
    Put another way, would you mind if you paid, say, 90% of your income in taxes and received the same benefits from it as you do now? Would you think it was overpriced at that cost? When would you presume that you are actually better off spending your money on yourself than via the government?

  148. LB@124:

    I have to give you credit on this point: Unlike many of the regulars in the peanut gallery here, your response did not consist of something like “Obama is love; and if you oppose Obama, then you must be full of hate.”

    We both know that Paul Krugman is a neo-Keynesian, and we both know what Keynesians generally believe: the more government spending, the better. I would expect Paul Krugman to argue for ever higher taxes and ever more government spending. That is what Keynesians do.

    We also both know that either of us could quote economists all day to support our respective positions: You could cite all the Keynesians; and I could cite all the economists from the Chicago and Austrian schools.

    The proof is in the pudding: Excessive government spending has driven the once vibrant economies of Western Europe into stagnation. The Welfare State has all but crippled Great Britain.

    This is one reason why we now see at least some of the European nations turning back toward more laissez-faire policies and politicians (as in France and Germany). They have learned the hard way that despite what the Keynesians wish, the government cannot create wealth; the government can only drive everyone down to a uniform level of poverty.

    John@111:

    I *was* trying to bait you a bit, which is admittedly bad form when you are posting as a guest on another person’s site. I offer you my apologies on this point. I got carried away.

    And yes, I did recall your previous remarks of concern about the government spending. This is why I saw your somewhat one-sided assessment of the tea parties as self-contradictory.

    So let me rephrase myself: I think your posts on the tea parties would have been more balanced if you had included an acknowledgement that the government is behaving irresponsibly at present… even if you find the methods of the tea partiers themselves to be trite and gimmicky.

    Your posts implied (by my reading at least) that the tea partiers’ concerns (the bailouts, the Obama budget, etc.) were not legitimate points of protest. With all due respect, I thought you were being evasive on the economic issues that inspired the protests, with the aim of casting all Obama opponents as wingnuts and dolts.

    But perhaps I was reading too much into your posts. Again, my apologies if I overstepped my bounds.

  149. Edward Trimnell:

    “I think your posts on the tea parties would have been more balanced”

    Aaaaaaaaand there’s where the problem is — remember, please, that I am notably unconcerned about balance, and particularly what anyone else would consider so. Partly as a matter of philosophy but mostly because (as I must remind everyone from time to time) I’m mostly just writing this off the top of my head and finding things that interest me in that moment, without too much concern about where it all fits in the overall Whatever gestalt. Really, balance is so much effort.

    “Again, my apologies if I overstepped my bounds.”

    No worries.

  150. Excessive government spending has driven the once vibrant economies of Western Europe into stagnation. The Welfare State has all but crippled Great Britain.

    You lose credibility when you spout the above gibberish. It’s not only patently untrue (five of the world’s top-10 economies are European, surprising if they are stagnating, and European economies were growing at rates comparable to, if not better than the United States before this current crisis), _and_ because it echos so precisely one of those ridiculous Republican talking points that GOP pundits spout to try and distract Americans from things like universal health care.

    (sources: CIA Factbook)

  151. Edward: The Welfare State has all but crippled Great Britain.

    Have you ever been to Great Britain? Have you lived there?

    In what respect has the “Welfare State” “all but” crippled the country?

    How about Sweden or a few other countries with more extensive Welfare States that have higher taxes, and a more “flat” society but, based on my experiences in them seem to work pretty well?

    The UK spends about half the amount GDP per capita on healthcare than the US and yet provides Universal Healthcare… is that an example of this “crippling” of which you speak?

    The UK’s umemployment system is actually less generous than the US one. Is this another example of “crippling”?

    Take your time.

  152. There’s something tremendously sad about people whose incomes will never approach $250K protesting higher taxes on the minute fraction of the population who go over that figure. That people are that easily goaded into displaying their inner four-year-olds (“MINE! You can’t have any!”– when they don’t have any themselves in the first place) in the service of those who don’t, never have and never will, give a runny beer shit about them? Oy fuckin’ VEY.

    The ‘Teabaggers For Douchebags’ are prime candidates for research into Stockholm Syndrome.

  153. @179- There’s always the chance it’s something of a slippery slope prevention– first you cut taxes on the poorest (in some cases taking the total tax burden to zero) and raise it on the wealthiest. Then you can repeat this when you need more money later and you notice that families making more than 100k seem to be toting around more money than average…

  154. 99. Joel on 15 Apr 2009 at 7:51 pm

    htom – so the less organized something is… the more… honest? … it is?

    It depends. I think it’s less intimidating and less threatening to viewers. I think of that as a good thing, but others may not. In some ways, an organized demonstration (to my eyes) has the feeling of a guided mob.

  155. I take Fitz’s complaint about “not being represented” as being the mirror of the frequently heard previously complaint that “Bush isn’t my President.”

    Real life stuck its nose in and I didn’t go. My complaint is more with the manner in which things are being done in government.

    I saw a bumper sticker that pretty much expressed my disgust:
    “Congressperson:
    Read the Whole Bill Aloud
    before you vote on it!
    (You can take turns.)”

    Shall issue concealed carry ++
    Gay marriage ++
    Abortion allowed ++
    No Church in State affairs ++
    No English is official language ++

    (And people wonder why I’m not a Republican any more — the Democrats have even more complaints!)

  156. If anyone crippled England, it was the same rat f*ckers who did it to the US – investment bankers, the super wealthy nitwits who fell for the blatant ponzi schemes, the complacent financial media that failed to report on it, and the de-regulators who removed the laws that permitted it to happen.

    The costs of England’s decent social programs the thing that keeps people from dying in the streets if they have no money.

    You know, like they used to during the industrial revolution, which was apparently a libertarian paradise.

  157. ET @ 175:

    “The proof is in the pudding: Excessive government spending has driven the once vibrant economies of Western Europe into stagnation. The Welfare State has all but crippled Great Britain.

    This is one reason why we now see at least some of the European nations turning back toward more laissez-faire policies and politicians (as in France and Germany). They have learned the hard way that despite what the Keynesians wish, the government cannot create wealth; the government can only drive everyone down to a uniform level of poverty.”

    I, like some of the posters above, have no idea where you get the notion that Great Britain, or any other European nation, has been “crippled” by the so-called “Welfare State.” It’s true that France and Germany have taken a step to the right in economic policy lately, but both are far, far to the left of anything the United States has ever even considered, so I hardly see the relevance in terms of our fiscal policies.

    I’m with you on the notion that the private sector does a better job than the public sector in creating wealth. There is a great deal of value in market competition. But placing our unwavering faith in the market is not going to dig us out of a hole that was created by our unwavering faith in the market.

    The private sector is great at generating wealth, innovation, ideas, and inspiring hard work and creativity. But the private sector is all about greed. It is all about itself. That’s okay. That’s the strength of the private sector. That greed pushes people to work hard, pushes innovators to innovate, and inspires production in a way that no system of government ever could. But you CANNOT expect the private sector to function for the benefit of the public interest. That’s not the private sector’s job. Nor can you assume that whatever is best for private companies is necessarily best for our economy as a whole.

    We cannot expect big companies to look out for our best interests. That’s not their job. Their job is to make money. To generate profit. They are good at their job, but they are terrible at managing long-term risk, and even worse and subordinating non-economic concerns (pollution, for example) to economic concerns.

    That is why, when the bubble burst and the “shenanigans” of the big banks started becoming clear, I was absolutely not on the “blame the greedy Wall Street fat cat” bandwagon. The greedy Wall Street fat cat was doing his job. Generating profit. That’s what they do. That’s what they are for. We want them to be greedy. The greedier the private sector is, the more we produce, and the more our economy grows.

    But at some point, too much private sector greed is not in the public interest. For example, when banks get absurdly over-leveraged, or when mortgage brokers are handing out ridiculous loans to unqualified borrowers to purchase obviously overpriced houses. That’s where the public sector is supposed to step in and to ITS job, which is to promote the public interest. They were supposed to do this through regulation…keep the private sector in check, make sure it doesn’t get too greedy for its own good, make sure people aren’t being taken advantage of and risks that are too great and that could hurt the national economy aren’t being taken.

    The problem is that the neo-cons forgot what the market is good at, and what the market is not good at. They started thinking the market could police itself, that all growth is good growth, that whatever is good for big business is necessarily good for the national economy, and nobody could better determine what is good for big business than big business itself. And anyone who still believes that at this point, given the events of the last two years, is delusional beyond help.

    A well-oiled capitalist machine needs a strong, vibrant private sector AND a strong, vibrant public sector working together. The role of the private sector is to function as the engine of the economy — driving hard work, innovation, advancement and growth through incentives to be productive. The role of the public sector is to act as the brake — when the private sector is taking the train too fast, or taking it in a direction that isn’t good for the train in general, apply the brake and steer everyone back in a direction that operates to the benefit of everyone. For the past 20 years or so, we have been a very fast train with a strong engine but no brakes. And we ran ourselves right into the wall.

  158. LB – The greedy Wall Street fat cat was doing his job. Generating profit. That’s what they do.

    Except it wasn’t real wealth, it was just a giant ponzi scheme.

  159. LB – The greedy Wall Street fat cat was doing his job. Generating profit. That’s what they do.

    Except it wasn’t real profit for the shareholdes, it was bonuses for themselves and their accomplices.

  160. Not that I want to hold the brief for investment bankers and mutual fund managers, but the fools — at every income level — who bought their products believing that they were getting in on some free money, are as much or maybe more to blame; a sale can ‘t take place (usually) without a buyer.

  161. Htom – so the victims of a scam are potentially *more* at fault than the people perpetrating the scam? When is this potentiality real?

    I’m sorry, but *no*. Not unless it’s something like the pedigree dog scam that involves the mark thinking he’s ripping of one of the team of con artists.

  162. Um. Keynesians don’t actually say government creates wealth better than the private sector does, and claiming that is a drastic misrepresentation of the Keynesian position.

    The Keynesian position is that there are situations where the private sector isn’t creating wealth at all, and that in those situations, the government can step in and “prime the pump” to let the private sector get back to work.

    I don’t see how anyone can reasonably deny that recessions and depressions occur, and that when they do they are instances of the private sector not creating wealth (or creating dramatically less wealth). The government can break the paradox of thrift – isn’t inefficient production that gives way to efficient production later better than no production at all?

  163. The libertarian (and sometimes conservative) insistence that “this is mine” founders on a simple fact: we have ancestors.

    We live on land that was once used by others, who were subjected to disease (which wasn’t anyone’s moral failing most of the time because nobody knew what was going on), war, conquest, treaty violation, and the like (which are). We live in a land that has had sundown towns, individual and mass disenfranchisement, prejudicial application of laws, and an ongoing practice of discrimination (as in very recent studies of the employment chances for black men with clean records versus white felons). There are no pure resources to speak of, and certainly no industrial or commercial facility that exists in moral purity. Everything we have, all of us, is in part the fruit of theft and fraud.

    So one big class of things that taxation is for is redress. The more consistently we enforce equality of opportunity now, for instance, the more we detach ourselves from the practical legacy of bigotry both public and private. The better we regulate commerce and clean the environment, the less dependent any of us will be in the future on the continuing effects of commercial deceit and legal abuses. And so forth and so on down the line. The honest, consistent application of government power now is how we get to a state where someday someone may abe able to say “this is mine” without all the rotted weight of historical crime and sin.

  164. Josh — if the victims of the scam ignore warnings from others that what they think of as a great deal is just too good to be true, using their belief or trust in the scheme rather than investigation. To make an example, people who claim that the stock market (and its derivatives) are just like a lottery, and then “invest” in it, sound to me very foolish when they start whining about having purchased losing tickets.

  165. Htom – Warnings? The news outlets were crowing about how wonderful this stuff was. I don’t object to your blaming victims other than it being tacky, but blaming them *more* than the people who scammed them is wrong. The main problem with the derivatives market is that, for people who were not millionaires, the ones selling it to them didn’t even know how it operated.

    A friend of mine who’s working for a major investment bank got in trouble for not selling them, despite not understanding them they way she understood the things she *was* selling and there being no comprehensive exam on how they work to clients who didn’t understand them either. She’s still got her job, but he people who did sell them were promoted to higher paying jobs pretty quickly.

  166. I love the lefties who seem to think there’s such a thing as a tax someone else pays.

    If I have to pay it, you’re going to pay me for it, and the bookkeeping, and maybe a “Mike is pissed off” surcharge.

    Why was it bad when Bush spent $5 trillion in 8 years, but not a problem when 0bama has done the same thing in 90 days?

    And what’s this crap about a business “too big to fail”?

    Or about Hoover, who tried bailing out industries, as did FDR…read history much?

    As to the teabaggers (snicker), they should have been dumping it, burning something, or doing something productive.

    Sadly, though, rather than offer my assistance, I was at home…working…paying for the cops who told them they couldn’t be offensive.

  167. It’s bad that Bush spent $5 trillion in 8 years because he didn’t have to spend it and he threw us in debt. It’s not as bad that Obama has spent that much in 90 days because Obama had to spend it, and he had to spend it because of Bush’s policies and spending, leaving him an inherited disaster.

    These businesses grew on credit, on debt, because the changes to regulations since 1980 let them. They are now so big, so interconnected and also contain the investments of not only many other companies but millions of American pensions and retirement funds that if they go, it will make the stuff that’s happening now look like a picnic.

    The worst part of the teabagging protests that has developed — which have now been estimated at 260,000 total participants or so — and the pundits who ran and sponsored them and present their philosophies on the media, is that they are also protesting those who protested against AIG and other bailed out corporations, its getting a bailout and its bonus scandal, as communists. Essentially, if you are speaking out against big business bad behavior, you’re a communist trying to turn the U.S. into the U.S.S.R. The protest supposedly against government spending is actually protesting those who are against government spending to big businesses. It’s not an anti-tax, shrink government movement, it’s a pro-business gets what it wants movement.

    Even better, by painting anti-business, pro-labor protesters as communists, the tea-bags help FreedomWorks and its business clients stir up “populist” dissent against the Employee Free Choice act before Congress that will allow employees to more easily form unions. It’s a very slick move. Anyone who objects to rampant corporate greed, employer abuses and lay-offs — you’re clearly a lefty and a communist.

  168. JJ @ 185 “Except it wasn’t real wealth, it was just a giant ponzi scheme.”

    Ric @ 186 “Except it wasn’t real profit for the shareholdes, it was bonuses for themselves and their accomplices.”

    You are both missing the point. Corporations have two obligations. (1) Work within the confines of the law (or if you don’t, don’t get caught); and (2) try like hell to make as much money as possible.

    Telling a corporation to police itself, to not make money in a socially irresponsible manner at the expense of greater interests, or to forego short term profit in favor of a better broad and long term economic strategy is like telling lions to stop killing and eating animals. The whole point of the corporation is to do whatever it can to make as much money as possible, right now. That’s what we want corporations to do. That’s what makes capitalism work.

    To the extent that companies were doing things that were illegal, that’s a different story. But the reality is, the financial industry and the mortgage industry were both operating in an atmosphere where not very much was illegal, and what was illegal was not being enforced. You can’t blame them for taking advantage of the situation and engaging in a short term money grab orgy. They were doing exactly what they were supposed to do (with the exception of protecting their long-term interests — but even then, they were functioning secure in the knowledge that the American economy couldn’t go on without them, and, worst case scenario, when the bubble bursts, the government would HAVE to bail them out…so the risk was ours, not theirs).

    It wasn’t the private sector failing to do their jobs. It was the government failing to do its job, which is to give the private sector room to do its thing, but not to give it so much rope that it hangs itself. And the reason the government failed to do its job was that it was being run by people who thought that the government doesn’t have a job, and that the best thing to do is to let the private sector do whatever it sees fit.

    If you have a pet lion and a bunch of sheep, and you let the lion loose in the sheep’s pen, it doesn’t make sense to blame the lion when all your sheep are dead.

  169. I forget who it was who said that blaming the economic crisis on “greed” is like blaming a building collapse on “gravity.” You have to allow for gravity when you build, and make sure the structures you build can withstand it.

    Two decades of deregulation left the structures fragile. Then came the storm.

  170. The problem wasn’t the legality, it was that we went and made legal things that *should* have been illegal, and then either ignored, or cheered on the banks that were creating the ponzi schemes while the media cheered them on as well.

    Corporations also have what’s known as a fiduciary duty to stockholders not to do things that will make money in the short term but inevitably tank the company a few years down the road, even if doing so is legal.

    The debt market’s collapse was inevitable. It was set up with the approval help of the US government by banks, and unleashed on a population who had no clue what it was, but were told it was safe. If the government, media and banks all tell you a product is safe, you’re not too deeply at fault for not figuring out it’s doomed to collapse.

  171. I love the lefties who seem to think there’s such a thing as a tax someone else pays.

    Gee, then why are you protesting? If you’re just going to pass it on, and all…

  172. I’ve figured out my sign for the next Tea Party:

    Your
    Fave
    Boogie
    Person
    Here!
    |
    V

    The amount of projection of motives and meanings, and junior high innuendo from the left onto the protesters is hilarious. The reason that their leaders cannot laugh is because they know that the numbers mean that they are in deep trouble politically. Two percent of the population is huge; if we didn’t have two percent, we were close enough, because this game is more like grenades than Tiddlywinks.

    (I hate that pre swallows leading blanks; is this Firefox or everywhere?)

  173. Two percent of the population is huge

    Unless you’re talking about gays, in which case, even ten percent of the population is a miniscule minority which should STFU and take instruction from their betters.

  174. “My friends, we’ve got them just where we want them.” – John McCain, right before the 2008 election.

  175. JJ @ 197: “The problem wasn’t the legality, it was that we went and made legal things that *should* have been illegal, and then either ignored, or cheered on the banks that were creating the ponzi schemes while the media cheered them on as well.”

    You’re making my point for me, JJ. Blaming the greed of the private sector makes no sense. It was the government’s responsibility to ensure that what you are referring to as “ponzi schemes” (which is an oversimplification, but I get the idea) were unlawful, and to ensure that big business wasn’t engaging in such behavior. It is not private industry’s job to regulate itself. If there is a way to make money, and it is legal, private industry is not doing its job if it doesn’t pursue that opportunity.

    “Corporations also have what’s known as a fiduciary duty to stockholders not to do things that will make money in the short term but inevitably tank the company a few years down the road, even if doing so is legal.”

    I’m a corporate attorney. I am very familiar with the fiduciary duties owed by officers, directors, and majority shareholders to the shareholders of their respective companies. This fiduciary duty requires officers/directors/MSH’s to make decisions in good faith and pursuant to due diligence in an effort to maximize shareholder benefit. (Warning: that’s a gross oversimplification — but sufficient for our purposes here). I am convinced that the vast majority of the decision-makers responsible for the collapse of the financial industry, as well as the failure of the auto industry, did exactly that. A lot of very smart people got caught up in a feeding frenzy of growth. A lot of people — including shareholders — made a lot of money. In hindsight it is obvious that many of the strategies employed were clearly not sustainable — but I find it hard to believe that many officers or directors tanked their own companies (companies in which they generally owned significant stock themselves — and were in most cases restricted from selling off) deliberately. If they were acting in good faith and doing what they believed would maximize profit to their shareholders, then they were doing their jobs. And it isn’t as though they were doing these things under the table. It was all pretty transparent, and a diligent shareholder would have known about all of it. Bottom line, they made a lot of money for their shareholders for a lot of years. It’s hard to argue that doing so was a breach of any fiduciary duty to their shareholders.

    Xopher’s comment right before yours was right on point:

    “…blaming the economic crisis on “greed” is like blaming a building collapse on “gravity.””

    Bingo.

  176. LB – A lot of very smart people got caught up in a feeding frenzy of growth.

    And totally ignored the lessons of history therein, and as far as I’m concerned, loose the status “very smart people”. Very smart at con games on a global level, perhaps.

    Does anyone believe these “very smart” people are capable of not letting greed overwhelm wisdom?

    I find it hard to believe that many officers or directors tanked their own companies (companies in which they generally owned significant stock themselves — and were in most cases restricted from selling off) deliberately.

    It’s like drug addicts – they’re incapable of quitting if it’s handed to them. If you give them access enough of it, they’ll overdose. I’ve worked in sales. I know the type who’re really good at it. If you give them a chance to cheat, and applause from management when they do it, they will.

  177. JJ says “I’ve worked in sales. I know the type who’re really good at it. If you give them a chance to cheat, and applause from management when they do it, they will.”

    Yes, of course they will. And they should — especially when it isn’t even “cheating.” “Cheating” implies that you are breaking a rule. When there aren’t any applicable rules, then you aren’t cheating.

    And we aren’t talking about sales. We are talking about much more sophisticated business decisions.

    I’m not saying that the CEO’s caught up in the big money grab of the late 90’s are wonderful people. I’m saying they behaved exactly as one would expect them to behave. So getting mad at them now for being too “greedy” is unbelievably naive, totally ignores the entire purpose of capitalism, and lets the real culprits off the hook, i.e. the government officials who changed the rules to allow private industry to behave recklessly (and the voters who continued to elect said government officials).

    The reason the anger directed at financial industry big-wigs and corporate America frustrates me is that it is grounded in the same backwards thinking that got us in this situation in the first place — the misguided idea that the CEO of [Insert Large Corporate Conglomerate Here] has any obligation whatsoever to give a rat’s ass about anything but generating profit and making money. Worrying about our nation’s financial security isn’t his job. Worrying about global warming or the long-term consequences of polluting the water, air, and soil is not his job. His job is to get paid, and to get his investors paid, using any means necessary within the confines of the law (and “within the confines of the law” is only a relevant qualification because breaking the law has adverse consequences to the bottom line — and if it doesn’t, then to hell with the law).

    Once you understand that THAT is how the game is played, then you must also understand that there has to be an authority in place to keep that game from going too far, even if it means that short-term (or even long-term) profits and growth suffer a little. Government is there to require that private industry behave in a manner that is socially responsible. That’s the government’s job, not the CEO’s job. And by “the government” I mean the elected officials who we put in office. And by “the elected officials who we put in office” I mean neo-conservatives who overtly supported deregulatory policies that gave rise to the atmosphere permitting (and therefore promoting) socially irresponsible corporate behavior based on the idiotic notion that the free market will always dictate what is best for us all.

    Xopher’s quote above put it best — you don’t blame gravity when a building falls. And in the context of a capitalist economic system, you don’t blame “greed” when it fails.

  178. LB – The reason the anger directed at financial industry big-wigs and corporate America frustrates me is that it is grounded in the same backwards thinking that got us in this situation in the first place — the misguided idea that the CEO of [Insert Large Corporate Conglomerate Here] has any obligation whatsoever to give a rat’s ass about anything but generating profit and making money.

    And here I was thinking that, if a shareholder funds a company, they want someone who’ll work for long term profitability, not loot-n-scoot tactics. And if it is loot-n-scoot, it should be advertised as such.

    As for the sales thing, all CEOs are salesmen at heart. There are some who do it ethically, just like there are some sales types who do ethical work, but they don’t seem to have been working in finance for the big banks.

  179. @205- Jasper “And here I was thinking that, if a shareholder funds a company, they want someone who’ll work for long term profitability, not loot-n-scoot tactics.”

    I’d think just the opposite, really– the investor can always cash out and put his money elsewhere once he’s made enough dough and once he starts getting worried that a crash might occur.
    Arguably, this is what happens– “Company A’s great– they make more profit than Company B by sacrificing the long-term health of the company” And so Company A’s stock soars.
    “Oh, no, Company A is about to tank– sell it all and buy Company B, who have started to copy A’s tactics in order to attract investors”
    “Oh, no, Company B’s about to bite it, let’s put all the money we made in government securities and laugh as the whole system collapses. ”

    The suppliers of a company and the employees of a company have a reason to give a damn if it lasts or not– investors just don’t want to be holding the bag at the exact moment it crashes. The day after you sell your stock, you don’t give a damn any more.

  180. JJ @ @05: “And here I was thinking that, if a shareholder funds a company, they want someone who’ll work for long term profitability, not loot-n-scoot tactics. And if it is loot-n-scoot, it should be advertised as such.”

    It is. If you’re a diligent investor you know exactly what your company is up to. If you aren’t a diligent investor, then you may as well be putting money on a roulette wheel, and you deserve what you get.

    If you are looking for CEO’s to be “ethical” beyond the confines of what the law permits and doesn’t permit, then you are barking up the wrong tree. You can whine all you want about it, but the bottom line is that CEO’s aren’t there to be “ethical.” They are there to make money. Period. You can either whine about that in a blog, or you can make decisions about appropriate government intervention concerning corporate decision-making (and decisions about which political leaders to support with your money/votes) accordingly. I choose the latter.

  181. @207- Then I would imagine that there are very few investors and a great number of speculators buying stocks.

  182. Cicada, that’s pretty true, I’m afraid. Buying and selling for short-term profit is really called speculating. A former boss of mine, a futures trader, once said “There’s no such thing as investing in futures. You either hedge—or you speculate.”

  183. @210 If nothing else, if you buy a stock expecting a long-term return, and it turns out those long-term returns will not be forthcoming or there are better places to invest…who would just leave the investment where it is? Foolish, surely.
    The other question is whether anyone can accurately predict what a good long-term investment is over the course of a decade or so.

  184. Pam, you should probably find out who said it first first. Might have been on NPR, but I can’t remember for sure.

  185. If nothing else, if you buy a stock expecting a long-term return, and it turns out those long-term returns will not be forthcoming or there are better places to invest…who would just leave the investment where it is? Foolish, surely.

    Very, but that’s the problem. The prevailing liberterian theory is that people take rational decisions for their own good.

    That is not often the case.

  186. LB at 120: Whether deficit spending meaningfully reduces unemployment is a debatable issue. By dim memory (its been 20+ years since I sat in an economics class), there are multiple economic theories. Some of them approve deficit spending and some do not. Those that do not esentially hold that deficit spending “crowds out” private dollars for a net gain of 0 on the employment and with a negative consequence that there is now a lot of public debt which will ultimately be paid back by higher taxes (thereby creating unemployment) or printing money (thereby creating inflation) or more deficit spending (which will ultimately have to be dealt with by taxes or printing money- unless you want to significantly cut spending and give up government services, which I suspect that you don’t).

    And I have no idea as a factual matter whether Obama will be “competent” on handling the country’s finances. History will judge that. As a matter of opinion, my guess on what I’ve seen so far is that he is a train wreck in progress. We apparently disagree on that point.

  187. Josh Jasper at 129: While my personal taxes may have gone down (I doubt it but maybe there has been some marginal improvement), that does not mean that I’m onboard with Obama’s economics. I would much rather have a balanced budget that a marginal tax break. Obama’s budget essentially guarantees, IMO, future massive tax increases or inflation. You pick which you’d prefer. I’d like to avoid both.

    As to Obama’s plan is good because the money is being spent on infrastructure, exactly what % of the deficit is infrastructure spending. Last I heard (and it might be wrong), true infrastructure spending was not the bulk of the spending called for under this plan, though it is a nice label.

  188. stevem@215:

    Obviously, no economic theory is universally accepted. Deficit spending in times of recession is pretty close. And right now, conservative economic theorists are in hiding, given that politicians following their views of the world have led to an absolute meltdown…so I’d say it’s time to give the Keynesians and their ilk a shot at this thing, eh?

    The “crowding out” theory you refer to essentially holds that government deficit spending requires government borrowing, which increases interest rates, which causes the private sector to borrow less, which results in no net growth of the economy. That theory makes a lot of sense when (1) interest rates are already high or moderate; (2) employment is high or moderate; and (3) private industry borrowing is robust. Obviously, none of those circumstances exist right now. In economist’s terms, “crowding out” is mitigated by the “accelerator effect,” by which the government spending expands the private market, stimulating investment notwithstanding the artificial boost in interest rates (which, given the present state of interest rates, wouldn’t be much of a boost at all). This accelerator effect is far stronger under recession conditions. This is precisely why deficit spending in a recession makes sense. The deficit spending we have been experiencing over the last 28 years or so was generally inappropriate and harmful to the economy, but deficit spending now is likely our only hope from digging ourselves out of the hole in a reasonably expeditious manner.

    I obviously understand the concern over growing the national debt. It is a concern I have had throughout the last 20 years. I find it curious that those jumping up and down about it now didn’t speak out when Reagan was creating the debt that currently burdens us, or when the Bushes inflated it even further. I find that particularly curious given that the deficit spending in those administrations generally could not be explained by any rational economic theory. Now that there is at least arguably (and I think absolutely) a good reason for deficit spending, NOW is the time to complain about it? Where were you 20 years ago?

    The deficit spending will need to be dealt with at some point, no question — and I share your concern that it will have to be dealt with either through nasty inflation or an unbearable tax burden combined with a massive scaling back of government services. However, any hope of dealing with the debt in the future in a manner that doesn’t create a total economic disaster is going to have to start with growing the economy back to a point where the GDP is strong and tax revenues can increase to a point where paying down the debt becomes realistic. Right now is not that time.

    I have a great deal of confidence in President Obama. Frankly, I think our nation is in good hands for the first time in my life. The time has come for my generation to clean up your generation’s mess. Hows about stepping aside and letting us get to work?

  189. LB at 217: Your economic theory is obviously Keynesian, which is fine. I am not, so that appears to be the source of our disagreement, which is also fine.

    I am curious about your criticism of Reagan. While I was only 14 when he became president, I tend to recall high taxes, inflation, interest rates, etc. Under your theory, his (which I use generically, as people tend to gloss over the primary role of Congress on these issues) deficit spending cured those problems. Shouldn’t you be applauding him?

    You also assume too much about me (and apparently Obama’s opposition in general). I did vote for Reagan in 1984, as an 18 year old Marine. I wrote in Huey, Dewey and Luey in 1988. I voted Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. I voted George Bush in 2000 and 2004. I did so as a pragmatic decision because, frankly, I thought the alternatives where even worse than him.

    As to you suggestion that I, and those that believe as I do, should “step aside” and let your generation (whatever that may mean) clean up the mess, I respectfully decline. Assuming that “your generation” is the prime impetus behind Obama, you are creating a bigger mess than all other past generations combined. I think I’ll continue exercise my right to be an involved citizen, thank you, and that will take the form of opposing Obama’s economic plan.

  190. stevem@218:

    Re: your question on Reagan — is it possible that you actually can’t tell the difference between Reagan’s version of running up debt (slashing taxes for the wealthy and spending absurd amounts on stockpiling weapons) and Obama’s (moderate tax increase on the wealthy, moderate tax decrease on the rest of us, and spending that results in things of actual value)? If not, then I don’t think I can help you. Granted, Reagan’s defense spending spree did create employment and likely helped the economy in a time when the economy probably needed a boost…but the similarity ends there.

    I wasn’t assuming anything about you — in fact, I wasn’t talking about you specifically. But for what it’s worth, everything that you said about your voting record is precisely what I would have assumed — with the exception of your vote for cartoon characters in ’88, but I guess if I had thought about it long enough, I probably could have gotten that one too.

    My suggestion that you “step aside” wasn’t one to be taken seriously, and I’m obviously not suggesting that you shouldn’t participate in the democratic process. But I would hope that you listen a little closer to the younger people who you claim to be concerned about in connection with Obama’s spending. We aren’t complaining. We understand how badly things have been mishandled, and we know that steering the ship in the right direction isn’t going to be easy. We’re trying like hell to move forward and pick up the pieces of the shattered world that has been left for us, and a little help in that regard would be appreciated. Hell, it’s the least you could do.

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