Dog Brothers Public Forum
Return To Homepage
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
January 30, 2015, 08:08:21 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
84539 Posts in 2264 Topics by 1068 Members
Latest Member: cdenny
* Home Help Search Login Register
+  Dog Brothers Public Forum
|-+  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities
| |-+  Politics & Religion
| | |-+  Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
« previous next »
Pages: 1 ... 27 28 [29] Print
Author Topic: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces  (Read 310006 times)
Power User
Posts: 4294

« Reply #1400 on: January 11, 2015, 11:23:26 AM »

The average Joe taxpayer finally gets a bit of a break (at the pump) and now we have even (faux) conservative calling for this to immediately be taken away by assessing a huge tax increase on gas.    Charles we don't all make a million a year like you.   Charles is now moved to my phoney list.

**********Raise the gas tax. A lot.

By Charles Krauthammer Opinion writer January 8  

For 32 years I’ve been advocating a major tax on petroleum. I’ve got as much chance this time around as did Don Quixote with windmills. But I shall tilt my lance once more.

The only time you can even think of proposing a gas tax increase is when oil prices are at rock bottom. When I last suggested the idea six years ago, oil was selling at $40 a barrel. It eventually rose back to $110. It’s now around $48. Correspondingly, the price at the pump has fallen in the last three months by more than a dollar to about $2.20 per gallon.

As a result, some in Congress are talking about a 10- or 20-cent hike in the federal tax to use for infrastructure spending. Right idea, wrong policy. The hike should not be 10 cents but $1. And the proceeds should not be spent by, or even entrusted to, the government. They should be immediately and entirely returned to the consumer by means of a cut in the Social Security tax.

The average American buys about 12 gallons of gas a week. Washington would be soaking him for $12 in extra taxes. Washington should therefore simultaneously reduce everyone’s FICA tax by $12 a week. Thus the average driver is left harmless. He receives a $12-per-week FICA bonus that he can spend on gasoline if he wants — or anything else. If he chooses to drive less, it puts money in his pocket. (The unemployed would have the $12 added to their unemployment insurance; the elderly, to their Social Security check.)

The point of the $1 gas tax increase is not to feed the maw of a government raking in $3 trillion a year. The point is exclusively to alter incentives — to reduce the disincentive for work (the Social Security tax) and to increase the disincentive to consume gasoline.

It’s win-win. Employment taxes are a drag on job creation. Reducing them not only promotes growth but advances fairness, FICA being a regressive tax that hits the middle and working classes far more than the rich.

As for oil, we remain the world champion consumer. We burn more than 20 percent of global output, almost twice as much as the next nearest gas guzzler, China.

A $1 gas tax increase would constrain oil consumption in two ways. In the short run, by curbing driving. In the long run, by altering car-buying habits. A return to gas-guzzling land yachts occurs every time gasoline prices plunge. A high gas tax encourages demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles. Constrained U.S. consumption — combined with already huge increases in U.S. production — would continue to apply enormous downward pressure on oil prices.

A tax is the best way to improve fuel efficiency. Today we do it through rigid regulations, the so-called CAFE standards imposed on carmakers. They are forced to manufacture acres of unsellable cars in order to meet an arbitrary, bureaucratic “fleet” gas-consumption average.

This is nuts. If you simply set a higher price point for gasoline, buyers will do the sorting on their own, choosing fuel efficiency just as they do when the world price is high. The beauty of the tax — as a substitute for a high world price — is that the incentive for fuel efficiency remains, but the extra money collected at the pump goes right back into the U.S. economy (and to the citizenry through the revenue-neutral FICA rebate) instead of being shipped overseas to Russia, Venezuela, Iran and other unsavories.

Which is a geopolitical coup. Cheap oil is the most effective and efficient instrument known to man for weakening these oil-dependent miscreants.

And finally, lower consumption reduces pollution and greenhouse gases. The reduction of traditional pollutants, though relatively minor, is an undeniable gain. And even for global warming skeptics, there’s no reason not to welcome a benign measure that induces prudential reductions in CO2 emissions.

Gasoline hasn't been this cheap since 2009. But why now, and how long will prices stay low? Here's what you need to know, in two minutes. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

The unexpected and unpredicted collapse of oil prices gives us a unique opportunity to maintain our good luck through a simple, revenue-neutral measure to help prevent the perennial price spikes that follow the fool’s paradise of ultra-cheap oil.

We’ve blown this chance at least three times since the 1980s. As former French foreign minister Jean François-Poncet said a quarter-century ago, “It’s hard to take seriously that a nation has deep problems if they can be fixed with a 50-cent-a-gallon” — 90 cents in today’s money — “gasoline tax.” Let’s not blow it again.
Power User
Posts: 32270

« Reply #1401 on: January 11, 2015, 12:43:26 PM »

Well, although the idea is not well thought out IMHO, in fairness we must note that he seeks to offset the tax with tax cuts elsewhere.

Power User
Posts: 4294

« Reply #1402 on: January 11, 2015, 08:47:25 PM »

"Well, although the idea is not well thought out IMHO, in fairness we must note that he seeks to offset the tax with tax cuts elsewhere"

Why is it to a liberal (not you Crafty I mean in general) government spending of more tax receipts a great "stimulator" of the economy, but a tax cut is no more than a gift to the rich. 

Now we have a gas price drop and even some Repubs are calling to negate most of this with a tax increase?   When did sourKraut decide we need to increase tax on gas to because we must decrease gas usage.  Is this his nod to Climate Change?

Does he pretend the money will go for "infrastructure"?   We all know what that means :  pork, favoritism, nepotism, more lobbyist government contracts, maybe organized crime in the construction business.

Rationalizing a tax decrease on wages will not incentivize work.   Most people who need a tax break just to want a job?  Is that why people don't work?  What is he thinking?

Most of these people will not work because they can't get wages that are worth the 40 hours of sweat more then they can get collecting unemployment or disability or a pension.

Not because of their taxes.

It would help people to work just as much if they can afford to get to work.

More Rhino social engineering every bit as absurd as the lefts'.
Power User
Posts: 32270

« Reply #1403 on: January 11, 2015, 08:58:21 PM »

Again, I disagree with CK' idea, I am just pointing out that it is not a net increase, but a purportedly revenue neutral shift from taxing one thing to taxing a different thing with the goal of increasing economic efficiency.  That's all.
Power User
Posts: 32270

« Reply #1404 on: January 17, 2015, 09:21:34 PM »
Power User
Posts: 4294

« Reply #1405 on: January 18, 2015, 12:31:26 PM »

Of course because they are "scientists" they have no axes to grind or agendas or political or financial conflicts of interests.  It is all in the name of their religion:  science.
Does this author really think the average person has any knowledge or information on the thousands of regulations we get yearly?   Who elected these people?

*****How Congress is Cutting Science Out of Science Policy (Op-Ed) By Celia Wexler, Union of Concerned Scientists
January 16, 2015 1:51 PM
 ˠ➕✓✕Content preferences Done Celia Wexler is a senior Washington Representative for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), where she focuses on food and drug safety, protections for scientist whistle-blowers and government transparency and accountability. She is the author of "Out of the News: Former Journalists Discuss a Profession in Crisis" (McFarland, 2012). She contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

You can say one thing about the U.S. House of Representatives leadership. They're good about recycling — holding repeated votes on the same bills they've already passed. So I guess no one should be surprised that one of the first bills the new House will vote on this week is a retread, and a nasty one at that. The bill, the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), sounds pretty harmless and wonky. It is wonky, buried in thousands of words that mask its true intention, which is not harmless at all. The bill would take a sledge hammer to science-informed policymaking at federal agencies. [Why I'll Talk Politics With Climate Change Deniers — But Not Science ]

Why should the nation care? Because instead of science informing the decisions our government makes about protecting our environment, public health and safety, those decisions would be driven by the wants of regulated industries, putting average Americans in jeopardy.

The bill's impact dramatically affects the fundamental regulatory process, so that nearly every type of protective regulation is vulnerable. As a result, the RAA is opposed by groups who advocate on a variety of issues, ranging from consumer safety and financial reform to food safety and worker rights.

Slowing the pace of government to a crawl

Currently, when agencies want to issue a regulation, they already must follow a process dictated by at least six existing laws. They have to give the public and those interests affected by the regulation a chance to comment on it. They must explain why the regulation is needed and routinely attempt to estimate its costs and benefits. Regulations can also be challenged in court. This ensures that agencies take procedural requirements seriously when they develop a rule, because the failure to do so can lead to the rule being rejected by the court, sending the agency back to the beginning of the process to start all over again.

Years pass between the time a rule is proposed and its implementation. Even when a regulated industry does not oppose a rule, such as a rule that imposes stronger safety requirements on the operation of construction cranes and derricks, it can take more than six years for a final rule to be issued.

But the RAA would add dozens of new procedures for agencies to follow, and likely would add several more years to the current process.

For example, this bill would require agencies to estimate not only the direct costs and benefits of a proposed regulation but also "indirect" costs, including impacts on jobs and wages — yet the bill doesn't define what an indirect cost is. It requires agencies to examine every alternative to the rule being proposed and the indirect and direct costs of each. It requires the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to produce mandatory guidelines stipulating how agencies should do these estimates. If agencies fail to do exactly as OMB requires, this alone can be a reason for a judge to throw out the regulation altogether. And, the bill would require agencies to conduct a formal "hearing" for any rule that has a $1 billion or greater cost (though anyone who objects to smaller rules — those that cost $100 million or more — can petition the agency to conduct a formal hearing, as well).

Such hearings would give regulated industries the right to cross-examine agency officials, and to re-examine, in a trial setting, the agency's justification of costs and benefits and alternatives to the rule. When the administrative law and regulatory experts at the American Bar Associationlooked at an earlier version of the RAA, they found this hearing requirement particularly troubling, noting that "trial-type methods are usually unsuitable in generalized rulemaking proceedings," and that "not one scholarly article" written over the past 30 years supported this type of formal rulemaking.

The rise of the zombie bills

You might want to call this the first in what we expect to be a long list of "zombie bills" — retreads of bills which failed to become law in previous years, but have been resurrected one more time. These legislative proposals harm science-informed policy, jeopardizing public health, safety and the environment.

The House leadership isn't crazy. They suspect that the shift in power in the U.S. Senate means that these terrible bills may have a chance at life this Congress. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and conservative Democratic co-sponsor Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) claim that the bill would "modernize" the regulatory process. That is absolutely not what the bill would do, nor what it was designed to do.

This is much more about delaying and blocking regulations and preventing agencies from carrying out their statutory missions. Goodlatte has been an ardent criticof the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) rules on a variety of issues. And Peterson has been waging war against the Administration's efforts to address climate change.

The bill has never drawn substantial bipartisan support. When the RAA passed the House late last year, it received the votes of 28 Democrats, but that was largely because it was part of a package that include a positive proposal, a bill that would help veterans get jobs. House members, particularly in vulnerable districts, were wary of voting against that provision right before the election. Roughly half of the Democrats who supported the bill either retired or were defeated last November.

But the bill has had the consistent and vigorous support of big business groups. Indeed, the Chamber of Commercehas listed passage of the RAA as one of its major goals this year.

Deciphering the details

This bill is deliberately complicated. You would have to be a regulatory lawyer to perceive all the traps, and even then you might miss some. Essentially what the RAA would do is hamstring federal agencies with additional procedural burdens when they try to carry out their mandates using the best available science. [How Much Say Should Congress Have in Science Funding? ]

When James Goodwin of the Center for Progressive Reform looked at the bill, he found it would add a whopping 74 additional procedural requirements agencies would have to undertake to propose and implement regulations, including those that protect the environment, public health and safety.

Even assessing risk, which should be in the hands of scientists, would be second-guessed by White House officials. Goodlatte's proposal requires that the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) develop guidelines for assessing risk, and that agencies must conform to whatever OIRA imposes — despite the fact that OIRA's small staff, which includes only a handful of scientists, lacks the scientific and technical expertise that federal agency scientists possess. OIRA bean counters should not be in the business of determining what constitutes a scientifically valid risk assessment.

In passing bipartisan laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, Congress told the EPA that preserving the environment and protecting public health was its core mission, and directed that it should not nickel-and-dime regulations that have ensured that future generations have access to unpolluted lakes and rivers and breathable air.

The RAA would jeopardize that mandate. The EPA would be much more vulnerable to legal challenges of its rules based on their costs, even if those rules were crucial to protecting air and water and safeguarding public health — indeed, even if those rules have enormous long-term economic benefits or savings.

That's because costs are specific and supplied by regulated industries. But benefits, particularly long-term ones, are far more difficult for an agency to quantify. How do you figure out the value of your children not getting asthma from smoggy air and being able to play outside? The RAA emphasizes the costs to businesses, not the long-term benefits to the public.

The worst part of the bill is the blatant cynicism it demonstrates. This bill harms science, but it also harms democracy. In rushing this complicated legislative proposal during the first weeks of Congress, House leaders are subverting the democratic process. If Congress wants an open and public debate on the value of bipartisan public protections built over the past century, then it should do so directly.

But Goodlatte, Peterson and others may suspect that they'd lose in a fair fight over the value of clean air and water and public health and safety. Last year, when respected pollster Celinda Lake Recent did national polling and convened focus groups to measure public attitudes towards regulation and regulatory enforcement, she was surprised to find strong support for federal agencies that crosses party and ideological lines. Even the EPA, often the target of congressional critiques, received the support of more than half of those polled, well above popular support for Congress, which hovers around 10 percent. The average voter understands and respects the work of agencies and knows the value of regulations that protect public health, safety and the environment. Those polled want regulations to be enforced, and enforced fairly. They don't like the idea of big companies rigging the system. And the RAA not only ups the game, but gives priority seats to select players — regulated industries.

So instead of having a fair debate over the merits of science-informed public policies, Goodlatte and Peterson and House leaders want to sneak this bill through. Their efforts suggest that they know full well that most House members, particularly the 73 House freshmen who can barely find their offices, won't understand the bill, or its full implications.

I will give the House leadership points for one thing: This blatant attempt to subvert public protections has brought together science, consumer, public health, financial reform and environmental activists. Americans continue to believe that democracy means that our elected officials ought to make policies that benefit their constituents, not their big donors. Let's hope the nation can drive a stake through the heart of this and future "zombie" bills.

Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

Power User
Posts: 4294

« Reply #1406 on: January 20, 2015, 08:15:35 AM »

It's all about the world now.   I didn't see any mention of "coutry".  Just the temporary nod to reality by using the term "governments" as liberals like this Columbia University Professor push for one world government:
Jeffrey D. Sachs   

DEC 9, 2014 7
The Year of Sustainable Development

NEW YORK – The year 2015 will be our generation’s greatest opportunity to move the world toward sustainable development. Three high-level negotiations between July and December can reshape the global development agenda, and give an important push to vital changes in the workings of the global economy. With United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to action in his report “The Road to Dignity,” the Year of Sustainable Development has begun.

In July 2015, world leaders will meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to chart reforms of the global financial system. In September 2015, they will meet again to approve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide national and global policies to 2030. And in December 2015, leaders will assemble in Paris to adopt a global agreement to head off the growing dangers of human-induced climate change.

The fundamental goal of these summits is to put the world on a course toward sustainable development, or inclusive and sustainable growth. This means growth that raises average living standards; benefits society across the income distribution, rather than just the rich; and protects, rather than wrecks, the natural environment.

The world economy is reasonably good at achieving economic growth, but it fails to ensure that prosperity is equitably shared and environmentally sustainable. The reason is simple: The world’s largest companies relentlessly – and rather successfully – pursue their own profits, all too often at the expense of economic fairness and the environment.

Profit maximization does not guarantee a reasonable distribution of income or a safe planet. On the contrary, the global economy is leaving vast numbers of people behind, including in the richest countries, while planet Earth itself is under unprecedented threat, owing to human-caused climate change, pollution, water depletion, and the extinction of countless species.

The SDGs are premised on the need for rapid far-reaching change. As John F. Kennedy put it a half-century ago: “By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.” This is, in essence, Ban’s message to the UN member states: Let us define the SDGs clearly, and thereby inspire citizens, businesses, governments, scientists, and civil society around the world to move toward them.

The main objectives of the SDGs have already been agreed. A committee of the UN General Assembly identified 17 target areas, including the eradication of extreme poverty, ensuring education and health for all, and fighting human-induced climate change. The General Assembly as a whole has spoken in favor of these priorities. The key remaining step is to turn them into a workable set of goals. When the SDGs were first proposed in 2012, the UN’s member said that they “should be action-oriented,” “easy to communicate,” and “limited in number,” with many governments favoring a total of perhaps 10-12 goals encompassing the 17 priority areas.

Achieving the SDGs will require deep reform of the global financial system, the key purpose of July’s Conference on Financing for Development. Resources need to be channeled away from armed conflict, tax loopholes for the rich, and wasteful outlays on new oil, gas, and coal development toward priorities such as health, education, and low-carbon energy, as well as stronger efforts to combat corruption and capital flight.

The July summit will seek to elicit from the world’s governments a commitment to allocate more funds to social needs. It will also identify better ways to ensure that development aid reaches the poor, taking lessons from successful programs such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. One such innovation should be a new Global Fund for Education, to ensure that children everywhere can afford to attend school at least through the secondary level. We also need better ways to channel private money toward sustainable infrastructure, such as wind and solar power.

These goals are within reach. Indeed, they are the only way for us to stop wasting trillions of dollars on financial bubbles, useless wars, and environmentally destructive forms of energy.

Success in July and September will give momentum to the decisive climate-change negotiations in Paris next December. Debate over human-induced global warming has been seemingly endless. In the 22 years since the world signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Rio Earth Summit, there has been far too little progress toward real action. As a result, 2014 is now likely to be the warmest year in recorded history, a year that has also brought devastating droughts, floods, high-impact storms, and heat waves.

Back in 2009 and 2010, the world’s governments agreed to keep the rise in global temperature to below 2° Celsius relative to the pre-industrial era. Yet warming is currently on course to reach 4-6 degrees by the end of the century – high enough to devastate global food production and dramatically increase the frequency of extreme weather events.

To stay below the two-degree limit, the world’s governments must embrace a core concept: “deep decarbonization” of the world’s energy system. That means a decisive shift from carbon-emitting energy sources like coal, oil, and gas, toward wind, solar, nuclear, and hydroelectric power, as well as the adoption of carbon capture and storage technologies when fossil fuels continue to be used. Dirty high-carbon energy must give way to clean low- and zero-carbon energy, and all energy must be used much more efficiently.

A successful climate agreement next December should reaffirm the two-degree cap on warming; include national “decarbonization” commitments up to 2030 and deep-decarbonization “pathways” (or plans) up to 2050; launch a massive global effort by both governments and businesses to improve the operating performance of low-carbon energy technologies; and provide large-scale and reliable financial help to poorer countries as they face climate challenges. The United States, China, the European Union’s members, and other countries are already signaling their intention to move in the right direction.

The SDGs can create a path toward economic development that is technologically advanced, socially fair, and environmentally sustainable. Agreements at next year’s three summits will not guarantee the success of sustainable development, but they can certainly orient the global economy in the right direction. The chance will not come along again in our generation.

Post Comment Read Comments (7)
PreviousImmigration and the New Class Divide                   

Power User
Posts: 32270

« Reply #1407 on: January 21, 2015, 01:18:31 PM »

Garry Kasparov
Jan. 20, 2015 7:42 p.m. ET

The recent terror attacks in Paris at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and at a kosher supermarket, leaving 17 people dead, represented the latest offensive in a struggle that most people, even many of its casualties, are unaware is even taking place.

Globalization has effectively compressed the world in size, increasing the mobility of goods, capital and labor. Simultaneously this has led to globalization across time, as the 21st century collides with cultures and regimes intent on existing as in centuries past. It is less the famous clash of civilizations than an attempt by these “time travelers” to hold on to their waning authority by stopping the advance of the ideas essential to an open society.

Radical Islamists, from the Taliban and al Qaeda to Boko Haram and Islamic State, set the time machine to the Dark Ages and encourage the murder of all who oppose them, often supported by fatwas and funds from terror sponsors like Iran. The religious monarchies in the Middle East are guilty by association, creating favorable conditions for extremism by clamping down on any stirring of freedom.

Vladimir Putin wants Russia to exist in the Great Power era of czars and monarchs, dominating its neighbors by force and undisturbed by elections and rights complaints. The post-Communist autocracies, led by Mr. Putin’s closest dictator allies in Belarus and Kazakhstan, exploit ideology only as a means of hanging on to power at any cost.

In the East, Kim Jong Un ’s North Korea attempts to freeze time in a Stalinist prison-camp bubble. In the West, Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela and the Castros in Cuba use anachronistic socialist propaganda to resist increasing pressure for human rights.

What unites the time travelers is their rejection of modernity—or what we should instead call modern values, to replace the obsolete and condescending term “Western values.” With violence and with violent rhetoric, the time travelers’ natural target is often the traditional champion of the rights that threaten them: the United States. The guaranteed freedoms represented by the First Amendment frighten the radical mullahs and dictators more than any drone strike or economic sanction.
Power User
Posts: 32270

« Reply #1408 on: January 23, 2015, 11:11:07 AM »
Power User
Posts: 32270

« Reply #1409 on: January 23, 2015, 02:53:48 PM »

Second post

The Trouble With Limited Government

Why even Reagan couldn't stop spending from skyrocketing--and what to do about it.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST A quarter century ago president Ronald Reagan declared in his first inaugural address: "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. . . . It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the federal government and those reserved to the states or to the people." In 1981, the year of that speech, the federal government spent $678 billion; in 2006, it spent $2,655 billion. Adjust that 292% increase for inflation, and the federal government is still spending 84% more than it did when Reagan became president--in a country whose population has grown by only 30%.

To put the point another way, if per capita spending after 1980 had grown at the rate of inflation, federal outlays would have been $1,883 billion in 2006 instead of $2,655 billion. The 41% increase from 1981 to 2006 is considerably lower than the 94% increase in real per capita spending in the previous 25 years, from 1956 to 1981. In the past two decades, the federal establishment grew steadily, rather than dramatically. Nonetheless, Reagan's pledge to curb the government's size and influence has hardly been fulfilled. Inflation-adjusted federal spending increased in every year but two over the past 26 years.

Military spending is a minor factor in the overall growth of government. It was 23.2% of federal spending and 5.2% of gross domestic product in 1981.
Those percentages peaked in 1987 at 28.1% and 6.1%, respectively. Defense spending fell steadily thereafter, and was just over 16% of the federal budget and 3% of GDP from 1999 through 2001. Since September 11, defense spending has climbed to 20% of the federal budget and 4% of GDP. Despite the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both figures are lower than they were at any point during Jimmy Carter's presidency.

The engine driving the growth of government has been "human resources"--the Office of Management and Budget's category that includes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, along with other programs for health, education, veterans and income security. Spending on human resources in 1981 was $362 billion, slightly more than half (53.4%) of all federal outlays. That proportion declined to slightly less than half (49.7%) by the time Reagan left office in 1989. But it turns out there was a peace dividend after the fall of the Berlin Wall: National defense spending dropped from 26.5% of federal outlays in 1989 to 16.1% in 1999. That savings--a tenth of the budget--migrated to human resources, where spending climbed to 60% of outlays by 1995. The category has stayed above that level ever since, reaching almost two-thirds of federal spending (65.6%) and 13.1% of GDP in 2003.

The numbers confirm what every despondent conservative already knows. Since Reagan's stunning victory in 1980, conservative journals have annihilated forests to print articles about excessive government spending. Conservative think tanks have produced sweeping plans for reducing the welfare state.  Republicans occupied the White House for 18 of the 26 years after 1980, and held a Senate majority for 16 1/2 years and a House majority for 12 years.  Yet the result is a federal establishment bigger and more influential today than in 1980.

Reagan was elected president 25 years after the first issue of National Review declared its intention to "stand athwart history, yelling Stop." This was an amazing ascent for a political movement that started out, in the words of NR's first editorial, "superfluous" and "out of place." In the 25 years since Reagan's election, however, conservatives determined to scale back the welfare state might as well have been standing a respectful distance behind history, whispering "Please slow down."

If conservatism has a future, those who want to fashion it need to acknowledge and understand this stunning defeat. In National Review last year Ramesh Ponnuru said the "real crisis" is that, while a conservatism whose "central mission" does not emphasize the fight against Big Government is inconceivable, a "political coalition in America capable of sustaining a majority" for that mission is unimaginable. Conservatism, in other words, can have a purpose or it can have a prospect. It cannot, apparently, have both.

This political problem will only become more acute as the challenges of governance become more severe. One yardstick may help conservatives feel a little better about themselves. In 1981 federal spending was 22.2% of GDP; last year it was 20.3%. This measure hovered in a very narrow band for the whole era, never exceeding 23.5% or falling below 18.4%. Adding expenditures by states and localities confirms the picture of a rugby match between liberals and conservatives that is one interminable scrum in the middle of the field. Spending by all levels of government in America amounted to 31.6% of GDP in 1981, and 31.8% in 2006.

Conservatives, though, can't take much solace from fighting Big Government to a draw. Looking back, the dynamic growth of the American economy after 1982--real per capita GDP was two-thirds higher in 2006 than in 1981--offered a great opportunity to reduce the relative size of the public sector. This economic vigor meant that more people had more money to spend on their own health, education and welfare, presumably enabling the government to spend less for such purposes. It also meant that government spending could have grown robustly and still expanded more slowly than the economy, leaving the public sector to absorb a significantly smaller portion of GDP in 2006 than it did in 1981. Even this modest achievement eluded conservatives.

Republicans abandoned their promises to abolish the departments of Energy and Education. Efforts to zero out smaller and supposedly vulnerable agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts accomplished nothing. The only important victory here was the 1996 law abolishing Aid to Families with Dependent Children, a victory that may turn out to be hollow. The New Republic celebrated rather than lamented the 10th anniversary of AFDC's demise, arguing that because of the law, "welfare-bashing has lost its political resonance . . . [and] welfare reform has expanded the constituency for activist government. Democrats now have more political room to fight Republican austerity--and to propose, in its place, a stronger safety net."

Looking forward, government spending as a percentage of GDP is about to rise dramatically. The oldest baby boomers, born in 1946, will be eligible for Social Security's early retirement benefits in 2008 when they turn 62, and become Medicare beneficiaries when they turn 65 in 2011. These two programs, along with Medicaid, accounted for 41% of federal spending in 2006, even before the baby boom cohort had started collecting benefits. All three will increase relentlessly due to the longevity and sheer numbers of Americans born between 1946 and 1964. The columnist Bruce Bartlett estimates that the magnitude of this growth will be "on the order of 10% of the gross domestic product over the next generation even if no new government programs are enacted or current ones expanded." This is the Swedenization of America on autopilot.

Many conservative commentators, in their assessments of these ominous prospects and past opportunities lost, have resorted to finger-pointing. The title of Mr. Bartlett's book, "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy" (2006), hints at the villain he identifies. "Leviathan on the Right" (2007), by Michael D. Tanner of the Cato Institute, makes "big-government conservatives" and their ideas the culprit.

Though these books were published in the past two years, the blame game has been going on since Reagan was elected. Newt Gingrich famously derided Bob Dole as the "tax collector for the welfare state." Dick Armey said that what "killed us" during the 1995 government shutdown was that Mr. Gingrich and his House deputies were "full of themselves," boasting about the shutdown in advance. President George H.W. Bush was savaged by conservatives for his 1990 tax increase.

In "Dead Right," published in 1994, David Frum carried the assignment of blame to its logical conclusion. He argued that capitulating to the welfare state is not a betrayal of the Reagan legacy; it is the Reagan legacy:

  There was no arithmetic reason that the Reagan program could not have succeeded. Reagan's budgets were wrecked by the inability and unwillingness of the most conservative administration since Coolidge's to resist the rise of social welfare spending. . . . The doctrine was that the welfare state should be allowed to hurtle forward whenever the political cost of halting it was likely to be inconvenient in the shortest of short runs.

There would be many more harsh judgments about how this or that faction betrayed the conservative campaign against Big Government. All such explanations, however, agree on one dubious premise: But for the weakness or hubris of some key player, the conservative project could have succeeded.

That premise disregards the central fact--cutting back the welfare state is very, very difficult. Paul Pierson, a political scientist at Berkeley, showed in "Dismantling the Welfare State?" (1994) that Margaret Thatcher had no more success in curtailing Britain's social programs than our conservatives had in undoing ours. As prime minister for 11 years, Mrs. Thatcher had more leverage to change policy than President Reagan or Speaker Gingrich ever possessed. Mr. Pierson concludes, however, that her government "had only modest success" in cutting back individual welfare state programs, while her record in modifying the context of future struggles over the welfare state "was if anything less impressive."

Lacking an appreciation of the challenges they would face, conservatives never developed a political strategy adequate to the task. There was no systematic effort to pare back the welfare state, no disciplined preparation for the inevitable and aggressive counterattacks by interest groups and liberal journalists. Instead, conservatives time and again were shocked to discover that the people who built the welfare state were so unhelpful about dismantling it. Right-wingers fell into long periods of sullen, stupefied resentment, punctuated by frontal assaults that were brief, furious and futile. Think of David Stockman's crusade to cut spending in 1981; or the
1995 government shutdown, the Pickett's Charge of the Gingrich rebels.

Early on, in the wilderness years, conservatives had a surer sense of what they were up against. The first issue of National Review described conservatism as "a position . . . unattenuated by a thousand vulgar promises to a thousand different pressure groups." Unattenuated in theory, conservatism in practice has been hemmed in constantly by the fact that the people insist that promises made to them, vulgar or not, must be kept.

Robert Samuelson recently wrote, "Most Americans . . . think that they automatically deserve whatever they've been promised simply because the promises were made."

As a result, it is much harder for conservatives to dismantle the welfare state than for liberals to build it. The main impediment to the New Deal was the "legitimacy barrier," the prelapsarian conviction held by many jurists and citizens that government had no rightful business undertaking a whole range of social improvements, no matter how gratifying the beneficiaries might find them. The New Deal overcame--demolished, really--that barrier, and with it the constitutional and political impediments to building the welfare state. That victory, according to James Q. Wilson, guaranteed not only the permanent existence but the permanent growth of Big Government:

  New programs need not await the advent of a crisis or an extraordinary majority, because no program is any longer "new"--it is seen, rather, as an extension, a modification, or an enlargement of something the government is already doing. . . . Since there is virtually nothing the government has not tried to do, there is little it cannot be asked to do.

After the legitimacy barrier is overwhelmed, the political calculus of how benefits and burdens are apportioned and, crucially, perceived strengthens liberals "seeking to extend benefits to large numbers of people" against conservatives "seeking to take those benefits away," according to Mr. Pierson. Liberals must worry only about a "diffuse concern about tax rates," a problem they can usually finesse "through reliance on indirect taxes and social insurance 'contributions.' " The conservative project, on the other hand, requires "the imposition of concrete losses on a concentrated group of voters in return for diffuse and uncertain gains." Every cutback necessitates "a delicate effort to transform programmatic change into an electorally attractive proposition," an effort that is in constant danger of being negated by "a substantial public outcry," such as the one against President Bush's Social Security proposals in 2005.

Conservatives have always had to negotiate the trade-offs, inherent in Mr. Ponnuru's dilemma, between adhering to the mission and assembling a majority. It hardly suffices to say that Barry Goldwater, the first National Review-era conservative hero, favored the mission. "I do not undertake to promote welfare," he announced in "The Conscience of a Conservative" (1960), "for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden." Rather than compromise his mission to gain political victory, Goldwater in 1964 went out of his way to tell voters what they didn't want to hear.

At the other end of the spectrum, House Republicans kept their majority for eight years after Newt Gingrich resigned in 1998, but the revolutionaries who came to Washington in 1994 to do big things wound up staying around just to be big shots. After the 1995 government shutdown, the mission of the congressional Republican Party shrank steadily, and finally amounted to nothing more than clinging to its majority. In the end, the meagerness of that aspiration negated it. Voters connected the unprincipled personal behavior of thieves and frauds like Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley with the unprincipled political behavior of a congressional majority that spent millions on a bridge to nowhere and billions on a Medicare drug plan to the moon. After the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, declared in 2005 that there was really nothing left to cut in the federal budget, voters concluded, plausibly, that if we're going to have Big Government we might as well entrust it to politicians who don't pretend they oppose it.

Supply-side economics was, in political terms, an effort to break out of Mr. Ponnuru's dilemma, to secure a majority without sacrificing the mission. In 1963, Sen. Goldwater had voted against the Kennedy tax cuts, saying the dangers of inflation and deficits required "firm, principled decisions" about spending prior to any tax reductions. The "Reagan gambit," as Mr. Frum called supply-side economics, was an attempt to reverse the political equation. Liberalism had flourished by making government spending the independent variable and taxes the dependent one: Give the people a cluster of attractive and successful social welfare programs, the logic went, and voters will gladly pay the taxes required to support them. Supply-side conservatives tried to make taxes the independent variable and spending the dependent one: Give the people a cluster of appealing tax cuts and count on their attachment to them to set spending at the level defined by the resulting revenue stream. To the extent that lower taxes, along with smarter regulatory and monetary policies, strengthened the economy, they would also increase government revenues and make the attainment of revenue-defined spending levels that much easier.

The experience of a quarter century shows that tax cuts have served important purposes, but the cause of scaling back Big Government is not one of them. Fiscal policy-making is an ongoing political science experiment, testing the relative strength of the aversion to taxes, the appetite for government programs, and the feasibility of large-scale borrowing. The results are in, and they're not ambiguous: Under every set of circumstances, the levels of taxing and borrowing increase to accommodate government spending, to a far greater extent than government spending decreases in order to avoid excessive taxation or deficits.

In David Stockman's bitter but compelling memoir about his embattled years as President Reagan's OMB director, he describes his own reckoning with Mr.
Ponnuru's dilemma: "The politics of American democracy made a shambles of my anti-welfare state theory . . . [which] rested on the illusion that the will of the people was at drastic variance with the actions of the politicians."

In reality, "congressmen and senators ultimately deliver what their constituencies demand. The notion that Washington . . . [is] divorced from the genuine desires of the voters . . . constitutes more myth than truth."
Power User
Posts: 642

« Reply #1410 on: January 27, 2015, 06:39:46 AM »

The Pity Party

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On January 27, 2015

Progressives will always claim that no matter how badly their plans go wrong, at least their terrible policies were well-intentioned.

The regimes that shot orphans, starved entire cities into submission and committed genocide were “caring” in comparison to the heartless Dickensian capitalists who did nothing for the poor except create cheap products and jobs. They might have killed millions, but their red hearts were in the right place.

They didn’t just spend all their time gobbling caviar and diving into swimming pools full of all money like the millionaires of the West. Instead they gave speeches about Marxism-Leninism, killed anyone who wasn’t up on their dialectical materialism and then gobbled working class caviar and dove into proletarian swimming pools full of money.

The path to everything from death panels to gulags was paved by outrage over the oppressed and compassion for the less fortunate… even if the real less fortunate turned out to be those on whom the tender-hearted compassion of progressives was practiced on.

That compassion is the theme of William Voegeli’s “The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion.” Going from Bill Clinton’s “I Feel Your Pain” to Barack Obama’s “Yes, We Can,” Voegeli challenges the conspicuous compassion and self-centered emotional displays on which the contemporary progressive argument is built.

Rather than dealing with the issues, the left deals in narratives. Its pornography of misery bypasses facts, particularly those which demonstrate that it is the left’s policies that create misery, thereby showing the dangers of placing compassion above any other value; including truth. And that is one of the subjects explored in Voegeli’s book whose themes occupy the moral realm as much as the sphere of government policy.

“So many Americans,” Voegeli writes, take for granted, “that moral growth requires little else than feeling, acting and being more compassionate.”

The conspicuous compassion of progressivism results in the appearance of goodness, without its substance. It is easy to mandate social welfare. Especially at someone else’s expense. What is difficult is grappling with human limitations and aspirations. That’s why the War on Poverty failed.

FDR explicitly laid out the moral double standard for the right and the left. The Pity Party quotes him as saying, “Divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales. Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.”

There lies the high-minded formula for dismissing the crimes of the left as the “occasional faults” of warm-blooded leftists over the neglect of a conservative government. FDR was saying that it was better to do something, even if it was the wrong thing, than to do nothing. It was a left-wing indictment of nothing less than the United States Constitution. The argument is echoed today in defense of amnesty and any other disastrous Obama policy by asserting that doing something is better than nothing.

The good leftist may destroy lives, but at least he doesn’t neglect his warm-hearted duty to meddle. Better a caring killer, than a constitutionalist who doesn’t care enough to death panel the sick.

In The Pity Party, Voegeli explores the failure of progressive ideas and the immunity of those failures to reform. Looking at the global and national consequences of progressive policymaking he shows that the politics of conspicuous compassion are self-contradictory and lead to bad results and advises conservatives on how to counter the caring spin cycle of the left.

In the age of Tumblr and Twitter when the Social Justice Warrior deploys limitless outrage, bile and spleen in empathy’s name, progressive pathos has become a revolutionary hysteria that trips easily into riots and violent threats. The primacy of compassion as the only significant virtue makes it impossible to distinguish between empathy and self-serving rhetoric, between caring and egotistical hysteria.

At the big government and big media level, every argument is triangulated as being between caring progressives and uncaring conservatives. Their human shields; children, the elderly, designated minority victim classes and gentle giants, are infinite. Their personal stories, even if they happen to be those of Democratic activists covertly posing as ordinary people at a State of the Union address, negate the facts.

Every dispute, no matter how technical, eventually culminates with the left trotting out its human shields to take the debate out of the realm of facts and into the realm of personal anecdote. Since creative types can figure out how to personalize every debate, every debate becomes an empathy test. The issue stops being whether a policy will work, but whether a politician represents our values of caring. And this is where Democrats routinely trounce Republicans in polling questions.

The longstanding tactic of the left is to turn every debate into a question of which side consists of good people and which side consists of bad people. It is a tactic that Republicans have done a very poor job of fighting because they do not believe of the left what it believes about them.

A secularized empathy provides religion without deity or scripture. The new temple becomes the government building and its new bible is a million pages of ObamaCare regulations that no one reads. Its messiahs are community organizers. Its clergy hold “die-ins” and seek absolute power to regulate every detail of human life. Thus the tyranny of compassion transforms America into a Socialist theocracy.

The compassion of the left exists in a space formerly occupied by religion and is therefore immune to analysis and factual critique. It serves as the supporting ideology for leftist policy and cloaks it in the same self-serving air of a spiritual compassion that should not be examined to see how many people ended up in the gulags or death panels.

Voegeli’s critique serves as a warning that a policy based on the theatrics of compassion without moral substance or factual analysis is doomed to destroy its own unexamined founding virtues. In the name of compassion, the left hurts the very people it claims to want to help while serving its own interests.

Every crime, from Green Energy corruption to totalitarian health care regulations, is justified by an appeal to compassion. But the truly compassionate attribute is not the arrogant paternalism of leftist policymakers, but the empowerment of our fellow man through political and economic freedom.

"You have enemies?  Good.  That means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill.
Power User
Posts: 32270

« Reply #1411 on: January 28, 2015, 11:08:37 AM »

Mind the Gap
Global Affairs
January 28, 2015 | 09:00 GMT Print Text Size
By Jay Ogilvy
The Charlie Hebdo attack and its aftermath in the streets and in the press tempt one to dust off Samuel Huntington's 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Despite the criticisms he provoked with that book and his earlier 1993 article in Foreign Affairs, recent events would seem to be proving him prescient.

Or was he?

While I am not about to deny the importance of religion and culture as drivers of geopolitical dynamics, I will argue that, more important than the clashes among the great civilizations, there is a clash within each of the great civilizations. This is the clash between those who have "made it" (in a sense yet to be defined) and those who have been "left behind" — a phrase that is rich with ironic resonance.

Before I make my argument, I warn that the point I'm trying to make is fairly subtle. So, in the interest of clarity, let me lay out what I'm not saying before I make that point. I am not saying that Islam as a whole is somehow retrograde. I am not agreeing with author Sam Harris' October 2014 remark on "Real Time with Bill Maher" that "Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas." Nor am I saying that all religions are somehow equal, or that culture is unimportant. The essays in the book Culture Matters, which Huntington helped edit, argue that different cultures have different comparative advantages when it comes to economic competitiveness. These essays build on the foundation laid down by Max Weber's 1905 work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. It is only the "sulfuric odor of race," as Harvard historian David Landes writes on the first page of the first essay in Culture Matters, that has kept scholars from exploring the under-researched linkages between culture and economic performance.

Making It in the Modern World

The issue of the comparative advantages or disadvantages of different cultures is complicated and getting more so because with modernity and globalization, our lives are getting more complicated. We are all in each other's faces today in a way that was simply not the case in earlier centuries. Whether through travel or telecommunications or increasingly ubiquitous and inexpensive media, each and every one of us is more aware of the cultural other than in times past. This is obvious. What is not so obvious are the social and psychological consequences of the inevitable comparisons this awareness invites us to make: How are we measuring up, as individuals and as civilizations?
In the modern world, the development of the individual human, which is tied in part to culture, has become more and more important. If you think of a single human life as a kind of footrace — as if the developmental path from infancy to maturity were spanning a certain distance — then progress over the last several millennia has moved out the goal posts of maturity. It simply takes longer to learn the skills it takes to "make it" as an adult. Surely there were skills our Stone Age ancestors had to acquire that we moderns lack, but they did not have to file income taxes or shop for insurance. Postmodern thinkers have critiqued the idea of progress and perhaps we do need a concept that is forgivingly pluralistic. Still, there have been indisputable improvements in many basic measures of human progress. This is borne out by improved demographic statistics such as birth weight, height and longevity, as well as declining poverty and illiteracy. To put it very simply, we humans have come a long way.
But these historic achievements have come at a price. It is not simple for individuals to master this elaborate structure we call modern civilization with its buildings and institutions and culture and history and science and law. A child can't do it. Babies born into this world are biologically very similar to babies born 10,000 years ago; biological evolution is simply too slow and cannot equip us to manage this structure. And childhood has gotten ever longer. "Neoteny" is the technical term for the prolongation of the period during which an offspring remains dependent on its parent. In some species, such as fish or spiders, newborns can fend for themselves immediately. In other species — ducks, deer, dogs and cats — the young remain dependent on their mothers for a period of weeks. In humans, the period of dependency extends for years. And as the generations and centuries pass, especially recently, that period of dependency keeps getting longer.

As French historian Philippe Aries informed us in Centuries of Childhood, "in medieval society, the idea of childhood did not exist." Prior to modernity, young people were adults in miniature, trying to fit in wherever they could. But then childhood got invented. Child labor laws kept children out of the factories and truancy laws kept them in public schools. For a recent example of the statutory extension of childhood known as neoteny, consider U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement that he intends to make community college available for free to any high school graduate, thus extending studenthood by two years.

The care and feeding and training of your average human cub have become far greater than the single season that bear cubs require. And it seems to be getting ever longer as more 20-somethings and even 30-somethings find it cheaper to live with mom and dad, whether or not they are enrolled in school or college. The curriculum required to flourish as an adult seems to be getting ever longer, the goal posts of meaningful maturity ever further away from the "starting line," which has not moved. Our biology has not changed at anywhere near the rate of our history. And this growing gap between infancy and modern maturity is true for every civilization, not just Islamic civilization.
The picture gets complicated, though, because the vexed history of the relationships among the world's great civilizations leaves little doubt about different levels of development along any number of different scales of achievement. Christian democracies have outperformed the economies and cultures of the rest of the world. Is this an accident? Or is there something in the cultural software of the West that renders it better able to serve the needs of its people than does the cultural software called Islam?

Those Left Behind

Clearly there is a feeling among many in the Islamic world that they, as a civilization, have been "left behind" by history. Consider this passage from Snow, the novel by Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk:

"We're poor and insignificant," said Fazul, with a strange fury in his voice. "Our wretched lives have no place in human history. One day all of us living now in Kars will be dead and gone. No one will remember us; no one will care what happened to us. We'll spend the rest of our days arguing about what sort of scarf women should wrap around their heads, and no one will care in the slightest because we're eaten up by our own petty, idiotic quarrels. When I see so many people around me leading such stupid lives and then vanishing without a trace, an anger runs through me…"

Earlier I mentioned the ironic resonance of this phrase, "left behind." I think of two other recent uses: first, the education reform legislation in the United States known as the No Child Left Behind Act; the second, the best-selling series of 13 novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in which true believers are taken up by the Rapture while the sinners are "left behind." In both of these uses, it is clearly a bad thing to be left behind.

This growing divide between those who have made it and those who are being left behind is happening globally, in each of the great civilizations, not just Islam. To quote my fellow Stratfor columnist, Ian Morris, from just last week:

Culture is something we can change in response to circumstances rather than waiting, as other animals must, for our genes to evolve under the pressures of natural selection. As a result, though we are still basically the same animals that we were when we invented agriculture at the end of the ice age, our societies have evolved faster and faster and will continue to do so at an ever-increasing rate in the 21st century.

And because the fundamental dynamics of this divide are rooted in the mismatch between the pace of change of biological evolution on the one hand (very slow) and historical or technological change on the other (ever faster), it is hard to see how this gap can be closed. We don't want to stop progress, and yet the more progress we make, the further out the goal posts of modern maturity recede and the more significant culture becomes.

There is a link between the "left behind" phenomenon and the rise of the ultra-right in Europe. As the number of unemployed, disaffected, hopeless youth grows, so also does the appeal of extremist rhetoric — to both sides. On the Muslim side, more talk from the Islamic State about slaying the infidels. On the ultra-right, more talk about Islamic extremists. Like a crowded restaurant, the louder the voices get, the louder the voices get.

I use this expression, those who have "made it," because the gap in question is not simply between the rich and the poor. Accomplished intellectuals such as Pamuk feel it as well. The writer Pankaj Mishra, born in Uttar Pradesh, India, in 1969, is another rising star from the East who writes about the dilemma of Asian intellectuals, the Hobson's choice they face between recoiling into the embrace of their ancient cultures or adopting Western ways precisely to gain the strength to resist the West. This is their paradox: Either accept the Trojan horse of Western culture to master its "secrets" — technology, organization, bureaucracy and the power that accrues to a nation-state — or accept the role of underpaid extras in a movie, a very partial "universal" history, that stars the West. In my next column, I'll explore more of Mishra's insights from several of his books.
Power User
Posts: 32270

« Reply #1412 on: Today at 12:07:20 AM »
Pages: 1 ... 27 28 [29] Print 
« previous next »
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!