03.31.09

Why Republican voters vote against their own interests

Posted in Economy, Fiscal responsibility, Fraud, History, irrational thought at 1:31 pm by angela

I hang out on Yahoo Answers, which is a great place for people who tend to become addicted to things like competitive speed-answering.

The Politics & Government categories are full of right wingnut trolls, many of whose questions are patently foolish and merely intended to waste the time of real people trying helpfully to point out to someone the error of their ways.

Hanging out on a site like that has fine-tuned my BS meter. But anyway, I sometimes put so much effort into answering a question that I think I should repost it here. So here goes:

Question:

Why Do Republicans Voters think the Rich need Handouts(aka Tax Cuts)?

Answer:

They have fallen for what I would call The Great Republican Lie of Income Redistribution”, which is, “Rich people work hard for their money, and people who work hard for their money deserve to keep it.” This lie is based on false premises and leads people to internally inconsistent conclusions. Here are the arguments, as you can read in the thread.

1. “Rich people work hard for their money”

Implied: How hard a person works can be shown by their income, so a person who makes $20,000 a year is working 2x as hard as someone who is making $10,000 a year, and the person making $10 million a year is working 1000x as hard.

False conclusion that the listener is supposed to draw: “People who don’t make much money aren’t actually working hard and are lazy, but I work hard for my money, too, so I am like a rich person.”

Truth rating: False. Most rich people do not work any harder for their money than anyone who works a job and does it well. The hardest, dirtiest, and most dangerous work out there is some of the worst-paying.

Not only that, but most rich people started higher on the ladder than poor people. They had someone to pay for their education at a pricey school where students hobnob with the wealthy and well-connected, and their connections that enabled them to get a job that a person born poor could never hope for his children to achieve, even if he borrowed enough money to pay for their college. Or like many rich people, they were already born rich.

2. “People who work hard for their money deserve to keep it.”

False conclusion: We should lower taxes for people like the rich who work hard. I work hard, so therefore I will get a tax cut, too.

Inconvenient fact: Historically, Republican “tax cuts” have resulted in huge tax cuts to the wealthy and much smaller if any tax cuts to the rest.

Hidden inconvenient fact #1: Lowering taxes disproportionally for one group of people means increasing the tax burden for all other groups. During the past generation the tax burden in real dollars on the working poor and middle class has risen while their incomes have fallen.

False conclusion: We can just lower taxes, and nothing will be affected, or the government will cut programs to those who don’t deserve it. (Remember, we have defined “undeserving” above as “not making as much money as a rich person”.).

Fact: Money invested in speculation rather than production of goods and services does not result in the creation of new wealth, but rather in a bubble effect.

Fact: Government policy over the past generation has encouraged the abandonment of our manufacturing base and funneling of money into high-risk investments and fraud schemes based only on the ability of the designers to get away with what any other citizen would be charged with a crime for doing.

Fact: Following this path has brought the country to its knees. Continuing to do more of the same will destroy us.

Conclusion: The Republican establishment has been manipulating their voters to vote against their own self-interest for a generation. Without not only the support of these voters but their complicity in attacking their fellow workers, government would have long ago had to answer for their crimes.

03.30.09

Preparation for economic collapse

Posted in Bush legacy, Economy, History at 8:55 pm by angela

In this lecture given Dec 4 2006, Closing the ‘Collapse Gap’: the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US, Dmitry Orlov compares the US infrastructure, economic system, etc. of 2006 with comparable Soviet systems of the time just prior to their economic collapse.

The article is long and filled with slides. Just to sum up, he feels the US is in much worse shape and highly unlikely to recover anytime soon from what he saw at that time as its inevitable economic collapse.

The solution? As he sees it, there is nothing anyone can do to prevent it. The majority of systems in this country are geared toward providing profit to business at the expense of infrastructure, transportation, health, and agricultural stability. Politicians have nothing to gain by fixing the system. They feed off it and are rewarded not by making the sort of really hard decisions that have not even been considered yet, but by focusing on trivialities and irrelevancies.

So what can we do? His surprising recommendation is that we as individuals should start hunkering down. We should do whatever it takes to remove ourselves to the margins of society and become accustomed to a low but sustainable standard of living. We should remove our money from financial institutions and put it into durable goods.

We should definitely grow our own food, as best we are able.

Pretty scary stuff, and so prescient. It rather reminds me of a ’50′s era cookbook and survivalist guide I once read, whose mission was getting people through the coming nuclear holocaust. The method for achieving wealth when money became valueless due to hyperinflation or the necessity of barter for survival? Lay in a supply of tobacco. When the chips are down, you will be able to charge whatever you want.

03.28.09

Wanting the President to “fail”…

Posted in Accountability, neocon crackpots at 7:22 pm by angela

…as Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly and unapologetically said, what does this mean?

Spinmongers followed up by saying that he (or they) didn’t want “the President” to fail, but they wanted “his policies” to fail. Fred Thompson said it again, and so has Bobby Jindal. So what does that mean?

What does it mean to America if the President “fails”, or if his policies “fail”? What does it mean to “want” the President or his policies to fail? What do we think it means? What do the people who say it intend to convey? Does it matter?

In the Space Child’s Mother Goose, a wonderful old book of poetry parodies ostensibly for children, but full of allusions to contemporary life and fiction (as of course the original nursery rhymes were), there is a poem that goes something like this:
See the little phrases go,
Watch their funny antics.
The men who make them wiggle so
Are teachers of semantics.

The words go up, the words go round,
And make a great commotion.
But all that lies behind the sound
Is hebetude Beotian.

Hover for a tooltip.

Here’s how I see it: For the President to fail, it means his policies have failed. If his policies have failed, it means he has failed too.

But his policies are the only thing that can pull us out of this mess. The Republican “plan” is a pamphlet with lots of pictures with circles and arrows. It has no numbers in it.

If the plan fails, America fails, and American people suffer. They lose more jobs and homes.

But wanting the plan to fail is a very different thing from thinking it will fail. It is acknowledging that it may succeed. And if the plan succeeds and America gets pulled out of this morass, the Democrats get credit and the Republicans will have an epic fail on their hands. So they have to make it fail, or they are doomed.

All the people who are trying to claim that wanting Obama to fail is not the same as wanting the country to fail are just playing games with words. They know exactly what they mean, and so do we.

03.25.09

Bobby Jindal, Miracle Worker

Posted in irrational thought, Religion at 5:34 pm by angela

There’s a new “Bobby Jindal for President” ad out that misquotes a great many newspersons without their permission. Cenk Uygur caught himself pimping for Jindal in the ad, which is pretty remarkable, since the original of his broadcast was calling Jindal stark raving insane.

It had something to do with believing that little exorcism he took part in cured a woman’s cancer. Right.

You be the judge. Me? I agree, he’s nuts.

03.24.09

Fear and self-loathing in the land of wingnuts

Posted in Accountability, Economics, Economy, irrational thought at 12:00 pm by angela

Or, how it suddenly became all Obama’s fault. Everything that happened is Obama’s fault, from daily fluctuations in the stock market (but only when they are in the downward direction), to the market and economic slide that began long before the election, to continued participation in two wars of highly dubious origin that he has not yet been able to extract us from.

There was a bombing in Iraq yesterday and people died! Impeach him for war crimes!

Any of the deregulation that the Republicans fought so hard for was actually Barney Frank’s or Ted Kennedy’s or Harry Reid’s or Nancy Pelosi’s fault. The administration that rammed though endless such policies with full Republican support and Democratic acquiescence (can you say “bi-partisanship”?) actually played no role, and was forced against its will to do all these things. That’s why Bush wrote all those signing statements that he was actually going to ignore deregulation and continue to enforce the laws as they previously stood, right?

No, wait! It was Bill, Clinton’s fault, Jimmy Carter’s fault! It was all FDR’s fault!

The banks were manipulated by poor people who forced them to make loans without asking for their income or verifying it! And now those poor people have lost their jobs and and want to collect unemployment, how dare they try to get something for nothing! Get off their lazy butts and find a job, there’s plenty of work for everybody who wants it!

And of course, my favorite: We don’t need to have regulations enforced, because anybody who would permit themselves to be ripped off deserved it!

Ahem.

Bush didn’t have anything to do with any of the disaster! And he’s not really a conservative anyway! He was actually a puppet, a President who sat helpless as the minority party around him controlled him like a puppet!

It has gone beyond “sore loser” into irrationality with a good dose of mental illness thrown in. Watch Glenn Beck cry on television sometime and tell me he doesn’t recall Howard Beale, the mentally ill newscaster in the movie Network being manipulated for news ratings.

Some amazing psychological delusions are taking place around us, not just on the right, of course. After reposting yesterday’s blog entry on how Rasmussen is perceiving the true political divide to be between not Republicans and Democrats, nor liberals and conservatives, but rather between two groups they term “Populists” and “the Political Class”, my diary there was filled with snarky comments from people who didn’t even read it or the links. They ignored the point, which was nothing more than “This is really interesting. It could mean something. We should keep an eye on it” and wrote comments on how polls actually don’t mean anything if they don’t agree with you, and Rasmussen polls are worthless.

There then followed a long diary complaining that those on the left should stop criticizing Obama’s choice of Geithner, because (a little sketchy here) it doesn’t matter who is Secretary of the Treasury or whether they have the confidence of the American people or their unpopularity is dragging down the entire administration. It doesn’t matter what the policy of the Treasury or the administration is. And besides, we couldn’t possibly understand what those people do. They are much smarter than us. Blah, blah, blah. And that Paul Krugner is an idiot, something only a moran, thought processes paralyzed with self-delusion, could say with a straight face.

But getting back to the “It’s all Obama’s fault” delusion, these people are finally recognizing what a mess the country is in. They voted for that guy twice, they supported him fully, they viciously attacked everybody who didn’t support him fully. He did exactly what he said he was going to do. They got what they asked for, what they were told to demand, and it didn’t work. It was not a disaster, not even a catastrophe, but a cataclysm. As Jon Stewart said, “He broke the world.” So now they need a way to absolve themselves from the shame of their collusion.

For 8 years he was their man. It is weighting them down like a ton of bricks, and truth and reconciliation can only come from within, and not from the voices on the radio.

The stages of grief:
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

Andrew Sullivan in the Daily Dish

03.23.09

Not getting it: more examples

Posted in Accountability, Economics, Fraud, irrational thought at 11:55 am by angela

I was rather disappointed to hear that the administration has decided that zombie banks should be saved so that the people that ran them into the ground can enjoy continuity of employment, even though there is no evidence that they will start lending anytime soon.

It hasn’t worked yet, so we need to keep throwing money at them. Sooner or later the economy will suddenly snap back where it was before the crash.

The administration is pretty gung-ho on this. Even Christine Romer said that they want banks to lend like crazy, which any sane outsider would probably say is part of what got us in this mess in the first place.

Me? I read some of these articles, shake my head, and say, “Yeah…”

Here‘s a little story for you on J.P. Morgan’s upcoming purchase of two luxury jets and construction of an $18 million state of the art hangar.

Two quotes from the article:

“It’s a remarkably boneheaded decision,” said corporate watchdog Nell Minnow, the editor and founder of The Corporate Library, a group that provides independent corporate governance research and analysis. “It’s completely tone deaf.”

Alright. We all get that one.

But this one…

But on March 11, the chairman of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, said he could not understand why corporate America has such a bad image.

“When I hear the constant vilification of corporate America I personally don’t understand it,” Dimon said.

Dimon, whose 2008 compensation package, according to SEC documents, was worth more than $19 million in salary, stock and options, declined to speak with ABC News about the proposed plans.

Hello? A sure sign that he thinks he is a member of the Financial Wizards class, basically different from you and me.

Finally, a Rasmussen poll has been released showing that overall 24% of Americans have a favorable opinion on how Geithner has been doing his job, and 44% have an unfavorable opinion.

What is especially telling is that of what Rasmussen deems the “Political Class” (“Financial Wizards” and wannabes, according to my terminology), 76% are favorable, while among Populists, 12% have a favorable opinion on him. The divide is not between Democrats and Republicans, it is between those who are well-connected and those who see them as out of touch with reality.

Finally, another article from Rasmussen, this one on their concept of “Political Class” and “Populist”. Very interesting. The Populists are the great majority, unrelated to party lines. A smart political strategist might be able to do something with this.

I posted this on the DailyKos, where I got a lot of snark from people who are opposed to the fact that everybody doesn’t agree with them. Hardly anybody even read the Rasmussen article, and they apparently didn’t need to do that to tell me that scientific polling means nothing if the results do not agree with your own opinion.

Disregard polling at your own risk.

Now for a little lecture on the psychology of cheating. It’s a little long, but it’s extremely engaging and very topical.

03.22.09

More than a Katrina moment

Posted in Accountability, video at 1:14 pm by angela

I see a groundswelling in catchy songs about this Wall Street bailout. But most of all, the AIG bonus debacle is the lightning rod which is switching on the imaginations of songwriters. You can’t argue with folksongs. It’s like complaining that the 0.1% of the bailout to AIG is inconsequential, because it is such a small percentage.

That is immaterial. The battle has been lost. Let’s all sing along!

Free money in the USA

Hey, Paul Krugman, where the hell are ya?

03.20.09

What’s REALLY wrong with the economy

Posted in Accountability, Economics, O'Reilly is an idiot at 8:35 pm by angela

We’ve been focusing on a lot of extraneous issues.

Things like what Geithner knew and when he knew it. Or Bernanke. Or God knows who else. There is a huge outrage about the AIG bonuses, and quite rightfully so, since the majority of details about the financial meltdown have been kept out of the mainstream media.

Of course, a lot of the outrage has been on the part of those who were surprised to find out that anybody would have been against it.

Once in a while someone scratches the surface, like Jon Stewart, who in the end said to Cramer that it wasn’t about him or what he had been doing. Well, actually it was, since Cramer’s big deal was convincing large numbers of people to buy overvalued stocks that he was intending to short sell. If you had followed his advice, you’d have lost a bundle. If you had done the opposite, it would have made you rich. Does that make him incompetent, or a craven market manipulator who ought to be in jail?

But still, that’s only a tiny part of the story, and the more we learn, the more we get mired in the details of the crimes we are uncovering.

What has happened is actually a sea change in how we view much about business, society, and social class.

Before the Reagan administration began to institute supply side economics, all businesses were basically considered the same. Look at a small business, in this case a proprietorship. The owner runs that business to make money, and the only way to continue making money is to keep it solvent. If he can’t afford something, he doesn’t buy it. Investing in a lot of equipment that will take years to pay it off may mean him taking less profit out of the business to live on. Borrowing money to buy something he can’t currently afford would have to be weighed carefully against the cost of the borrowing and the potential benefits.

Years back, I was looking into starting a business, and had a few sessions with a consulting group, where I was told that the only reason to start a business is to earn a living for your family. Looking around, I could see where others had made errors that were fatal to the existence of their business by failing to understand that point.

Point in case: the restaurant owner who was in the business to make lots of wealthy friends and be known as a “star restaurateur”, like the ones you read about in the magazines. I know of one who made 4 restaurants fail before her husband finally pulled the plug on her ambition.

Corporations were run the same way as small businesses. They had responsibilities to their shareholders and their employees to keep the companies solvent.

But sometime in the past generation this has changed. The tax burden has shifted from the better-to-do to those who have much less, and the wealthiest among us have had their moral compasses snap. Greed fueled by a flood of cash has resulted in the limitless greed for more money and power.

We now have two types of people and two types of businesses.

People are now divided into “Financial Wizards” and “Everybody Else”. Financial Wizards are fundamentally different from Everybody Else. They earn their money not by providing products and services, but by speculation on speculation. They create wealth from nothing, or from wealth which is already created from nothing. Their value is in proportion to their risk-taking, so they see themselves as god-like. Because of this they figure that taxes on their earnings or their wealth should not apply to them.

In fact, no laws should apply to them at all. The way they see it, the honor system is good enough for Financial Wizards and the “free market”, the playground of Financial Wizards.

The rest of the population, those who work for a living, are considered to be “Losers” by the first group. As such, they should not only pay the entire tax burden of running the country, but they are fair game for the Financial Wizards who wish to steal what little money they have.

Businesses are now divided into the classical model, the “Solvent Business”, and the new “Mega-corporation”. Solvent Businesses should pay taxes just like working people. They are run by Losers. Solvent Businesses do not take risks, and it is risk-taking that catapults one to the level of Financial Wizard.

Mega-corporations are the natural habitat of Financial Wizards. Rules simply do not apply to them. Mega-corporations are the ones that fit the description of “too big to fail”, but basically the model they are run on is that they are “too complicated to understand”, except for Financial Wizards.

Without Mega-corporations, Financial Wizards would not exist. They have nothing to contribute to the Solvent Business model. Financial Wizards understand that the primary purpose of a Mega-corporation is not to remain solvent and to make money for its stockholders. The primary purpose is to funnel cash to Financial Wizards, whether or not the bottom line of the company can tolerate this.

It’s pretty simple. Two different groups of people who perceive two different realities. The problem is when realities clash. Obviously what we’re seeing right now is people on Wall Street and on CNBC, in the Treasury, the Fed, the Oval Office, and the halls of Congress scratching their heads, surprised to have found out that the majority of people do care and don’t think that there is no price too great to pay to keep the Financial Wizards on the case.

Financial Wizards are convinced they are under attack, and it is class warfare. After all, not only are they sure they deserve these things, but they are convinced it is not even a controversial concept. They see it as only right that incredible wealth should have been redistributed from the Losers to them during the past generation, as well as the money they stole fair and square from Losers who did not deserve to have it.

Class warfare it is. But the foot soldiers are the working poor, dittoheads attacking those who have just a little less than they do. They act on the behest of wannabe Financial Wizard suckups like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly. The dittoheads have no clue that they are pawns. a mere distraction, and they have played a major role in causing their own misery by supporting politicians who have sold their souls at the altar of Financial Worship. They have been told that Financial Wizards are really just people who worked really hard for their money and should be permitted to keep it. They do not realize that the people they are fighting for see them as no different from the people they scapegoat—losers and easy marks.

03.18.09

Witch-hunting in Africa

Posted in Religion, Sarah Palin at 2:05 pm by angela

I have read a lot about witch-hunting in Africa before. Usually the stories involve tales of women who were blamed for just about all illness and bad luck that befell anyone, whereupon they were murdered or run out of town.

But this is the first time that I have read about children being tortured and killed, and the first time a connection was made to Christian sects which encourage this activity.

Remember Sarah Palin’s Reverend Muthee who laid his hands on her and exorcised demons, while casting a spell to protect her from witches? She believes in this stuff. The “prayer warriors” who are members of her movement to infiltrate the government at all levels and turn our country into a theocracy have been busy at work, praying for the deaths of people they don’t like (they claim credit for Mother Teresa’s death), and for bringing illness and death on their mortal enemies, which is apparently you and me.

She is where she is because someone thought she had the potential to rise to power, and she has been groomed for just that for years. Unfortunately, the primary intellectual requirement was for ideological purity and familiarity with the Bible, which is why they selected someone with no knowledge or curiosity about national or global issues, science, or ethics.

But for her, the end justifies the means. God supports her in everything she does. God wants everybody who doesn’t belong to her church to be vanquished. He told her so.

Joe Rogan’s blog

03.16.09

Time to end the “war on drugs”

Posted in Modern life at 4:11 pm by angela

I was just saying this a few days ago.

Actually, it has come up on us pretty quickly. What with the collapse of the US economy from the greed and criminal behavior of those who we foolishly entrusted to act responsibly, we are finding that we no longer can afford to run a perpetual “war on drugs” that only seems to be making things worse.

The cost of prisons and law enforcement is breaking us. Millions of marijuana users have been branded as criminals, served hard time, and found that the system is rigged to keep them from ever putting their lives back together again.

And now it looks like drug cartel violence is spilling over our borders from Mexico.

Why can’t we stop it with interdiction? Because drugs are the ultimate free market commodity. Where there is demand, there will be supply. It turns out that marijuana is the main fuel for the profits of drug cartels.

Now they used to say that we should be providing treatment if we want to cut demand. But the problem with that is that nobody’s really addicted to marijuana, not like cocaine, heroin, or tobacco.

Another problem is that a large number of people who take illegal drugs may be using the drugs to self-medicate for untreated mental health problems. Do you suppose this number might be rising in a bad economy? I think so.

Finally, much of human history has been dominated by the search for better mind-altering drugs. How else would people abuse substances in all countries and cultures, even though some of them are quite dangerous? It’s just human nature.

The “solution” as proposed is quite simple. Legalize and regulate the production and sale of marijuana. Take the importers out of the picture. Tax it like cigarettes or booze. The cartels will dry up as people buy home-grown and switch from illegal hard drugs to marijuana, which is pretty innocuous as far as drugs go.

Just a thought.

Story

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