Lonely Crusade
April 29, 2011 3:46 PM   Subscribe

What’s Left of the Left - Paul Krugman's Lonely Crusade for Liberalism. After President Obama met with a group of prominent economists in December of 2010, among them Alan Blinder, the latter remarked, somewhat bleakly and apologetically: "In the United States, there is no left left". Paul Krugman is a lonely man.

The White House meeting this past December, viewed in retrospect, seemed to mark the end of the expansive first part of Obama’s administration and the beginning of an austere second phase. "Krugman, departing the same meeting with the president, December 2010, found himself left in the position that every purist fears, holding blueprints for impossible buildings.

“I think what people like Paul Ryan are trying to do is set us on a glide path to a much harsher society,” Krugman now says. “A country in which, step by step, more and more people are cast out into a situation of not having health insurance and poverty, and so we slide back to a Victorian notion that life is full of evils and that’s too bad but that’s the way that God made the world. That large numbers of the poor, large numbers of the elderly just live in dire poverty and don’t have health care because life is tough.” For two years, Krugman has been arguing that this trajectory might have been averted if only Obama had been a little less deferential, a little more demanding, a little more alarmed. And so Krugman has given the debate on the left its shape: whether the president could have mounted a more effective defense of the welfare state, and whether liberalism’s tragic flaw is Obama’s instinct for conciliation or his leading critic’s naïveté."
posted by VikingSword (100 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
The idea that Krugman is a particularly lefty endpoint sortof underscores the point.
posted by weston at 3:50 PM on April 29, 2011 [56 favorites]


The president's economic team, and really all of the Beltway, is dominated by Chicago-school monetarists in the style of Milton Friedman. It's no surprise that Keynesian economics, as espoused by Krugman, is considered radically left-wing. What's so shocking about this is that monetarism failed spectacularly in 2008, and even Greenspan admitted he was wrong, but older, more reliable economic theories are still ignored in favour of these prevailing falsehoods.

As long as we believe raising taxes to be a sin, we're going to continue to get screwed.
posted by mek at 3:50 PM on April 29, 2011 [41 favorites]


Wasn't it Gore Vidal who observed that the United States has two political parties, the Right and the Far Right?

With the possible exceptions of Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich, there is not a single hand anywhere near the levers of power in Washington who even dares to propose a progressive agenda. We are a largely right-wing nation. And it's biting us on our flabby, self-satisfied asses.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:57 PM on April 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


Agreed. There is no liberalism in politics in this country. Everything is varying degrees of right. It's laughable when the right wingers call Obama or a democrat "extreme left", they have no idea what extreme left is anymore. They would piss their pants with fear and outrage, if something that radical hit America now.
posted by Liquidwolf at 4:08 PM on April 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


As many have suggested before, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan could be considered more 'left' than anyone in the Democratic Party these days. So it's not entirely true that the US is a largely right-wing nation. Rather, it is becoming one, more and more, year by year. Just take a look at the Supreme Court. Or the steady dismantling of trade unions. The slow historical oscillation of political ideology has not moved back towards the left in a long time now, and things are starting to look a like scary this far out to the right...
posted by jet_manifesto at 4:08 PM on April 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wasn't it Gore Vidal who observed that the United States has two political parties, the Right and the Far Right?

Clive James once explained American politics to a British audience like this: "There's the Republican party, which is like Britain's Conservative party. And there's the Democratic Party, which is like Britain's Conservative party."
posted by WPW at 4:12 PM on April 29, 2011 [29 favorites]


The frustrating thing about big vision economics, such as the conflict between Krugman and the Ryan budget, is that it's similar to climate change. By the time you've tried it out and proven that one way doesn't work, it's too late to get on a better track.
posted by hippybear at 4:17 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you arranged members of Congress from left to right based on how they voted on welfare-state issues—Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance—it turned out that this left-to-right axis could predict every other vote: On Iraq expenditures, on abortion, whatever. “When you realize the fundamental divide in U.S. politics is just this one-­dimensional thing, and that is how you feel about the welfare state,” Krugman says, “that changes things.”
In other words, Marx was right, class struggle is the fundamental antagonism in society.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:17 PM on April 29, 2011 [41 favorites]


So long as the disenfranchised can be successfully conned into believing that it is the people who want to give them a chance that are holding them back, democracy, such as we practice it here in the US, is as much a club as a blessing. It has been said that you get the government you deserve, but I think it's more that the government we deserve got us instead.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:19 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


the government we deserve

Open to counterexamples?
posted by Beardman at 4:26 PM on April 29, 2011


I continue to refuse that we've got two right-wing parties in this country. Practically, I'll admit that this is true, but in reality, we've got one increasingly right wing, unified party and one very disparate party, which is mostly actually liberal, but with widely varying priorities and a paranoia about "political capital" being a limited resource.

The shame is that the things the dems could put together are, aside from higher taxes, things which most people would freak out about seeing dismantled later on. But they just can't present a unified front.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:29 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll be your friend, Paul Krugman. We'll order a pizza, drink a few beers, and take turns complaining about the hypocrisy of Paul Ryan's budget proposal. I'll nod in agreement as you rant about inflation paranoia, and you'll let me pose with your Nobel prize for humorous Facebook pictures.
posted by dephlogisticated at 4:33 PM on April 29, 2011 [17 favorites]


Which makes it all the more annoying when right-wing imbeciles rail on and on about "socialists" and "communists" and "far left wingers." They don't know what they're talking about, and they're too stupid to know that they don't know what they're talking about.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:37 PM on April 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


But they just can't present a unified front.

Can't, or find it not in their interests to do so?

I mean, if poor people die for lack of health care, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will still be able to enjoy filet mignon in their mansions.

Since 2006 (and frankly, since the passage of the Patriot Act), Dems have "accidentally' failed to serve their principles they cheerlead for when asking for our money and support.

At what point do we ask, "are they really this incompetent, or am I being taken by a confidence game?"
posted by orthogonality at 4:41 PM on April 29, 2011 [26 favorites]


I don't think liberalism is a lonely field; the word to describe thr ideas of someone running one of the most read blogs on teh interwebs is 'popular', not lonely. That said, the apparent discussion and debate within liberal economic circles isnt helping matters one bit, especially when the other side is effing unified and simplified in it's message. My biggest frustration in the messaging here is that no one but Krugman is actually saying the following as a mantra: 'spend during lean years and save during growth years'; they all couch it in obtuse economic jargon (which is great, but at some point, you need to start supplying political air to the soundbite-happy media)

That and US' main problem remains that conservative ideas spread faster through your television networks (and I dont mean Fox alone) than liberal ideas do. The apparent popularity of conservative positions, guns, no taxes, birtherism, can be directly traced to this.
posted by the cydonian at 4:49 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now now, we're all just Republican operatives trying to suppress the Democratic vote!
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:52 PM on April 29, 2011


I know I am!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:53 PM on April 29, 2011


Let's say my Dad loses his healthcare... my friends lose their food stamps. Ok, well, that's a heartless move. Let's say that the government can no longer afford to invest in new technology, hoping for the private sector to step up. We end up getting whipped by foreign countries and companies who have no problems with the concept of taxing and spending. Leaving every one of us more dependent on other countries until our globe spanning array of military bases is our only concrete asset.

There is still something special about America, but it may wither on the vine due to self hatred masked as self interest.
posted by nutate at 4:54 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


On some level, I feel like a lot of politics in America comes down to the idea that misery loves company. Poor people hurt and want others to stop getting that "free ride" that unfairly protects them from the shared misery, without realizing that getting rid of the safety net makes it worse for all of us.
posted by klangklangston at 4:55 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I feel like the problem is that Republicans like to move the overton window to the far right while Democrats feel like they need to appeal to the middle. Then the two compromise to something to the moderate right, or sometimes even farther.

While I'd like to see Democrats fight back with equally radical ideas, or at least show some more spine on more issues instead of compromising so easily, I fear that the problem is that the moderates and liberals who support the democrats tend to prioritize civility too much, and are worried independents wouldn't like them if they seemed prone to fighting. In addition, "liberal" and "progressive" have become dirty words, and anything to the left of Ronald Reagan is called "socialist," so low-information voters will think anyone with a relatively left position is anti-American like the USSR.

The problem is that the GOP is really good at controlling the message, and they're very good with talking points and sound bites. Obama is pretty media savvy and good at making his point, but he tries to make more nuanced positions than can fit in a twitter post, and there's only one of him. So many of the democrats are more or less for supporting the status quo unless something is outright broken.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:56 PM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


There is plenty of liberalism in the US. Come visit me in L.A.; I'll prove it.

There is very little liberalism left in the national Democratic Party, sadly. Losing Ted Kennedy was a huge blow in hindsight. I do have high hopes for Al Franken though. I would vote for him for president tomorrow if I could.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:56 PM on April 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


We also tend to forget how liberal John Kerry was (and is). If he had run his campaign as well as Obama did, he might be serving his second term right now. It's not impossible for a liberal candidate to be nominated and it's not impossible for one to win.

It's hard to remember now, but the Barack Obama who got nominated was a liberal, actually.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:59 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will say that a lot of times the interaction of Democrats and Republicans reminds me of the Simpons episode where Homer forgets to pick up Bart from soccer for over a day.

HOMER: "I know you're mad, and I'm a little mad too. We could argue all day about who forgot to pick up who, but let's just say we were both a little wrong and leave it at that."

That's the GOP strategy in a nutshell: Start with an utterly wrong, evil and/or insane idea, call democrats unreasonable when they don't like it, and end up "compromising" on something that's only half-evil and insane. The democrats fall for it every time.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:03 PM on April 29, 2011 [21 favorites]


Also, I like how a Tea Partier acquantince forwarded me a Paul Krugman piece on how we could be entering a major depression (with a foreword from either her or someone else saying this was Obama and the Democrats doing), just after sending another forward about how Keynesian economists were infiltrating colleges.

I'm pretty sure she even kept the part intact where he remarked how governments are making it worse by raising taxes and cutting spending, the same mistake Herbert Hoover made. And then he says austerity, short term or long term, tends to hurt economies even more. So, she essentially forwarded a big "Barack was right and the stimulus shouldn't have been cut back" letter she didn't read.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:04 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's hard to remember now, but the Barack Obama who got nominated was a liberal, actually.

I, too, would rather not remember how badly liberals got suckered by this con man.
posted by indubitable at 5:19 PM on April 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


From 1900 to 1970, the changes in American society that led to the most important periods of economic growth and the consequent expansions of economic security were entirely, one-hundred-percent, the result of collective action on the parts of the poorest and most-screwed people in the society.

Until that happens again, we're gonna get more and more fucked. I'm looking at myself here; I don't go to church, have no formal civic affiliations, and interact uncomfortably with semi-acquaintances at MeFi meetups once every couple years.

Basically, it's all my fault.
posted by mwhybark at 5:19 PM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, now that I remember it some more, I think the added paragraph at the beginning of the forward hyping it up said that we should listen to Krugman because he has a Nobel Prize* and that he's a respected economist. But also that it's all Obama and the Democrats fault.

Of course, any time Krugman comes up on reddit, the right wingers come out of the woodwork to say that a Nobel Prize in Economics doesn't count and that Krugman has a far-left** agenda and shouldn't be trusted.

Yep.


*In economics that's actually not really a Nobel Prize because it's not from Alfred Nobel's estate but actually banks
**For Republican values of far-left.

posted by mccarty.tim at 5:24 PM on April 29, 2011


John Holbo's blog post from 2003(!) that I tend to refer to as "The Donner Party Politics" post is strikingly similar to Krugman's "glide slope" in it's identification of the Right's stated ideological goal of making things harder for Americans, because it will be good for them.

Also, if the Right can present a unified front, and 1/3 to 1/2 of the Democrats elected to the Congress tend to "lean right", then politically, even if the Republicans are only 40% of the body politic(as it was in the 2008 Senate) there is no traction for what we would think of as "liberal" policies enacted through the Congress.

Frankly, I think the Right in this country has worked media, politics, and policy toward their goals as a unified front since 1980. The transparent bias in NLRB rulings, the reprehensible changes in the bankruptcy laws, the partisanship of the judiciary, these are the types of things that have marked the sad decline of America's willingness to defend her citizens from anything other than threats that can be monetized, through military expenditures or political donations.
posted by dglynn at 5:24 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Liquidwolf: "Agreed. There is no liberalism in politics in this country. Everything is varying degrees of right. It's laughable when the right wingers call Obama or a democrat "extreme left", they have no idea what extreme left is anymore. They would piss their pants with fear and outrage, if something that radical hit America now"

My campaign slogan for 2012 (yeah, I'm running (not really, but kinda sorta, but yeah)) is "Socialism? I'll show you socialism!"
posted by symbioid at 5:45 PM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


With the possible exceptions of Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich

Jesse Jackson Jr, too, he's U.S. Representative for Illinois
posted by mokuba at 6:00 PM on April 29, 2011


There needs to be a big push back. I’ve basically started telling everyone I’m a Socialist, or at least hinting that, even though it’s not totally true. I think people need to hear it more, and not be afraid of that word. Move the goalposts, in other words.

Along with Mr. Krugman, I feel like I’ve moved farther and farther left in the last decade.
posted by bongo_x at 6:05 PM on April 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


I recently created a chart that I'm very proud of -- I even posted it in Krugman's comment section today.

The blue line is YOY growth in household and business debt -- ie the credit bubble.

You can see it double from $1T/yr in 2002-2003 to $2T/yr in 2005-2007. Most of this growth was growth in mortgage debt.

The red line is the YOY growth in Federal spending. If you squint a bit you might be able to see the "Keynesian" stimulus of 2009-2010.

This is why things are as fucked as they are, and why if the Republicans continue monkeying with the system it's all going to come crashing down.

We are Japan, now. I lived in Japan 1992-2000 so I got to see that movie first-hand. Boy was it a grind, and I was kinda glad to get out, TBH.
posted by mokuba at 6:09 PM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


>by the time he was in his mid-twenties, and so for nearly all of his adult life he has had good evidence for the proposition that he is smarter than just about everyone else around him, and capable of seeing things more clearly.<

One of the few people who thinks that who is right.
posted by bongo_x at 6:11 PM on April 29, 2011


We are Japan, now. I lived in Japan 1992-2000 so I got to see that movie first-hand. Boy was it a grind, and I was kinda glad to get out, TBH.

From the article, Krugman's visit and observation of Japan in the 90's was a formative experience for him.
posted by VikingSword at 6:15 PM on April 29, 2011


On a lighter note, I just found out Maine is one of the least religious states.

Given what it looks like on the ground here, I can't imagine how bulging-eyes bible-thumping crazy it is in the rest of the country.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:20 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was thinking about this the other day and I realized that the great majority of Republican politicians hail from either

1) areas of the United States that once made up the Confederacy.
2) extremely sparsely populated and rural districts in the West.

With few exceptions, this is broadly and generally true. It seems to me, now that I think about it, that the ultimate goal of the Republican party is to turn America back to the 1850's, a time when both of those geographic regions were in their heyday.

Maybe a better name for the GOP would be "the Restorationists". They want an America like their great-great-great grandparents had it: genteel landowners throwing lovely parties, industrious businessmen forging ahead with railroads and factories billowing with smoke and all of this guarded by steely-eyed men in cowboy hats who stand ready to commit hideous crimes if needed to preserve the status quo. Oh, and 80% of the country living in grinding subsistence-level poverty. That too.

The problem here (besides the obvious) is that we really can't go back to those days. All of our Rockefellers are Chinese now. People read books other than the bible and women have ideas beyond just starting families. People are generally against over discrimination. None of those genies are going back in the bottle (thankfully).

I think that instead of 1850's America the GOP might really be setting us up for 1930's Spain: when the military, political and religious elites of a nation conspired to strangle their own lower classes to death.
posted by Avenger at 6:27 PM on April 29, 2011 [22 favorites]


I think someone should write a peaceful petition or something.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:31 PM on April 29, 2011



I was thinking about this the other day and I realized that the great majority of Republican politicians hail from either

1) areas of the United States that once made up the Confederacy.
2) extremely sparsely populated and rural districts in the West.


The country is really purple. Republicans win in California or Massachusetts sometimes. It's more about the urban/suburban/rural cultural divide in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how that divide persists over the next few decades in an era of mass communication online.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:37 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's tons of left in the US. Last night I saw Glen Greenwald, Amy Goodman, Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore talk in New York. The 1000 seat house was sold out, at $45 a seat and up. People cheered, people gave standing ovations.

Michael Moore was particularly stirring - damn, I actually really like this guy, he's funny and compassionate and made me think. He had a ton of good suggestion for actual, solid things to do, too - as he said, mainly aimed at people not living in NYC who were watching the broadcast: get together ten friends and start your own New Democrat party; later, all show up at the regular Democrat meetings and act as a group; start trying to get exciting things on your local or state ballots to get out the vote - he had some doozies (declaring corporations unpeople was my favorite).

Whenever you present Americans with the actual tenets of the "left", without telling them that's what it is, they are overwhelmingly in favor of them.

No, the left is only missing in the government but that's because the government has systematically been taken over by career criminals who don't want to slow their systematic looting down even enough to placate the people who are supposedly their "base".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:37 PM on April 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


bongo_x writes:

> Along with Mr. Krugman, I feel like I’ve moved farther and farther left in the last decade.

I also call myself a Socialist or a Social Democrat these days... but I really feel as if I've stayed much in the same place I was before and the media has moved dramatically toward the right.

Regarding my understanding of economics, the big change for me was seeing how badly the efficient market hypothesis was wrong. I was always a skeptic, though, even back in my Wall Street days.

There was also the shock of finding out that Black-Scholes and similar arbitrage-free models of derivatives had a crucial flaw. I lived on this model for several years, it's like a physicist discovering a conservative law was false! I distinctly remember where I was (in an upscale hotel in Mountain View, California three years ago) when I read an article about this in some newspaper - I started the article completely skeptical about its contents and finished it shaking my head and wondering how we hadn't seen this...

I frankly don't see how people take US capitalism seriously after the financial collapse, but it's probably because our current Administration has taken great pains to downplay all the problems and make sure that there aren't any nasty trials or serious legal remedies that might alert your average person to the elephant in the room....
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:48 PM on April 29, 2011 [16 favorites]


That's the GOP strategy in a nutshell: Start with an utterly wrong, evil and/or insane idea, call democrats unreasonable when they don't like it, and end up "compromising" on something that's only half-evil and insane. The democrats fall for it every time.

That's a common negotiating tactic used by both sides. Arguably the the Public Option was offered as a starting point knowing they would compromise somewhere in between.
posted by marco_nj at 6:53 PM on April 29, 2011


The public option was a popular moderate policy, not a far left evil/wrong/insane idea.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:54 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Every liberal defines precisely what it means to be liberal. every conservative is secure in his knowledge there are thousands just like him.
posted by edgeways at 6:54 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


[Can we please not go down the "Republicans are evil! No they're not!" rabbithole? ]
posted by restless_nomad at 6:57 PM on April 29, 2011


> [Can we please not go down the "Republicans are evil! No they're not!" rabbithole? ]

If you're going to claim that the Democrats "start with an utterly wrong, evil and/or insane idea" then you need to present an example, eh?

Not that I'm at all a fan of the Democrats, but they generally start with pretty reasonable ideas - like single payer health care, an idea that's worked very well in every country I've lived in - and then mess them up.

Republican ideas are more characteristically like "Let's shut down the government every two months".

I don't actually think there are many people left on Mefi who are in the "No, the Republicans aren't evil," camp. The battles are more between, "The Democrats are roughly as evil as the Republicans," and "The Democrats are significantly less evil than the Republicans."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:12 PM on April 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


I don't actually think there are many people left on Mefi who are in the "No, the Republicans aren't evil," camp. The battles are more between, "The Democrats are roughly as evil as the Republicans," and "The Democrats are significantly less evil than the Republicans."

Both of which make for tedious, usually hostile, and actually fairly offtopic debate, so can we not, please? If you want to discuss specific policies that's fine but as soon as you start using words like "evil" and "crazy" we're down the rabbithole and there's no way out.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:14 PM on April 29, 2011


I'm no longer behind Obama, and will likely campaign for anyone challenging him in the primaries - and I've never been politically involved like that before.

I'm not particularly leftist - in many ways I'm libertarian, with socialist leanings. Old-school rock-ribbed republican: so long as it doesn't break my arm or pick my pocket, god bless you and your endeavors.

Obama's complete failure to reign in commodities speculators puts him square in the "just as bad as Bush" category, and picks my pocket at the pump and at the grocery store. His waging of a new war in an oil-producing country while neglecting the two he's already got put him in the "just as bad as Bush" category, and threatens my countrymen with death and dismemberment. His refusal to bring to justice torturers and swindlers, simply because they are politically connected, puts him in the "Just as bad as Bush" category, and rips me off and threatens my security.

The dude is a dishrag who lets events and strong personalities push him around, and he claims he's doing judo. I don't know if he's evil, or just not as smart as we hoped he was.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:30 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've said this before and I'll say it again, Krugman kept me sane during the Bush years. Unlike so many other "liberal" commentators and opinionators who fell for the Iraq Vanity War.

And who still pose as liberal, if that even has any meaning anymore except as an apologist for the disadvantaged.
posted by Max Power at 7:31 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's what people who take on this line of complaint don't appear to appreciate.

The people who drive the Democrats are the same as the people who drive the Republicans. Went to the same elite schools, or had the same killer instinct that led to success despite not going to an elite school. Live in the same (or at least similar) neighborhoods. Work the same (or at least comparable) high-income private sector jobs.

If you are a believer that charity and forgiveness ought to be compulsory, or are just too put off by those nasty Evangelicals, you stay (or become) a Democrat. Otherwise you stay, or become, a Republican. But your personal self-interest, your practical view of how the world is constructed and ought to operate on day-to-day basis? Identical.
posted by MattD at 7:35 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Left and right have no inherent meaning. Neither do Republican or Democrat. Divide and conquer, is the tactic of the third entity that cannot be seen clearly.
posted by midnightscout at 7:44 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, I'm kind of hoping for a moderate, independent Republican to win - Romney or Trump. Only Nixon could go to China, only Trump can gut the derivatives and commodities speculators like a fish. He would, too - as a seat-of-the-pants Real Estate guy, he'd trust the deep math geeks about as far as he could throw them.

We need another Teddy before we can have another Franklin.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:04 PM on April 29, 2011


Obama, whether he meant to or not, blew an enormous opportunity to right the ship (left the ship?) in the very first months of his administration. Remember how frightened the right were then by the talk of possible war crimes investigations into the Bush admin. Obama should have pushed hard on this as his "crazy" position (though it's not crazy at all) -- talking about rooting out the decision makers and holding them responsible for the lies, the torture, the secret prisons, Abu Graib, the whole rotten mess. Really putting the fear into the GOP that Bush and Cheney's heads might roll and the entire Republican Party burned with them. That would have been all he needed to get the Republicans in Congress to give in to his demands on health care, Wall Street reform, etc. Just keep bringing that issue up again and again when they stalled on something. All those flag-in-the-wind Blue Dog Dems would have come leaping over to the left too.

But Obama, it seems, never meant to deliver any real "change" at all.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:11 PM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Before we excoriate and criticize Obama again, maybe we should take a moment to consider the paradox of presidential power.

"Before you get to be president you think you can do anything. You think you're the most powerful leader since God. But you get in that chair as you're gonna find out, Mr. President, you can't count on people. You'll find your hands tied and people cussin' at you. The office is kinda like the little country boy found the hoochie-koochie show at the carnival, once he'd paid his dime and got inside the tent: It ain't exactly as it was advertised."

President Lyndon Johnson to President-elect Richard Nixon
posted by FJT at 8:13 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Bush's hands didn't seem that tied.
posted by telstar at 8:14 PM on April 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


It's hard to remember now, but the Barack Obama who got nominated was a liberal, actually.

I know 'liberal' means exactly nothing in US politics right now, but did you actually read Obama's policy documents? On economics he is all about 'market solutions.' Military: budget increases and maintaining forces in Iraq and Afghanistan (they are still waiting for the Iraqis to ask them to stay.) What do you mena by 'liberal'?

But the thing is, it really comes down to the fact that Obama won the hedge fund fundraising race. You either believe that hedge funds, private equity, and mergers and aquisitions et al are the dynamic core of the US economy or you don't. Economic policy in the Obama administration hasn't been made according to any coherent ideology, but rather according to what the wise men on Wall Street think is prudent.

That's the issue in a nutshell. What I find frustrating is that both Clinton and Obama seem to believe that they could "win" Wall Street as the Republicans find themselves pushed off the deep end (see Ron Paul.) But the fact is that Wall Street will never choose a winner but will try to play the parties against each other as long as it can.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:25 PM on April 29, 2011


"Actually, I'm kind of hoping for a moderate, independent Republican to win - Romney or Trump."

I just came in to remark that as an outside observer, words like left, right, democrat, republican, socialist don't really seem to mean what people use them for. Presumably this is the space where words like Romney & Trump can be unironically used in the same sentence as moderate and independent (except in the Tom Waits/Hog on Ice sense).
posted by sneebler at 8:46 PM on April 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Economic policy in the Obama administration hasn't been made according to any coherent ideology, but rather according to what the wise men on Wall Street think is prudent

I'd say excessive conservatism in guarding against being painted as a bomb-throwing Marxist in 2012. Same dynamic in keeping Geithner and Bernanke on, and Gates running the DOD for that matter.

Triangulation can work great against the Republicans, move right and they have to move right to remain relevant. The bottom line is that Obama has to win some rather Red states next year -- Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin . . .

I feel for my fellow lefties who don't like seeing Obama disappear over the horizon on important things, but I'm in the category that realizes That's Just The Way It Is, as long as the American electorate is on the whole stupid enough to give 270 EVs to any of the current Republican hopefuls.

Doing some research yesterday I was shocked to see that in 1992 Bush & Perot took California by 700,000 votes. Not really sure those Perot voters got what they wanted to get, 1993-2000.
posted by mokuba at 8:56 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it.
posted by freakazoid at 8:57 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember the old universe.
posted by mek at 9:03 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it.

Republicans.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:06 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe I am getting cynical as I get older. The ideologies aren't the issue at all. This isn't about conservative or liberal any more. It's about those who hold the wealth and power in this country hanging on to it. The ideology is just they way they control the masses. Unions aren't a threat because they are "socialism" or "communism". They are a threat because they represent the interests of everyday people. In politics money talks, and unions were the only way that money from the middle class was reaching the political system and exerting any influence. The Republican party has all but killed Unions and the Democrats let it happen.

I agree, there is no liberalism in the US political system. I would say there is no conservatism either. We are entering an era of economic Darwinism. Where the wealthiest 1% are feeding off the herd of the middle class and the middle class is hoping to stay just ahead of the poor.

All of this ideology is nonsense, a distraction to divide and conquer. If they can keep us arguing about abortion, stem cells, taxes, welfare, school prayer, etc. Then we will never notice that it's our friends and family they send to war to preserve their wealth, that it's our parents and grand parents that they are taking health care away from, and that it's our children who are being robbed of the education they deserve.

The Republican's are the sword in this class war and the Democrats are the shield. Right now they are on the attack when people get pissed off they will vote for the Democrats who will make small concessions until they can go on the attack again.

The only question left is how bad will it have to get before we thing about it. It means trading in your ideology and doing what ever it takes for justice and equity. Human beings have a nasty habit of killing people who do that.
posted by empty vessel at 9:06 PM on April 29, 2011 [24 favorites]


Bush's hands didn't seem that tied.

That's because there's more conservative Dems than liberal Republicans.

I think the actual figure is "infinite" for that.

The AUMF on Iraq vote is instructive. The House Dem caucus split against it, but the Senate was dominated by enough conservative Dems -- eg. Liebermans and Zell Miller -- that the Dems didn't have the 40 votes to block it, plus filibustering Bush's war in the run-up to the 2002 mid-term wasn't going to be a winning strategy regardless, since nobody had a time machine to bring the data that showed how bad this war was going to be 2004-2006.

Same thing with tax cuts. Dems voting for the 2001 tax cuts were Feinstein, Baucus (MT), Breaux (LA), Carnahan (MO), Cleland (GA), Johnson (SD), Landrieu (LA), Lincoln (AR), Miller (GA), Nelson (NE), Torricelli (NJ). Plus Kohl, but I think that was a protest vote of some kind.

Only Chaffee & McCain voted against them on the (R) side.

Carnahan, Cleland, Torricelli were not reelected in 2002. Feinstein, Johnson, and Nelson are rather conservative members of the Dem party. Lincoln lost her reelection bid in 2010. Miller retired and became a featured speaker at the 2004 Republican convention.

So, yeah.
posted by mokuba at 9:13 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"There needs to be a big push back. I’ve basically started telling everyone I’m a Socialist, or at least hinting that, even though it’s not totally true. I think people need to hear it more, and not be afraid of that word. Move the goalposts, in other words."

Even though it often feels like I'm one of the token right wingers here on MeFi, I call myself a socialist (and a liberal) pretty often, and will argue just as stridently against any of the anti-liberal and anti-socialist bullshit I hear out in the wild as both wrong and un-American.
posted by klangklangston at 9:23 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


this used to be a helluva good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it.

For much of our history, we had good land free for the taking, first informally if not illegally, and then from 1862 until all the good land was gone (~1890) thanks to the Homestead Act.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries we developed amazing labor-saving technologies that enabled us to increase productivity from the land tremendously. Combined with Progressive Era-reforms, we could really "make it here".

Then we got a bit ahead of ourselves in the 1920s and suffered the 1930s recession/crunch, but the war got everyone back to work and the postwar position put us in the catbird seat wrt the soft imperialism of multinational capitalism. Wealth flowed into the United States from all over the world, as our incredibly strong dollar could buy quite a lot just about everywhere.

Then in the 1980s we decided to throw fiscal responsibility out the window, and saw the national debt triple in 1981-1989 (doubling in real terms). Clinton and the Congressional Dems of the old order reestablished some semblance of fiscal probity in 1993, with the Clinton Tax Increase, but the nation returned to the siren song of Reaganism in 2001-2003, and then doubled-down with a $10T private credit orgy in 2003-2007.

Alongside the Reaganism, we also went for offshoring much of our productive base.

First they came for the steelworkers, but I was not a steelworker . . .

So now, here we are. The top 5% of the country earns 35% or so of the income. Quite a rake, I'm pretty sure these guys aren't doing 35% of the work. . .
posted by mokuba at 9:34 PM on April 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


We had liberals in charge for generations and still no healthcare, so it's odd that anyone suddenly thinks the worst about healthcare. America always cultivated a soft or social liberalism, related to an emotional instinct that poverty and helplessness were an embarrassment of riches and a source of communist criticism. The intellectual or hard liberalism, where Krugman comes from, is not dead, it just never existed as a major force. Most liberals of Reagan's generation were hypocritical believers that capitalism functioned best under ruthless Republicans, but they differed from conservatives in the belief that the unemployed were victims, whose survival was insured under the sentiment of religious charity, to avoid any appearance of communism. All other issues that divided were mostly social ones, just like today, where people define liberal as someone with an opinion opposed to a conservative one (which is what makes it soft, or even slippery).

Anyway, conservative-engineered success for the majority has yet to ever be proven anywhere, and the intellectual idea that left of center works best for prosperity never took hold in America even when it was proven for over two generations here and abroad.
posted by Brian B. at 9:35 PM on April 29, 2011


^ I'd say the ability for employers to write-off health insurance costs for workers is a form of "health care". Only good for the upper-ish middle class and above, but that covers most of the electorate.

Medicare and medicaid were meant for the po' folk.
posted by mokuba at 9:41 PM on April 29, 2011


Really putting the fear into the GOP that Bush and Cheney's heads might roll and the entire Republican Party burned with them.

Richard Nixon left office in disgrace, the subject of active criminal investigations against him personally for things he personally did. The Democrats won a presidential election off that. The Republicans closed ranks, cut their losses, and got twelve years of Reagan-Bush out of it. You think Boehner and McConnell would lose one second of sleep over Bush and Cheney being indicted? Not a chance. You know what you call a politician with a sense of shame? Unemployed.
posted by Etrigan at 9:59 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


freakazoid: You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it.

Reagan's victory over Carter was definitely a key turning point. Andrew Bacevich describes this as the electorate choosing profligacy over austerity.

I posted recently about an economic theory published in 1976 which had a major impact on CEO compensation.

Technology and trade ("globalization") have tended to widen inequality. In countries where there's broader acceptance of the role of government in reducing inequality, inequality has been offset by taxes and transfers. (Statistics Canada notes that in 2003, pre-tax income for the top 20% of Canadian families was 12.9 times pre-tax income for the bottom 20%; after taxes and transfers, the ratio was only 5.5.)

Another worrying trend is the increasing level of risk borne by individuals. Peter Gosselin notes that income fluctuations (e.g. the risk that your income will drop by 50% or more from one year to the next) has increased dramatically, for all levels of income.
posted by russilwvong at 11:17 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


If America ever did turn socialist AskMefi would certainly be a very different place. No more 'which cell phone has the best teleportation device?' or 'which $2,000 Mac laptop goes best with my fair trade sneakers?' and lots of 'I hear a rumour it's cabbage at the end of this four hour queue, definitely cabbage or shoes, any news?' and 'How best to smuggle pesos into the country under my hat'. Be careful what you wish for guys.
posted by joannemullen at 12:21 AM on April 30, 2011


"In the United States, there is no left left"

And the rest of the world has being saying this for decades, and laughing their arses off whenever some frothing right-wing loon describes Obama as a socialist.

Of course, there are isolated individuals and small groups here and there that espouse real leftism in the States, but they have no significant influence. Democrats might get a reassuring buzz from the odd Michael Moore movie but he's mainly tolerated in the US because he's an entertainer, not a politician with real clout. Most Dems would shit themselves if they saw what real socialism is. And most Republicans would have aneurysms.
posted by Decani at 12:38 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


If America ever did turn socialist AskMefi would certainly be a very different place.

No more of the endless healh-insurance-woes questions from terrified Americans, replaced by American's finding that they now have the security to quit the job that is destroying them and look for something better, and what sorts of things would be most helpful in getting their foot into that new door?

But this is just based on my actual life experience of living in both the USA and in different countries, and knowing firsthand how the systems affect real people's lives. But you should go on thinking that we waste our days queuing for cabbages of whatever. It'll make it easier on yourself as you work yourself into an early grave.

Also, I've been trolled. Oh noes! Troll post gets debunking post. News at eleven. Whatever.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:09 AM on April 30, 2011 [16 favorites]


Be careful what you wish for guys.

LOL. Does your planet have the positive "Eurosocialist" examples of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, and perhaps France & Belgium?

On my planet, Norway enjoys the richest economy of a bona-fide nation state with $52,000 per capita GDP, cradle-to-grave social services that include a sovereign wealth fund with $100,000 per capita invested in global equity and bonds, and the world's highest "happiness" rating, plus also a very strong bond rating as measured by a CDS cost that's less than half the United States'.

Also on my planet is the United States becoming increasingly fucked economically, eg. in my lifetime the bottom 50% has seen zip in real income gains, while the top 5% have seen real incomes double from $90k to nearly $180k/yr.

We tried to paper over this differential with the housing bubble's 'free money for everyone!' approach, but that only worked until it didn't. The emergency measures in the aftermath of the credit bubble implosion have resulted in the national debt expanding $4.4T over the past 3 years, which seems like a lot (and it is) but only about half the rate of monetary injection we enjoyed during the peak of the bubble 2005-2007.

Now, maybe this nation is just too damn big to succeed with a eurosocialist program -- the UK is not really demonstrating the long-term success, though they were bitten by the same deregulation bug, housing bubble, and other Reaganist impulses as we were in the previous decade.

But if we're going to survive as a going concern we're going to have to have taxes match spending. Liberals say raise taxes. Conservatives say cut spending. The former is easy enough, but nobody can point to any meaningful spending cuts at all. The current Republican 'put granny on an ice floe' approach is a non-starter, for one.

80 million baby boomers are going to be increasingly bumrushing the Medicare system as they turn 65. Peak baby boom birth year was 1957, so peak enrollees will be 2022. This is the challenge we face and we've not really seriously addressed how we're going to increase the supply of medical services this new demand is going to present.

While your cartoon view of socialism is pretty far from reality, it is true that we've promised a lot more with Medicare/Medicaid than we are apparently willing to pay. Even Sweden's rather efficient public health system is facing similar challenges now.
posted by mokuba at 1:43 AM on April 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


It is the year 2011 and there are only the rich. Forget the power of technology and science. Forget the promise of progress and understanding. There is no peace in the world, only an eternity of poverty and suffering, and the laughter of thirsting capitalists.
posted by Tabs at 2:56 AM on April 30, 2011


LOL. Does your planet have the positive "Eurosocialist" examples of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, and perhaps France & Belgium?

The problem with this argument is that socialism isn't working (as a political force) there either.

In Sweden, the social democrats have been out of government since 2006, when a center-right coalition came into power and has been implementing a wide range of market-based reforms;

In Norway, the far-right Progress party, which originated as a an anti-tax party (the original Tea Party?), is now the second largest party;

In Finland, the True Finns party just won a massive political victory, gaining 19% of the votes on a platform of nationalism and social conservatism;

In Denmark, the conservative Venstre party came into power in 2009 on a platform of anti-immigration and market-based reforms;

Germany has been governed for most of the decade by a coalition led by the conservative Merkel, with the liberal FDP replacing the social democrats in the 2009 elections;

In France, Sarkozy has notoriously pushed through a series of unprecedented liberalization reforms;

Belgium is so hopeless they have been without a government for pretty much the last year. A coalition of Flemish nationalists and French socialists is still expected to emerge at some point, but perhaps nobody will notice as the country disappears down the drain with a slight gurgling sound.
posted by eeeeeez at 3:55 AM on April 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


> There needs to be a big push back. I’ve basically started telling everyone I’m a Socialist, or at least hinting that, even though it’s not totally true. I think people need to hear it more, and not be afraid of that word. Move the goalposts, in other words.

But wouldn't painting yourself as an extreme leftist move the Overton window in the opposite direction of what you intend? Shouldn't you be saying something like "Who, me? I'm an actual conservative, not a deluded market-worshipping, bible-thumping, bigoted lunatic" instead?
posted by Bangaioh at 5:19 AM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is plenty of liberalism in the US. Come visit me in L.A.; I'll prove it.

Well yeah of course, there's plenty here in New York too. We're not talking about individuals , we're talking about the political stage.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:26 AM on April 30, 2011


The problem with this argument is that socialism isn't working (as a political force) there either.

Well, yes and no. I wouldn't go so far as to say that political change in Europe has anything to do with a rational critique of socialism. Unfortunately, a lot of the right-wing pushback worldwide is (often explicitly) Islamophobic or at least xenophobic in origin, a result of increasing Muslim immigrant/refugee populations post-2001.
posted by mek at 6:46 AM on April 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Bush's hands didn't seem that tied.

Post-Cold War stability/Clinton Years + 9/11 + Presidential office has more influence in international issues vs. domestic = All the stuff for Bush's term.

So Bush totally powergamed international policy. Notice that Bush really didn't do much domestically, except some Medicare prescription stuff, and tax cuts. He failed SS reform and he didn't do immigration reform.

Yes, there was the financial stuff, but that was the worst recession in 30 years.
posted by FJT at 8:46 AM on April 30, 2011


Regarding my understanding of economics, the big change for me was seeing how badly the efficient market hypothesis was wrong. I was always a skeptic, though, even back in my Wall Street days.

There was also the shock of finding out that Black-Scholes and similar arbitrage-free models of derivatives had a crucial flaw. I lived on this model for several years, it's like a physicist discovering a conservative law was false! I distinctly remember where I was (in an upscale hotel in Mountain View, California three years ago) when I read an article about this in some newspaper - I started the article completely skeptical about its contents and finished it shaking my head and wondering how we hadn't seen this...


Didjur monocle fall out too, guv'nor?
posted by orthogonality at 8:54 AM on April 30, 2011


here was also the shock of finding out that Black-Scholes and similar arbitrage-free models of derivatives had a crucial flaw. I lived on this model for several years, it's like a physicist discovering a conservative law was false! I distinctly remember where I was (in an upscale hotel in Mountain View, California three years ago) when I read an article about this in some newspaper - I started the article completely skeptical about its contents and finished it shaking my head and wondering how we hadn't seen this...
posted by elpapacito at 9:30 AM on April 30, 2011


Damn preview...Lupus that's some intellectually honest statement. Do you recall the name of the mind opening article? Or, what was the critical flaw?
posted by elpapacito at 9:31 AM on April 30, 2011


just have a couple of questions.

Firstly, regarding Jeffrey Sachs: i have his book about ending poverty, which has an intro by Bono (which totally puts me off). I read about Sachs in Kleins "Shock Doctrine" and she makes much of his neo-lib qualities, working in Russia for the Friedmanites. So I haven't read Sachs yet and am a bit suspiscious (leopard/spots etc). Anyone care to clarify, is he bona fide left, or just someone the right have infiltrated in to further their agenda via (as mentioned upthread) window-shifting etc.

Secondly: (this is a genuine question) Say I work in a low paid job in the USA, and I slip and fall and break my arm. What happens? And who pays? I mean, in England (still, just) I would be taken by ambulance, examined, x-rayed, have a cast put on etc, all for free. I would have follow up appointments (also free), and maybe even Physio (also free).

(Yeah, I realise we pay for it, just not at point of use)
posted by marienbad at 10:35 AM on April 30, 2011


Meta.
posted by orthogonality at 10:38 AM on April 30, 2011


Ver intriguing article.
I have always been a fan of Krugman.
I do think liberals need to get on the same page as conservatives do in terms of organization.
Sadly, divide and conquer has worked well for the Republicans. My only fear is that it has gone too far, and the consequences may be too difficult to overcome.

At least in Michigan we got a recall petition approved against our rubberstamp" businessman" governor, yet with 1 million signatures needed. It is an uphill climb.
posted by handbanana at 10:46 AM on April 30, 2011


Say I work in a low paid job in the USA, and I slip and fall and break my arm. What happens? And who pays?

On the job? The employer's insurance pays. Off the job, you go to the emergency room and ignore the bill, if you don't qualify for medicaid. The hospital will typically overcharge everyone else to cover this cost.
posted by Brian B. at 10:46 AM on April 30, 2011


Also re: socialism in Europe. While there are no out-and-out socialst countries, I think we are generally a more socialist people. I think this is because the horrors of world war 2 were witnessed by everyone, not just the troops, and it kinda set the agenda for a while. Just my tuppence.
posted by marienbad at 10:54 AM on April 30, 2011


Actually I have a pretty good idea what went wrong, this just seemed like the perfect place to insert that quote from Easy Rider.
posted by freakazoid at 11:50 AM on April 30, 2011


Off the job, you go to the emergency room and ignore the bill

...and expect to get inferior care; they will set a broken arm but you won't be able to afford the drugs you should have for pain or antibiotics if there is an open wound, unless your doctor takes pity and has some free samples left by some pharmaceutical marketer, and if you have a really bad condition like a heart attack you won't be treated, surgery will not be performed, you will be "stabilized" and asked to leave in that condition if you can't pay. Then you will be hounded by creditors, your credit rating will be ruined if it wasn't already, your hospital may or may not negotiate reasonable payments and a schedule you can afford, and your chances of climbing out of poverty just got much worse than they already were.

I can't imagine why anyone would prefer a system where you don't have to worry about paying and they take care of the worst emergencies first and everyone is free to recuperate without worrying about whether they will lose everything they own. I mean what's next, expecting everyone to contribute to build roads and sewerage systems?
posted by localroger at 12:18 PM on April 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have this theory that as the world moves closer to "free market" "solutions" to economic problems that are rooted in "free markets" (deregulation/the demise of Glass-Steagall), income inequality/poverty will continue to worsen (and not just here in the good old U.S. of A., if those up-and-coming right wing parties in northern Europe do have their day) but worldwide.

When Marxism/community was buried by history, capitalism lost a very valuable braking mechanism. Why did we build the welfare state we're now dismantling? In part to prevent the U.S. from going communist; appease the people who might otherwise demand what was apparently (at the time) being provided under communism.

So communism fails and that brake is torn out and discarded, and away we go. And as austerity is implemented, as poverty worsens, as the hardheartedness of the free market crowd pisses more and more people off - communism, or something like it, must rise from the ashes of history. What we thought was dead may come roaring back with a vengeance - because unfettered capitalism in effect made it necessary.
posted by kgasmart at 12:38 PM on April 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Meh. Marxism/communism
posted by kgasmart at 12:39 PM on April 30, 2011


What we thought was dead may come roaring back with a vengeance - because unfettered capitalism in effect made it necessary.

Or as Marx and Engels said it in the "Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei" in 1848:

"Die Bourgeoisie produziert mit der Pauperisierung breiter Massen im Zuge der großen Industrie ihre „eigenen Totengräber“, d. h. sie wirkt mit an der Entstehung und Formierung des Proletariats als kampfwillige Klasse."
posted by eeeeeez at 2:10 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since EZ elected not to for some reason, the Google translation:
The bourgeoisie produced with the impoverishment of broad masses in the wake of the big industry "their own grave-diggers", ie it contributes to the emergence and formation of the proletariat as the feisty class
posted by localroger at 4:06 PM on April 30, 2011


Rinse and repeat, I suppose.
posted by kgasmart at 4:14 PM on April 30, 2011


Well, as a Wikipedia quote it needs some authority, and in German it sounds more authoritative.
posted by eeeeeez at 4:18 PM on April 30, 2011


I kind of like the idea of being a member of the feisty class.
posted by localroger at 4:29 PM on April 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Several people remarked how they've become more/less leftist over the years. Frankly, I'd have liked to become less leftist, because dog knows, there is a solid critique to be made of the grand left ideal, but I can't turn my attention to that because of absolutely batshit right wing not only becoming accepted, but gaining some kind of monopoly in the public discourse - and this has the effect of my having to defend the only viable alternative (in the short term), much as I have problems with the Left. Truth is, we need to think calmly and long term, the old left/right paradigm is severely outdated. There are new challenges that the old ideologues of the left from a 100 years ago (or 500 in the case of the right), could not have foreseen. And nobody has a coherent framework for even a discussion to start. Instead, we find ourselves fighting a rear-guard action to defend gains made by society during Dicken's time. I mean, forget 8-hour workdays, forget basic Habeas Corpus, it's on to shit that was tried and has failed disastrously over and over again. But nonetheless, the Right thinks we need to give it another go-around - like theocracy sounds great! Never mind that we never even had that in the U.S. back 250 years ago - perhaps all the more reason to try it out here! It's shit like that that pushes me to the Left, cause it's "put out the fire" time, and not "sit down and cogitate about long term solutions" time. In other words: very, very reluctant leftist here - more out of panic than conviction.
posted by VikingSword at 4:35 PM on April 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


^ yeah, one thing the left doesn't really understand is that public charity ends up in private hands eventually.

Eg. the minimum wage is largely a rent-support in disguise.

Churchill was talking about this over 100 years ago here:
Neutralising Philanthropy

And a friend of mine was telling me the other day that, in the parish of Southwark, about 350 pounds a year, roughly speaking, was given away in doles of bread by charitable people in connection with one of the churches, and, as a consequence of this, the competition for small houses, but more particularly for single-roomed tenements, is, we are told, so great that rents are considerably higher than in the neighbouring district.

All goes back to the land, and the landowner, who . . . is enabled with resistless strength to absorb to himself a share of almost every public and every private benefit however important or however pitiful those benefits may be.
posted by mokuba at 4:42 PM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, that's just scratching the surface, but yeah. To take just one example of so many, I don't think the role of technology has been understood by any liberal economist from even 50 years ago, and how could they - technology is essentially unpredictable, just as scientific discovery is unpredictable. Yet it changes so much - the meaning of labor, ownership, leisure, and so on and so forth (and wait until more advanced AI becomes reality). Things are changing radically, the environment is affected drastically, and all this needs addressing from some other place than the traditional political structures. That's what needs urgent attention and a new framework - instead we are re-fighting arguments from 150 years ago.
posted by VikingSword at 4:56 PM on April 30, 2011


continuing that riff on technology, we thought labor-savings of automation would reduce the work week to Jetson-level minimalism (one hour a week).

These analysts were ignorant of the fact that land cannot be increased by productivity (though living space can by better buildings, and land can be virtually increased by more time-efficient transportation technologies.

land is the dominant expense in everyone's life, and since its quantity is basically fixed, the more money we have the higher its price -- even cutting taxes 2001-2003 just made land that much more expensive (and god forbid if we actually have to return to 1990s tax levels -- kiss housing prices goodbye).

This is what blew my mind about Georgism -- that land is a very special form of capital -- such an obvious thing, yet neither the left nor the right really get it.
posted by mokuba at 7:02 PM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Speaking of reducing the work week hours, it's amazing to me, how in the U.S. it's actually not had anything to do directly with the economy, but been tied to the needs of the military - just mind boggling. Another example of how militarism and political considerations seriously distort economic policies:

"NSC-68 and labor force size, participation, and the steady growth of working time in the United States from 1950-2007:

Beginning in 1950, under the Truman Administration, and continuing with all administrations since, the United States became the first known industrialized nation to explicitly (albeit secretly) and permanently forswear a reduction of working time. Given the military-industrial requirements of the Cold War, the authors of the then secret National Security Council Document 68 [15] proposed the US government undertake a massive permanent national economic expansion that would let it “siphon off” a part of the economic activity produced to support an ongoing military buildup to contain the Soviet Union:

… the United States could achieve a substantial absolute increase in output and could thereby increase the allocation of resources to a build-up of the economic and military strength of itself and its allies without suffering a decline in its real standard of living … With a high level of economic activity, the United States could soon attain a gross national product of $300 billion per year, as was pointed out in the President's Economic Report (January 1950). Progress in this direction would permit, and might itself be aided by, a buildup of the economic and military strength of the United States and the free world; furthermore, if a dynamic expansion of the economy were achieved, the necessary build-up could be accomplished without a decrease in the national standard of living because the required resources could be obtained by siphoning off a part of the annual increment in the gross national product. These are facts of fundamental importance in considering the courses of action open to the United States (cf. Ch. IX).http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSC-68

This proposal was adopted by President Truman, who, in his 1951 Annual Message to the Congress, stated:

In terms of manpower, our present defense targets will require an increase of nearly one million men and women in the armed forces within a few months, and probably not less than four million more in defense production by the end of the year. This means that an additional 8 percent of our labor force, and possibly much more, will be required by direct defense needs by the end of the year. These manpower needs will call both for increasing our labor force by reducing unemployment and drawing in women and older workers, and for lengthening hours of work in essential industries. These manpower requirements can be met. There will be manpower shortages, but they can be solved.[16]

Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, working time has remained unchanged by subsequent administrations and Congress.
"
posted by VikingSword at 7:16 PM on April 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


« Older I am a 91-year-old bodybuilder...  |  Berkeley rapper Lil' B announc... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments