Thursday, May 13, 2010

conservative brother diaries 2: rejoinder

I published a diary a couple of days ago in which I posted a letter I had sent to my very, very conservative brother in Florida responding to his generic dig at the recession that "your President" had caused and urging me to "vote conservative" in the midterms.  IYou may read that one in the archives if you'd like.
My brother’s response was minimal and (again) generic:
Unfortunately – you are wrong on just about everything.   But – I have the solace in knowing that the vast majority of Americans finally are starting to get it...  liberalism (progressivism) simply doesn’t work..  as Margaret Thatcher so eloquently stated:  “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money”...   She couldn’t have been more prophetic as every social democracy in Europe is imploding under their own insane “good intentions”...
He closed by citing "the Founders" as his trusted sources and wishing me luck and love.
At first I thought, well, that's that.  But upon further review (as they say in football) I decided to offer another rejoinder.  Before I get to it, please let me respond to a couple of comments from last time that leapt to conclusions about my brother: it would be fallacious to believe that my brother is a stupid man.  Far from it: he is a good, kind, sweet and intelligent man.  He is a college graduate who has built his own successful business from the ground up.  And FWIW, I truly enjoy spending time with him.  He is fun and funny and generous to a fault: when we are together, he is always the one who ends up paying for everything and the man knows how to throw a party.  
Greg's one flaw--and I'll grant that it is a big one--is that, for whatever reason, he has swallowed the Fox News Kool-Aid without a single second thought.  He has become very successful and shared his success, offering partnerships to both my other brother and my father.  But all three are victims of a mindset that galls me.  I don't understand it.  But I think that it is one of our liberal biases that suggests that all such victims must be stupid because they cannot see what we feel ought to be so easy to see.  
There are some beliefs, I think, that are not the result of thought and intellect but of emotion, and even the brightest can fall prey to them.  Blame instead the hypocritical purveyors of the lies that suck these people into that apparently inescapable vortex, and I am with you.  Argue that my brother is a bad man or a stupid man or a moron or a jackass or whatever, and you're going to have to go through me first.  He is a good man who has become blinded to the truth and ended up with very, very bad politics.  And so, unfortunately for us all, are a lot of other people.
Anyway...moving on...
There were many commenters on my initial diary when I posted it elsewhere.  Taking arguments from many of them (and of course extending them, revising them, playing with them, and adding to them), I fashioned the following response and sent it to Greg.  Frankly I do not expect him to acknowledge it, but I do want to share it with all of you.  And thank you to those whose arguments I used.  You know who you are.
Hi again, Greg.  
You say that "we'll continue to look at the world through different eyes."  And so we will.  But I must take exception to your blanket condemnation of "everything" that I wrote.  Specifically what, for instance?  Surely you have seen this chart:
This chart, updated through April, shows the actual job losses/gains in each month since the start of 2008, George Bush's final year in office.  Even a cursory perusal shows that the economy, bleeding jobs badly when Obama came into office, began to stanch the exit flow of jobs after the Stim was passed and, once Obama's first budget actually kicked in--remember, it was Bush's budget we were operating on through October 2009--things picked up quite rapidly.  "Obama's recession"?  The numbers do not in any way verify that.
As to "run(ning) out of other people's money," why do conservatives never seem to count the extravagant buildup of the military-industrial complex, furnished by tax dollars (all of which resulted in new debt to be paid by future generations), as "other people's money"?  (Sorry: I should have said "neocons"--true conservatives have not been in charge of the GOP in at least a quarter of a century, and would never have allowed the outrageous deficit run-ups authorized by Reagan, Bush and Bush, who have been the only Presidents in the last fifty years to leave office with the country owing more than when they came in.)  Why does this phrase only count when it is talking about things like health care and social services?  (And by the way: did Margaret Thatcher get rid of National Healthcare?  Isn't that paid for by "other people's money"?)
And, um, "every social democracy in Europe in imploding"?  Well, let's see: No, they aren't.  Europe, as it turns out, is full of governments that, one way or the other, could be described as social democracies, whether they are "officially" socialist or not, from England to France to  Italy to, yes, Greece.  And Greece and a couple of other countries that were allowed to join the EU without really having enough of a monetary foundation are suffering and threaten to pull down the whole darned apple cart, but if you look purely at the more established economies in these arguably "socialist" countries, then no, they are not "imploding."  
You know who has been?  The USA.  And our implosion occurred, as already noted, under the watch of a neocon government employing the neocon-approved "trickle-down" economic strategy of deregulating everything, letting the market run the show, allowing the rich to grow richer and richer, and waiting for them to seed the growth of the plebes who wait under their tables for crumbs to drop down.  The thing is: they don't drop down.  The rich, as it turns out, like to keep their money.  Go figure!  And the big corporations--wait for it--care more for their bottom lines than for humanitarian causes.  (I know: shocking, right?)  So the "trickle-down" model is a monumental failure (unless you happen to be among the richest couple of percent in the country, in which case it is manna from heaven).  It is worth noting that even Alan Greenspan has acknowledged that the economic policies he espoused for twenty years were, to a great extent, in error.
Oh, and Greece?  It does have a true Socialist government, yes.  That government was elected in October 2009.  The crisis in that country began in November 2009, just weeks later.  Are you really going to argue that a massive economic collapse can be caused in a couple of weeks?  That would be like saying that Herbert Hoover caused the Wall Street collapse of 1929: completely ludicrous.
By the way: let's look at that graph again.  Who exactly is it who has brought us back from the edge of a second Great Depression?  Would that be Wall Street and the greedy corporate corridors of the private sector?  Have they done something to ease America back from economic collapse toward recovery?  Or did they, when they were bailed out by the very people they had systematically screwed over for years, continue to thumb their noses at the poor and middle classes, resisting all efforts to persuade them to renegotiate junk mortgages or inflated credit card debt that they themselves had used to grow bigger and more powerful by foisting on the American public?  When the insurance companies were told that they would face specific regulations, did they, in good faith, begin moving toward fulfilling their obligations under those regulations?  Or did they begin researching every loophole they could find to get around the new rules while, at the same time, using the law's implementation window to jack up rates, rescind more policies, and generally do unto their clients what they would never have anyone do unto themselves?  And who did the neocons put in charge of regulating these entities?  Oh.  Right.  The entities themselves.  Yes, that worked.  The wolf guarding the henhouse: always a good idea.
And let us look at the sainted (and semi-mythical) Founders:
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal,
When the Founders got the chance to run their own economic affairs, they stumbled. Throughout the Revolutionary War Congress lacked the power to tax the states. (It could make requisitions on them for money--i.e., beg. Robert Morris, superintendent of finance, said this was like "preaching to the dead.") Congress turned instead to fiat money and borrowing. American dollars quickly became worthless. In 1780 Congress called them in and printed new ones, worth 40 old ones; the new dollars inflated in turn. Congress got loans from France, America's ally, and from Dutch bankers who were willing to take a flier on the new nation. But once America stopped making interest payments, the loan market dried up. After the war the states, which had run up debts of their own, tried raising money in a variety of ways, from printing state paper money, to levying desperate and crushing taxes (Massachusetts' land tax provoked an armed taxpayer revolt in 1786-87, Shays's Rebellion). By the end of the decade American securities were trading at one-quarter to one-third of their face value on European money markets. The Founders, for all their personal and political daring, were on the way to founding a banana republic, though, if the U.S. had been the first one, the name would be maple republic.
If it had not been for Alexander Hamilton saving their bacon, this entire hallowed experiment in democracy probably would not have lasted thirty years.  So whose views on economics are you espousing here?
I was wrong about a few things, Greg, as I have acknowledged.  I should have been more careful in my phrasing regarding the 1950's tax rates; the way I wrote it originally could be misinterpreted.  Of course I meant that the top marginal rate was 90%.  And no one really paid that much: there were shelters.  But the richest people did pay 40-50% in taxes.  And that is way more than they pay today.  (Again I note: under Obama's first budget, the national average taxpayer is now paying the lowest percentage of total taxes in sixty years.  It blows my mind that, when this is true for 98% of Americans, so many of them simply don't see it, or they are so blinded by the Glenn Becks of the world that they don't know what to make of it.)  I was also wrong about the TARP numbers, which failed to take into consideration that only about 60% of the TARP allocations were actually paid out. The Boehner reference, as it turned out, was simply false.  Mea culpa.  I had seen it in several places without reading the articles, and I had not realized that the articles in question were snark.  But the essence of that one, if not the specifics of it, is true: in both SCOTUS nominations, as in every other nomination Obama has put forth, the GOP has objected without regard to whether they have any real reason to object. One appointment, filibustered for six months, was eventually approved unanimously.  I misspoke a bit about Jimmy Carter too, but you won't argue with me there because my error goes against rather than for him.  :-)  
I'm perfectly happy to acknowledge these errors because I do deal in facts, by which I mean information that can be confirmed independently, by sources either not politically aligned or (in the case of the WSJ article) aligned on the other side.  If I see things only from MSNBC or Daily Beast or Mother Jones or Huffington Post, and I cannot verify them from some independent source, I discount them.  (That is why I'm embarrassed about the Boehner thing: I should have read the articles instead of merely noting the headlines.)  What about you? If Fox or Drudge reports something, do you wait for it to pop up elsewhere before accepting it as fact?  Do you listen to other people's interpretations of the news to see if the slant that Fox is giving it is "fair and balanced"?  Or do you just assume that they are giving you the unfiltered truth?  And what about Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, etc., whom even Fox acknowledges are commentary rather than news?  How do you consume their ideas?  I'm really curious, mostly because I find it hard to believe that you cannot see through a caricature like Glenn Beck, but hey, maybe you do.  Maybe you see him for exactly the (dangerous) loon that he is, and ignore him completely.  (BTW, purely as an aside: are you aware that FOX is partly owned by a Saudi Prince?  No wonder they are so firmly on the side of oil interests!)
Oh, I forgot: you said "I have the solace of knowing that the vast majority of Americans finally are starting to get it...liberalism (progressivism) simply doesn't work."  Really?  Well, according to the latest Research 2000 poll (one of the most accurate polling companies, according to Nate Silver), Obama's approval rating is now at 55%, much lower than in his honeymoon period but 20% better than Bush's at the end of his term.  Ronald Reagan, BTW, in his fifth quarter as President, had a 46% approval rating.  Interestingly, that came at the start of the 82-83 recession; at its deepest trough, his rating declined to 35%.  A concurrent R2000 poll shows that the "Is the country on the right track?" question is still below 50% (42% to be precise) but that too is trending up slightly for the first time since last summer.  And, BTW, that same question elicited a far smaller number when Bush was still in office.  So where is this "vast majority" that "gets it"?  And what do they get?  
I'll tell you what the right wing doesn't get (and it's a basic history lesson): the first midterm election is almost always "buyer's remorse," as the euphoria wears off and the reality that the new guy can't solve all of the problems overnight sets in.  So, yes, the GOP will likely pick up seats.  The party out of power always does.  But in 2012, as the country begins to recognize what the GOP has allowed itself to become, it will look less and less like a viable and reasonable alternative to anything, and Obama's personal approval (that amazingly high 55% despite all the efforts of FOX to paint him as a Nazi socialist antichrist granny-killer) will easily carry him over whichever of the current crop of pretenders the GOP nominates.  This mood is unfortunate for the Democrats, but it is perfectly normal.
My last thought for now is a very simple one:
As much as I profess myself a liberal (and a proud socialist at that), I will in all likelihood be voting for a conservative this fall, if I have to choose along that divide.  Assuming we vote at all, we all will: almost everywhere, liberals are not running any more than honest to God conservatives are.  By any meaningful definition of "right" and "left," the Democratic Party has moved right of center.  The GOP, as I have noted, has gone so far right that they've fallen off an edge somewhere.  The true conservatives in the GOP have to kowtow to the wingnuts, and the moderates have all become Democrats.  So the question in November for most of us, those without the few real liberals left in Congress in their districts, is basically this: How "conservative" should I vote?  Nelson Rockefeller conservative?  That's where the Democratic Party, on the average, is hanging out right about now.  Richard Nixon conservative?  The Dems may well be heading there, especially if Obama continues his flirtation with Bush's imperial Presidency.  Or, of course, the third option: hate-mongering, cryptofascist, tinfoil hat conservative, which is--sadly--the state of the GOP as it bends over backwards to accommodate the lowest common denominator of its constituents.  I reiterate my argument that this path will only lead to its ultimate destruction.  A party that stands for hatred and little more cannot sustain itself.
Returning your best wishes and love,

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Anonymous said...

sunspark said...

Are you kidding me? This guy actually manages to write off the deplorable conditions of the factories of the Industrial Revolution because, gee, they gave these people jobs? (Wow! He must love the sweat shops in Asia!) And how is it that he somehow manages to ignore *completely* the fact that the first seventy years of growth of this country was achieved on the backs of *slaves*????

I'm sorry: this guy disgusts me. His arguments are specious and his absurd hypothetical postulating a wealth-free society is a strawman: there *is* wealth in our society, and it is concentrated in a very small percentage of the people. And, contrary to this guy's deep faith in his fellow rich men, they have *not* allowed it to spread down to the rest of us.

God, people like this anger me.


it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

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