Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Political Empathy FAIL

Get ready for a rant.

The Tea Party
I set a goal for myself--try to understand the Tea Party from the inside. So I read a lot of blogs covering almost 2 years in this attempt to understand the goals, frustrations, emotions, etc. of the Tea Party. This is what I learned:

Tea Party types think there is nothing redeeming in Democrats, Democrats are crypto-communists who want the state to take over everything [this actually applies to just a few Democrats, mostly Kucinich and Nader supporters], MSM is completely biased [actually only partially biased], conservatives are the only patriots in this country, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And this is what I conclude: they are deluding themselves. They quietly went along with 7 years of the Bush administration, and only started questioning in the 8th year. Then, they don't even look for realistic solutions for problems they identify:
  • Banks are too big and too risky - government regulation is the problem.
  • Healthcare costs too much - repeal Obamacare.
  • Too much government spending - cut government workers, welfare, foreign aid, liberal programs like family planning, NPR, arts, university and student funding, that should be enough.
  • Budget is out of balance - cut taxes to stimulate the economy.
  • Not enough jobs - cut taxes to stimulate the economy.
They don't f*cking look at or care whether their supposed solutions have a hope of working against the identified problem. They are not in the realm of logic or observable fact or pragmatic thinking.

That's how they can blame Obama for the bad economy and deficits, even though this is exactly what Bush left on the plate! If someone believes it's all Obama's fault, it's a waste of time trying to convince them. I don't want to convince them. I just want to expose them.

Likewise, in some ways, with liberals. This will be a shorter rant, because I haven't just done a bunch of research on liberals. The biggest thing that bothers me about liberals is their sense of math. It's not going to hurt to raise taxes a little for this wonderful social program, and then this one, and then this one, etc. Since it's for a good cause, money shouldn't be an impediment.

Excuse me, but I'd like to keep more of my money that you have myriad ways to spend. This is an imperfect country that all the money in the entire world won't fix, so let's set some limits and priorities and always, please, consider the costs.

One last thing, liberals, don't try to guilt me. It doesn't work, at least not on me. Why? Because I don't believe in the perfectability of people or this world. I am at peace with the plain fact of  imperfection. I can choose my struggles, instead of every damn thing being a struggle.

It's kind of zen... and I'm calming down already. Exhale slowly ...  ...  ...

Thank you and goodnight.


A Political Junkie said...

I hate to plug my own work, but I think that this look at which President is largely responsible for the debt that Americans are saddled with is quite illuminating and surprising considering that he is basically granted sainthood by the political right today:

The biggest problem facing both Canada and the United States today is the growing political chasm between the right and the left. Vociferous voters take sides, not based on facts, rather, their viewpoint is quite often based on what their preferred and biased media outlets tell them to think...and, unfortunately, what the media tells us is quite often far from factual.

ModeratePoli said...

@PJ, Please plug your work anytime. It is fantastic!! And I don't say that all the time, as you might have noticed.

To any readers new to PJ's site, DO NOT be scared off by the charts and tables. Everything is clear and wonderfully readable. The charts are just candy for the wonky fans. End gush.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to make a rather obvious point but one that gets lost in the accounting, for lack of a better explanation.

My personal debt increased the most when I moved from a townhouse to a 4BR 2.5 Bath house on a cul-de-sac in the suburbs. I thereby owed far more than my personal worth at time, except that I also "owned" the house, albeit with a mortgage.

Of course, on a real accounting basis, I didn't lose any equity in taking on that debt since I also increased my assets. For the accounting-challenged, assets = liabilities (debts) + equity.

My worse financial position was after I finished school and didn't have a job, plus I had expenses and loans. I suppose I had negative equity then, but I survived. If I didn't build any equity over the long term I would always be poor and could never have bought that house. Each year, however -- and with the help of a working spouse -- my equity has grown and now I'm comfortable if not completely secure. I'm lucky IO guess.

Now to national debt. I don't give a rat's ass which president is most responsible for increasing the debt. It matters, but not nearly as much as which president's policies had the most positive or negative impact on national equity. Reagan dramatically increased national debt and used that money for a huge military build-up, ostensibly increasing our military "assets". Did that investment increase our national wealth, however? There's a debate there, but I think not.

Now, let's talk about Bush II. Did the policies 0employed then increase our national wealth. For a few, yes. For most, no. Overall. No. The wars reduced our assets' values enough to cover nearly all the other gains from productivity and such.

Now for Obama, it's not entirely clear. Because most of the debt accummulated during his tenure flowed from continuation of various tax policies, plus special investments to support the financial sector from the losses of its gambling efforts, there probably hasn't been gain in national wealth these past few years either. Shame on him for that.

continued ...

Anonymous said...

... continued

But to attack liberals for spending money is ridiculous. Conservatives and moderates spend public resources with just as much vigor. The disagreement is mostly on what. For a generation or more, liberals have called for massive cuts in "defense" (really offense) spending and military interventionism, much of it over oil, much of it over nonsense philosophical differences like anti-communism. (What a joke that's going to look like 100 years from now.)

It is true that social programs cost money, but at least we would get something for them and mostly it is just about allocation of basic surpluses such as food (e.g. food stamps). Health care via Medicare and Medicaid is a little different, as is Social Security and other entitlement programs. Yes, they take equity from some parties and either incur an expense that builds no equity for the giver or recipient, but one could argue the same for most insurance programs.

In effect, we have a social contract for big government as big insurance company for social welfare. Not everyone agrees and there can and should be a debate over it. But it's not liberal spendthriftery of conservative discompassion that drives that debate any more than liberal weakness and conservative realism drive the debate over military spending and policy. Politics has decided these issues and for at least 40 years the bias has always been toward policies that sacrifice equity for the many for the benefit of the few AND military spending having supremacy over social programs.

Sure, conservatives have used fear as a political weapon to insure that status quo, and political muscle when they've had it to get their policies enforced. And liberals have used fear to maintain the social safety net for the elderly, but only for them.

So I ask, which set of policies in the modern era has generated more equity, the Left or Right? If you want to include the "Center", that has to also mean the Right because no new Left policies have seen the light of day since Johnson.

But the fact is the path forward is pretty clear. This country has lost so much equity the last decade, and spent so much on now worthless or worth-less assets that without a concerted investment in worthwhile endeavors we are headed in a downward spiral.

ModeratePoli said...

@Anon, You seem to think voters should decide who to vote for based on which party's policies create more equity.

I think that's only one of the questions voters should be asking, not that the answer to that one question is obvious anyhow.

As for the "path forward is pretty clear," I have to say that, no, it isn't. I've heard people on the right or left SAY the solution was obvious, but none have demonstrated it well enough. I can't even predict what you'll say is the path forward.