Republican Politicians Do Not Believe What They Say

Jeb Hensarling - Republican Politicians Do Not Believe What They SayWhen it comes to politics the one thing you can say about me it is that I tell the truth. That’s not to say that I’m always right. But when I say I believe something it is what I believe.

But take, for a counter-example, Jeb Hensarling (Congressional Republican from Texas). He has been talking about how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has hurt consumers more than it has helped them. This is of course factually wrong. And Hensarling knows this. He’s against the CFPB because his business donors are against it. He’s just making up this claim that it is hurting consumers.

But this is entirely typical of Republicans. He hates the CFPB because it protects consumers and hurts those businesses that harm consumers. He wants to help these businesses.

Jeb Hensarling Can’t Say What He Means

But he can’t come right out and say that because no one supports that — not even the elected Republicans who claim to. So he has to pretend that he believes something that he absolutely does not.

With all my problems with politics at least I don’t have to worry about which lie I told. My opinions may change over time but what I tell you at any given time is what I believe.

It must be awful being a Republican. I could not deal with having a to constantly lie about what I actually believed.

What’s amazing is that Republican voters don’t wake up to this. It is plain as day that Republican politicians are not saying what they actually believe.

The Lies of the New Republican Tax Plan

Take the new Republican tax plan. Republicans are going all around talking about how it is this great big wet kiss for the middle class. But they know very well that it is no such thing. They also know that those who are going to get a tax cut are going to see it go away and turn into a tax increase over the next 6 or 7 years.

But they can’t say what they actually believe because it is so extremely unpopular. They can’t say that their actual plan is to give a huge amount of money to people who already have too much money. And they can’t say that they have to do this so those campaign contributions continue to flow from these ridiculously rich people.

Democrats Can Be Themselves — Mostly

So I feel pretty good in terms of my politics. And in general Democrats do. It’s so much easier to just be yourself.

This is why Democrats were wrong to abandon the gun control issue decades ago. Because the truth is that most Democrats are for gun control. And let’s forget this assault rifle business. It is an issue, certainly; but handguns are the real problem. That’s what I’m most concerned about. That’s what most Democrats are concerned about.

But this is really the only issue that Democrats are like this. Republicans are like this on pretty much every issue you can think of. Even look at abortion and you will not see an actual interest in fetuses. Read my article on Bob Jones University and you will see that it is about racism.

And when not about racism, it is about controlling women — especially poor women. Because as we all know a rich woman can just fly to France and get her abortion there.

But this is a fairly minor sin compared to the outrageous lies told by Republican politicians.

Will Republican Voters Every Wake Up?

Most Republican voters are socially conservatives from economically very liberal. Yet they continue to vote for these lying Republican politicians like Jeb Hensarling who do little about abortion, nothing about same-sex marriage, but a whole lot that they hate about economics.

Will they ever wake up? It doesn’t seem like it. It’s gotten so that even Jeb Hensarling is going to retire. Because Repubblican voters will apparently vote for a politician who promises to burn children alive as long as they also promise to “get the darkies!”

It’s Time to Stop With the Bigly

It's Time to Stop With the BiglyIt’s the evening of 15 November 2017. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States over a year ago. It is time for us liberals to stop using the word “bigly” as an ironic critique of the man. We’ve had our fun. But the word has now reached a point were it hardly refers to Trump and acts in a silly and idiosyncratic way as “in the day” does (for me anyway).

Yes, of course, “bigly” is a word. So are “um” and “uh” and “irregardless.” Just because something is a word doesn’t mean sensible people should use it.

“Big” is an adjective. It modifies a noun. And understandably so. Things have sizes. But if we take “bigly” to be an adverb, it would generally modify a verb. And how often do we talk about the size of an action? Not often. “Tianna Bartoletta jumped bigly at the 2016 Olympics”?! No one says that. It’s not even really correct because “bigly” is not really modifying her act of jumping but the result of it.

Now I’m sure that people can come up with sentences in which “bigly” works just fine. But there’s a reason that it sticks out when Donald Trump uses the word. It’s unnatural. It doesn’t sound right.

Did Trump Say “Bigly” or “Big League”? Both

There are two ways you can look at Trump’s use of the word. He could be a lover of language who enjoys playing with it. I am such a person, and I’ve written a number of songs that play with language in this way. But regardless (or irregardless) of what you think of the President, we all know that he isn’t a language lover who lies in bed at night reading modern poetry.

The truth is that when he said it in the first presidential debate, I’m pretty sure he said “big league.” That’s what it sounds like to me. It’s also a tired colloquialism, which pretty much sums up Trump and, really, pretty much all politicians in the US. To speak well and originally is “elitist” and therefore bad for anyone who wants to win the contest of being “most enjoyable drinking partner.”

I Hate —ly

But if President Trump did say “bigly,” (and at other times it sounds like he is saying “bigly”) he didn’t mean to create an adverb; he meant to intensify “big.” In Nineteen Eighty-Four, it would have been “double plus big.” In most places I find myself, it would be “f—ing big.”

And really: why not? I hate the use of of —ly to create an adverb. It is almost always obvious from the context if a word is an adjective or adverb. Is there anything wrong with, “He ran quick up the hill”? If I had the the power, I would make all —lys optional. Unfortunately, I live in a world where I would have put up hordes of very opinionated people whose grammar knowledge stopped after Mrs Benson’s 5th grade English class.

Let’s Rid Our Speech of “Bigly”

Love Trump or hate him, you must know that he is not an intellectual. So making fun of his using the word “bigly” is only fun for a limited period of time. And that time is over. Using it today is like using “Well excuuuuse me!” in 1990 or “Now isn’t that special?” in 2000.

Trump has already done enough damage to our society. Let’s not add to it an odd new grammar construct that completely lacks charm.

So it’s 15 November 2017 and “bigly” is done. Anyone who doesn’t agree with me can kiss my grits.

The Carnagie Hero Award: Reclaiming the Word “Hero”

The Carnagie Hero AwardWilliam sent me some information about The Carnagie Hero Award. He sent it because he knows how much I hate the way we tend to turn everyone into heroes. I’m sick to death of hearing that everyone in the military and every police officer on the beat is a hero. The award literature puts it beautifully, “We need to stop throwing hollow praise on people doing the job they are paid to do: cops, firefighters, and military.”

That’s the thing. Most people don’t know just how well police officers and firefighters are paid. These are, after all, people who need no education or much in the way of special training. A friend of my family failed as a police officer because he couldn’t do the paper work. Basically, he was functionally illiterate. And the biggest part of an officer’s job is doing paper work. So the hardest part of an officer’s job is doing what pretty much everyone with a corporate job does. Except police offers retire early with a nice pension. Corporate workers usually get fired in their 50s because hiring someone fresh out of college is cheaper. And there is no pension. Go into a McDonald’s sometime and spot the ex-corporate workers. They’re the old people sprinkling salt on your fries.

I would never be a firefighter, because fire is my greatest fear. But the vast majority of firefighters’ time is spent doing nothing. They do a lot of stuff like showing up when someone has a heart attack. There’s already an ambulance and a couple of police cars, but they also need a firetruck — apparently because the firefighters don’t have anything else to do. Looking at stories from firefighters, it seems they have to deal with about one real fire per week. But it depends. Firefighters in cities see more action than firefighters in rural areas. Regardless, the job can be dangerous, but mostly it isn’t.

And then we have the military. They aren’t paid particularly well. But they serve for 20 years and then retire quite comfortably. I think a lot more people would go into the military if they knew what work was like in the private sector. We may have a culture that worships youth, but in business, it is even worse. You aren’t seen as more valuable as you get older — as you should. You are seen as too expensive.

Some Professions Are Dangerous

Regardless, all the people who go into these professions — police, firefighting, military — know what they are doing. And they are compensated well given that none of these jobs take anything as demanding as a college degree to qualify. Yet our society insists upon calling these people “heroes.” I am so sick of hearing police officers saying, “When I leave for work in the morning, I don’t know if I’m coming home that night.” Yeah, paper cuts can be really dangerous! Really: this is something that anyone could say. And truck drivers (who are more likely to die on the job than police officers) never say this. No one makes a note of what heroes Walmart truck drivers are.

During the recent Tubbs Fire where I live, everywhere I went, I saw signs saying things like, “Thank you firefighters!” You know, there were a lot of people who fought that fire that didn’t get any recognition: California prison inmates. “The first inmate crews to the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County and Atlas Fire in Napa and Solano counties worked for 72 straight hours.” They get paid $1 per hour when they are actively fighting a fire. They got little recognition. As far as I know, none of them were called heroes. And rightly so. They did sign up for the job.

Reclaiming the Word “Hero”

But The Carnagie Hero Award would like to take back the word “hero” and use it correctly. If I know there is an old woman in the house across the street and I rescue her from her burning house, I’m a hero. But if I do the same for my infant son in my house, I’m not; I’m just a normal father. But most of all, if I’m a firefighter and I save one from a burning house, I’m not a hero; I’m just doing my job.

As it is, the word “hero” has no meaning in our society. It’s just something we throw around for any police officer, even if they have a desk job. Or for an Army Sargent wo works in the motor pool. There are heroes in the real world. But it doesn’t matter as long as we apply the word “hero” to anyone with certain job titles.

Update

I just realized that I published this on Veterans Day. This was not intentional. But given that I think most US wars are simply to protect our empire, I’m not that keen on the holiday. But I meant no offense.

Why Are People Talking About IQ So Much?

Why Are People Talking About IQ So Much?Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of articles about IQ — from liberal websites. For example, Vox has published a number, most recently, So You’ve Learned You’ve Got A “Pitifully” Low IQ. How Worried Should You Be? And I always hear the same thing: IQ measures something real, but it doesn’t mean anything on an individual basis. So: smart people will rise to the top, but we shouldn’t assume that a brown-skinned person, say, is dumb because it doesn’t work that way.

Liberals Embracing The Bell Curve

The problem is that this is exactly the argument that Murray and Herrnstein were making in The Bell Curve. The book wasn’t saying that blacks are stupid. It was just saying that blacks tend to be stupider and that this is why they are much more likely to be poor. Thus, the income inequality that we have is not random but based on IQ. Thus, we shouldn’t have Affirmative Action, because black people are poor because they just aren’t as smart as white people.

It bothers me that so many “liberal” people are so comfortable with this argument. Because here’s the thing: it’s bunk. We don’t have economic inequality because our system is so good at rewarding the productive people. For one thing, the number one reason people are rich is because they inherited their money. As I discussed two years ago, Donald Trump Is Rich Because He Was Born Rich. He actually has far less money today than he would have had if he had simply put his inheritance in an indexed mutual fund. That means that I’m better at business than America’s most famous rich guy.

But it’s more than just that. I haven’t inherited any money from anyone. But I did inherit a relatively (middle-class) social circle. I also got lots of other things like parents who greatly valued education. All of the things I inherited date back thousands of years. African Americans inherit little that is older than 150 years. This is critically important.

IQ Is Not Inherent

Let’s get back to the whole IQ debate, however. When I was in college, I read a psychology paper that looked at children who were adopted by affluent families. Now if IQ was just this thing that we were born with, those kids should have had average IQs. But they didn’t. Their IQs were well over one standard deviation above the average. That’s because IQ is greatly affected by life experience. Being around people who care about ideas helps. Going to museums and similar mind-broadening places helps. But the theory that IQ is a great indicator of success just makes it less likely that poor children will get the experiences that will help them develop high IQs.

I got some push-back some time ago when I noted that being smart was its own reward and that if anything, I deserved to have less money than those who are not similarly blessed. But I still think that. Or more accurately, I don’t think that being smart is something that society should reward me for. Nothing that went into giving me a high IQ was my doing. My IQ is no more a moral function of me than my diminutive body size.

Don’t Be Tricked, Liberals

Liberals need to be careful. And rich liberals need to be especially careful. It’s very easy for conservatives to wrap their vile ideas in a patina of science. And before you know it, liberals are saying that income inequality is no big deal. It is. It’s a very big deal. Of course, I don’t really think of myself as a liberal for this very reason. I don’t think humans should need to prove their productivity to have a decent life.

All humans deserve that.

Paul Krugman on Trump Terror

Paul Krugman - CarrierRight now, I’m feeling more terrified than at any point since the 2016 election. Why? It’s time for some game theory! Start with a clear-eyed assessment of Trump’s character: he basically has negative empathy — that is, enjoys seeing others hurt. Normally, however, one would expect him to pretend to care and maybe even do some good things out of ambition and self-aggrandizement.

At this point, however, it’s clear to everyone — probably even him — that he just can’t do this president thing, and won’t get better. The prospect that he will be removed, say by the 25th Amendment, are getting realer by the day. And again, he probably knows this at some level. So we’re getting into the end game. He can’t save his presidency. He can, however, still hurt a lot of people — and he surely wants to.

So from now on, until he’s gone, I’m going to fire up my computer every morning in a state of existential dread.

–Paul Krugman
13 October 2017 Tweet Storm

Hillary Clinton and the Conservative Book Club

Hillary ClintonMatt Yglesias wrote a great article and Matt Bruenig followed up on it. The bottom line of it is that Donald Trump became president because Hillary Clinton was unpopular. There are some striking facts to chew on, like that Donald Trump won a smaller proportion of whites than Mitt Romney.

Long History of Clinton Hate

I know this from my personal experience. My father voted for Donald Trump. This is despite the fact that he was not going to vote for Donald Trump after reading David Cay Johnston book on Trump. But in the end he voted for Trump because he hate Hillary Clinton.

I’m not saying that his hatred of Hillary Clinton was right. The truth of the matter is that conservatives via the conservative book club and right-wing hate radio and Fox News have turned Hillary Clinton into some kind of evil figure.

If you have any questions about this I highly recommend that you read David Brock’s book Blinded By the Right. It explains all of this. But the truth is that a great section of America simply didn’t trust Hillary Clinton. And it had nothing to do with her or what she had done. But that’s politics, right? It isn’t fair.

The Smart Democrats

Sad to say, the Democratic Party should have known not to run Hillary Clinton. But Hillary Clinton was extremely liked by most of the people in the party. I am an extremist. In a parliamentary system, I would definitely not be a Democrat. And yet I like Hillary Clinton very much. There is no question in my mind that she would have made a great president.

But she was the nominee because those in power in the Democratic party wanted her to be. They were her friends. If they had been objective they never would have allowed her to be the candidate. But they weren’t rational. They liked her just as most Democrats like myself like her.

Lost Opportunity

And this is yet another lost opportunity for the Democratic party. As I have noted many times, in 2008 the Democrats were in the perfect position to nominate a real liberal, but instead we nominated a moderate. In 2016, we could have nominated a socialist (a real one — not Bernie Sanders) but again, we nominated a moderate. The big problem this time is that we didn’t even win.

As Matt Bruenig noted, “If you had replaced [Clinton] with almost anyone else, they would have beaten Donald Trump. Bernie would have won. O’Malley would have won. And Barack Obama would have dominated in an absolute landslide.” This is, of course, assuming that the Democratic Party establishment hadn’t sabotaged any other campaign. But as we saw with the Labour Party in the UK, the establishment only has so much power.

Conservative Book Club and the 1990s

One thing is clear: Donald Trump won the election in the 1990s. He won via the sustained attack on Clinton as a new and dangerous kind of woman — a feminazi — a woman who didn’t think her place was staying at home baking cookies. And in addition to the things Clinton actually was, there were all the ridiculous stories made up about her like the murder of Vince Foster.

But ultimately, it is our fault — Democrats. It’s not that I didn’t know there was this weird belief that there was something wrong with Clinton. In the minds of many Americans, she represents everything that was scary about the 1960s. Donald Trump might be a racist sexual predator, but that’s something Americans are all very familiar with.

Should we have known? All I can say is that the thought occurred to me several times. But the polling and Trump’s vileness made me push it to the background. I shouldn’t have.

Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders? Really?!

Hillary ClintonI’ve really been trying to avoid this whole battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Well, I say battle. It’s actually just Clinton’s battle. Sanders isn’t taking part of it. But hey: she lost. I understand how that must be hard and how she would want to write an apologia. What I don’t understand is why she thinks it makes any sense to attack Sanders. But given what I’ve heard from Clinton supporters, I’m not surprised by it.

This morning, Clinton was on The View and she said something that made me angry. She said that after she lost the primary in 2008, she endorsed Obama and worked hard for him. “But I didn’t get that respect from [Sanders] and his supporters.”

Well, the fact that she had to work so hard to get her supporters to vote for Obama shows that Obama didn’t get that respect from her supporters either. But here’s the thing: I was paying close attention to the 2016 primary. And after Sanders lost, I remember him giving Clinton a lot of support. And in the end, as many Sanders supporters voted for Clinton as Clinton supporters voted for Obama.

Hillary Clinton Is Confused

Bernie SandersI think that Clinton is confused. You see: Clinton and her supporters wanted Sanders to drop out of the race is February. It was back in April of 2016 that the Clinton camp was so upset that Sanders wasn’t supporting her. Was Clinton supporting Obama in April of 2008? Of course not!

Now, it’s true that the Obama-Clinton race was much closer than the Clinton-Sanders race. I called the race in February 2016. But I don’t blame Sanders for not seeing it the same way. My position was largely based on the fact that the Democratic establishment was determined to have Clinton as their nominee, and nothing other than a clear win by Sanders would change that.

Sanders Was a Good Surrogate

Once Sanders lost the primary, he was quite a good surrogate for her. And I find it petty that Hillary Clinton is now going around complaining that Sanders wasn’t a good enough surrogate for her. What incentive do future primary losers have to play ball when they get such treatment.

But it looks like this treatment happened long before now. As Slate reported, “Bernie Sanders surrogates who extended an olive branch to Hillary Clinton’s staff after the primary and were met with, at best, closed ears and, at worst, mockery.”

My biggest concern about Bernie Sanders winning the primary was always that the Democratic Party establishment would be more interested in tanking his campaign than in winning the election. You can look at George McGovern in this country or Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. In the petty world of politics, the only things worse than your stated enemy are the people in your own party who don’t quite agree with you. Let’s call it the People’s Front of Judea theory of politics: the Republicans may be awful, but not as awful as people who disagree with you about how to provide universal healthcare.

The “Bernie Isn’t a Democrat” Canard

In addition to Bernie Sanders supposedly not supporting Hillary Clinton during the general election, I was treated to one of my most hated complaints: Bernie Sanders isn’t even a Democrat. Look: I wish Sanders would just join the Democratic Party. I’m not keen on this purity nonsense. The truth is that he is a Democrat in every way that matters.

I’m a Democrat. And I’m actually a lot further from the party ideologically than Sanders is. Sanders is a Democrat in the FDR sense of the word. I’m not. But in the US, we have a two party system. Neither Sanders nor I are Republicans; so we are Democrats.

But this idea that Sanders — who is hugely popular among Democrats — isn’t a real Democratic and so shouldn’t be taken seriously is just nonsense.

Are We a Party or Not?

I voted proudly for Bernie Sanders in the primary. And I voted proudly for Hillary Clinton in the general election. But Clinton is really disappointing me with her book tour. The truth is that the future of the Democratic Party is with Sanders, not Clinton. But she’s smart. And she should see that that part of the reason she lost the election was that everyone could see that she was working too hard to thread the needle.

One reason I was proud to vote for Hillary Clinton was that I knew she was real liberal. She was the person in the Bill Clinton White House who was constantly causing problems. If she had run as that authentic liberal, she might be president now. Regardless, that was a bigger problem than that Bernie Sanders didn’t support her enough in the general election.

Hillary Clinton Is Harming Her Image

Complaining about Bernie Sanders just makes her look small. And for those Democrats who can’t see that Democratic voters like Sanders and can’t see why, they’re lost. They need to spend some time thinking about that. Because the problem is not with the majority of Democratic voters who like Sanders. It is with you.

DACA and the Republican Destruction of Norms

DACA and the Republican Destruction of NormsWhen DACA was first put into effect, my immediate thought was what would happen if the Republicans went and shut the whole thing down. Now it has happened. And all these kids have given all of the information to the government. Will the information be given to ICE so that they can all be picked up easily?

The word is that it isn’t. But I don’t believe that. Sure, the government hasn’t given ICE all the information yet. But just give it time. Let a terrorist attack happen that was committed by an unauthorized immigrant and see how quickly that all changes.

DACA Is Just Another Norm Set for Destruction

When DACA was first passed, there was an unstated assumption. This kind of thing in government is not supposed to be partisan. Things aren’t supposed to change that much from administration to administration — even when parties change. This is somewhat similar to the way that nations are responsible for the spending of previous despots.

But now what I originally feared is coming to fruition. The only question is how bad it will be. And now quickly it will happen.

The State of DACA Repeal

President Donald TrumpThe whole DACA situation has been very annoying to me. It all started last week with a discussion with my father. He assured me that Donald Trump would not repeal DACA. For all of my father’s negative political beliefs, he is very pro-immigrant, given that he is the son of immigrants.

When Trump did do DACA repeal, my father went ballistic. But then a good 10 minutes of Fox News viewing and he saw things entirely from Trump’s stated position. It was all about process. Trump didn’t want to hurt close to a million young people. He just wanted it done by Congress. Thus, the Congress would have to pass a law. And of course they will. That didn’t mean much coming from the man who said of course Trump wouldn’t repeal DACA.

DACA Has to Go Because of “Process”

This is the typical excuse that all politicians and those who favor their policies use when they do something that is both cruel and unpopular. Supposedly, Trump didn’t want to screw over these kids. But he had to, you see, because Obama use the wrong procedure.

But suppose that if Trump really did think that DACA needed to be on a more stable political grounding. He could have let it continue to make its way through the counts. But he didn’t do that, because he doesn’t care about process. He knows his political support is based on white resentment. He killed DACA because it hurt Latinos and his base hates Latinos. So he talks about process so that ABC News doesn’t report on him as the monster he is. And his supporters know that he is the monster he is.

Republicans Don’t Care About Norms

Given that Republicans will do anything they want without thought of precedence or anything else. And given that they can always find a justification for it that will be accepted by the mainstream media, what are we to do? Should Obama have simply let the Dreamers languish in their uncertain legal status?

What is clear is that the Republicans cannot be trusted about anything. If they can do something they will. They have no commitment to normal political order. And this is why the Republicans must be destroyed as a political concern. As much as I dislike much of the democratic party, at least it is a normal political party. The Republicans are a pox on our nation. And we cannot continue on as a stable nation if the Republicans continue to wield any kind of power.

North Korea and Just How Generous the US Is

North Korea and Just How Generous the US IsThis weekend I was at a family gathering. And I overheard two older people — great-grandparents — discussing foreign aid. One of them noted that it was one thing they agreed with Trump about.

As nicely as I could, I pointed out that our total expenditure on foreign aid was about 1% of our federal budget. I could see that the information was resisted. They just didn’t want to believe it. They just “know” that we spend an enormous amount of money on foreign aid.

It’s odd. But I think it goes along with the idea that Americans have — especially Americans of that generation — that we are an extremely generous people. Is doubtless comes from the Marshall Plan. Of course, given how little Word War II touched us, it was the least we could do. But we did do a lot. It’s just that we don’t anymore.

We Spend a Lot on Our Military

We are, in fact, a fairly miserly country. If you compare the amount of foreign aid that we give out to what other countries give out, we look very bad. Where we spend a lot of money is on our military.

We have bases all over the world. This undoubtedly is what a lot of people think of as foreign aid. But it isn’t that at all. It is the outward manifestation of American Empire. We have those military bases to protect our interests, not to protect the interest of those people who often don’t want our bases anyway.

Aid and Nuclear War for North Korea

But shortly after the family get-together, I learned why the subject even came up. Trump is complaining that we give money to North Korea. “The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” It is a tiny amount of money. Over the course of 15 years, it has averaged $85 million per year. But as we know, the amounts don’t much matter.

The truth of the matter is almost all of the people in North Korea are effectively prisoners. The aid we give North Korea is for food for these people. Anything we could do to help those poor people would be a good thing. It is certainly something that anyone who calls themselves Christian should do.

Instead, I see a lot of conservatives thinking we should just nuke North Korea. They tend to forget that this would cause a nuclear war with China. But apart from that, who would be hurt by our attacking North Korea? All of these innocent people. We would kill them in the most horrible way imaginable.

How Generous Is the US?

But what about the aid? Just how generous is the US?

Let’s look at how much money we give to other countries and how much money other countries give out. It isn’t pretty. If you look at the total amount that we give as a percentage of our total economy, we give roughly 0.16 percent. The United Nations says that advanced economies should give at least 0.7 percent. Many counties do give around this amount — and more. Sweden — the top country in this regard — give 1.4 percent. But even the tenth most generous country — Switzerland — gives 0.52 percent. We give less than a quarter of what we ought to.

Americans live in a fantasy land where we are noble and generous. But this has no real relationship with reality. And this is why people like my old relatives think that we give so much money in foreign aid. But it is time to give up childish beliefs. Maybe if we accepted the fact that we aren’t generous, we would become generous. But we never will be if we just assume we are.

Libertarianism and Labor Day

Libertarians and Labor DayWhat most annoys me about Libertarians — and free market purist of all varieties — is that they see the only potential liberty killing force as being the government. Or if they don’t believe that they believe that it is only the government that we should be fighting against.

This seems to come from the idea that they can’t stop businesses from doing what they want because that would limit the individual liberty of the business owner. And they are unwilling to make any judgments to maximize liberty. Even if a law would greatly increase the liberty of workers and only decrease the liberty of employers by a tiny amount, it can’t be done. This is largely because libertarians don’t see in terms of trade-offs, and they don’t even know they are making a trade-off.

The result of this is that their philosophy comes down to support for oligarchy. Since they start with business owners’ rights as undeniable, workers always get screwed. And this is why for example Libertarians almost to a person are in favor of Right to Work laws, even though they are clearly liberty killing on the part of the workers and employers. Libertarians just don’t like workers. It is simple as that.

What Limits Your Liberty?

If you vote for a libertarian what you end up getting is a politician who is against all of the good things that the government does. But they are all for continuing the gravy train for the rich.

But think about your life. Do you find it is the government that destroys your liberty? Unless you have spent a lot of time in jail, the answer is almost certainly no. The single biggest thing that gets in the way of your liberty is your boss.

Libertarianism might not be so bad if we still had a rural economy where almost everyone was a self-employed farmer. But today almost no one has any choice but to get a job working for someone else. And depending upon their boss, they are living in tyranny.

I stress the fact that workers had no choice because Libertarians always throw this idea up. To them everyone has endless choices. This may come from the fact that most libertarians are themselves from affluent or at least upwardly-mobile families themselves. But the truth is that people have at most an alternative not a choice. And most people don’t even have an alternative.

Libertarianism Just Helps the Rich

So libertarianism is a useless philosophy. All it stands for is bashing the government and allowing in the rich to do whatever they want. And I will fully admit that governments are often a huge problem. But in the United States it is not. The government is a problem mostly to the extent that it acts as a protector of the rich. Thus it isn’t surprising that the rich tend to be libertarians. In the United States it’s quite a deal. You have a government that supports the powerful and here is this supposedly scruffy political philosophy that wants to destroy the government.

This goes back to something I noticed many years ago and is probably the biggest reason why I stopped being a libertarian. If you vote for a libertarian what you end up getting is a politician who is against all of the good things that the government does like helping the poor, providing healthcare, providing for retirement, and so on. But they are all for continuing the gravy train for the rich.

Now it is true that if you talk to libertarians, they will usually tell you how they don’t believe in all this crony capitalism. But there are two important issues here. One is that in practice this is the way libertarians always act when elected. And the other is if you look at the libertarians themselves and how their default position is pro-business and anti-worker, you will see that it’s no accident that in practice libertarian philosophy always comes down to the worst form of conservatism.

Libertarianism Is Anti-Worker

What workers need to know is that libertarianism is not their friend. Even if it says some nice things about workers and rights it is dead set against them. It believes that if you aren’t a business owner you are just a taker and you should be glad that some great Job Creator is there to give you a job.

When you get down to it, libertarianism is the worst political theory that gets any kind of a fair hearing in our society. It is quite amazing that libertarianism hasn’t been soiled the same way that communism and fascism have been. But I believe this is only because a major country has not explicitly called itself libertarian. The truth is that Pinochet’s Chile was a libertarian system of government. Of course libertarians will never admit this.

Libertarians Will Not Accept Its Practical Results

Libertarianism only exists as a platonic ideal in the minds of its adherents. When it exists in practice it simply reduces to the worst kind of conservatism: absolute law of the jungle capitalism for the poor and crony capitalism for the rich. But this is never the fault of libertarianism. This is because libertarianism is a cult. It can never fail; it can only ever be failed.

Thus I get incredibly tired of even talking to libertarians because they aren’t willing to talk about the real world. They are stuck in their minds. But even on that level they are no friend of the workers. Remember that. If you work for a living, libertarians hate you.

Happy Labor Day!

Afterword

On this Labor Day, you should really read Elizabeth Anderson excellent article How Bosses Are (Literally) Like Dictators. I read it right after writing this article, and I was pleased that she said much of what I had. But she goes into a lot more depth overall. What’s more, she talks about how all the great free market (libertarian) writers were talking about a totally different economic environment, and how the Industrial Revolution made what they were talking about irrelevant. I highly recommend reading it. I’m going to get her book, Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It).

Conservatives Now and in 1865

Conservatives Now and in 1865Jonathan Chait wrote a very good article yesterday, Republicans Confuse the Electoral College With “the American People.” For me, it highlights the fact that conservatives never change. In it, he talks about an article in The Federalist by Josiah Peterson, No, Jesse Jackson, the Electoral College Isn’t Racist. Forget for now the fact that Jackson never said that the electoral college was racist. Let’s just look at Peterson as a fine example of a conservative thinker.

In the article he claims that the Three-Fifths Clause of the US Constitution was intended to give Southern States less power. I’ve heard this argument from conservatives many times in the past. But it turns reality upside down.

The truth is that slave owners treated slaves as property. They weren’t some kind of special property that had rights. They were literally seen the same way that an ox or a cart were seen. So the idea of giving southern states political representation for slaves is the same as giving them political representation for the number of horses they had. These states wanted slaves to be property when it suited them and not property when it suited them.

The slave states insisted upon the Three-Fifths Clause in order to allow the Constitution to be ratified. But there was never any justification for it other than conservatives whining and wanting special rules for themselves.

Special Rules for Conservatives After the Civil War

You may remember that towards the end of the Civil War, when it was clear they had lost the war, the South wanted to give up. But they wanted to be able to keep their slaves. In other words, they wanted the right to wage a civil war so that they could have their own country free to treat human beings as slaves. And then when they failed at that, they wanted things to go back to exactly the way that they were — to pretend that they hadn’t started a war. (Note: they pretty much got that anyway with the help of President Andrew Johnson and other like-minded racists.)

This is entirely typical of conservatives today. They want special rules. It’s interesting to look at the electoral college system. Because conservatives used to be against it. But now that they have won two presidential elections where they lost the popular vote, they think that it is absolutely essential that we keep it.

Conservatives Want It All

I’ve often noted that conservatives only care about power. This is why they destroy norms any time things do not go the way they want them to. If they are legally allowed to do something, they will do it. (Note that this is the way that corporations deal with taxes. If the tax code allows them to write off $500 for something, they will always write off $500 for it. An individual will generally write off quite a bit less. That’s because individuals have some sense of shame — at least the non-psychotic ones do.)

This belief in power only really comes down to this idea that there are special rules for them. They have no sense of community. Think of Margaret Thatcher and her idea that society didn’t actually exist. All that matters is them and their desires. And if the society has to be destroyed because of that, so be it.

We saw this when conservatives owned people, and we see it today. And if there were suddenly a repeal of the 13th Amendment, conservatives would have no problem owning people today.