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uncle ebeneezer
03-31-2011, 03:18 PM
This is something that really gets my goat. When people (usually Republicans/Libertarians) claim that an income that is significantly higher than what most Americans make (http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/struggles-of-top-5.html) is somehow not "rich." And to add to the ridiculous-ness, then claim that public workers who make far less, are "fat cats."

I've heard this same line many, many times, even from liberals who complain that their quarter million dollar salaries are barely enough to meet expenses. I heard one complaining a few years back that one simply can't afford to live in LA on less that 300k a year (and even then you'd have to live somewhere horrible, darling, like Encino.) I hear this and I want to give them a brisk slap. They simply must not even see the hundreds of people they cross paths with every day of their lives.

Amen to this. I have a very liberal friend who now makes pretty good money is complaining about how hard it is to get by in LA now that he crossed the $250K tax bracket. After all he has 2 car payments (Both Mercedes!!) and a house in Redondo Beach. Cry me a river. I have another friend who has a very nice home in the Valley with his own tennis court (must have been a million $ property even when he bought it in 1994) who constantly laments how taxes are so out-of-control on the wealthy!! (despite him paying prop-13, 1973 property rates and his business probably paying the minimum $800 franchise tax.)

What irritates me most about these types of complaints are that A.) they are completely oblivious to reality (you CAN get by in Los Angeles on FAR less than $300K...I do, Semi-comfortably, renting in a pretty decent neighborhood.) and B.) they illustrate a total hypocrisy towards fiscal responsibility and what constitutes "luxury." I've heard these people scream and holler about poor people living "beyond their means", even using such silly examples as poor people owning cell-phones or a big-screen tv. Ok, well then, what is the difference between that and causing yourself to be financially strapped because you just HAVE to OWN your own home, and have two cars etc.

I've tried telling my friend that if he makes $250K he is in fact "rich." Choosing to buy a home in very nice neighborhood, owning two luxury cars etc., to the point that he has very little left after payments, does not mean he is any less rich. If Bill Gates makes a billion $ and buys a house that is $999,980,000 and left with only $20K, is he no longer rich? Now, I know what my friend's response would be. "Well my job is in Los Angeles so I can't move to South Carolina etc. and buy a cheap house, and I want to raise kids so I can't live in a crappy neighborhood, and in LA you need to have a car etc., etc." It's funny how poor people always seem to be blamed for not choosing their (limited) options wisely, but the rich are totally hamstrung by their unfortunate situations.

Speaking of which. A second question arises. There is NOTHING more expensive than raising children. Yet people like Rep. Duffy CHOOSE to have 6 of them. If he is truly struggling financially, how is his situation any different than the mythical welfare moms driving Cadillacs?

badhatharry
03-31-2011, 03:34 PM
This is something that really gets my goat. When people (usually Republicans/Libertarians) claim that an income that is significantly higher than what most Americans make (http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/struggles-of-top-5.html) is somehow not "rich." And to add to the ridiculous-ness, then claim that public workers who make far less, are "fat cats."


Yeah, hating the rich is pretty natural which is why redistributing wealth schemes have such appeal.

chiwhisoxx
03-31-2011, 03:42 PM
This is something that really gets my goat. When people (usually Republicans/Libertarians) claim that an income that is significantly higher than what most Americans make (http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/struggles-of-top-5.html) is somehow not "rich." And to add to the ridiculous-ness, then claim that public workers who make far less, are "fat cats."



Amen to this. I have a very liberal friend who now makes pretty good money is complaining about how hard it is to get by in LA now that he crossed the $250K tax bracket. After all he has 2 car payments (Both Mercedes!!) and a house in Redondo Beach. Cry me a river. I have another friend who has a very nice home in the Valley with his own tennis court (must have been a million $ property even when he bought it in 1994) who constantly laments how taxes are so out-of-control on the wealthy!! (despite him paying prop-13, 1973 property rates and his business probably paying the minimum $800 franchise tax.)

What irritates me most about these types of complaints are that A.) they are completely oblivious to reality (you CAN get by in Los Angeles on FAR less than $300K...I do, Semi-comfortably, renting in a pretty decent neighborhood.) and B.) they illustrate a total hypocrisy towards fiscal responsibility and what constitutes "luxury." I've heard these people scream and holler about poor people living "beyond their means", even using such silly examples as poor people owning cell-phones or a big-screen tv. Ok, well then, what is the difference between that and causing yourself to be financially strapped because you just HAVE to OWN your own home, and have two cars etc.

I've tried telling my friend that if he makes $250K he is in fact "rich." Choosing to buy a home in very nice neighborhood, owning two luxury cars etc., to the point that he has very little left after payments, does not mean he is any less rich. If Bill Gates makes a billion $ and buys a house that is $999,980,000 and left with only $20K, is he no longer rich? Now, I know what my friend's response would be. "Well my job is in Los Angeles so I can't move to South Carolina etc. and buy a cheap house, and I want to raise kids so I can't live in a crappy neighborhood, and in LA you need to have a car etc., etc." It's funny how poor people always seem to be blamed for not choosing their (limited) options wisely, but the rich are totally hamstrung by their unfortunate situations.

Speaking of which. A second question arises. There is NOTHING more expensive than raising children. Yet people like Rep. Duffy CHOOSE to have 6 of them. If he is truly struggling financially, how is his situation any different than the mythical welfare moms driving Cadillacs?

There are a lot of problems here....

The fact that people say that making X amount of dollars doesn't make one rich isn't refuted by the possibility that X amount of dollars is more than the average American income. There are different definitions here. "Rich" is obviously a nebulous term, but I think one criterion is that people who are rich generally don't have to really worry about their money. There are a lot of people you'd consider "rich" who have serious financial constraints.

Just to give an example, here's a situation I am...intimately familiar with. There's a family with a husband, wife, and five kids. The mom is a homemaker, and the dad earns...let's say 400k a year. The precise amount isn't important, but that puts him easily in the top tax bracket. College is REALLY expensive these days, if you haven't noticed. And let's say the oldest kid is in college, and the three next younger kids are triplets (!) and they're only 2 years younger than the oldest. So, for a 2 year stretch, this dad is paying for 4 kids in college at the same time. That's a tremendous burden. Not to mention, he has a younger son (the fifth kid) who's going to be in college at some point too. He pays very expensive property taxes, because he wanted his kids to go to really good schools. They can't move yet, because the youngest is still in the public school system, not to mention all the friends and familiarity with the neighborhood. So the dad is freaking out over money, because he's not sure what he pulls in is enough to pay for all this. Retirement? Hah! He doesn't have anything socked away for it, because there are much more pressing concerns at the moment.

So you'd consider this guy "rich". Maybe he is rich! But that doesn't really matter. He has real, serious financial constraints. The obvious caveats apply: not everyone has five kids. Most don't. But not everyone in the top bracket makes 400k! So this cuts both ways. And they could have other important financial obligations other than kids. My point is that not everyone making a few hundred thousand a year are rich people living in Los Angeles with two Mercedes.

And I think you have a pernicious attitude towards kids revealed in that last paragraph. Raising children is expensive, this is true. But it's also something that extends beyond personal financial concern, and towards personal self-fulfillment. Not to mention, kids in well adjusted families are a great investment in the future of society. This is something we should be encouraging, not calling them names for doing.

Back to the example of the guy making 400k. Is he blessed and lucky and well off compared to 99% of the world? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean his concerns are illegitimate. That doesn't mean he shouldn't want his taxes lower, considering the incredibly heavy burden he bears. This is just an anecdote, and anecdotes don't make for good policy. But I just wanted to share an example I'm quite familiar with that shows you another side of people in that income range.

stephanie
03-31-2011, 03:42 PM
Good post.

I think I'd probably defend the resistence to the term "rich", though, if only because it implies to me a certain security that I think a lot of professionals and middle-management types making good 6 figure incomes still lack. The sense that a lost job could cause everything to come crashing down, can't make payments, etc. But I certainly agree about the inconsistency between ranting about highly-paid teachers and how it's impossible to make ends meet at only $300K, especially with taxes!

There're all kinds of weird (and interesting) psychological issues when it comes to attitudes toward money and what money signifies to people, though.

uncle ebeneezer
03-31-2011, 04:19 PM
I think the most important thing to remember is that for all the people who have healthy 6-digit incomes, there are a whole bunch of people who deal with all the same burdens (cost of living, raising children, schooling, healthcare etc.) who do so on a fiscal hand that is 10x less to start with. The issue is not so much debating who is rich but remembering what "poor" really means.

My question is more meta. My friend (who makes $250K+) used to live a far more modest life. There was a time when a 6-digit income seemed staggeringly large and he had no problem explaining how he could easily live comfortably on such an amount. Yet now he claims it's hardly enough to scrape by. So I just wonder how this always seems to happen with people. I don't buy the fact that it is all the evil progressive taxation. So it's just curious that I see this change in attitude so often when people jump from one of the lower income quintiles to the highest. I'm sure there is some resistance to wanting to see themselves as "rich" because it's a loaded term (admittedly more so for liberals) but that can't be all of it either.

If a person makes 25K and suddenly makes $250K with all other things staying the same, the only expense that MUST change is their tax burden. (though the original 25K is obviously still paid at the same rate). Any other increase in their expenses, are based on conscious choices they make to incurr higher expenses. (Have more kids, buy nicer car, buy house etc.)

My guess is that people do roughly follow economic theory and spend the same percentage of what they have regardless of how much they have, thus people with $400K find themselves living pay-check-to-paycheck too. But then would it not simply be the case that nobody is really rich because everybody spends just enough to not feel comfortable?

graz
03-31-2011, 04:19 PM
[...]

Good points. And I'm sorry again, for previously making that joke about your trust fund. You better take care of your mom and pop in their later years, sonny.;)

chiwhisoxx
03-31-2011, 04:23 PM
Good points. And I'm sorry again, for previously making that joke about your trust fund. You better take care of your mom and pop in their later years, sonny.;)

Nah it's alright. Most of the time you'd be right! Like I said, these sort of anecdotes don't make good policy, since they aren't necessarily the majority, or even close to it. But I think it explains why individuals can be anxious about tax burden.

uncle ebeneezer
03-31-2011, 04:27 PM
Chi- I'm pretty familiar with that scenario as well. My folks were statistacally upper-middle class, but it never felt that way for many of the same reasons.

And I don't argue with the net + and emotional benefits of raising kids. But I do think that like any other thing it can be overdone. Many people choose to have more kids than they can afford, or choose to send them to colleges that they can't afford, and in both of those cases they are still gambles that may put the person into a difficult financial situation, and not completely unlike the poor person buying a car that may help them be a better contributor to the economy by expanding their employment otions and efficiency, or may saddle them with over-whelming debt.

And let me say, I have friends who are rich (AND have children) and they are great people. But sometimes it seems like they do NOT realize how fortunate they are.

Don Zeko
03-31-2011, 04:29 PM
There are a lot of problems here....

The fact that people say that making X amount of dollars doesn't make one rich isn't refuted by the possibility that X amount of dollars is more than the average American income. There are different definitions here. "Rich" is obviously a nebulous term, but I think one criterion is that people who are rich generally don't have to really worry about their money. There are a lot of people you'd consider "rich" who have serious financial constraints.

Just to give an example, here's a situation I am...intimately familiar with. There's a family with a husband, wife, and five kids. The mom is a homemaker, and the dad earns...let's say 400k a year. The precise amount isn't important, but that puts him easily in the top tax bracket. College is REALLY expensive these days, if you haven't noticed. And let's say the oldest kid is in college, and the three next younger kids are triplets (!) and they're only 2 years younger than the oldest. So, for a 2 year stretch, this dad is paying for 4 kids in college at the same time. That's a tremendous burden. Not to mention, he has a younger son (the fifth kid) who's going to be in college at some point too. He pays very expensive property taxes, because he wanted his kids to go to really good schools. They can't move yet, because the youngest is still in the public school system, not to mention all the friends and familiarity with the neighborhood. So the dad is freaking out over money, because he's not sure what he pulls in is enough to pay for all this. Retirement? Hah! He doesn't have anything socked away for it, because there are much more pressing concerns at the moment.

So you'd consider this guy "rich". Maybe he is rich! But that doesn't really matter. He has real, serious financial constraints. The obvious caveats apply: not everyone has five kids. Most don't. But not everyone in the top bracket makes 400k! So this cuts both ways. And they could have other important financial obligations other than kids. My point is that not everyone making a few hundred thousand a year are rich people living in Los Angeles with two Mercedes.

Sure, but that doesn't mean that self-pity or histrionics about their financial situations are any less obnoxious. The story you tell is a perfect example of it. What about the far larger group of people that makes $100,000, $75,000, or even $50,000* while still aspiring to send their children to college? Buying a big house in a wealthy suburban school district, paying tuition to a private college or university, and having one parent not work in order to raise the kids aren't luxuries, per se, but they aren't non-negotiable requirements of a good life either. Would it really be so horrible for someone in this position to see his after-tax income decrease $5,000, which is about how much we are discussing when talk about taking the top bracket back to pre-Bush levels?

The argument isn't that money has no meaning to someone making $400 K. It's that, while they still face financial constraints, they are far wealthier than the average American. So when we have a discrepancy between what we as a society want the government to do and how much we want to pay for it, and when people making $400 K or more are receiving almost all of the increases in wealth as the economy grows, I have no problem whatsoever with asking them to pay slightly higher taxes. And like Uncle Eb, I find it downright insulting when people making that kind of money complain about overpaid public employes who could never dream of enjoying the kind of wealth and privilege that are associated with a $400,000 salary.

*I don't even have to bring up people that are living in actual poverty to prove how silly this line of reasoning is.

stephanie
03-31-2011, 04:33 PM
The issue is not so much debating who is rich but remembering what "poor" really means.

Agreed.

My question is more meta. My friend (who makes $250K+) used to live a far more modest life. There was a time when a 6-digit income seemed staggeringly large and he had no problem explaining how he could easily live comfortably on such an amount. Yet now he claims it's hardly enough to scrape by. So I just wonder how this always seems to happen with people.

I think it's comparison. You tend to think you need what those around you have and expect. And the way our society is structured, I think a lot of people are quite familiar with what other people in their income bracket have and make, but not so much with those who make lots less, although than knowing in theory that they exist.

Also, there are those psychological elements I mentioned. I see this in how people measure self-worth too often by income. They see those they consider peers making more than them, and think that they are being devalued if they don't make the same amount (or have the same stuff, for themselves or their families). This plays into what one needs when one makes more. You have to have an address comparable to your peers, clothes, cars, expensive activities for your children, so on.

(And you get this effect at some employers too -- how much they pay people at certain levels, never the lowest ones, of course, determines the companies with which they are compared and their value in the minds of potential clients/employees. I am most familiar with this in law firms, but I see it lots of other businesses too.)

A lot of the people in question do know they are privileged, however, even if they resist the term rich. They just don't necessarily connect that with their personal evaluations of what they need and so on.

stephanie
03-31-2011, 04:39 PM
Sure, but that doesn't mean that self-pity or histrionics about their financial situations are any less obnoxious.

For what it's worth, there's a lot of variation in this, though. I work with lots of people who are either upper-middle-class professionals or (in many cases) richer, and plenty of them are liberal. During the '08 election, around the time Dems were feeling pretty discouraged, I remember a prevailing sentiment among many being "why am I getting so upset about this, I suppose if Joe the Plumber wants to worry about my taxes, that's his business."

chiwhisoxx
03-31-2011, 04:53 PM
Sure, but that doesn't mean that self-pity or histrionics about their financial situations are any less obnoxious. The story you tell is a perfect example of it. What about the far larger group of people that makes $100,000, $75,000, or even $50,000* while still aspiring to send their children to college? Buying a big house in a wealthy suburban school district, paying tuition to a private college or university, and having one parent not work in order to raise the kids aren't luxuries, per se, but they aren't non-negotiable requirements of a good life either. Would it really be so horrible for someone in this position to see his after-tax income decrease $5,000, which is about how much we are discussing when talk about taking the top bracket back to pre-Bush levels?

The argument isn't that money has no meaning to someone making $400 K. It's that, while they still face financial constraints, they are far wealthier than the average American. So when we have a discrepancy between what we as a society want the government to do and how much we want to pay for it, and when people making $400 K or more are receiving almost all of the increases in wealth as the economy grows, I have no problem whatsoever with asking them to pay slightly higher taxes. And like Uncle Eb, I find it downright insulting when people making that kind of money complain about overpaid public employes who could never dream of enjoying the kind of wealth and privilege that are associated with a $400,000 salary.

*I don't even have to bring up people that are living in actual poverty to prove how silly this line of reasoning is.

You seemed to miss the parts of my post where I said "anecdotes don't necessarily make good public policy" and "people in this situation are incredibly lucky and blessed". I was trying to explain why some of these people feel the way they do. And I made it very obvious this isn't the majority of people, even in this tax bracket, for a lot of reasons. It's disappointing that you seemed to rush through my post just to make an ideological point that isn't even at odds with that I wrote. And if it wasn't obvious, it's not just a random scenario, it's my scenario.

stephanie
03-31-2011, 04:57 PM
I should have included this in the last post, but oh well, I'll do the serial thing again.

Like I said, I noticed a lot more serious worry about taxes being raised among those who weren't actually the ones to have their taxes raised, if the Bush cuts had expired, as we expected. Now, partly this is my irrelevant anecdotal perceptions (and the fact that I live in a liberal area and work with a lot of people in other liberal areas) -- the rich do tend to vote more for the Republicans still. However, it's also true that there's been a shift where certain segments of the white working class vote Republican (and so their economic attitudes are interesting), whereas the upper middle class professional has been trending Dem. In addition, there's a split in the importance of salary to voting patterns -- in richer states (which often are the more liberal ones), it has a much weaker effect than it used to, whereas in poorer states, it still has a huge effect.

I was also thinking about this recently during a discussion with a friend about the WI union fight. His view was that Walker's action and rhetoric resonated with those who had been suffering declining middle class incomes, lost pensions and other benefits, so on. I think this is largely correct, at least for some, but as a rational argument for someone's view on it, it makes no sense. The pissed off private industry middle class guy is not harmed by public employers having good salaries -- quite the contrary, really, as they are presumably in the same job market, so the existence of well-paying public jobs would be an upward pressure on private jobs. (For example, if I got a public sector job offer that paid more than my current job, I could go to my employer and ask for a raise based on that. In my field, the notion that public sector jobs pay more is false, however.)

On the other hand, this same people seem, for the most part, not to be directing anger at the people who really are benefitting under the current economic conditions. In fact, they seem to get upset when the idea of taxing them more or the like comes up. It's interesting, and depending on how much and why it's true, it suggests a buy-in to Republican ideology.

I think the truth is more complicated, though. First, I think it goes back to the comparison thing -- you see what your neighbor the public employee makes. The same person doesn't live nextdoor to a Goldman Sachs executive, probably.

Second, I think the focus on class/economic issues as explaining liberal vs. conservative splits is overstated, and people like our own rcocean are probably more representative than either the Dems or Republicans acknowledge. (I may be thinking this because I recently had the song Shuttin Detroit Down come up on my iPod when shuffling, granted -- the John Anderson version, for the record -- but in more seriousness I do think there's more underlying rightwing populism than is sometimes given credit.)

Starwatcher162536
03-31-2011, 05:06 PM
You know alot of those expensive private colleges actually rank lower academically then a good much cheaper state school. I'm, at least not intentionally, being facetious. I've noticed alot of those that have been well-to-do either their whole life or a good fraction of it tend to develop a blind spot when it comes to the relationship between cost and quality. I knew this guy during a summer internship who mentioned how high his tuition was at the private college he attended, right after I asked him why he, or his parents in this case, choose that particular institution when the state school I was at was both cheaper and higher ranked for our particular major. He just kind of looked at me funny with this vacant expression. It was like he couldn't compute cheap state schools could be higher ranked then his expensive private college.

As an aside, in your...hypothetical...you're responsible for your kids tuition? Is this the norm in your...um...uhhh...hypotheticals culture? Most the people I knew payed for their own school, got scholarships, or took out loans. That the parent would be responsible for tuition when the kid's already 18 strikes me as a little weird and coddling (no offense).

chiwhisoxx
03-31-2011, 05:23 PM
You know alot of those expensive private colleges actually rank lower academically then a good much cheaper state school. I'm, at least not intentionally, being facetious. I've noticed alot of those that have been well-to-do either their whole life or a good fraction of it tend to develop a blind spot when it comes to the relationship between cost and quality. I knew this guy during a summer internship who mentioned how high his tuition was at the private college he attended, right after I asked him why he, or his parents in this case, choose that particular institution when the state school I was at was both cheaper and higher ranked for our particular major. He just kind of looked at me funny with this vacant expression. It was like he couldn't compute cheap state schools could be higher ranked then his expensive private college.

As an aside, in your...hypothetical...you're responsible for your kids tuition? Is this the norm in your...um...uhhh...hypotheticals culture? Most the people I knew payed for their own school, got scholarships, or took out loans. That the parent would be responsible for tuition when the kid's already 18 strikes me as a little weird and coddling (no offense).

Well, offense taken, despite you perhaps not intending any. For a whole host of reasons, this post is pretty stupid, pardon my bluntness. There's a lot of presumption in pretending to know the details of my situation; you don't. I never said anything about what college I go to, or the ones my siblings do. Not going to give you details, because I frankly I don't see why I should, but I'll say some of us go to private schools and some go to state schools. The fact that *some* state schools *can* be better than *some* private school is so abstract and vague it fails to have any real impact on my situation. You don't know the specifics of the state or private schools that were available to me. And not everyone can get into every school; some state schools are quite difficult to get into, and the other state schools after the "big one" aren't nearly as good academically.

Anyway, how are you ascertaining "bang for your buck" from a college experience? There are a million factors that go beyond the salary of your job right after college that determine that makes a college a good fit for a person. How about someone who wants to be in smaller classes, or live in a certain area? There's a lot more to college than just pure numbers. You really ought to know that. This whole idea seems to be based on the fact that your friend is stupid and didn't think very hard about his college choice. Good for him, it doesn't apply to me.

The last paragraph is about insulting as you can get, so thanks for that. Good for your fucking friends for paying for their college. Throw a small parade for them. The typical situation of the people you know isn't something of particular interest to me. I don't know what you mean by "my culture" but I don't think it's especially rare or unreasonable for parents who can pay for their kids college to do so. I know the idea of taking out loans so they can be mired in ridiculous debt up to their necks upon graduating is really appealing, but some people, for whatever odd reason, don't find that scenario attractive. Frankly, the fact that you seem totally oblivious to parents paying for college (I don't have numbers, but it's pretty clearly some portion of college kids) seems to indicate you have zero cultural awareness or are intentionally being a condescending prick. I don't find it coddling at all, I find it pretty normal. So save your judgmental bullshit for someone else, please.

Don Zeko
03-31-2011, 05:27 PM
You seemed to miss the parts of my post where I said "anecdotes don't necessarily make good public policy" and "people in this situation are incredibly lucky and blessed". I was trying to explain why some of these people feel the way they do. And I made it very obvious this isn't the majority of people, even in this tax bracket, for a lot of reasons. It's disappointing that you seemed to rush through my post just to make an ideological point that isn't even at odds with that I wrote. And if it wasn't obvious, it's not just a random scenario, it's my scenario.

To start off, let me apologize making my points in an offensive way. Since we tend to think about these things in personal terms, it's easy to take the other person's points personally and get angrier than is warranted. I think that's certainly part of what was going on in my previous post. So let me say a bit about where I'm coming from first. For comparison, my parents both work, my father full-time and my mother part-time, for a combined family income of about $80,000 while I and my twin brother were in college. We both went to a public high school, as does my little brother, who is in high school right now. My brother attended NC State and I went to Davidson College, where I was lucky that they have a generous need-based financial aid program. To make this add up, we cut back on things, my brother and I both worked through college, and I graduated with debt. As I see it, I was very lucky in a lot of ways, particularly compared to my extended family, where almost all of them are far less financially stable than my parents.

So when I read your account of your circumstances, I saw several things discussed as necessities that my family did without: a single wage-earner, parents completely covering tuition, private colleges, etc. etc.. So yes, a set of triplets is a very unusual financial burden,* and there's a huge difference between your situation and, say, a hedge fund manager. But I continue to think that this outlook writes the lifestyle of the actual poor out of the discussion entirely, preferring to focus on financial difficulties that are very real, but are still trivial in comparison to that of, say, my aunt, who is uninsured and has Type 1 diabetes.

*on a side note, two out of three of a set of triplets were in my class at college, while the other went to Princeton. I don't know you IRL, do I?

chiwhisoxx
03-31-2011, 05:59 PM
To start off, let me apologize making my points in an offensive way. Since we tend to think about these things in personal terms, it's easy to take the other person's points personally and get angrier than is warranted. I think that's certainly part of what was going on in my previous post. So let me say a bit about where I'm coming from first. For comparison, my parents both work, my father full-time and my mother part-time, for a combined family income of about $80,000 while I and my twin brother were in college. We both went to a public high school, as does my little brother, who is in high school right now. My brother attended NC State and I went to Davidson College, where I was lucky that they have a generous need-based financial aid program. To make this add up, we cut back on things, my brother and I both worked through college, and I graduated with debt. As I see it, I was very lucky in a lot of ways, particularly compared to my extended family, where almost all of them are far less financially stable than my parents.

So when I read your account of your circumstances, I saw several things discussed as necessities that my family did without: a single wage-earner, parents completely covering tuition, private colleges, etc. etc.. So yes, a set of triplets is a very unusual financial burden,* and there's a huge difference between your situation and, say, a hedge fund manager. But I continue to think that this outlook writes the lifestyle of the actual poor out of the discussion entirely, preferring to focus on financial difficulties that are very real, but are still trivial in comparison to that of, say, my aunt, who is uninsured and has Type 1 diabetes.

*on a side note, two out of three of a set of triplets were in my class at college, while the other went to Princeton. I don't know you IRL, do I?

Ok, well I'm glad you clarified. It's useful to know where people are coming from. And no, I don't believe we know each other in real life, unless one of my siblings is secretly attending Princeton without my knowledge :)

AemJeff
03-31-2011, 06:11 PM
There are a lot of problems here....

The fact that people say that making X amount of dollars doesn't make one rich isn't refuted by the possibility that X amount of dollars is more than the average American income. There are different definitions here. "Rich" is obviously a nebulous term, but I think one criterion is that people who are rich generally don't have to really worry about their money. There are a lot of people you'd consider "rich" who have serious financial constraints.

Just to give an example, here's a situation I am...intimately familiar with. There's a family with a husband, wife, and five kids. The mom is a homemaker, and the dad earns...let's say 400k a year. The precise amount isn't important, but that puts him easily in the top tax bracket. College is REALLY expensive these days, if you haven't noticed. And let's say the oldest kid is in college, and the three next younger kids are triplets (!) and they're only 2 years younger than the oldest. So, for a 2 year stretch, this dad is paying for 4 kids in college at the same time. That's a tremendous burden. Not to mention, he has a younger son (the fifth kid) who's going to be in college at some point too. He pays very expensive property taxes, because he wanted his kids to go to really good schools. They can't move yet, because the youngest is still in the public school system, not to mention all the friends and familiarity with the neighborhood. So the dad is freaking out over money, because he's not sure what he pulls in is enough to pay for all this. Retirement? Hah! He doesn't have anything socked away for it, because there are much more pressing concerns at the moment.

So you'd consider this guy "rich". Maybe he is rich! But that doesn't really matter. He has real, serious financial constraints. The obvious caveats apply: not everyone has five kids. Most don't. But not everyone in the top bracket makes 400k! So this cuts both ways. And they could have other important financial obligations other than kids. My point is that not everyone making a few hundred thousand a year are rich people living in Los Angeles with two Mercedes.

And I think you have a pernicious attitude towards kids revealed in that last paragraph. Raising children is expensive, this is true. But it's also something that extends beyond personal financial concern, and towards personal self-fulfillment. Not to mention, kids in well adjusted families are a great investment in the future of society. This is something we should be encouraging, not calling them names for doing.

Back to the example of the guy making 400k. Is he blessed and lucky and well off compared to 99% of the world? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean his concerns are illegitimate. That doesn't mean he shouldn't want his taxes lower, considering the incredibly heavy burden he bears. This is just an anecdote, and anecdotes don't make for good policy. But I just wanted to share an example I'm quite familiar with that shows you another side of people in that income range.

That tells us that "the rich" have concerns just as everyone else does (which is true.) It's not an illustration that the distinction doesn't exit.

stephanie
03-31-2011, 06:54 PM
That tells us that "the rich" have concerns just as everyone else does (which is true.) It's not an illustration that the distinction doesn't exit.

Yes. I guess I'm confused about what the anecdote is supposed to illustrate, although it is interesting to see where people are coming from, I suppose.

(I wouldn't use the term "the rich," as I said, but I think that's a quibble about what "rich" means, not an argument against Uncle Eb's original point.)

chiwhisoxx
03-31-2011, 07:18 PM
Yes. I guess I'm confused about what the anecdote is supposed to illustrate, although it is interesting to see where people are coming from, I suppose.

(I wouldn't use the term "the rich," as I said, but I think that's a quibble about what "rich" means, not an argument against Uncle Eb's original point.)

The point was pretty clear, I thought. If we're going to use the term "rich" to describe people who earn six figures, then the term doesn't really mean that much. The demagoguery of rich people tends to ignore that people often considered "rich" often have real concerns, and aren't just buying luxury cars and sipping cocktails poolside. That obviously doesn't mean they aren't quite lucky, and that poor people aren't much worse off with much more pressing concerns. My instinct was against posting it anyway, and the condescending "that was pointless!" responses affirms my original instinct.

AemJeff
03-31-2011, 07:29 PM
... My instinct was against posting it anyway, and the condescending "that was pointless!" responses affirms my original instinct.

What would the point of posting have been, had your expectation been that people would simply agree? (And I don't read most of what's been posted here in response to you as "that was pointless." More like, "sure, but that's not the point.")

stephanie
03-31-2011, 07:35 PM
The point was pretty clear, I thought. If we're going to use the term "rich" to describe people who earn six figures, then the term doesn't really mean that much.

Well, no, it means plenty still. It just means something different than you (or I, as it happens) mean by the term. (I wouldn't have much problem using it for someone who makes high 6-figures, absent other circumstances, probably, though.)

For some, it's a relative term that means, apparently, significantly more money than the average and general comfort. Given that the alternatives suggested seem to be upper middle class or even, ridiculously, IMO, middle class, I think there's something to be said for this position.

For others -- the point I made initially and which I guess you are making -- "rich" implies something more, some kind of absence of worry about money (is this your position?) or lack of still living essentially paycheck to paycheck such that one is dependent on a job which is not actually secure.

But as I said, this is quibbling about whether the term should be "rich" or "comfortable" or "upper middle class" or "well-off" or whatever one prefers. I don't see how it's actually an argument against Uncle Eb's point. Or at least I certainly didn't read his point as limited to what we ought to mean by the term "rich."

The demagoguery of rich people tends to ignore that people often considered "rich" often have real concerns, and aren't just buying luxury cars and sipping cocktails poolside.

(1) What is the "demagoguery of rich people"?

(2) Obviously, everyone has real concerns. I didn't see anyone suggesting others. But the financial concerns that people have differ quite a lot depending on income and other financial resources. You didn't present an argument against this and I'd be surprised if you intended to.

Starwatcher162536
03-31-2011, 08:09 PM
Dude, if someone taking in 400k a year is living check to check, it doesn't matter if taxes are low/high are they are instead taking in 350/450k, they will still be living check to check and stressed out by bills.

This whole thing about soaking the rich for revenue is that there is no or little qualitative change in their lives relative to increasing or lowering the taxes on those not rich. I'll define rich to be those under 200ish, but I have low standards I guess.

Starwatcher162536
03-31-2011, 08:25 PM
Well, offense taken, despite you perhaps not intending any. For a whole host of reasons, this post is pretty stupid, pardon my bluntness. There's a lot of presumption in pretending to know the details of my situation; you don't. I never said anything about what college I go to, or the ones my siblings do. Not going to give you details, because I frankly I don't see why I should, but I'll say some of us go to private schools and some go to state schools. The fact that *some* state schools *can* be better than *some* private school is so abstract and vague it fails to have any real impact on my situation. You don't know the specifics of the state or private schools that were available to me. And not everyone can get into every school; some state schools are quite difficult to get into, and the other state schools after the "big one" aren't nearly as good academically.

Anyway, how are you ascertaining "bang for your buck" from a college experience? There are a million factors that go beyond the salary of your job right after college that determine that makes a college a good fit for a person. How about someone who wants to be in smaller classes, or live in a certain area? There's a lot more to college than just pure numbers. You really ought to know that. This whole idea seems to be based on the fact that your friend is stupid and didn't think very hard about his college choice. Good for him, it doesn't apply to me.

The last paragraph is about insulting as you can get, so thanks for that. Good for your fucking friends for paying for their college. Throw a small parade for them. The typical situation of the people you know isn't something of particular interest to me. I don't know what you mean by "my culture" but I don't think it's especially rare or unreasonable for parents who can pay for their kids college to do so. I know the idea of taking out loans so they can be mired in ridiculous debt up to their necks upon graduating is really appealing, but some people, for whatever odd reason, don't find that scenario attractive. Frankly, the fact that you seem totally oblivious to parents paying for college (I don't have numbers, but it's pretty clearly some portion of college kids) seems to indicate you have zero cultural awareness or are intentionally being a condescending prick. I don't find it coddling at all, I find it pretty normal. So save your judgmental bullshit for someone else, please.

You see, this is why I usually don't bother saying things like "no offense". I'm going to say what I am going to say and you are either going to be offended or not.

-If your going to be pissy about presumptions at least try not to make presumptions about what I am taking as presumptions.

-I'm sure my friend gave a good deal of thought to where he went. Blindspots in this context is usually thought of as unexamined assumptions that do not give way to introspection. Hence; Blindspots

-I'm pretty comfortable with the assumption that it's fairly rare, think .1, that the parents pay a majority of college costs.

-People tend to act like those they live by. People also tend to segregate themselves by economic strata. Hence different economic strata will have different cultures to an extent. Didn't think this was so shocking.

-I spent a fair amount of time as a child in the third world. I'm not a big fan of those not as blessed as others from whining about those who had even more advantages. Odds are, even if you grew up abit poor like myself, your still way better off then the majority of the people on this Earth. It is coddling, and I don't particularly care who is and isn't coddled. Doesn't really change my life one way or the other. I just happen to think coddling is destructive to those being coddled. I doubt many 18 yr old kids who have never been self sufficient are in a place where they can make optimal choices in such things like which school or major is the right fit for them. People tend only to be as mature as they need to be. Yes, I know, I'm just an altruistic bastard.

uncle ebeneezer
03-31-2011, 08:37 PM
Thinking about this more, I bet that a big factor is the incremental nature of most upward mobility. Most people don't catapult from poverty to the highest tax-bracket overnight. Most people start to make a little more and buy a slightly nicer apartment, make a little more, buy a house, etc. until they find themselves with their own tennis court but not much difference in their monthly finances. I can see how they would almost forget what it was like to live as modestly as they did only 10 years ago.

operative
03-31-2011, 09:03 PM
You see, this is why I usually don't bother saying things like "no offense". I'm going to say what I am going to say and you are either going to be offended or not.

-If your going to be pissy about presumptions at least try not to make presumptions about what I am taking as presumptions.

-I'm sure my friend gave a good deal of thought to where he went. Blindspots in this context is usually thought of as unexamined assumptions that do not give way to introspection. Hence; Blindspots

-I'm pretty comfortable with the assumption that it's fairly rare, think .1, that the parents pay a majority of college costs.

-People tend to act like those they live by. People also tend to segregate themselves by economic strata. Hence different economic strata will have different cultures to an extent. Didn't think this was so shocking.

-I spent a fair amount of time as a child in the third world. I'm not a big fan of those not as blessed as others from whining about those who had even more advantages. Odds are, even if you grew up abit poor like myself, your still way better off then the majority of the people on this Earth. It is coddling, and I don't particularly care who is and isn't coddled. Doesn't really change my life one way or the other. I just happen to think coddling is destructive to those being coddled. I doubt many 18 yr old kids who have never been self sufficient are in a place where they can make optimal choices in such things like which school or major is the right fit for them. People tend only to be as mature as they need to be. Yes, I know, I'm just an altruistic bastard.

Hmmm...Not being all that long removed from my undergrad education, I'd say that it varies to a notable degree by the type of institution. A lot of the kids who end up at MIT, CMU, CIT etc. have their educations paid for by their parents--maybe half, maybe more. At (good) state schools, it's probably closer to 30%. Sucky state schools don't matter.

On one hand I'd like to think that having a stake in the matter (that is, having to pay for some or all of the tuition) increases student performance, but I'm not so sure. I didn't achieve close to a 4.0 as an undergrad because I was footing the bill (which I was), I did it because I wanted to succeed and because I happened to choose fields that I loved. Having a generous stipend in graduate doesn't make one less ambitious than one who is footing a significant bill to get their professional degree.

I don't think that's actually one of the matters of dispute here, I just felt like chiming in on something.

operative
03-31-2011, 09:05 PM
Dude, if someone taking in 400k a year is living check to check, it doesn't matter if taxes are low/high are they are instead taking in 350/450k, they will still be living check to check and stressed out by bills.

This whole thing about soaking the rich for revenue is that there is no or little qualitative change in their lives relative to increasing or lowering the taxes on those not rich. I'll define rich to be those under 200ish, but I have low standards I guess.

It's better just to have low taxes for everyone than to worry about who to soak ;)

graz
03-31-2011, 09:10 PM
I don't think that's actually one of the matters of dispute here, I just felt like chiming in on something.

Also, Michelle Rhee is a fraud! Suck on that edumacational theory.

uncle ebeneezer
03-31-2011, 09:53 PM
And even better to have more equal wealth distribution and less reason for complaining from the winners.

operative
03-31-2011, 10:38 PM
And even better to have more equal wealth distribution

Why?

eeeeeeeli
04-01-2011, 12:23 AM
You know alot of those expensive private colleges actually rank lower academically then a good much cheaper state school. I'm, at least not intentionally, being facetious. I've noticed alot of those that have been well-to-do either their whole life or a good fraction of it tend to develop a blind spot when it comes to the relationship between cost and quality.
This is a bit astray - but I wanted to chime in, as a former community college-dweller (Why? I could have gone to a good school, but I went the anti-authoritarian route, and graduated high school into bumming around Santa Cruz, CA, writing weird poetry, living off food stamps between stints at fast-food joints and living in people's garages - most notably the Mayor's - although I'm not sure he was aware of it).

What was I saying? Ah yes, I took English 101 from an amazing professor, and was able to engage in class discussions of Plato that included a Laotian refugee who wrote a paper about sneaking through the jungle at night and avoiding gunfire. I also had a few horrible teachers. But classes were literally $50 a pop and... well, it was generally what I made of it. My most memorable class was Anthropology of Sexuality (this was in SF), where we had nightly discussions of the politics of homosexuality in America, getting beaten in small towns, and how you could be 40 and just discover you are gay.

So, yeah. College "ratings" are one thing, but reality is much more nuanced.

Don Zeko
04-01-2011, 01:40 AM
Hmmm...Not being all that long removed from my undergrad education, I'd say that it varies to a notable degree by the type of institution. A lot of the kids who end up at MIT, CMU, CIT etc. have their educations paid for by their parents--maybe half, maybe more. At (good) state schools, it's probably closer to 30%. Sucky state schools don't matter

Which state schools suck? Why don't they matter?

operative
04-01-2011, 02:13 AM
Which state schools suck?

The ones that don't have notable researchers.


Why don't they matter?

Because they suck.

Don Zeko
04-01-2011, 02:17 AM
So whether or not the students that attend those schools are being ripped off or not is unimportant? I really want to tease this out, because it sure sounds like you're making the quite offensive suggestion that the concerns of people who attend below-average schools are ought to be ignored because those schools aren't producing "notable" research.

bjkeefe
04-01-2011, 09:47 AM
Related: "Many Low-Wage Jobs Seen as Failing to Meet Basic Needs (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/business/economy/01jobs.html)."

operative
04-01-2011, 10:09 AM
So whether or not the students that attend those schools are being ripped off or not is unimportant? I really want to tease this out, because it sure sounds like you're making the quite offensive suggestion that the concerns of people who attend below-average schools are ought to be ignored because those schools aren't producing "notable" research.

I don't see where they're being ripped off...

eeeeeeeli
04-01-2011, 12:56 PM
Just read that. As someone supporting a family of 3 - wife stays home, does a little adjunct work and book reviewing - on $50k yr., I hadn't thought of myself in such dire terms. Damn you economic analysis!

I guess it just seems relative. For most of my life I've lived off around $20k a year, so the idea that I can afford to go out to eat once a week, and still keep a savings account seems brilliant. Although I must say my thrifty ways are still with me: thrift store clothing, kids clothes at target and marshals, store-brand groceries, etc.

But as a teacher, I do have excellent health insurance and a pension. So, all in all, I'm a fat cat. :)

stephanie
04-01-2011, 02:25 PM
Upon thinking this over, I can probably be clearer in my response.

people often considered "rich" often have real concerns

I don't think anyone disagreed with this, though. The question is whether the concerns are such that they make the particular burden that one is being asked to bear unfair. Uncle Eb was pointing out some inconsistency in the rhetoric applied.

Your example (making it general) was that college is expensive enough that it can place a financial burden that is tough to meet (for a limited period, at least) even on those who make what would otherwise be assumed to be a lot of money. I definitely agree with that.

But I don't think this is a counter to Uncle Eb's point in the way that you had intended (perhaps I misread you, but you seemed to be saying, based on your introductory statement, that your anecdote was proving him wrong in some way). That's because the high cost of college is not just something faced by the rich or upper middle class. It's a problem for all who want to go to college, just in different ways:

(1) Some will be unable to go to the college of their choice due to financial considerations.

(2) Some will get a good bit of financial aid, making the college affordable, but in my experience this requires first that the parent contribute the amount the college says the parent can afford, which even for a middle class parent is likely to be extremely burdensome or even unaffordable.

(3) Some (generally also including those who fall within (2)) will be able to attend college only because of loans, and thus graduate with a significant loan burden. (This was me, and thus I do have a bit of a reaction when conservatives -- Denville Steve, most recently -- proclaim that this is a bad thing for the gov't to be involved in. So I admit that our backgrounds color how we see these things.)

And these all assume a relatively-privileged student who comes from a background that allows him or her the information in what colleges are out there, what funding is available, so on -- something that I as a middle-class daughter of educated parents had, but which IME a huge number of students who may well have started out with the same potential I had probably lack.

Is this an argument, then, that we ought to have a flat tax or that the Clinton rates were too high? No, because it's not a problem only for richer people. It might well be part of an argument that college prices are crazy high, even for the cheaper colleges (I'm not sure that I totally agree with this given the difference between in-state and private school costs), and that the debt burden faced by students can be quite problematic. So I'd certainly be open to increasing the deduction for tuition or the like. But this is a policy question, not a reason that people who make over $250K per year should consider themselves disadvantaged or picked on, which seems more what Uncle Eb was talking about.

And like I said originally, maybe I'm in a weird subculture, but don't think most people in these categories do feel that way (based on my own anecdotal experience). I hear a lot more of that kind of talk (worry on the behalf of richer folks or about the tax burden generally) from people who make quite a bit less.

uncle ebeneezer
04-01-2011, 03:17 PM
Exactly. My overall point was that increased income tax is the only burden that increases as a person moves up the income-ladder that is unavoidable. All the other problems that the rich complain about are either A.) burdens that are brought about by their own choice (buying property, sending their kids to a "good" school, living in a "nice" neighborhood etc.), and usually these options only become available AS they climb the income/wealth ladder, or B.) burdens that effect the poor just as much as (and more so when you account for the poor person's much more limited resources) as the rich person (raising kids, healthcare, etc.) The bigger point of my post was frustration when I hear people who make 10 times as much as I do spout off a list of how hard it is being rich are because A, B, C & D, where A-C are things that everyone else (myself included) has to deal with and D is something like property tax which I only avoid because I can't afford to buy property. And they have this bizarre fantasy that the government has rigged the game to make it SO HARD on them.

chiwhisoxx
04-01-2011, 03:45 PM
Upon thinking this over, I can probably be clearer in my response.



I don't think anyone disagreed with this, though. The question is whether the concerns are such that they make the particular burden that one is being asked to bear unfair. Uncle Eb was pointing out some inconsistency in the rhetoric applied.

Your example (making it general) was that college is expensive enough that it can place a financial burden that is tough to meet (for a limited period, at least) even on those who make what would otherwise be assumed to be a lot of money. I definitely agree with that.

But I don't think this is a counter to Uncle Eb's point in the way that you had intended (perhaps I misread you, but you seemed to be saying, based on your introductory statement, that your anecdote was proving him wrong in some way). That's because the high cost of college is not just something faced by the rich or upper middle class. It's a problem for all who want to go to college, just in different ways:

(1) Some will be unable to go to the college of their choice due to financial considerations.

(2) Some will get a good bit of financial aid, making the college affordable, but in my experience this requires first that the parent contribute the amount the college says the parent can afford, which even for a middle class parent is likely to be extremely burdensome or even unaffordable.

(3) Some (generally also including those who fall within (2)) will be able to attend college only because of loans, and thus graduate with a significant loan burden. (This was me, and thus I do have a bit of a reaction when conservatives -- Denville Steve, most recently -- proclaim that this is a bad thing for the gov't to be involved in. So I admit that our backgrounds color how we see these things.)

And these all assume a relatively-privileged student who comes from a background that allows him or her the information in what colleges are out there, what funding is available, so on -- something that I as a middle-class daughter of educated parents had, but which IME a huge number of students who may well have started out with the same potential I had probably lack.

Is this an argument, then, that we ought to have a flat tax or that the Clinton rates were too high? No, because it's not a problem only for richer people. It might well be part of an argument that college prices are crazy high, even for the cheaper colleges (I'm not sure that I totally agree with this given the difference between in-state and private school costs), and that the debt burden faced by students can be quite problematic. So I'd certainly be open to increasing the deduction for tuition or the like. But this is a policy question, not a reason that people who make over $250K per year should consider themselves disadvantaged or picked on, which seems more what Uncle Eb was talking about.

And like I said originally, maybe I'm in a weird subculture, but don't think most people in these categories do feel that way (based on my own anecdotal experience). I hear a lot more of that kind of talk (worry on the behalf of richer folks or about the tax burden generally) from people who make quite a bit less.

After reading through this thread, and re-reading my own post, I realize I wasn't clear enough. It did sound like I was trying to "disprove" Uncle Eb's statement. I didn't mean for it to come across that way. The part that annoyed me is that I thought he had a somewhat skewed view of the sort of people living in these income brackets. I was trying to give him an anecdote showing that the rich-ish people he knows in Los Angeles aren't everyone, or even necessarily the norm.

handle
04-01-2011, 03:47 PM
Exactly.And they have this bizarre fantasy that the government has rigged the game to make it SO HARD on them.

My favorite delusion of the rich is that they always credit their good fortune* to nothing but hard work and genius. Contributing factors to be sure, but there is luck involved in every aspect of our lives. Especially when you build your empire on inherited soil, and with passed down cash. What happens when you win the lottery? you pay taxes!

*(fortune = luck.. coincidence?)

operative
04-01-2011, 06:36 PM
My favorite delusion of the rich is that they always credit their good fortune* to nothing but hard work and genius. Contributing factors to be sure, but there is luck involved in every aspect of our lives. Especially when you build your empire on inherited soil, and with passed down cash. What happens when you win the lottery? you pay taxes!

*(fortune = luck.. coincidence?)

Most wealth in America is created, not inherited. And yes, certainly earned. And, http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2011/03/tax-foundation.html

graz
04-01-2011, 07:41 PM
Most wealth in America is created, not inherited. And yes, certainly earned.[/url]

That's what the hedge fund managers are saying too.

handle
04-01-2011, 08:01 PM
That's what the hedge fund managers are saying too.

Yes, and if said managers had been born black and in the south and in the 1700's... some people don't know how to count their blessings.
How can you tout American exceptionalism and not consider yourself lucky to be one?
I guess bankers built this country from the ground up with their bare hands, and Don Trump didn't cash any of his old mans checks, and they all worked at Mcdonalds to pay for college.
How bout you OP? You a 100% self made man?

operative
04-01-2011, 11:05 PM
Yes, and if said managers had been born black and in the south and in the 1700's... some people don't know how to count their blessings.
How can you tout American exceptionalism and not consider yourself lucky to be one?
I guess bankers built this country from the ground up with their bare hands, and Don Trump didn't cash any of his old mans checks, and they all worked at Mcdonalds to pay for college.
How bout you OP? You a 100% self made man?

Well for one I'm hardly what I would call wealthy (no one goes into the academic world to get wealthy, at least no one who is sane). I took out loans to cover my undergrad education. I worked for some of the time, too.

You can always find Paris Hiltons and Donald Trumps. These are not a representative sample of the upper 5%.

eeeeeeeli
04-02-2011, 12:39 AM
Most wealth in America is created, not inherited.
I'd like some proof of that.
And yes, certainly earned.
This rests on a whole mess 'o assumptions. I'll just start with the following:

This would actually be a good point to drill down a bit and even take on handle when he says:
My favorite delusion of the rich is that they always credit their good fortune* to nothing but hard work and genius

To be successful you need various forms of capital. Financial capital does the job pretty well, but you also need to know how to be disciplined (hard work), be born with the capacity for and/or learn a good amount of critical thinking skills, cultural knowledge, an ability to effectively communicate, etc. It also helps to have been raised in a stable home, seen positive role-models, been taught values, had positive peer relationships, and countless other benefits a decent socialization will give you.

All of these things are human and social capital. Without them, you're pretty screwed. Thus, according to to this model, even the rich people who "pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps", in reality did no such thing. As is often the case with these examples, you scratch the surface and you find a very clear chain of causality between levels of human and social capital and success.

Just like with financial capital, the more HC and SC you get, the more you are able to leverage it into more of the same. We design our societies around this principle, organizing them to try and facilitate the leveraging of capital in a variety of forms, whether through hierarchies at work, elections, schools, families, religions.

The problem is that no one ever really can be said to earn their capital. They are either born with it, or have been given enough of it to leverage into more capital, which they then assume magically came unto them via their awesomeness.

This can all get very Marxist, extending into materialism, etc., and I don't have the chops to really take it there. But I think it is a concept that is ripe for 21st century picking.

**Anyone know of someone doing good work in this specific area, please let me know. I'd like to do more research but haven't really seen anyone take the ball and run with it.

operative
04-02-2011, 10:31 AM
I'd like some proof of that.

This rests on a whole mess 'o assumptions. I'll just start with the following:

This would actually be a good point to drill down a bit and even take on handle when he says:


To be successful you need various forms of capital. Financial capital does the job pretty well, but you also need to know how to be disciplined (hard work), be born with the capacity for and/or learn a good amount of critical thinking skills, cultural knowledge, an ability to effectively communicate, etc. It also helps to have been raised in a stable home, seen positive role-models, been taught values, had positive peer relationships, and countless other benefits a decent socialization will give you.

All of these things are human and social capital. Without them, you're pretty screwed. Thus, according to to this model, even the rich people who "pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps", in reality did no such thing. As is often the case with these examples, you scratch the surface and you find a very clear chain of causality between levels of human and social capital and success.

Just like with financial capital, the more HC and SC you get, the more you are able to leverage it into more of the same. We design our societies around this principle, organizing them to try and facilitate the leveraging of capital in a variety of forms, whether through hierarchies at work, elections, schools, families, religions.

The problem is that no one ever really can be said to earn their capital. They are either born with it, or have been given enough of it to leverage into more capital, which they then assume magically came unto them via their awesomeness.

This can all get very Marxist, extending into materialism, etc., and I don't have the chops to really take it there. But I think it is a concept that is ripe for 21st century picking.

**Anyone know of someone doing good work in this specific area, please let me know. I'd like to do more research but haven't really seen anyone take the ball and run with it.

Here's a good place to start:
http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/stanley-millionaire.html

And, the social/human capital argument is just a way to try to remove both credit and blame from the individual, passing it off on the larger collective. So, when someone from a disadvantaged background succeeds, the elusive 'capital' comes into play.

Not trying to be too partisan here, but I think it's reasonable to say that a fundamental difference between those on the left and those on the right is that those on the left tend to look to the community level and those on the right (well, I should further specify those in the Hayekian tradition) look to the individual level.

Ocean
04-02-2011, 11:02 AM
Here's a good place to start:
http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/stanley-millionaire.html

And, the social/human capital argument is just a way to try to remove both credit and blame from the individual, passing it off on the larger collective. So, when someone from a disadvantaged background succeeds, the elusive 'capital' comes into play.

Not trying to be too partisan here, but I think it's reasonable to say that a fundamental difference between those on the left and those on the right is that those on the left tend to look to the community level and those on the right (well, I should further specify those in the Hayekian tradition) look to the individual level.

This is very directly related to the somewhat over processed topic of determinism that was discussed in recent days.

I take the central point here to be that one should remember that a significant amount of our success (in different degrees depending on circumstances) is due to external factors. When those external factors have been favorable to us we should feel grateful. If our individual merit is also significant, we can take some pride in it, but feeling too entitled about it, or use that personal level of satisfaction to think that others who haven't been as successful are somehow "beneath" us, is extremely detrimental. Some humility and some recognition of how difficult it's been for others is a starting point.

eeeeeeeli
04-02-2011, 12:17 PM
Here's a good place to start:
http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/stanley-millionaire.html

And, the social/human capital argument is just a way to try to remove both credit and blame from the individual, passing it off on the larger collective. So, when someone from a disadvantaged background succeeds, the elusive 'capital' comes into play.

Not trying to be too partisan here, but I think it's reasonable to say that a fundamental difference between those on the left and those on the right is that those on the left tend to look to the community level and those on the right (well, I should further specify those in the Hayekian tradition) look to the individual level.
I think that's very true. And fascinating. If you place the economic right/left on a spectrum of government vs. free market, you can pretty-well overlay a spectrum of belief about individual vs. collective responsibility and causality.

I'm not sure I understand your framing of the capital argument as a way to remove credit and blame. That seems to get it backwards. There is evidence of causality - would you disagree with any of the causal factors I listed? - that then implies a removal of credit or blame. To the extent that you are discounting an evidence-based argument by questioning motive, you are employing ad hominem reasoning.

So, that was an interesting article. But, by focusing solely on financial capital inheritance, it misses a large degree of the inequity in America.
* Only 19 percent receive any income or wealth of any kind from a trust fund or an estate.

* Fewer than 20 percent inherited 10 percent or more of their wealth.

* More than half never received as much as $1 in inheritance.

* Fewer than 25 percent ever received "an act of kindness" of $10,000 or more from their parents, grandparents, or other relatives.

* Ninety-one percent never received, as a gift, as much as $1 of the ownership of a family business.

* Nearly half never received any college tuition from their parents or other relatives.

* Fewer than 10 percent believe they will ever receive an inheritance in the future.
Every one of these bullet points is financial-capital based. It says nothing about social or human capital, both forms of capital that clearly advantage individuals, and have a great deal of data to back them up. For instance, I would be interested to know how many of these individuals came from intact homes? Was there substance abuse? How many grew up in poor neighborhoods? What kind of parenting did they receive? Was there discipline in the home?

Here's what I don't get. All of these factors are predictive. That means you take 100 people and you can predict with high degrees of certainty how they will end up in life, simply by lining up the factors. According to to your model, where anyone can succeed, you should see no correlation. There should be a random distribution of success based on any of these factors. And that is exactly what we don't see. What people who make the argument you are making have a habit of doing is taking the outlier, and using them to prove the rule. But isn't that absurd? If you did this in any other area of science you would be laughed out of the room!

(Something interesting: if some on the right tend to emphasize the individual, they also tend to emphasize traditional family values. Yet the very definition of traditional family values includes an orientation towards child development, which makes a causal claim. This is likely more the social conservative orientation, which, interestingly, is interested in collective politics.)

edit: it occurred to me that something interesting in your article was the way it sort of defined wealth down, thereby making it seem more populist. Yet if we're really looking at the concentrated wealth in America, we may need to move a tad beyond this category of well, petite bourgeoisie.
Try this. (http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html)

Starwatcher162536
04-02-2011, 01:36 PM
As a materialist determinist* I'm with you on the question of how people are merely what they were shaped to be by some mixture of genetics and environment. So from my perspective as a determinist nothing is "earned" and hence it's pointless to talk about why rich kids do or do not deserve their earnings and how this justifies a progressive tax schema. It's okay to believe that everyone is merely a product of their genes and childhood and still have uneven outcomes. Uneven outcomes are not about if something is deserved or not, but about incentivizing productive behaviors.

It's also okay to hold the value that aristocracy is bad and actions should be taken to increase intragenerational economic and social mobility, but this value is something you need to stop folding into your arguments about tax schemas. It's a seperate matter.

*I don't really understand how a materialist can not be a determinist. The whole strong emergence thing seems dumb to me, but w/e, that's only obliquely related to this

handle
04-02-2011, 02:45 PM
Well for one I'm hardly what I would call wealthy (no one goes into the academic world to get wealthy, at least no one who is sane). I took out loans to cover my undergrad education. I worked for some of the time, too.

You can always find Paris Hiltons and Donald Trumps. These are not a representative sample of the upper 5%.

Take that as a no.

operative
04-02-2011, 02:57 PM
This is very directly related to the somewhat over processed topic of determinism that was discussed in recent days.

I take the central point here to be that one should remember that a significant amount of our success (in different degrees depending on circumstances) is due to external factors. When those external factors have been favorable to us we should feel grateful. If our individual merit is also significant, we can take some pride in it, but feeling too entitled about it, or use that personal level of satisfaction to think that others who haven't been as successful are somehow "beneath" us, is extremely detrimental. Some humility and some recognition of how difficult it's been for others is a starting point.

Sure, I don't have a problem in recognizing that there is some interplay of internal and external factors. I'm inclined to believe that they are positive and negative feedback mechanisms in the system of intellectual/professional etc. development, rather than the core inputs. So, they'll have an effect, but it will not be deterministic.

handle
04-02-2011, 03:09 PM
I hate to bring this highbrow discussion down to my simplistic level (I'm lying, of course). But I was merely musing how luck usually takes a back seat to individual determination when the 5%ers are asked for their secret, or when they write books on the subject. Calling themselves "the best and the brightest" and "the smartest guys in the room" (enron execs!) is very telling indeed.
Of course OP sort of played into the whole meme by using the word "created" instead of "amassed". Really? They "created" a big pile O' cash... all by themselves? That's the attitude I find most amusing of all.
I think if capitalism is to work for us as a people and a country over the long haul, certain modifications need to be made, and the arrogance of the upper amassers will soon be a thing of the past IMHO, with a move toward a more humane, and sustainable form of capitalism. Namely the the cooperative movement. I'm going to posts some links off of this post 'cause I don't have time to look for them right now, but I have posted and linked on this in the past.

handle
04-02-2011, 03:23 PM
I think if capitalism is to work for us as a people and a country over the long haul, certain modifications need to be made, and the arrogance of the upper amassers will soon be a thing of the past IMHO, with a move toward a more humane, and sustainable form of capitalism. Namely the the cooperative movement. I'm going to posts some links off of this post 'cause I don't have time to look for them right now, but I have posted and linked on this in the past.

A great podcast on the subject:
http://businessmatters.net/2010/01/worker-owned-cooperatives/

A couple of co-op business pioneers:
http://www.isthmuseng.com/company/worker-owned-cooperative/
http://www.alvaradostreetbakery.com/ (http://businessmatters.net/2010/01/worker-owned-cooperatives/)

And most importantly, a financial institution serving co-ops, that is one:
http://cooperativefund.org/

Added: Oh and please note that these entities are not communistically run, but are run democratically.

Added after that: I was just thinking about the Democratic aspect of this approach, and it occurred to me that most of our capitalist entities are now operated under systems which more closely resemble totalitarianism than anything else. One of the reasons I find the whining about, and attacking of laws, and agencies that protect workers and their rights so abhorrent.
So Trump = Khadafi? No, but the similarities are not trivial.

operative
04-02-2011, 03:23 PM
I'm not sure I understand your framing of the capital argument as a way to remove credit and blame. That seems to get it backwards. There is evidence of causality - would you disagree with any of the causal factors I listed? - that then implies a removal of credit or blame. To the extent that you are discounting an evidence-based argument by questioning motive, you are employing ad hominem reasoning.

Here's why I said that: it means that when one stands up to accept their medical degree, they ought to be crediting their environment and not themselves, for the environment, the parents' SES, etc. were responsible for the success and not the individual. That discounts the long years of study (as well as the massive financial debt almost always incurred by medical students) undertaken by the student.

Similarly, when one stands trial for a serious crime, would we then say that we ought to find the community guilty? Is the criminal merely a hub for community-level processes?

As I replied to Ocean, I don't want to discount entirely the influence of environmental factors in shaping a person's life course: it is easier for a person from a privileged background to succeed than a person of a non-privileged background, something that a few of our recent presidents are illustrative of.


Every one of these bullet points is financial-capital based. It says nothing about social or human capital, both forms of capital that clearly advantage individuals, and have a great deal of data to back them up. For instance, I would be interested to know how many of these individuals came from intact homes? Was there substance abuse? How many grew up in poor neighborhoods? What kind of parenting did they receive? Was there discipline in the home?

We were actually discussing some of these things in another thread, a conversation which unfortunately got lost at some point. I think that we have strong evidence to show that an unstable family structure, substance abuse in the family, etc. are incredibly deleterious to individuals' life courses. We can see that with American inner cities.

Still though, I argue that these are feedback loops and not core inputs. They make things harder, and because the costs of success go up, fewer people are going to succeed. But the individual still has that opportunity to succeed or fail, and still makes those choices of their own volition.


Here's what I don't get. All of these factors are predictive. That means you take 100 people and you can predict with high degrees of certainty how they will end up in life, simply by lining up the factors. According to to your model, where anyone can succeed, you should see no correlation. There should be a random distribution of success based on any of these factors. And that is exactly what we don't see. What people who make the argument you are making have a habit of doing is taking the outlier, and using them to prove the rule. But isn't that absurd? If you did this in any other area of science you would be laughed out of the room!

Well, if you take a large N sample, you'll probably be able to build a linear regression model that achieves statistical significance, relating family structure, SES, etc. to whatever measure of success you wish to use.

I also don't want to wade into genetics or the whole notion of biological determinism, which to some extent veers into social darwinism. I would, however, observe that I'm fairly convinced by the evidence suggesting that a large part of intelligence is inherited. I'm less certain on the role of genetic inheritance and behavioral tendencies/personality. I do not like the notion that we are simply automatons, slaves of our genes. We are not ants.

I'd also argue that the deterministic arguments are philosophical offspring of Calvin, essentially materialistic Calvinism. We're not having a different discussion than Calvin was having centuries ago, it's just that in place of God we're using science.

Oh and I do find most of the social capital literature to be lackluster. Putnam attempted to extrapolate a broader conclusion out of something that is much more fit for his actual country of expertise, Italy.


(Something interesting: if some on the right tend to emphasize the individual, they also tend to emphasize traditional family values. Yet the very definition of traditional family values includes an orientation towards child development, which makes a causal claim. This is likely more the social conservative orientation, which, interestingly, is interested in collective politics.)

I actually considered that too. But here again I would say that conservatives emphasize what they see as positive feedback loops, while seeing government intervention as a negative feedback loop, instilling a loss of a sense of dignity and self-determinism.

edit: it occurred to me that something interesting in your article was the way it sort of defined wealth down, thereby making it seem more populist. Yet if we're really looking at the concentrated wealth in America, we may need to move a tad beyond this category of well, petite bourgeoisie.
Try this. (http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html)

A few issues with that: first, I don't like proportional analyses. It is pretty clear that the overall split of income has not moved in a more equal direction over the last few decades. That does not mean that the poor are not getting richer. It means that everyone is growing wealthier, and the overall proportions aren't seeing significant movement. This is inevitable, because wealthier individuals can invest more of their money and get more of a return on it. I don't see where proportions are all that significant (unless we veered into the truly absurd, such as Equatorial Guinea).

Second is that I do not like anything that homogenizes 'white'. I think that Jim Webb did a pretty good job of deconstructing the notion of white privilege: some 'white' groups (eg Irish Protestants) do rather poorly, others do very well. You can actually find the same things in other clusters: compare, for example, non-Hmong Vietnamese with Hmongs. Good luck telling the difference between a non-Hmong Vietnamese and a Hmong, if they are lined up, but Hmong do much worse in America than non-Hmong.

You can argue that that is a point for determinists, but I'd say it's more illustrative of the inescapable fact that wealth, potential etc. is far more complex than most people believe.

graz
04-02-2011, 04:17 PM
... That does not mean that the poor are not getting richer. It means that everyone is growing wealthier, and the overall proportions aren't seeing significant movement ...
That's really rich, to answer that the poor are less poor than before ... so lets call them richer and be done with it.

... first, I don't like proportional analyses ...
Because if forced to reckon with it you'd have to concede that the slice of pie the poor are getting doesn't meet their nutritional or monetary requirements.

So it's just more comfy theories from the former fat boy than is now rich enough to count his calories to maintain an ideal waistline. Let's scale up your methodology. Everybody's rich and trim!

operative
04-02-2011, 04:28 PM
That's really rich, to answer that the poor are less poor than before ... so lets call them richer and be done with it.


Because if forced to reckon with it you'd have to concede that the slice of pie the poor are getting doesn't meet their nutritional or monetary requirements.


Proportions alone do absolutely nothing to address this.

graz
04-02-2011, 04:35 PM
Proportions alone do absolutely nothing to address this.
You're just not fun anymore. Slandering the poor and disaffected was your go to move. Now it's just dry academic conservative principle theory. Too bad it doesn't have nutritional value, those richer poor people are getting hungry.

handle
04-02-2011, 04:40 PM
You're just not fun anymore. Slandering the poor and disaffected was your go to move. Now it's just dry academic conservative principle theory.

A symptom of Unit envy?

eeeeeeeli
04-02-2011, 07:22 PM
As a materialist determinist* I'm with you on the question of how people are merely what they were shaped to be by some mixture of genetics and environment. So from my perspective as a determinist nothing is "earned" and hence it's pointless to talk about why rich kids do or do not deserve their earnings and how this justifies a progressive tax schema. It's okay to believe that everyone is merely a product of their genes and childhood and still have uneven outcomes. Uneven outcomes are not about if something is deserved or not, but about incentivizing productive behaviors.
I think this is a very important point. There is a difference between what one deserves, and what works. I think there's a logical argument, coming from materialism, that says no one really deserves anything any more than anyone else. But there's another sort of "desert" that has to do with simple human fairness. So, starting at least with things like running water, electricity, public schooling and healthcare - these are things that we can afford to provide everyone in society, aside from desert (health care can be debated as to incentives/etc. But at a minimum I think we can agree on some basic level of care).

But then you get to what works. Obviously, having the government make bread doesn't work. Command economies suck for a variety of reasons. By trying to make everything fair, you end up with a lot less for all. Incentives and deterrents are very real psychological mechanisms. Even if it isn't ultimately fair that screwed up people do bad things and then have to be put in prison, you have to have have deterrence, as well as protect people.

But so I think you can find a reasonable middle ground. It definitely gets squishy around the edges. But I think we can take as many rough edges off as we can without disrupting too much. So, for instance, we can do prisons that aren't retributive in nature, we can do universal healthcare, we can do means-based spending on education, child care, etc., without creating too much disincentive to work hard. We can do progressive taxation without too much of a drag on investment.

In order to make smart decisions, we need to be objective and reasonable. We can't be this when we are having these old tired arguments about socialism and taxation as a form of theft. This isn't to say those arguments can't be true (although I obviously disagree). But that they keep the left and right from coming together and looking for utilitarian solutions. The right is defensive and the left reacts to this by lashing out and it just gets stupid.

Now, I've just made the case that things would be great if people saw things my way. Aren't I brilliant! :)

It's also okay to hold the value that aristocracy is bad and actions should be taken to increase intragenerational economic and social mobility, but this value is something you need to stop folding into your arguments about tax schemas. It's a seperate matter.


Strange. Twice now people have been telling me to stop arguing certain things in my posts! My inclination is to be defensive and struggle to think of examples in which I've acted as such, then assume my accusers are mistaken, then throw up my hands and hope they'll simply speak up next time they "catch me in the act".

But I'll stop lumping you into the 3rd person and respond directly. The reason I relate this to taxes (... if I do. I hadn't thought I had mentioned taxes yet in this thread.) is that I think it goes to the moral argument that I illustrated above. I'm all for taking a purely utilitarian approach. But that assumes others are as deterministic as I, and they definitely aren't.

(Well, the conservatives. I offended Stephanie when I claimed that many liberals are determinists without knowing it. That's a bit afield, but I'll just point out that liberals constantly make arguments from environmental cause, especially when engaging conservatives. I think to the extent that they do this whilst denying determinism is incoherent, and likely more reflective of a lack of inquiry into first principles on their part).

OK, so as I was saying previously, as long as the moral argument is being presented alongside the utility argument, I think it's reasonable to go about establishing the former. Further, I do think one follows from the other. If there is no moral reason for progressive taxation - if it is indeed theft, as the country clubbers really did earn it, and poor people really did "choose" to be poor - then arguments of utility are irrelevant.

Interestingly, what is going on in the states right now is exactly this, or a reverse of it: the moral case is assumed to not be there, and therefore it is assumed that public sector workers - especially those providing social services to people assumed to have made poor choices, are leeches off the teet of wealthy taxpayers. This isn't really new, but to the extent that the case is being made not in moral terms, but in utilitarian terms - the budgets must be fixed!, the moral question is being ignored.

An image is coming to me now of two sets of train tracks, one the moral argument of egalitarianism, and the other the utilitarian argument of what works, with a switch in the middle. The right is in one passenger train on one side of the tracks, the right in another on the opposite side. They're frequently arguing at each other from these two positions, switching back and forth, forward and reverse, the ground beneath them always moving.

You know, this calls for ms paint....
http://i210.photobucket.com/albums/bb305/vidoqo/libconmoruty-1.png?t=1301782896

Ocean
04-02-2011, 10:24 PM
Now, I've just made the case that things would be great if people saw things my way. Aren't I brilliant! :)


No. But you're very smart and rather pedantic (if I may). This, together with your quote below, is what gets you in trouble with some of the other liberal commenters.



(Well, the conservatives. I offended Stephanie when I claimed that many liberals are determinists without knowing it. That's a bit afield, but I'll just point out that liberals constantly make arguments from environmental cause, especially when engaging conservatives. I think to the extent that they do this whilst denying determinism is incoherent, and likely more reflective of a lack of inquiry into first principles on their part).

Some of us enjoy your comments which for the most part are well thought out and show good reasoning skills and good old liberal principles. However, there's a pedantic tone to them, that even if you try to soften it with humorous remarks like the one above, just doesn't go well. I think I could easily ignore those remarks, but they get a bit annoying over time. And for what I've noticed from other commenters, it looks like others may have a similar or worse reaction.

The part that I think is really most important is the one that I tried to illustrate in bold from your quote above. You know that the concept of "determinism" is broad and includes various types of interpretations and variants. You posted a nice comment on "compatibility" that shows one of the possible varieties. The common interpretation of determinism is somewhat more narrow and many people, liberal or otherwise balk at its mention because in this more widespread use, it implies an idea of fatalism. But in spite of knowing all this, in your comment above you seem to imply that liberals who dislike the term determinism do so because they don't inquire into first principles. Why? Don't you get it? They don't like the common use of the term and don't like to be labeled in that way because of what it implies. That doesn't mean that they deny that there is a cause and effect phenomenon, or that many things are indeed determined. So, when I read your comment it seems that it is you who doesn't get it while your allegation is that "those other liberals" haven't thought about it carefully enough.

I'm being very direct here because I think you'll understand what I mean without taking offense. I would like to continue enjoying the thoughtful parts of your comments and you would be doing all of us a favor, and would be gaining more support if you could avoid those less thoughtful parts.

And if you feel offended, well, you wouldn't be the first one. I still hope that you're not since my intention is to help, even if by hitting your head with a ruler, and not to criticize you for the sake of it.

eeeeeeeli
04-03-2011, 12:56 AM
No. But you're very smart and rather pedantic (if I may). This, together with your quote below, is what gets you in trouble with some of the other liberal commenters.



Some of us enjoy your comments which for the most part are well thought out and show good reasoning skills and good old liberal principles. However, there's a pedantic tone to them, that even if you try to soften it with humorous remarks like the one above, just doesn't go well. I think I could easily ignore those remarks, but they get a bit annoying over time. And for what I've noticed from other commenters, it looks like others may have a similar or worse reaction.

The part that I think is really most important is the one that I tried to illustrate in bold from your quote above. You know that the concept of "determinism" is broad and includes various types of interpretations and variants. You posted a nice comment on "compatibility" that shows one of the possible varieties. The common interpretation of determinism is somewhat more narrow and many people, liberal or otherwise balk at its mention because in this more widespread use, it implies an idea of fatalism. But in spite of knowing all this, in your comment above you seem to imply that liberals who dislike the term determinism do so because they don't inquire into first principles. Why? Don't you get it? They don't like the common use of the term and don't like to be labeled in that way because of what it implies. That doesn't mean that they deny that there is a cause and effect phenomenon, or that many things are indeed determined. So, when I read your comment it seems that it is you who doesn't get it while your allegation is that "those other liberals" haven't thought about it carefully enough.

I'm being very direct here because I think you'll understand what I mean without taking offense. I would like to continue enjoying the thoughtful parts of your comments and you would be doing all of us a favor, and would be gaining more support if you could avoid those less thoughtful parts.

And if you feel offended, well, you wouldn't be the first one. I still hope that you're not since my intention is to help, even if by hitting your head with a ruler, and not to criticize you for the sake of it.

Well, thank you Ocean. I'm not at all offended and I appreciate the honest criticism. However, if you think your first quote an example of my being pedantic, well, I just need to try harder. I'm honestly an incredibly self-deprecating person, and I try to incorporate this into the narrative voice I use while writing (as I would speaking - however conversation is just so different). What happens is I'll notice myself being tendentious and, as opposed to going back and reworking my thoughts, I'll try and "leave my cards on the table", so to speak, as a way of both acknowledging my humility, as well as sort of leaving the carcass of my thoughts out there as an example of the perils of those who might end up thinking like me. All of this indeed may be in poor taste, but I'm not sure that was the original offense - I'm merely trying to speak to what might be getting me in trouble.

As to the determinism comments, I'm sorry, but I'm not the first, nor will I be the last, to have an opinion about a tendency of "liberals", or any other group in general. As a liberal, I happen to have known many liberals. I've noticed that many liberals have certain views about determinism. Therefore I have entertained a hypothesis about many liberals being confused about the matter. I'm not saying that you can't be a liberal and be a sort of super-duper-soft determinist. I find it ultimately incoherent, but people are perfectly capable of grasping the concept of determinism and rejecting it while still embracing aspects of causality. I'm only saying that "free will" is a kind of sacred cow, and that to question it too deeply is kind of taboo in our culture. This, in combination with the large degree of deterministic underpinnings of liberal thought, creates a certain tendency towards confusion or denial.

(Is it not reasonable for me to question whether people have spent enough time on first-principles if I find their views incoherent? I may turn out to be the one who is confused, in which case my accusations of incoherence will have been quite ironic! But such is the danger in leveling such damning allegations. If I ever meet one of these liberals whom I have called incoherent, well - I'll have you know - I plan on giving it to them good.)

But... Imagine that! Liberals having a tendency of being confused or in denial about something? Guess what - I've also noticed a tendency for conservatives to be confused about certain things. Amazing!

(Can I just put in a plug here for the tendency of liberals to be complete idiots with regard to "natural" foods and homeopathic nonsense? OK, thanks! Errr... sorry. I may have come off as flip... *can't" *resist* *smiliiiiiieiiieeeee :) !!!!!!!!!!

Look. I've never said that all liberals are this way or that way. I've never said all conservatives are this or that. But ideologies are not made up of isolated sets of rational thoughts that people cobble together coherently, each on its own merits. You pull one thread and a bunch of other stuff falls out. We are all very unaware of this crap. (Notice how I often include myself in my barbs? And I'm not kidding either. 100% serious. I am often very unaware. Proven fact.) It is the stuff of the partisan divide. How else could so many otherwise completely reasonable people believe stuff that is so overwhelmingly at odds with so many otherwise completely reasonable people?

eeeeeeeli
04-03-2011, 03:25 AM
A great podcast on the subject:
http://businessmatters.net/2010/01/worker-owned-cooperatives/

A couple of co-op business pioneers:
http://www.isthmuseng.com/company/worker-owned-cooperative/
http://www.alvaradostreetbakery.com/ (http://businessmatters.net/2010/01/worker-owned-cooperatives/)

And most importantly, a financial institution serving co-ops, that is one:
http://cooperativefund.org/

Added: Oh and please note that these entities are not communistically run, but are run democratically.

Added after that: I was just thinking about the Democratic aspect of this approach, and it occurred to me that most of our capitalist entities are now operated under systems which more closely resemble totalitarianism than anything else. One of the reasons I find the whining about, and attacking of laws, and agencies that protect workers and their rights so abhorrent.
So Trump = Khadafi? No, but the similarities are not trivial.
William Greider wrote about a lot of this stuff years ago in The Soul of Capitalism (http://www.amazon.com/Soul-Capitalism-Opening-Paths-Economy/dp/0684862204). It's been a while, but I recall him presenting some pretty devastating critiques of particular inefficiencies of the traditional free market, and provided some excellent examples of alternative business models with proven results.

Ocean
04-03-2011, 10:46 AM
Well, thank you Ocean. I'm not at all offended and I appreciate the honest criticism. However, if you think your first quote an example of my being pedantic, well, I just need to try harder. I'm honestly an incredibly self-deprecating person, and I try to incorporate this into the narrative voice I use while writing (as I would speaking - however conversation is just so different). What happens is I'll notice myself being tendentious and, as opposed to going back and reworking my thoughts, I'll try and "leave my cards on the table", so to speak, as a way of both acknowledging my humility, as well as sort of leaving the carcass of my thoughts out there as an example of the perils of those who might end up thinking like me. All of this indeed may be in poor taste, but I'm not sure that was the original offense - I'm merely trying to speak to what might be getting me in trouble.

Thank you for explaining what you do with your thoughts and ideas while writing your comments.

I took your initial "briliant" statement as tongue in cheek. I just used it as a departing point for my comment because of its figurative value.

As to the determinism comments, I'm sorry, but I'm not the first, nor will I be the last, to have an opinion about a tendency of "liberals", or any other group in general. As a liberal, I happen to have known many liberals. I've noticed that many liberals have certain views about determinism. Therefore I have entertained a hypothesis about many liberals being confused about the matter. I'm not saying that you can't be a liberal and be a sort of super-duper-soft determinist. I find it ultimately incoherent, but people are perfectly capable of grasping the concept of determinism and rejecting it while still embracing aspects of causality. I'm only saying that "free will" is a kind of sacred cow, and that to question it too deeply is kind of taboo in our culture. This, in combination with the large degree of deterministic underpinnings of liberal thought, creates a certain tendency towards confusion or denial.



Your questions are valid. I don't doubt that they may apply to a subset of people. But if you were to figure out all the possible ways in which someone who is a liberal may end up rejecting the label of "determinism", I'm hoping that you will see that there's more than one road that leads to it. If that's the case, then, why would you insist that liberals can only reject that label out of confusion or some other reasoning flaw?

The objection to your statements, as I understand them, has to do with your generalizations (from a subset that fit your hypothesis to all liberals who reject the determinism label), and by not showing that you have a somewhat deeper understanding of the issue by commenting or acknowledging other possible reasons.

I think that you may be limiting your thinking to the concept that "free will" is a sacred cow that can't be challenged. There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that's the case for many people, but you're closing yourself to entertaining other possibilities. Free will is not a sacred cow for everybody.


(Is it not reasonable for me to question whether people have spent enough time on first-principles if I find their views incoherent? I may turn out to be the one who is confused, in which case my accusations of incoherence will have been quite ironic! But such is the danger in leveling such damning allegations. If I ever meet one of these liberals whom I have called incoherent, well - I'll have you know - I plan on giving it to them good.)

I think it's better to question why people come across to you as incoherent. When you proceed from there to consider possibilities, some of those possibilities will have to include whether you're perceiving incoherence because you're missing an aspect of their argument which you haven't grasped yet. You may end up ruling out that possibility, but in many cases it will, at least, raise some doubt that will take you to look at the other aspects that you hadn't looked at before. In that case instead of ending with a feeling of self complacency about your own ideas, you may learn something new.

I want to be clear, at this point, that we all tend to err in the same way. It's literally impossible to look at an issue and have a view from all angles. So we have a tendency to form opinions based on what we know from before. But, at least on those occasions when other reasonable people start pushing back, it seems like a good opportunity to rethink the topic and question whether we're missing an important piece.


But... Imagine that! Liberals having a tendency of being confused or in denial about something? Guess what - I've also noticed a tendency for conservatives to be confused about certain things. Amazing!

(Can I just put in a plug here for the tendency of liberals to be complete idiots with regard to "natural" foods and homeopathic nonsense? OK, thanks! Errr... sorry. I may have come off as flip... *can't" *resist* *smiliiiiiieiiieeeee :) !!!!!!!!!!

Yes, you're right that liberals, conservatives and everybody else share the same human virtues and flaws. I have the impression that when you talk about "liberals" in this context, you're talking about liberal intellectuals mostly. People in all camps may believe what they believe just because they've been told so without ever challenging their beliefs. Even those who do challenge their beliefs, may be at times constrained by other blind spots or areas that have been left untouched.

In terms of liberals and natural foods and homeopathy (really?), I can only think about one of those huge blind spots where some form of environmental purity dominates over common sense or empiricism. Those are the areas of inappropriate generalization of concepts that create aberrant pockets of belief.

Look. I've never said that all liberals are this way or that way. I've never said all conservatives are this or that.

Wait. You may be literally right that you haven't said it exactly like that. But that's the way it comes across. Or at least it comes across that you're saying that a significant number of liberals think in that way.

But ideologies are not made up of isolated sets of rational thoughts that people cobble together coherently, each on its own merits. You pull one thread and a bunch of other stuff falls out. We are all very unaware of this crap. (Notice how I often include myself in my barbs? And I'm not kidding either. 100% serious. I am often very unaware. Proven fact.) It is the stuff of the partisan divide. How else could so many otherwise completely reasonable people believe stuff that is so overwhelmingly at odds with so many otherwise completely reasonable people?

Yes, that's true. That's the way our minds work. We are not computers that examine each and every idea and belief from its most basic foundational principles up. We tend to create short cuts. We try to recognize patterns that "seem right" and via analogy we accept them, especially if they are backed up by others that we tend to identify with ideologically. It is a lot of hard work to question and challenge, to examine and dissent. So it is understandable when we don't do it. But we can't just go around assuming that the other person has the reasoning flaw, whenever we happen to disagree with them.

Of course, I may be wrong about all this as well. And, yes, sometimes one has to settle for what seems right.

eeeeeeeli
04-03-2011, 01:01 PM
I don't know. All of this scolding over a few things I've said about liberal tendencies. Maybe I'm a pedant. We'll see. At this point I'm somewhat fed up, Ocean. I've received more belabored critique from you than anyone I've actually had a problem with. Mountain out of molehill? Much ado about nothing?

Are we arguing about the substance of my critiques, or the way in which I present them. Or the way in which people perceive them, or the way in which I assume they are perceiving what how I present them? I mean, really.

Ocean
04-03-2011, 01:20 PM
I don't know. All of this scolding over a few things I've said about liberal tendencies. Maybe I'm a pedant. We'll see. At this point I'm somewhat fed up, Ocean. I've received more belabored critique from you than anyone I've actually had a problem with. Mountain out of molehill? Much ado about nothing?

I'm sorry if you feel it's too much "scolding".

From my perspective, the reason I dared to call your attention to this criticism, is because it's like a dark cloud in the blue sky. (I'm not sure what the right expression is in English). I mean, that you write so well, and overall have such great contributions, that when I see that other side I can't avoid but think that perhaps it would be helpful for you to know how others may perceive it.

I may also be at fault for taking an unsolicited "mentorship" role. Because I see that my criticism bothered you, I'll avoid doing it again in the future. I pretty much communicated the main points already.

Are we arguing about the substance of my critiques, or the way in which I present them. Or the way in which people perceive them, or the way in which I assume they are perceiving what how I present them? I mean, really.

Yes, it's a little bit of all of the above. I apologize for the intervention and it wasn't meant to be an "argument".

handle
04-03-2011, 02:27 PM
William Greider wrote about a lot of this stuff years ago in The Soul of Capitalism (http://www.amazon.com/Soul-Capitalism-Opening-Paths-Economy/dp/0684862204). It's been a while, but I recall him presenting some pretty devastating critiques of particular inefficiencies of the traditional free market, and provided some excellent examples of alternative business models with proven results.

Thanks for the reference eeeee*, I believe recent failures just might make this the time for change we can cash in on. The waning popularity of Unions has them showing interest in promoting this as an alternative to traditional, management-heavy companies (see the segment on United Steelworkers in the podcast). Workers have much more at stake and can realize richer rewards when they have an even share in the risks, and profits. Increased worker responsibility can reduce operating overhead by eliminating the need for multiple layers of management. Which means fewer authoritarian, plutocratic republicans involved in decision making..... I'm kidding about that last part of course... sort of.

*if I may.

eeeeeeeli
04-03-2011, 02:39 PM
I'm sorry if you feel it's too much "scolding".

From my perspective, the reason I dared to call your attention to this criticism, is because it's like a dark cloud in the blue sky. (I'm not sure what the right expression is in English). I mean, that you write so well, and overall have such great contributions, that when I see that other side I can't avoid but think that perhaps it would be helpful for you to know how others may perceive it.

I may also be at fault for taking an unsolicited "mentorship" role. Because I see that my criticism bothered you, I'll avoid doing it again in the future. I pretty much communicated the main points already.



Yes, it's a little bit of all of the above. I apologize for the intervention and it wasn't meant to be an "argument".
Fair enough. Cheers.

eeeeeeeli
04-03-2011, 02:58 PM
*if I may.
Completely. My name is actually simply Eli, but that was taken and unfortunately I saddled myself with a somewhat unwieldy handle!

handle
04-03-2011, 04:20 PM
Completely. My name is actually simply Eli, but that was taken and unfortunately I saddled myself with a somewhat unwieldy handle!

Cool, that fixes it for me anyway, all I need do is hold down the "e" key.

bjkeefe
04-03-2011, 06:03 PM
A very good article by Joseph Stiglitz (http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105?currentPage=all) in VF.

Some excerpts:

Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin.

Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this.

But one big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way. The most obvious example involves tax policy. Lowering tax rates on capital gains, which is how the rich receive a large portion of their income, has given the wealthiest Americans close to a free ride.

In recent weeks we have watched people taking to the streets by the millions to protest political, economic, and social conditions in the oppressive societies they inhabit. Governments have been toppled in Egypt and Tunisia. Protests have erupted in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain. The ruling families elsewhere in the region look on nervously from their air-conditioned penthouses—will they be next? They are right to worry. These are societies where a minuscule fraction of the population—less than 1 percent—controls the lion’s share of the wealth; where wealth is a main determinant of power; where entrenched corruption of one sort or another is a way of life; and where the wealthiest often stand actively in the way of policies that would improve life for people in general.

As we gaze out at the popular fervor in the streets, one question to ask ourselves is this: When will it come to America? In important ways, our own country has become like one of these distant, troubled places.

Read the whole thing (http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105?currentPage=all).


(h/t: Ken Layne (http://wonkette.com/442063/richest-1-should-prepare-for-u-s-revolution-says-vanity-fair))

operative
04-03-2011, 07:51 PM
A very good article by Joseph Stiglitz (http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105?currentPage=all) in VF.

Some excerpts:









Read the whole thing (http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105?currentPage=all).


(h/t: Ken Layne (http://wonkette.com/442063/richest-1-should-prepare-for-u-s-revolution-says-vanity-fair))

Here's the problem:

An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year

That is simply fundamentally wrong. In fact, it is downright ridiculous. At the national level, every measure of HDI has increased substantially over the past 40 years, and the only instances where things have gotten worse on smaller levels is where the government has meddled. Poverty levels haven't improved in welfare-ridden sectors. Family structures have fallen apart. Obesity rates and other measures of unhealthy lifestyles have gone up. All because government did exactly what the American Left wanted it to do.

It's rather greedy of people to measure themselves against others rather than by honestly looking at how their standard of life has improved, and then to expect the government to punish the more successful because they're jealous that they're not gaining ground on them. On the plus side, it's one of the few instances where Realists can draw support from domestic policies for their otherwise kind-of wretched IR theory.

Not only is it greedy, but it's dumb and counterproductive. It leads to sluggish economic growth and diminished creativity, as people have less incentive to work hard.

Tocqueville called it almost 200 years ago, and it continually astounds me how prescient he was.

Don Zeko
04-03-2011, 08:01 PM
That is simply fundamentally wrong. In fact, it is downright ridiculous. At the national level, every measure of HDI has increased substantially over the past 40 years, and the only instances where things have gotten worse on smaller levels is where the government has meddled.

Real median income declined from the peak of the 1990's expansion to the peak of the 2000's expansion...

It's rather greedy of people to measure themselves against others rather than by honestly looking at how their standard of life has improved, and then to expect the government to punish the more successful because they're jealous that they're not gaining ground on them. On the plus side, it's one of the few instances where Realists can draw support from domestic policies for their otherwise kind-of wretched IR theory.

Ok, just to start off with, "greedy" is a very brave card to play when defending the super-rich, including hedge fund managers, oil company executives, etc. etc. etc.. Secondly and more importantly, thee government does at least as much to enable the success of the super-rich as it does to redistribute their wealth away.

Not only is it greedy, but it's dumb and counterproductive. It leads to sluggish economic growth and diminished creativity, as people have less incentive to work hard.

Would you care to make an empirical case that we have faster economic growth now than we did in the 1940's or 1950's, when egalitarian economic liberalism was far more politically powerful?

operative
04-03-2011, 08:16 PM
Real median income declined from the peak of the 1990's expansion to the peak of the 2000's expansion...

I don't like that statistical measure--I don't think it's anything close to the best measure we can use.

Let's take, for example, average life expectancy:
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005140.html

If people are doing worse, why are they continuing to live longer?



Ok, just to start off with, "greedy" is a very brave card to play when defending the super-rich, including hedge fund managers, oil company executives, etc. etc. etc..

Yes, we like to only use the term against the rich. But the term applies to anyone who is more concerned with their relative standing against others than how they are improving against their past selves.


Secondly and more importantly, thee government does at least as much to enable the success of the super-rich as it does to redistribute their wealth away.

How so?



Would you care to make an empirical case that we have faster economic growth now than we did in the 1940's or 1950's, when egalitarian economic liberalism was far more politically powerful?

They may have been far more politically powerful in the 40s and 50s (and you could even go back further--the 1912 election was the golden era of the Progressives), but their legacy is still very much in place and we do not have anything close to the type of economy that would generate the type of economic growth that we could have. The 1940s are also a very bad time to compare against due to the monumental impact of WW2.

bjkeefe
04-03-2011, 10:47 PM
I don't like that statistical measure--I don't think it's anything close to the best measure we can use.

Let's take, for example, average life expectancy:

Yeah. Average life expectancy is a great measure for the economic health of the nation over the past couple of decades. ("Lagging indicators? Never heard of 'em!!!1!") And who knows? Maybe you'll even be able to bait someone into arguing about life expectancy, instead of increasing wealth disparity! A Koch salute to you!

There is no end of blindness to you True Believers.

I can only hope that you're a "professor" at some non-accredited fundie school, because the amount of stupid you display in service of your zealotry is not to be believed, and I really hate to think of kids who aren't already pretty well guaranteed to be fucked up paying to listen to you.

Starwatcher162536
04-03-2011, 10:49 PM
I typically only read around .4 of posts in a semi-random fashion. My post is not in reply to any particular post of yours but the narrative that seems to have devolped from those posts of yours I have read. I dunno, maybe there is a sampling error. Anyways; Your posts seem to come from both the people are simply what they were created to be and the rich don't deserve their income because they simply had better social/financial capital as a kid.

Coming from both sides seems incoherent. Yes, this incoherency seems systemic on the left.

graz
04-03-2011, 11:10 PM
Yeah. Average life expectancy is a great measure for the economic health of the nation over the past couple of decades. ("Lagging indicators? Never heard of 'em!!!1!") And who knows? Maybe you'll even be able to bait someone into arguing about life expectancy, instead of increasing wealth disparity! A Koch salute to you!

There is no end of blindness to you True Believers.

I can only hope that you're a "professor" at some non-accredited fundie school, because the amount of stupid you display in service of your zealotry is not to be believed, and I really hate to think of kids who aren't already pretty well guaranteed to be fucked up paying to listen to you.

But he doesn't like statistical measure, or proportional analyses either. So there!

operative
04-03-2011, 11:39 PM
Yeah. Average life expectancy is a great measure for the economic health of the nation over the past couple of decades. ("Lagging indicators? Never heard of 'em!!!1!") And who knows? Maybe you'll even be able to bait someone into arguing about life expectancy, instead of increasing wealth disparity! A Koch salute to you!

There is no end of blindness to you True Believers.

I can only hope that you're a "professor" at some non-accredited fundie school, because the amount of stupid you display in service of your zealotry is not to be believed, and I really hate to think of kids who aren't already pretty well guaranteed to be fucked up paying to listen to you.

Oh dear, BJ is back in generic response mode.

Again I will say, disparity of wealth, outside of the truly extreme cases, means absolutely nothing. Why should it be any of your concern what anyone else makes? Mind your own business.

operative
04-03-2011, 11:41 PM
But he doesn't like statistical measure, or proportional analyses either. So there!

Statistical measures are quite fun (I just don't like the application of the median income in this circumstance to argue the point). Btw, the portrait painted by the median income is a bit more complex:

http://visualizingeconomics.com/2008/05/04/average-income-in-the-united-states-1913-2006/

Viewing that, the recent trend is entirely in keeping with past history.

eeeeeeeli
04-04-2011, 12:11 AM
I typically only read around .4 of posts in a semi-random fashion. My post is not in reply to any particular post of yours but the narrative that seems to have devolped from those posts of yours I have read. I dunno, maybe there is a sampling error. Anyways; Your posts seem to come from both the people are simply what they were created to be and the rich don't deserve their income because they simply had better social/financial capital as a kid.

Coming from both sides seems incoherent. Yes, this incoherency seems systemic on the left.
I'm not sure I follow. Are you saying that those two things are incoherent, that people are what they were created to be and the rich don't deserve their wealth?

They seem coherent to me. The former seems to define what the latter means by "deserves".

The incoherency I ascribed to the left was something different. To the degree that the right is more inclined to embrace metaphysical libertarianism, well, that's a point of view I find incoherent by itself. But at least there is a strong consistency in believing in mystical non-determinacy and free markets. "Faith based" being a sort of unifying principle!

graz
04-04-2011, 02:47 AM
According to you, the poor are already rich. But did you know that they'll also be fit 'n trim in no time?
April 2 not 1: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704471904576230692570676256.html

stephanie
04-04-2011, 12:58 PM
This is very directly related to the somewhat over processed topic of determinism that was discussed in recent days.

That was my first thought too.

I take the central point here to be that one should remember that a significant amount of our success (in different degrees depending on circumstances) is due to external factors. When those external factors have been favorable to us we should feel grateful. If our individual merit is also significant, we can take some pride in it, but feeling too entitled about it, or use that personal level of satisfaction to think that others who haven't been as successful are somehow "beneath" us, is extremely detrimental. Some humility and some recognition of how difficult it's been for others is a starting point.

Yep. I haven't read the responses yet (beyond this one), but I'm really rather tired of the whole "conservatives focus on individual merit, liberals are determinists" tangent. I think all reasonable people tend to see a lot of what goes into success as the product of luck or other factors outside one's control, and also see that any individual has a variety of choices throughout one's life. That's apparent from most of the arguments over policy, too.

stephanie
04-04-2011, 01:10 PM
I offended Stephanie when I claimed that many liberals are determinists without knowing it. That's a bit afield, but I'll just point out that liberals constantly make arguments from environmental cause, especially when engaging conservatives. I think to the extent that they do this whilst denying determinism is incoherent, and likely more reflective of a lack of inquiry into first principles on their part).

I think the notion that one either denies all environmental causes or is a complete determinist is ridiculous. No one with any sense -- not conservatives, not liberals -- suggests that things such as how one was raised, what talents and intelligence one is born with, how much money one has -- plays no role at all, that we all have identical opportunities but for personal choice. Similarly, while many liberals may stress the relevance of these differences and limitations over which one has no control more than many conservatives (although even that's an overstatement, as others have pointed out conservatives like focusing on certain of these kinds of arguments, i.e., the importance of the traditional family, of so-called middle-class values), that does not mean that liberals are claiming that personal choice plays no role in our achievements. To claim that would make the argument over how good a meritocracy we are (as discussed in another thread recently) rather silly, because there would be no reason to think that someone who succeeded in a meritocracy was more deserving than one who succeeded in a society that was more rigidly structured based on family fortune.

And while there are arguments (as Starwatcher points out) that we should prefer a meritocracy (however impoverished what we mean by "merit" becomes) even in a deterministic world, that's not remotely the nature of the usual arguments on it, or the basis for the passion typically expressed. That's why I think it's disrespectful and offensive for you to insist that people don't really care about what, in fact, makes them passionately involved in these arguments.

Edit: Indeed, if people believed what you claim to believe, I think we'd have a very different set of goals for society than one sees in the rhetoric of US liberals. So either liberals are too stupid to understand what they believe and argue for what follows (as you insist upon claming), or they in fact believe different things than you assume. Coincidently, the very things they say they believe, that we are highly influenced by but not completely determined by external factors plus genes. That we can make better and worse decisions, but how easy it is to do so varies depending on our upbringing and natural tendencies. It seems that both operative and I claim to believe this, yet we come to quite different political views based on it, so I find the idea that in believing these things I must therefore be a closet conservative (or operative a closet liberal) enormously odd. It seems much more likely to me that you are, for whatever reason, grossly oversimplifying both the world and the political divides in the US by assuming that I must secretly reject all personal responsibility and operative must be unwilling to see that people have different innate skills and are affected by their upbringing.

(And we won't even get started on the irritating idea that liberals are stupid re modern medicine or nutrition. That's about David Brooks level generalizing, which is not a compliment.)

osmium
04-04-2011, 02:05 PM
Wow, has anyone posted EAT THE RICH by Motorhead (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3kIBBen62s) to this thread, because here I will.

osmium
04-04-2011, 02:09 PM
Wow, has anyone posted EAT THE RICH by Motorhead (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3kIBBen62s) to this thread, because here I will.

And I'd like to point out that Lemmy does just fine living in LA by drinking at the Rainbow and putting quarters in the bar game just like we are all free to do. Ain't life grand?

uncle ebeneezer
04-04-2011, 05:03 PM
When I first moved to LA a friend took me to the Rainbow and I was amazed to see people wearing leather pants and feathered hair un-ironically. There was even a dude with a light-up cod piece. Mission accomplished, eat yer heart out. And this was in 1999.

City of lights, city of lights...whoa!!

osmium
04-04-2011, 10:43 PM
When I first moved to LA a friend took me to the Rainbow and I was amazed to see people wearing leather pants and feathered hair un-ironically. There was even a dude with a light-up cod piece. Mission accomplished, eat yer heart out. And this was in 1999.

City of lights, city of lights...whoa!!

It's not like I get to LA *a lot*, but when I do I make sure to go to the Rainbow. ::devil horns::

eeeeeeeli
04-05-2011, 12:52 AM
I'm really rather tired of the whole "conservatives focus on individual merit, liberals are determinists" tangent. I think all reasonable people tend to see a lot of what goes into success as the product of luck or other factors outside one's control, and also see that any individual has a variety of choices throughout one's life. That's apparent from most of the arguments over policy, too.

You may be tired of it, but I believe it is core to the left/right spectrum of beliefs about human behavior. Whether or not anyone is or isn't a determinist (or whether anyone understand what the heck that means), is irrelevant if they continue making arguments based on an emphasis one way or another.

For example, government spending on social programs is usually argued for by emphasizing that people need help making better choices, or that because of disadvantage had struggled making those choices to begin with and are now deserving of help, especially paid for by people rich from advantage that allowed them greater access to choice.

The argument in opposition is generally along the lines of emphasizing that everyone is free to choose, no one needs help making any choices, and that disadvantage is no excuse for having made bad choices, thus don't deserve anyone's help, especially from those who made themselves rich and successful, with or without any advantage they may have had.

The question is simply to what degree people have agency in their lives. It doesn't stop there, of course, as there are multiple layers on top of of this. But there is a reason liberals tend to be "soft on crime" and conservatives are more comfortable with retribution. One side is more sympathetic to being "caught up" in the circumstances of life, while the other is less sympathetic to this view, and focuses on the idea that people can rise above their circumstances.

Obviously most liberals view people as having choices, while most conservatives view people as being partially determined by their environment. It would be absurd of me to deny that this is the case. Yet so much time is spent with the left and right arguing with each other as if they share the same assumptions about degrees of determinism. (As I have said, I find the "degrees of determinism" concept incoherent, like the concept of "compatibilism", a semantic gesture made apparently to appease the dubious position of the uncommitted). I find this profoundly central not only to left/right policy, but style and even temperament in speaking and writing. They just see people differently. My aim in provoking discussion around this issue is to try and get at precisely these differences.

Of course, we can simply agree to disagree. However I won't agree that the topic is tangential or dull!

stephanie
04-05-2011, 12:23 PM
You may be tired of it, but I believe it is core to the left/right spectrum of beliefs about human behavior.

The post you quoted was written to Ocean before I saw yours referencing me. I also responded to the other -- to you -- and addressed the arguments you make here. It seems a little silly to answer the same arguments again, and I'm not sure why you ignored the relevant post and responded to this one.

However, in brief:

(1) The claim about it being key to left/right behavior is problematic for all the reasons already pointed out and discussed in the other post. (Also, I think it's basically lazy to try and boil down complex political differences to stereotypes and I don't see how your approach to these issues is much different than that.)

Whether or not anyone is or isn't a determinist (or whether anyone understand what the heck that means), is irrelevant if they continue making arguments based on an emphasis one way or another.

(2) I will ignore the idiotic suggestion that others don't know what determinism is. Again, that people don't think freedom is unlimited doesn't require that they be determinists. It just requires that they not be delusional. No one experiences the human condition as involving complete freedom. It doesn't take a conclusion that we have no freedom to make arguments from the fact that freedom is limited. Moreover, as pointed out many times by many people, liberals are not the only ones to see that freedom is limited, nor would determinism require that one come to liberal conclusions. (To the contrary, it would be inconsistent with most liberal arguments, as I pointed out earlier.)

I think your problem in imagining an in-between area on this issue (that people understand that freedom is not limited yet believe that there's some room for freedom or real choice in how the human mind works) is echoed by your seeming need to find firm and easy ways to explain differences between liberals and conservatives (liberals are all at Whole Foods, conservatives are all watching NASCAR -- like I said, it's like I'm in some bad column written by David Brooks). It's insulting to everyone. It's also confused, as you own comment about medicine demonstrates -- you are confusing cultural distinctions with politics, and cultural distinctions and connections that may exist only in a particular subculture. (Again, like how if you were David Brooks you ought to be confused about how Dems should all be richer than Republicans, but the stats don't support that.)

For example, government spending on social programs is usually argued for by emphasizing that people need help making better choices

(3) In fact, the "people need help making better choices" could just as easily be a conservative argument. The discussion about whether to try to encourage people to marry, for example, or some of the debates about drug policy and the need for bans to protect people who might otherwise choose to use drugs. Indeed, the argument that the law is an educator/inculcates values is typically a conservative argument, and is behind most of the arguments for socially conservative policy, as well as abortion laws specifically (given that people know that the laws won't be followed and many pro life people don't particularly want to punish women who have them).

What's different is not the assumptions about human nature (except on the edges, in a way not addressed by a tangent about determinism), but what policy arguments are made from those facts and what we think the gov't should appropriately be weighing in on.

Also, if you really think liberals are "soft on crime," you haven't been paying attention to the last 20 years or so. (I am personally in disagreement with the trend by both the Dems and Republicans in a number of these areas, but less because of anything about determinism, arguments from limited freedom being those which I think cut both ways on various policy questions. My more liberal views have to do with civil rights -- an area that actually is connected to the meaning of "liberalism," even if too little focused on.)

Of course, we can simply agree to disagree. However I won't agree that the topic is tangential or dull!

Tangential is covered above. Dull, because of your inability to see any legitimacy in a middle position. The idea that one is either a believer in absolute freedom (which no one is) or a determinist, and that a combination is "incoherent" seems to me to be so bizarre that it's basically not worth talking about.

eeeeeeeli
04-05-2011, 01:20 PM
The post you quoted was written to Ocean before I saw yours referencing me. I also responded to the other -- to you -- and addressed the arguments you make here. It seems a little silly to answer the same arguments again, and I'm not sure why you ignored the relevant post and responded to this one.
Sorry. I didn't see it. I'll respond there.

eeeeeeeli
04-05-2011, 01:54 PM
I think the notion that one either denies all environmental causes or is a complete determinist is ridiculous.
I agree. But I'm not saying that.

Similarly, while many liberals may stress the relevance of these differences and limitations over which one has no control more than many conservatives (although even that's an overstatement, as others have pointed out conservatives like focusing on certain of these kinds of arguments, i.e., the importance of the traditional family, of so-called middle-class values), that does not mean that liberals are claiming that personal choice plays no role in our achievements. To claim that would make the argument over how good a meritocracy we are (as discussed in another thread recently) rather silly, because there would be no reason to think that someone who succeeded in a meritocracy was more deserving than one who succeeded in a society that was more rigidly structured based on family fortune.
Again, agreed. However there is a difference in emphasis. That conservatives like focusing on traditional values while discounting the role of privilege is incoherent, yet nonetheless a judgment on degrees of determinism. They simply feel people are "less determined". That liberals focus on a rather Marxist notion of social structure, is also a judgment on determinism, and perfectly coherent. To the degree that they emphasize a lack of determinism, they become more incoherent.

And while there are arguments (as Starwatcher points out) that we should prefer a meritocracy (however impoverished what we mean by "merit" becomes) even in a deterministic world, that's not remotely the nature of the usual arguments on it, or the basis for the passion typically expressed. That's why I think it's disrespectful and offensive for you to insist that people don't really care about what, in fact, makes them passionately involved in these arguments.
Hmmm. That's interesting. You know the reason I make the claim that people are uninterested is based on personal experience. And even then, the philosophical weeds of the determinist problem become thick very quickly. So I think you have a dynamic where people just kind of throw up their hands and say "I don't know", preferring to remain agnostic. Yet this is what fascinates me. Because they are indeed incredibly passionate about their liberal or conservative views. And there are plenty of perfectly logical and reasonable political narratives that drive these views. But at a deeper level, I can't help but think that, because the determinist question does have very powerful political implications - at least in the way I interpret it, and the fact that there are pretty strong polarities in determinist emphasis between the left and right, that it is also a crucial driver of political narrative. And to the extent that people have "thrown up their hands" in agnosticism, the fact that emphasis still exists belies a sort of "black box" of unconscious political belief.

Look - I'm not discounting myself here either. I have serious concerns about where my own political assumptions come from. It's a very difficult question. You may be right that in my quest for answers to why I (and others) believe what they believe, I have been driven to adopt a more hard-line view on determinism. I think that is something important for me to be aware of. Fanaticism, to paraphrase a quote I just read, is the redoubling of effort when you have lost your aim. An extension to this might be a redoubling of effort when trying to find one's aim in the first place!

Indeed, if people believed what you claim to believe, I think we'd have a very different set of goals for society than one sees in the rhetoric of US liberals. So either liberals are too stupid to understand what they believe and argue for what follows (as you insist upon claming), or they in fact believe different things than you assume. Coincidently, the very things they say they believe, that we are highly influenced by but not completely determined by external factors plus genes. That we can make better and worse decisions, but how easy it is to do so varies depending on our upbringing and natural tendencies. It seems that both operative and I claim to believe this, yet we come to quite different political views based on it, so I find the idea that in believing these things I must therefore be a closet conservative (or operative a closet liberal) enormously odd. It seems much more likely to me that you are, for whatever reason, grossly oversimplifying both the world and the political divides in the US by assuming that I must secretly reject all personal responsibility and operative must be unwilling to see that people have different innate skills and are affected by their upbringing.
Hopefully this, my third statement that I have not said that will convince you. Apparently my offense all along was due to your misunderstanding of my argument.


(And we won't even get started on the irritating idea that liberals are stupid re modern medicine or nutrition. That's about David Brooks level generalizing, which is not a compliment.)
Did I ever say all liberals? Health food store customers tend to be largely liberal. Is that a silly claim to make? I think the original claim was only that liberals as well as conservatives can have politically biased irrational tendencies. You can argue whether my claims about medicine or nutrition are false. But to argue against the larger point, that we are all prone to irrational bias seems silly.

stephanie
04-05-2011, 03:24 PM
I agree. But I'm not saying that.

You claimed:

(1) That liberals were really determinists, even if they didn't realize it. (You seem to have backed off this in the most recent points.)

and (2) That being neither a determinist nor someone who believes in complete freedom (as no one does) is an incoherent position, and that if one acknowledges any limits on freedom one should just accept determinism. (In this and other ways you seem to be trying to say there's no meaningful difference between the position that basically everyone shares -- that freedom is limited -- and determinism. The problem is that it's not just liberals you are talking about.)

Therefore, I think you did say that. If you aren't currently doing so, great.

However there is a difference in emphasis.

There is a difference in emphasis, depending on the subject matter, but I'm not convinced there's a difference in underlying belief in any predictable way.

For example, let's assume that two people agree that various things all affect who one becomes and the choices one makes. We can stipulate that these things include: (1) one's genes, (2) one's upbringing, (3) the cultural values among which one lives, (4) the educational opportunities one has, and (5) the law of one's society. What policy positions one takes may still vary tremendously, because they are not generally determined by such things (ooh, that word!), but may well have much more to do with all sorts of other beliefs, such as what the proper role of the law is. For example, there are numerous issues where I think changing the law would make a difference. I am against doing so, because I think the law shouldn't reach into certain areas of life. In other areas, I don't think the law or government could be helpful, even if I assume there's something other than complete freedom going on (see the discussions over the marriage question).

It's possible that in a given case the actual difference may be about something else, like whether there's real choice or not in connection with certain areas of one's life, but I don't think it makes sense to assume that liberals will believe there's not and conservatives will believe there is. Why not explore that issue with regard to individual policy questions. My suspicion is that there won't be as much disagreement as you think, even if the focus remains on other aspects of the question.

But at a deeper level, I can't help but think that, because the determinist question does have very powerful political implications

Like I said, I think the arguments of liberals (and conservatives) would both be different if they were as far apart on these questions as you seem to assume. Liberals don't argue like people who believe we are determined, usually. But that doesn't mean that the answer, if we thought we were, would be to become more left on matters of policy. Again, we'd have to think through the issues. It would be less a focus on blame, but also we wouldn't care about blamelessness -- everyone would be blameless. It would be all about social engineering. I'm not convinced a society set up to socially engineer would be a liberal paradise (to put it mildly). I suppose the way to explore this would be to play veil of ignorance.

Apparently my offense all along was due to your misunderstanding of my argument.

I don't think so. I think it's that people dislike being reduced to simplistic caricatures.

Did I ever say all liberals?

You suggested it was a defining characteristic of liberals vs. conservatives. That you didn't say "all" is just irrelevant. When one says "Muslims are terrorists," do we care that the word all wasn't included, or can we say it's a problematic statement because it attributes to a large group actions committed only to a few, and not inherent in being part of the larger group. Granted, saying that liberals hate modern medicine (or whatever) isn't as offensive, but it's similar in rather carelessly stereotyping a larger group based on what is likely in this case anecdotal evidence and connections that, if they exist, are unlikely to have a causal relationship.

Health food store customers tend to be largely liberal.

Based on what? Some guy you know who worked at a health food store? (My sister used to work at one, actually.) And this says something about the general views on modern medicine by all liberals, how? (One can go to a health food store and not be against modern medicine. I think health food stores are dumb, but I am pretty into eating healthy -- as are, gasp, lots of conservatives -- and I'm also a booster of medicine and doctors and vaccines and all the rest.)

The crunchy subculture is not exclusively left (and left is different than liberal). There are crunchy cons, obviously. Read a site like mothering.com and you'll see that the whackadoos come from right and left both. Once you get into conspiracy theories and anti-professionalism and anti-establishment-science and anti-government and all the rest, it's pretty much that area where the extremes of both "sides" go, and not what your run of the mill liberal is going to be comfortable with (I could as easily say that liberals are upper middle class professionals, after all, though that also would be objectionable).

But even more importantly is the fact that you seem to want to reduce us to "liberals" and "conservatives" and ignore the many differences therein. The anti-establishment stuff isn't even liberal, it's leftist.

But to argue against the larger point, that we are all prone to irrational bias seems silly.

Gosh, perhaps that's why I haven't noticed anyone arguing against it. Perhaps it would be better to try and make points without asserting factually incorrect things people, about all kinds of matters, based simply on who they preferred between McCain and Obama.

eeeeeeeli
04-05-2011, 05:32 PM
I'm really trying to understand why what I've said bothers you so much, as well as what you've interpreted what I've said to mean. But the latter seems to be making the former very difficult.

So far what you've said hasn't been very helpful. Sorry! Trying to decipher what you mean, regarding what what you thought I meant, by trying to understand how what I said could have been interpreted in a way other than what I meant is giving me a headache. Re-litigating old posts seems a fool's errand.

So, at this point I'll just suggest we drop it. Feel free to debate me anytime I bring this stuff up - and I likely will. I don't think I've stereotyped anyone. I have opinions about general themes that involve liberalism and conservatism generally, as I would hope most do. However, based on your bad-faith assumptions about why I might think that health food stores cater to a largely liberal customer base(!), I'm wary that much of your interpretations of my comments might likewise be lacking in a genuine attempt to understand my position, rooted instead in defensiveness or frustration. Which I would understand. I'm pretty frustrated myself!

Anyhow, here's to hoping future discussions be filled with more clarity.

operative
04-05-2011, 05:59 PM
I'm really trying to understand why what I've said bothers you so much, as well as what you've interpreted what I've said to mean. But the latter seems to be making the former very difficult.

So far what you've said hasn't been very helpful. Sorry! Trying to decipher what you mean, regarding what what you thought I meant, by trying to understand how what I said could have been interpreted in a way other than what I meant is giving me a headache. Re-litigating old posts seems a fool's errand.

So, at this point I'll just suggest we drop it. Feel free to debate me anytime I bring this stuff up - and I likely will. I don't think I've stereotyped anyone. I have opinions about general themes that involve liberalism and conservatism generally, as I would hope most do. However, based on your bad-faith assumptions about why I might think that health food stores cater to a largely liberal customer base(!), I'm wary that much of your interpretations of my comments might likewise be lacking in a genuine attempt to understand my position, rooted instead in defensiveness or frustration. Which I would understand. I'm pretty frustrated myself!

Anyhow, here's to hoping future discussions be filled with more clarity.

This makes me wish for a diavlog on the subject. E^7li and Stephanie, or whoever else.

TwinSwords
04-05-2011, 06:40 PM
I think it's that people dislike being reduced to simplistic caricatures.

Is it really fair to make such a sweeping statement, that ALL people like being reduced to simplistic caricatures?


;-)

stephanie
04-05-2011, 08:02 PM
Is it really fair to make such a sweeping statement, that ALL people like being reduced to simplistic caricatures?


;-)

Heh, valid point.

stephanie
04-05-2011, 08:52 PM
I'm really trying to understand why what I've said bothers you so much

Numerous others have pointed out the same things that are bothering me, so I guess I won't feel too depressed about my failure to make it clear to you.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to this: I (and others) have expressed to you that we find the way you stereotype "liberals" and "conservatives" and seek to explain people on this forum by use of those stereotypes is both often inaccurate and offensive to us. You are not especially bothered by that and have indicated that you are going to keep doing that anyway.

eeeeeeeli
04-05-2011, 11:21 PM
Numerous others have pointed out the same things that are bothering me, so I guess I won't feel too depressed about my failure to make it clear to you.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to this: I (and others) have expressed to you that we find the way you stereotype "liberals" and "conservatives" and seek to explain people on this forum by use of those stereotypes is both often inaccurate and offensive to us. You are not especially bothered by that and have indicated that you are going to keep doing that anyway.Wait, so you're bothered by the way that I stereotype people. Right. It isn't that I'm not bothered by that (bad faith, again?), but that I disagree with that characterization of what I've said. It's all a bit whiny. So, whatever.

eeeeeeeli
04-05-2011, 11:27 PM
This makes me wish for a diavlog on the subject. E^7li and Stephanie, or whoever else.
I'd love to see a discussion of determinism. I'm not sure I'm the man for the job.

I think a discussion of how it fits into politics would be really interesting, especially between a liberal and conservative. I would suggest Tom Clark on the liberal side. He runs the Center for Naturalism (http://www.centerfornaturalism.org/). Did a great interview on this podcast here (http://www.forgoodreason.org/tom_clark_skepticism_and_free_will).

bjkeefe
04-05-2011, 11:35 PM
Wait, so you're bothered by the way that I stereotype people.

I'll second what Stephanie said (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=203158#post203158) ...

Right. It isn't that I'm not bothered by that (bad faith, again?), but that I disagree with that characterization of what I've said. It's all a bit whiny. So, whatever.

... and add that it only compounds my annoyance that you're so full of denial and dismissiveness about what you do.

No big deal. I mean, I don't read the comments of an increasing number of people here, so adding you to the list isn't anything.

However, from your point of view, I'd think you'd want to contemplate the responses you have provoked, rather than just brushing them off. As hard as it may be for you to believe, it's conceivable that you still have a few things to learn.

stephanie
04-06-2011, 12:26 AM
Just for the record, you've insisted that I've unfairly misinterpreted you a number of times, apparently including the crux of the dispute -- whether it's fair to claim that liberals are typically determinists or "liberalism" based on determinism. As I said, if you are backing off that claim, I'm glad, though I think you are overstating even the weaker point. However, I found one of the exchanges that I was thinking of:

Originally Posted by stephanie

So again, I disagree that "we are all completely determined" is a liberal position. It is, sometimes, a slander of liberalism by those on the right, and while it may be accurate as to a very few liberals (and probably a very few conservatives), including you, it's not fair to the rest of us.

(As I had explained, the "slander" I was thinking of was specifically a disagreement between Jon I and me where he had claimed that the difference between liberals and conservatives was precisely the kind of thing you were now claiming, that liberals did not believe in the possibility of personal responsibility or essentially anything other than determined choices.)

You:

No, I don't think it is... consciously! I think the liberal impulse towards rehabilitation, towards relativism, towards compassion and selflessness is rooted in an intuition of determinism.

Note -- not merely a greater emphasis on the limited nature of human freedom, but on determinism. That liberals typically claim (as you had previously acknowledged) to believe in some mix of freedom and limits, some realm of personal responsibility, in some goal of meritocracy is dismissed with the statement that they don't consciously understand it, but in reality they agree with your proclaimed views.

You continued:

I think the slander is indeed accurate, but not just of deterministic liberals like me, but of liberalism...

Like Rush Limbaugh, you are entitled to insist that liberals really believe all kinds of things, but people generally do get annoyed when that happens. It's hardly surprising.

eeeeeeeli
04-06-2011, 01:00 AM
However, from your point of view, I'd think you'd want to contemplate the responses you have provoked, rather than just brushing them off. As hard as it may be for you to believe, it's conceivable that you still have a few things to learn.

This has got to be the sorriest case of piling-on ever. Please. I've been "contemplating" plenty of the hackneyed interpretations of various fragments of things I have written in a couple of threads.

There's maddeningly little evidence for any serial stereotyping on my part. For crying out loud, this all began with me making a statement (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=201427#post201427) to operative regarding a standard liberal defense of taxation, which was misinterpreted (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=201804#post201804) as an assumption about what all liberals felt. (even as the response from operative (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=201430&postcount=2) was just as generalized) Lord. What are these big ideas I have about liberals, or conservatives, for that matter? And what is it that I do that the majority of other commenters here do not do? Call me dense, but I still can't figure out why what I consider harmless generalizations are considered "stereotyping".

Here's a response (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=199290&postcount=4) to my invocation of determinism and leftism, from Rfrobison:
"The debate about free will versus determinism is one for another time, perhaps, but the sort of socioeconomic determinism so firmly anchored in the faculties of American universities, and the very mother's milk of leftism".

He goes on to make an interesting point about it being a generally stupid point of view. What he doesn't do, is begin hyperventilating at the thought that I referred to a "tendency" on either the left or the right.

BJ, you're stating a direct opinion about the utility of generalizations, just as you had done in your original response to me on this. I disagree with this claim. You and others have now extended this claim to assert things about my communication style (often pedantic), as well as bias (stereotyping). Claims of pedantry aside, your conflation of "generalization" with "stereotyping" is ad hominem in that it assumes a character flaw (bias), in its quarrel with the utility of generalizations.

I would gladly debate with you or anyone else whether some specific generalization I have made is apt or not. And I will agree that I have a habit of making them. But I simply disagree that there is anything really wrong with this, and have yet to have any one show me evidence of something I have said in which the generalization - that we agree I actually said! - was inappropriate. Stephanie took issue with my assertion that there likely exists unconscious bias toward determinism on the part of liberals in general. I would say this is belied by their "tendency" towards such a view. I guess I can see how this might be slightly offensive. But it is one case.

Although, the idea that liberals might have some bias towards something related to their general acceptance of a range of views that defines them as "liberal" strikes me as utterly obvious. If my pointing out a case of where this might be true is offensive, or "stereotyping", then I would again call the criticism "whiny". (Honestly, the idea that anyone would deny this offends my own sense of proper humility.)

As to pedantic tone, I'm afraid that's pretty subjective. If you feel like I think I'm better than you, I apologize. I don't. You've irritated the hell out of me in recent exchanges (along with the other weenies here, who obviously don't understanding WINNING*) , but I honestly don't think I'm smarter than anyone here. I would have thought I came across as reasonable and measured, even self-effacing in my posts. Anyway.

* ;)

badhatharry
04-06-2011, 01:47 AM
Although, the idea that liberals might have some bias towards something related to their general acceptance of a range of views that defines them as "liberal" strikes me as utterly obvious. If my pointing out a case of where this might be true is offensive, or "stereotyping", then I would again call the criticism "whiny". (Honestly, the idea that anyone would deny this offends my own sense of proper humility.)



I gotta say reading all of this back and forth about your tendency to catagorize people is pretty amusing especially considering who the critique is coming from.

Thomas Sowell has written two pretty good little books about the contrasting tendencies which seem (to Sowell) to be very evident between liberals and conservatives, A Conflict of Visions and The Vision of the Annointed. I have lent them out so I can't check if he covers a liberal tendency to emphasize determinism but I would guess that he would not name this as a liberal trait because he thinks liberals want to 'fix' things and to believe in or admit determinism takes away that opportunity.

soldier on!

PS. If I may... I know that you and others around here feel compelled to qualify your ideas endlessly with lots and lots of parentheses but I personally think that less is more.

PPS. Another book recommendation I have is The Blank Slate, the modern denial of human nature by Stephen Pinker. I'll stop now.

eeeeeeeli
04-06-2011, 02:32 AM
Note -- not merely a greater emphasis on the limited nature of human freedom, but on determinism. That liberals typically claim (as you had previously acknowledged) to believe in some mix of freedom and limits, some realm of personal responsibility, in some goal of meritocracy is dismissed with the statement that they don't consciously understand it, but in reality they agree with your proclaimed views.
How am I denying that they believe in a mix of freedom and responsibility? I think people believe a lot of things that are in reality informed by unconscious processes. But I'm not even saying that. I'm saying they (a likely majority of liberals) believe it, but only because they don't actually understand what they believe. That's a fancy way of saying I disagree with them, mind you. You likely think I don't understand what it means to believe in a mix of freedom and responsibility. Am I offended by that? I'm not that fragile.


Like Rush Limbaugh, you are entitled to insist that liberals really believe all kinds of things, but people generally do get annoyed when that happens. It's hardly surprising.

Right. You have misinterpreted what I said. When I wrote,
No, I don't think it is... consciously! I think the liberal impulse towards rehabilitation, towards relativism, towards compassion and selflessness is rooted in an intuition of determinism.

I was speaking of a liberal impulse in the sense of liberalism being driven by (or perhaps driving?) an impulse towards a deterministic explanation of social problems. I think that, like you, most liberals would probably describe themselves as seeing "some mix of freedom and limits". But like I said, I find this view incoherent, and believe that to the degree that any liberals tend to emphasize deterministic explanations, that emphasis is being driven by a deterministic "intuition" that for whatever reason they reject.

That is a specific claim about a set of individuals who hold specific views, that tries to explain a portion of those views. I never said that all liberals believe anything. Comparing me to Rush Limbaugh, who traffics in stereotypes as a form of slander, without breaking down any specific idea in order to understand where it might originate, philosophically or otherwise, is unwarranted.

Ultimately, much of the debate here I think owes the fact that this is a very complex philosophical issue. There are layers of meaning, and I find it difficult to keep my own bearing, much less that of whom I'm debating. I would at this point simply caution against making any quick judgments about the content of my words, much less my intent, and spending more time trying to determine what the heck I'm talking about. Lord knows I'm struggling to keep up with you.

If you really feel annoyed that I think your view on determinism is incoherent, then fine. Debate me, prove me wrong, whatever. But to accuse me of mal-intent, or of employing stereotypes or bias just seems petty. It is nothing personal. It's a philosophical proposition, based on what I consider a logical line of reasoning. Maybe I'm totally wrong. But my intent is not to slander, or score cheap points.

rfrobison
04-06-2011, 03:01 AM
Is it really fair to make such a sweeping statement, that ALL people like being reduced to simplistic caricatures?


;-)

Yeah, I kinda like it. But then, I love it when you call me names. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xc_WJFp6fRs) ;)

p.s. I'm not piling on, Eli. I just like Joan Armatrading.

badhatharry
04-06-2011, 03:08 AM
,


I was speaking of a liberal impulse in the sense of liberalism being driven by (or perhaps driving?) an impulse towards a deterministic explanation of social problems. I think that, like you, most liberals would probably describe themselves as seeing "some mix of freedom and limits". But like I said, I find this view incoherent, and believe that to the degree that any liberals tend to emphasize deterministic explanations, that emphasis is being driven by a deterministic "intuition" that for whatever reason they reject.



Not that you care, but I think I understand what you are saying. You think that some/most/all liberals have an impulse towards a deterministic explanation and at the same time reject that impulse because it doesn't fit with their conscious world view.

Maybe that's because it's just sort of unseemly. Nothing should be really determined because that wouldn't be fair.

Again, not that you care but earlier there was a discussion about whether humans have been evolving since humans first emerged. I read a bit of something that Pinker has said. To paraphrase, he said it's probably likely that humans have continued to evolve but pretty hard to prove. He said science likes to stay away from such pronouncements because that would infer that there may have been different rates of evolution amongst different groups. That fairness thing again.

Ocean
04-06-2011, 08:33 AM
Sometimes discussions and arguments get to a point of circular bickering that stops being productive, even among otherwise reasonable people.

I would suggest to take a break from this discussion (liberal/conservatives, determinism, etc.) and table the topic until any of the involved has cooled down or has reflected on the topic enough to have moved a bit from their last position. At that time there may be a chance to make some progress, but it doesn't seem like there will be much agreement right now.

Besides we don't want to see extraneous factors starting to infiltrate the discussion and creating more splitting.

Just plain old advice.

bjkeefe
04-06-2011, 09:18 AM
Call me dense ...

That's one way of putting it, I guess.

I would gladly debate with you ...

It appears you're deaf to constructive criticism and interested only in being self-righteous, so I'm disinclined to waste any more time trying to explain to you why I, and others, object to the way you present your thoughts. I'll leave you to contemplate who has waddled in to applaud your most recent posts. If that doesn't tell you something, there's definitely nothing else I can say.

badhatharry
04-06-2011, 12:07 PM
Besides we don't want to see extraneous factors starting to infiltrate the discussion and creating more splitting.

Just plain old advice.

Oh yes, beware extraneous factor infiltration! It makes things so, you know, unmanagable.

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSvXKNlF8k_LXZG0kFqVvZzi-ixLwQiua2RljtAxUECboNjcikT3w

stephanie
04-06-2011, 12:45 PM
I thought you were done with this conversation.

How am I denying that they believe in a mix of freedom and responsibility?

If they are closet determinists, that's not a mix.

Like I said, if we are all agreeing now that liberals are not unlike conservatives because they are determinists, then that particular tangent is over.

We can talk about whether the difference between views on individual issues are because of differences in underlying views on the particular mix of freedom and responsibility. I am not convinced that that's such a major player in the differences as you think, but it seems to me the way to tell is to actually talk about the specific differences and see if we identify those as the issues.

Had I noticed Rob's comment, I would have objected to it (as I did to Jon I's similar one), because I do think it is a misunderstanding (a self-serving one, when it comes from conservatives) to claim that liberals have the concerns we do because we reject the notion of personal responsibility. This partially bothers me because it seems clearly inaccurate, but I admit that I'm also bothered by it because it's such an easy way to caricature liberal views as something they are not (i.e., soft on crime) in a way that's going to work to the benefit of conservatives politically.

Beyond the political ramifications, I just think a lot of the broad generalizations that are used (see David Brooks) are just embarassingly inaccurate and unsupported, and serve to too easily dismiss real political debates as more a matter of "I'm a Capricorn, are you a Saggitarius" or perhaps Mars and Venus vote.

Back to "determinism"--

I'm saying they (a likely majority of liberals) believe it, but only because they don't actually understand what they believe.

Okay, I'm having trouble with this sentence. Seems to me you are saying that a majority of liberals are determinists, but don't understand their beliefs well enough to know that they are.

If that's so, that's precisely what I've been arguing against, and which you seemed to have backed off of. Yes, I think that's offensive, and illogical too.

That's a fancy way of saying I disagree with them, mind you.

No, it's quite different to say that someone is wrong to believe something vs. claiming that they are mistaken as to what their beliefs really are.

You likely think I don't understand what it means to believe in a mix of freedom and responsibility.

Why would I think that?

I think that, like you, most liberals would probably describe themselves as seeing "some mix of freedom and limits". But like I said, I find this view incoherent...

Two problems here.

First, that you consider a particular view incoherent (for example, I think a variety of views about the "free" market are incoherent) does not mean that others are mistaken as to what their views really are or don't understand their own views. They simply disagree with you as to the merits and coherence of the views they have. That happens. Your need to interpret this as "secret determinists" or the like is what's annoying, not that you think that determinism is the only reasonable conclusion.

Second, I find it odd that you think it's incoherent to believe in a mix of freedom and limits. No one believes in unlimited freedom, so your idea that if one sees any limits one must think there's no such thing as freedom at all seems a huge leap. But why it's incoherent not to take this leap is what seems strange to me -- that it's only coherent to be all one way or all the other. That's the tendency to over-simplification I'm seeing also in the way you are talking about politics.

But in any case, I think what you are saying is simply that you don't get how people could disagree with you on this issue. That's fine, lots of people have issues about which they feel that way. But that doesn't mean it's fair to assume that they really agree with you but just haven't figured it out yet. That's what is insulting, in that they have strong and important to them reasons for what they do believe.

Comparing me to Rush Limbaugh, who traffics in stereotypes as a form of slander, without breaking down any specific idea in order to understand where it might originate, philosophically or otherwise, is unwarranted.

I don't think it's as different here as you claim.

spending more time trying to determine what the heck I'm talking about.

That sounds rather conceited.

If you really feel annoyed that I think your view on determinism is incoherent, then fine.

Again, you seem to be confusing the topics. I don't care if you think my view on human behavior (that it's a mix of freedom and limitation) is incoherent, though I've seen no good reason for that view. I am annoyed because you are insisting that liberal views are based on secret determinism, that we are all really determinists, but just don't understand it yet -- lacking the insight of you, I guess.

The problem with that claim, apart from being insulting, as I've pointed out over and over, is that liberal views aren't actually what one would expect if most liberals were determinists, and the rhetoric used would, in fact, be incoherent if coming from determinists. On the other hand, it fits well a belief in a mix of freedom and limitation and a real understanding that we are limited.

Moreover, I think it's not fair to conservatives to claim that their views must be based on a refusal to acknowledge any limits. I think conservative views too are entirely consistent with the idea of a mix. It seems to me that the differences may be, in some cases, due to disagreement between how free people are, but more typically are due to differences with regard to the relevance of that and to ideas about what the government could and should do.

For example, take obesity, a problem which most people -- liberal and conservative -- see as a mix between personal choice and limited freedom (i.e., factors beyond one's control play a role in one's weight). While there are differences on average between conservatives and liberals as to how much to weight the personal control aspects, it's quite a bit more complicated than that when you look at the break downs. More important, when it comes to discussions about what can be done, the same ideas (choice is limited, it's a personal choice) tend to be brought in on both sides of the debate. They can support either, depending on how they are framed. Thus, I simply disagree with you that this is the clear difference. While it would be interesting to discuss the role that such considerations do play in a particular issue, it's not if you insist that there's some simple and consistent way they always do, and that liberals are secretly holding a view they don't understand.

Edit: What I actually see as the difference between the liberal and conservative focus, more often, is the perspective. Conservatives will focus on the individual and the choices that exist for that individual. Liberals will focus on a larger group, and differences between such groups. But that we can look at issues from different perspectives does not mean that we disagree about the extent to which there are both limits and some choice. (Like I said, obviously, some of various politicial views will think there's no choice, and that's fine, although means that the questions are different.)

I actually think that looking at both perspectives is important, and said as much in the discussion over the last Heather McDonald diavlog -- it's too bad that too often considerations that everyone should see as important are framed as opponents to each other. Crime fighting/safety vs. community support, for example, or more options for students and parents vs. better schools, for another.

rfrobison
04-06-2011, 06:56 PM
Had I noticed Rob's comment, I would have objected to it (as I did to Jon I's similar one), because I do think it is a misunderstanding (a self-serving one, when it comes from conservatives) to claim that liberals have the concerns we do because we reject the notion of personal responsibility. This partially bothers me because it seems clearly inaccurate, but I admit that I'm also bothered by it because it's such an easy way to caricature liberal views as something they are not (i.e., soft on crime) in a way that's going to work to the benefit of conservatives politically.


I'm going to jump into this dispute to raise an objection of my own, since Eli was using my quote to make his point. If you had read the thing in its entirety you would have seen I said "socio-economic determinism," not biological or physical determinism, which is a very different thing.

And I merely said that it was "anchored in university faculties" and "the mother's milk of leftism," or some such. It seems pretty obvious to me that much of what justifies the modern welfare state is the belief that people are subject to powerful forces beyond their control and that the only possible corrective is an equally (?) powerful government working to counteract those forces, insofar as they produce suboptimal social outcomes (e.g., market failure, etc.)

I don't think it particularly controversial to argue that while conservatives acknowledge the reality of such forces, they question how effective the state can be in nullifying them, or, if it can, whether that won't create other problems, such as welfare dependency and the like.

Of course not all liberals are leftists, go to college, or drink their mother's milk. Nor did I, as far as I can recall, ever claim that liberals don't believe in personal responsibility, Mom, the flag, and apple pie.

Of course, you may disagree with my broad-brush claim about socio-economic determinism. I was using it, in part, to counter an even bolder and, in my view, unfair claim on Eli's part (i.e., the "conservative" belief in free will provides a justification for racism or failing to lift a finger to help the poor).

I'm not particularly upset about being charged with a surfeit of faith in human agency, quite the contrary. On the other hand, I don't much care to be accused of crypto-racist tendencies or of lacking basic human compassion.

Please feel free to continue. Your talk with Eli is interesting to me, if frustrating to you.

stephanie
04-06-2011, 07:41 PM
I'm going to jump into this dispute to raise an objection of my own, since it was my quote who Eli was using to make his point. If you had read the thing in its entirety you would have seen I said "socio-economic determinism," not biological or physical determinism, which is a very different thing.

Oh, sure, and I'm not going to pass judgment on it in any serious way, as I haven't seen the context and at this point I don't think anyone would be served by me doing that or us exploring what our agreements and disagreements are about what you said. I'm sure that the points underlying what reads like a tossed off comment will come up again and we can talk about them then!

I don't think it particularly controversial to argue that while conservatives acknowledge the reality of such forces, they question how effective the state can be in nullifying them, or if it can, whether that won't create other problems, such as welfare dependency and the like.

This is actually similar to my point. I'd say that we need not posit that even "leftists" (let alone liberals, on average) are determinists or reject notions of personal responsibility to explain the differences. People can have pretty similar views about the interaction of forces in play, yet still differ on the merits of government action for a variety of reasons, including the one you identify, different views of how effective the governmental action is likely to be.

I don't even reject the notion that in some cases there may be a broad disagreement about the significance of certain kinds of forces vs. others (which is not the same thing as determinism vs. unlimited choice) that plays into the differences, I just think it's a huge over-simplification to focus on them as the primary explanation. (Especially if that results in basically ignoring that conservatives do think social factors play an important role, and that liberals do believe in personal responsibility.)

Of course not all liberals are leftists, go to college, or drink their mother's milk.

True, true. (In fact, that liberals and leftists aren't the same has been one of my points too.) I'd possibly mainly disagree with your comments about colleges, but like I said, we don't have to go there right now.

Anyway, I'm glad the conservation is less frustrating to you than me, and at least not boring all other forum readers to tears (perhaps all but one, granted).

TwinSwords
04-06-2011, 10:35 PM
Back to the example of the guy making 400k. Is he blessed and lucky and well off compared to 99% of the world? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean his concerns are illegitimate. That doesn't mean he shouldn't want his taxes lower, considering the incredibly heavy burden he bears.

Indeed. "Incredibly heavy burden" only begins to describe the suffering of the top 1%.

http://img138.imageshack.us/img138/4259/afixrjbcgallery.jpg

uncle ebeneezer
04-07-2011, 01:20 AM
Nice!! Damn, Toles is such a talent! I really gotta start checking in on his stuff more often.

eeeeeeeli
04-07-2011, 01:39 AM
Indeed. "Incredibly heavy burden" only begins to describe the suffering of the top 1%.

http://img138.imageshack.us/img138/4259/afixrjbcgallery.jpg
But just think how stimulating what he flushes to the economy later on will be.

eeeeeeeli
04-07-2011, 01:44 AM
I thought you were done with this conversation.
Look, I really am interested in this stuff. I would just prefer to do without the nastiness. I know you all think I'm being defensive, and are genuinely bothered by some of what I've been saying. All I can really say in my defense is that I'm honestly not trying to slander anyone, or be rude, but to flesh out a particular philosophical point. And so as long as you can put up with my generalizing, or stereotyping, or whatever it is you say I am doing but that I honestly just don't really understand...

then, cheers! :)

Let me start by admitting that I use liberal and leftist interchangeably, with the former meaning modern liberalism. That may be in some sense technically incorrect, although I would consider it *pedantic* to chastize me for sloppy colloquialism. (I use conservatism in the modern, American sense as well)

I think one of the big problems I have with your critique of my thinking is that I don't think you are taking into account the degree to which determinism is so unlike any other topic. For instance, you find it offensive that I would presume to know what people are "really thinking" about determinism, when they clearly state otherwise. On most issues, I would agree that this would be offensive*. It seems ad hominem, going after bias as opposed to taking on their stated views on the merits. Yet determinism is not an easy concept. (*note on italics: In case this was just now an example of the kind of writing where you felt spoken down to, I'd just say that my intent was to establish a baseline, not to try and inform you of some special knowledge I have about the complexity of determinism. I think you and others may be mistaking what I think is probably just a dry, academic kind of style for allusions of grandeur on my part. I likely just neglected to add the customary "In my opinion", or "I think". I certainly have convictions, but I make no pretensions to any special expertise - except maybe in education!)

Part of my view of the way in which determinism is misunderstood is that the notion of consciousness and agency is obviously intuitive (what could be more intuitive than our own consciousness?!). We don't necessarily have to put much thought into it at all, and yet are forced by our very nature to take a position on it - whether completely determined, completely free, or mixed. Even when we set out to act with integrity to our beliefs, it can be very hard. For instance, when someone has wronged me, I have to try hard to remember that they were "created that way", and thus not hold on to resentments or anger towards them. My intuitions in this sense are incorrect, according to my worldview. And these are entirely universal intuitions.

Yet the next step I have taken is to try and tie political stances to these intuitions, specifically the way we interpret and act on them. What I see are policy responses that allign with particular intuitions about human agency. So, for example, a liberal policy response to the problem of people without healthcare, or food, or access to education is to provide more of it to them via the government. Thus you have single-payer, food stamps, or education funding being pushed by liberal Democrats. Liberal think tanks publish studies and proposals for reforms, calling for more social spending, and citing example after example of determining factors, or factors that disadvantage people, reducing their agency. A moral case is made that society ought to do somethign to help people "who can't help themselves", thus emphasizing a lack of determinism. In fact, what is Marxism but an invocation of determinism, as materialism seeks to view people as largely dependent on external social factors? The modern update to this, with foundational help from a building post-civil rights leftist academia obsessed with finding theoretical explanations for extant power structures of social and political oppression, are the ideas of social change through access to education, an acknowedgement that human and social capital are at least as important as financial capital to the modern citizen.

On the right, a conservative policy response to the same problem is generally to make cuts in all of these government programs, to the extent that social welfare is much of a policy focus at all. Much of the argument you hear is that people need to be responsible for themselves, that they already possess the needed agency, and that granting government aid will if anything reduce that agency (almost, I would say, seeking to hoist deterministically-inclined liberal policy responses on their own determinist petard). Aside from downplaying determining factors altogether, the emphasis is on the existence of good-old-fashioned free will and "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps", non-"Nanny state", things specifically "*not* taking a village", going Galt, etc.

What I still struggle with, is figuring out which drives which - the determinism or the liberalism. Or visa-versa, the libertarianism (m.) or the conservatism? Does one become increasingly concerned with determining factors as one adopts a more liberal lens, in which people are subject to more and more forces of oppression beyond their control? And does one become increasingly libertarian (m.) the more one denies particular causal forces?

Or does one become more willing to accept theories of oppression the more one is willing to adopt a deterministic outlook? And does one become more willing to deny theories of causation the more willing one is to accept libertarianism (m.)?

To answer this would be to inquire into what specifically drives either. And there can be many influences on both, whether societal, cultural, familial, etc.

Because I think the crux of all of it is to take a specific example where an individual's actions are in question, and the argument becomes to what extent he could have chosen otherwise, based on his own ability to choose vs. external forces. This is the black box, the unknowable key to determinism itself. And yet if it is unknoweable, then likewise it is unknoweable how to judge both the evidence for and against external determining forces, as well as the degree to which society owes him a moral response. Because to the degree that he *made* his own choices, society is no longer morally accountable.

Thus, I see the philosophical orientation of conservatism (free markets, supply-side, limited government, etc.) and liberalism (social justice, government aid, etc.)standing toe to toe, balanced exactly above the determinist question, with the scale tipping to one philosophy/policy or another based on the answer to the question in that box. As I have stated before, I don't think there is any reality to libertarianism (m.). To the extent that I am a compatibilist, I merely acknowledge that we do make choices - but insist that *those* choices are determined by prior choices, etc., leading to total determinism. So while I believe liberals and conservatives are entirely sincere when they speak of this or that being or not being caused to any extent, I disagree with their premise. I don't believe it possible to acknowledge causality in human behavior without acknowldging total determinism. So I believe that liberal emphasis on causality is in fact total determinism, whether they are aware of it or not (like wise the conservative emphasis on freedom). If one says they enjoy chocolate cake, they are admitting they enjoy the ingredients of that cake, whether they know what they are or not.



* A similar issue, and one similarly controversial, concerns accusations of unconscious racism. It is perceived as ad hominem, going after bias instead of taking on substantive claims. Yet the ad hominem is secondary, as the primary accustation is specifically the existence of bias.

TwinSwords
04-07-2011, 07:08 AM
But just think how stimulating what he flushes to the economy later on will be.

LOL. And, to be truthful, that really is what the wealthy and the trust fund babies really have in mind when they promise to "trickle down" on the bottom 99% of the population.

TwinSwords
04-07-2011, 07:10 AM
Nice!! Damn, Toles is such a talent! I really gotta start checking in on his stuff more often.

He is, isn't he? And BTW: Thanks for starting this thread. Extremely interesting discussion. We won't be able to stop the Randian destruction of America, but at least we can openly discuss it so no one can deny what the wealthy are doing to the American people.

operative
04-07-2011, 09:57 AM
* A similar issue, and one similarly controversial, concerns accusations of unconscious racism. It is perceived as ad hominem, going after bias instead of taking on substantive claims. Yet the ad hominem is secondary, as the primary accustation is specifically the existence of bias.

If by unconscious racism you're referencing the 'symbolic racism' 'work' done by folks like David O Sears, the idea was destroyed about 30 years ago by Paul Sniderman. It was (and has continued to be) a tool used by a narrow band of leftist social scientists to try to attack the motives of opposition to redistributionist policies without having to address the actual issues.

eeeeeeeli
04-07-2011, 10:49 AM
If by unconscious racism you're referencing the 'symbolic racism' 'work' done by folks like David O Sears, the idea was destroyed about 30 years ago by Paul Sniderman. It was (and has continued to be) a tool used by a narrow band of leftist social scientists to try to attack the motives of opposition to redistributionist policies without having to address the actual issues.
Oh, I don't think this is true at all - at least in my case, and in most cases. (I haven't heard of Sears). I'm to an extent talking about bias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases). But mainly, the observed phenomenon that people will claim to have no racial prejudice, but then engage in stereotyping, discrimination, etc. It seems there could only be two explanations: either they are lying, or that they truly believe they are not racist, yet have unconscious bias around issues of race, whether due to resentment, xenophobia, or other psychodynamic dysfunctions.

Of course, I begin with the assumption (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090617142120.htm) that unconscious bias exists. And that specifically, in the case of race (as with sexism, homophobia, etc.), there are patterns of thought that exist below the level of conscious thought, and yet manifest in predictable and historically defined ways.

It is true that liberals tend to accuse conservatives of bias. But it is also true that racists tend to be conservative. [edit: and assuming there is such a thing as unconscious racism, it tends to be exhibited by conservatives. However, a caveat there: many liberals would also have unconscious racism. But - and this heads afield - part of the liberal narrative has been to focus on self-critique and examination of unconscious bias (see: political correctness). Studies have found that bias is very difficult to cure. Yet I think it is very "treatable". Part of the prescription would be to familiarize oneself with habits of mind and historical patterns/memes of bias towards specific groups, or a re-examination of underlying philosophical paradigms that engender bias - such as religious teachings or political assumptions.]

rfrobison
04-07-2011, 11:21 AM
Oh, I don't think this is true at all - at least in my case, and in most cases. (I haven't heard of Sears). I'm to an extent talking about bias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases). But mainly, the observed phenomenon that people will claim to have no racial prejudice, but then engage in stereotyping, discrimination, etc. It seems there could only be two explanations: either they are lying, or that they truly believe they are not racist, yet have unconscious bias around issues of race, whether due to resentment, xenophobia, or other psychodynamic dysfunctions.

Of course, I begin with the assumption (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090617142120.htm) that unconscious bias exists. And that specifically, in the case of race (as with sexism, homophobia, etc.), there are patterns of thought that exist below the level of conscious thought, and yet manifest in predictable and historically defined ways.

It is true that liberals tend to accuse conservatives of bias. But it is also true that racists tend to be conservative. [edit: and assuming there is such a thing as unconscious racism, it tends to be exhibited by conservatives. However, a caveat there: many liberals would also have unconscious racism. But - and this heads afield - part of the liberal narrative has been to focus on self-critique and examination of unconscious bias (see: political correctness). Studies have found that bias is very difficult to cure. Yet I think it is very "treatable". Part of the prescription would be to familiarize oneself with habits of mind and historical patterns/memes of bias towards specific groups, or a re-examination of underlying philosophical paradigms that engender bias - such as religious teachings or political assumptions.]

Eli, you're beyond help.

operative
04-07-2011, 11:22 AM
Oh, I don't think this is true at all - at least in my case, and in most cases. (I haven't heard of Sears). I'm to an extent talking about bias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases). But mainly, the observed phenomenon that people will claim to have no racial prejudice, but then engage in stereotyping, discrimination, etc. It seems there could only be two explanations: either they are lying, or that they truly believe they are not racist, yet have unconscious bias around issues of race, whether due to resentment, xenophobia, or other psychodynamic dysfunctions.

Of course, I begin with the assumption (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090617142120.htm) that unconscious bias exists. And that specifically, in the case of race (as with sexism, homophobia, etc.), there are patterns of thought that exist below the level of conscious thought, and yet manifest in predictable and historically defined ways.

It is true that liberals tend to accuse conservatives of bias. But it is also true that racists tend to be conservative. [edit: and assuming there is such a thing as unconscious racism, it tends to be exhibited by conservatives. However, a caveat there: many liberals would also have unconscious racism. But - and this heads afield - part of the liberal narrative has been to focus on self-critique and examination of unconscious bias (see: political correctness). Studies have found that bias is very difficult to cure. Yet I think it is very "treatable". Part of the prescription would be to familiarize oneself with habits of mind and historical patterns/memes of bias towards specific groups, or a re-examination of underlying philosophical paradigms that engender bias - such as religious teachings or political assumptions.]

It again depends on what sect of conservatism you're talking about. I feel entirely safe in arguing that racism is somewhat common among Paleoconservatives. It is not at all common or acceptable among libertarian conservatives. In fact, libertarian conservatism is inherently the least prone to racism of any ideology. Racism is utterly incompatible with it.

stephanie
04-07-2011, 11:58 AM
It again depends on what sect of conservatism you're talking about. I feel entirely safe in arguing that racism is somewhat common among Paleoconservatives. It is not at all common or acceptable among libertarian conservatives. In fact, libertarian conservatism is inherently the least prone to racism of any ideology. Racism is utterly incompatible with it.

This is actually similar to my frustration with the equating of liberalism and leftism (also called radicalism). Although there are a mix of views of different intellectual pedigrees which make up both what is generally grouped as the "right" and what is generally grouped as the "left" in US politics, they aren't the same. It's simply not accurate to start with a notion of two groups or, similarly, one spectrum of opinion verging in a straight line from right to left and try and pinpoint others on it in a simple way.

This is certainly not my only problem with the generalizations being made, but it's one of them.

It's also relevant to the "determinist" argument with respect to conservatism, since social conservatives (and paleo cons) are often especially focused on the influence that social factors -- family, society, the law, religion or the lack thereof, etc., have on human development. It's not remotely consistent with such views that we are closer to truly free than liberals like to think. To the contrary, there's usually a somewhat different view of what freedom is (the religious argument that to be truly free humans have to live consistently with a virtuous life), and of course there's an importance placed on the inculcation of values and that habituation plays a huge role in what we do. This is Catholic moral philosophy, for example (not normally understood to be a radically liberal force), it comes from Aristotle through Aquinas, among other sources, and it still plays a role in various aspects of American conservatism (including legal theory) too.

On the other hand, I think it's fair to say that libertarians are more likely to focus on the choice available to the individual (and the individual level) as a reason we can be comfortable with the libertarian view of government, despite the potential negative effects on people on average (see, e.g., the drug debate).

I think it's interesting, then, that racism does seem to me to be, as you say, more common among the paleo cons than libertarians. I think this is because racism does not, in fact, relate to the determinism vs. freedom argument we've been having, but instead relates to certain traditional understandings of the society and culture and an unwillingness to so easily strike down what is traditional in the name of theory (in this case equality).

These are the kinds of considerations that I fear are lost when we define everything by a simple dichotomy.

stephanie
04-07-2011, 12:36 PM
I'm honestly not trying to slander anyone, or be rude, but to flesh out a particular philosophical point.

I continue to not see the necessary connection between "liberals are this, conservatives are this" and your argument about determinism (which I'm not interested in, but which doesn't bother me if you want to talk about it with others, of course). In fact, I think trying to graft it on to ideas about liberals and conservatives which many have objected to weakens whatever point you are trying to make, because that part of it is so flawed.

Let me start by admitting that I use liberal and leftist interchangeably, with the former meaning modern liberalism.

I think this is a fatal flaw, because they don't have common intellectual pedigrees, and leftism is not merely a more extreme liberalism. Liberals and leftists (even in modern America) have fought as hard as anyone. As I mentioned in a prior post to you, there have certainly been times when leftists saw liberals as more the enemy than the conservatives. Given this, I think talking about these groups as if they were one is simply impossible.

(I also think there are a number of other significant splits if you want to try and talk about US politics -- the various realignments and partial realignments since '68 are significant.)

This is not pedantic, it's essential to the discussion. If you insist on thinking of US politics as two generally unified groups defined by the parties, then I think you are so far from reality that you aren't describing anything of use. The same is true if you see everyone as aligned along one axis.

I think one of the big problems I have with your critique of my thinking is that I don't think you are taking into account the degree to which determinism is so unlike any other topic.

We disagree about this.

Yet determinism is not an easy concept.

I think you have some weird idea that we'd never heard the ideas that you are talking about before you were available to inform us of them. As a veteran of plenty of discussions about determinism (and as someone who thinks that your own thinking has ignored certain conflicts that you yourself have between your asserted beliefs on this subject and others), I find this slightly annoying, yes. But in any case I told you upfront that I was generally tired of this topic, due to prior discussions (not here), and thus I've never understood us to be talking about determinism per se, but merely the tangent about whether it's reasonable and fair (and obnoxious) for you to be claiming that liberalism is all about some secret belief in determinism, whatever actual liberals say.

My intuitions in this sense are incorrect, according to my worldview. And these are entirely universal intuitions.

Yes, I see this. (I don't think it's that complicated.) I actually think this is one way that a belief in determinism could be helpful in a practical sense (though I think you aren't being expansive enough, as I'd have less faith in your own assessment of (or instincts about) what wronging you is, in addition to the fault aspect).

Yet the next step I have taken is to try and tie political stances to these intuitions, specifically the way we interpret and act on them.

But if you go all the way you'd talk about them in a very different sense, as various people (including Starwatcher) have pointed out. I don't think it's a matter of blame and merit and so on -- there would be no blame or real merit (beyond what benefits society).

What I see are policy responses that allign with particular intuitions about human agency. So, for example, a liberal policy response to the problem of people without healthcare, or food, or access to education is to provide more of it to them via the government. Thus you have single-payer, food stamps, or education funding being pushed by liberal Democrats. Liberal think tanks publish studies and proposals for reforms, calling for more social spending, and citing example after example of determining factors, or factors that disadvantage people, reducing their agency. A moral case is made that society ought to do somethign to help people "who can't help themselves", thus emphasizing a lack of determinism.

Sure, I can see why someone who is a determinist would be more comfortable with those who believe in a mixed world but are interested in trying to address the inequities resulting from the limits vs. those who think that other things, including the availability of choice, are sufficient to address those equities (even if I think that's actually a flawed way to describe the debates). But this really goes to who you feel more akin to, not what the philosophical beliefs of most liberals are.

In fact, what is Marxism...

Extremely flawed beginning, as liberalism sure isn't Marxism, and neither the liberals nor the Marxists are generally happy when people equate the two. Again, this is not pedantry, these distinctions have meaning.

but an invocation of determinism, as materialism seeks to view people as largely dependent on external social factors?

If you want to limit your argument to Marxism, we'll have a different argument. (And it's a big enough topic that keeping the discussion at this level of generality is one huge problem if we actually want to talk about anything of interest.)

In fact, one of my major problems with your assertions here is that they are based on really general analyses, which I think end up with mere stereotyping, yes, because you aren't doing more than noting general trends (trends which in some cases I disagree with and which in all cases have numerous alternative explanations) and then fitting them into a pre-existing theory. Doing this doesn't seem likely to answer the questions you pose.

[cont. to focus on what's really a separate point]

stephanie
04-07-2011, 12:38 PM
Aside: I've had this come up a few times where I continue a post. For those of you who read in the threaded format, is it better to reply to the original post (showing two replies) or to the post that this is a continuation of?

To the extent that I am a compatibilist, I merely acknowledge that we do make choices - but insist that *those* choices are determined by prior choices, etc., leading to total determinism.

Yes, I understand that this is your view.

So while I believe liberals and conservatives are entirely sincere when they speak of this or that being or not being caused to any extent, I disagree with their premise.

Again, I understand that. I disagree with the premises that plenty of people have, as do we all. (I disagree with the premises of Marxism, for example, despite being a liberal and all.)

I don't believe it possible to acknowledge causality in human behavior without acknowldging total determinism.

And this is your opinion, that's fine.

So I believe that liberal emphasis on causality is in fact total determinism, whether they are aware of it or not (like wise the conservative emphasis on freedom).

This does not follow. It doesn't make sense. You think liberals who believe that there is some not determined choice are wrong, so you choose to believe that they are really determinists? But you also think conservatives who believe the same thing (most of them) are wrong, but you don't choose to see them as also determinists?

I think you are confusing disagreeing with someone with denying that their beliefs are actually real ones, and important to them.

operative
04-07-2011, 01:24 PM
This is actually similar to my frustration with the equating of liberalism and leftism (also called radicalism). Although there are a mix of views of different intellectual pedigrees which make up both what is generally grouped as the "right" and what is generally grouped as the "left" in US politics, they aren't the same. It's simply not accurate to start with a notion of two groups or, similarly, one spectrum of opinion verging in a straight line from right to left and try and pinpoint others on it in a simple way.

This is certainly not my only problem with the generalizations being made, but it's one of them.

It's also relevant to the "determinist" argument with respect to conservatism, since social conservatives (and paleo cons) are often especially focused on the influence that social factors -- family, society, the law, religion or the lack thereof, etc., have on human development. It's not remotely consistent with such views that we are closer to truly free than liberals like to think. To the contrary, there's usually a somewhat different view of what freedom is (the religious argument that to be truly free humans have to live consistently with a virtuous life), and of course there's an importance placed on the inculcation of values and that habituation plays a huge role in what we do. This is Catholic moral philosophy, for example (not normally understood to be a radically liberal force), it comes from Aristotle through Aquinas, among other sources, and it still plays a role in various aspects of American conservatism (including legal theory) too.

On the other hand, I think it's fair to say that libertarians are more likely to focus on the choice available to the individual (and the individual level) as a reason we can be comfortable with the libertarian view of government, despite the potential negative effects on people on average (see, e.g., the drug debate).

I think it's interesting, then, that racism does seem to me to be, as you say, more common among the paleo cons than libertarians. I think this is because racism does not, in fact, relate to the determinism vs. freedom argument we've been having, but instead relates to certain traditional understandings of the society and culture and an unwillingness to so easily strike down what is traditional in the name of theory (in this case equality).

These are the kinds of considerations that I fear are lost when we define everything by a simple dichotomy.

To some extent that gets at Hayek's differentiation of contemporary (and non-contemporary) conservatism as he saw it (more approaching Paleoconservatism) and the type of 19th century liberalism that he advocated: the former was firmly entrenched in the traditional order and structure of society, whereas the latter rejected such structures. Paleoconservatives often embrace protectionist trade policies (ironically putting them more in line with more left-wing liberals such as Bernie Sanders), which can be said in their case to support the preservation of traditional structures of society; some American conservatives were shocked when Hayek detailed how utterly opposed he was to protectionism and corporate welfare--they'd misinterpreted The Road to Serfdom as a defense of corporatism.

One can see then how the support for the traditional structures of society could lend itself to more racist themes--it'd be only 'natural' then that 'whites' (a category that has been shifting constantly for the last two hundred years) occupied the top levels and newer immigrants (and African Americans) occupy the bottom; disrupting this 'natural' order could to the Paleoconservative be seen as a threat to order, the same as permitting free trade between the US and Mexico could disrupt 'traditional' US economic sectors.

uncle ebeneezer
04-07-2011, 02:06 PM
You're welcome. The discussion has gone off on many tangents and I still don't feel like I've gotten much closer to the answer of my initial question re: why people's view/definition of "rich/well off etc." can change so easily from one time period to another yet they can seem utterly sincere in both cases, but it has been a fun thread nonetheless.

My current conclusion* on the differing view of what constitutes "rich" is that it is mostly a rationalization exercise in trying to avoid feelings of guilt. Ya know, just moving the goal posts so that they don't ever have to admit that they have moved into the class that they once villified. Redefining terms is always a pretty good strategy for minimizing internal tension :) Also, as somebody else mentioned upthread, there is the well known phenomenon of humans habitually attributing +'s to their own virtues (I'm rich because I worked hard) and -'s to outside forces (affirmative action prevented ME from getting in to that school). But ironically, see -'s on others as failings (they're poor because they're lazy, no family structure etc.) This would certainly help explain why someone who once viewed 250K as "rich" (a loaded term to many) to change their view because after all, they are now making $500K because they EARNED it, rather than being lucky.

*subject to change or redefinition

eeeeeeeli
04-07-2011, 02:09 PM
These are the kinds of considerations that I fear are lost when we define everything by a simple dichotomy.
This is true if that's where the conversation starts. But I think operative's drilling-down into the various strains of conservatism was exactly the right direction to go in.

eeeeeeeli
04-07-2011, 02:37 PM
I think this is a fatal flaw, because they don't have common intellectual pedigrees, and leftism is not merely a more extreme liberalism. Liberals and leftists (even in modern America) have fought as hard as anyone.

This is not pedantic, it's essential to the discussion. If you insist on thinking of US politics as two generally unified groups defined by the parties, then I think you are so far from reality that you aren't describing anything of use. The same is true if you see everyone as aligned along one axis.

"Pedant: A pedant is a person who is overly concerned with formalism and precision."
My claim is that you are not allowing me to use the term liberal loosely, as it has a well-known meaning of describing left-wing politics in general. You can find the term unhelpful, going to your critique of my generalizations not offering adequate detail to my claims. But to say that liberal, as I have used it - a term commonly excepted as no different than "left-wing", is meaningless, is akin calling the term "left-wing" meaningless. This is an argument you'll need to take up with what I'd say is a majority of political commentators. I think that is indeed overly concerned with formalism and precision. You could simply ask me to be more specific, if you don't see my point, instead of demanding that anyone who doesn't use uses terms in your narrowly-defined manner is using them incorrectly. That's pedantry, or snobbery. Go ahead and make that case, but don't assume that I'm redefining language, when it is, as I said, a very commonly usage. Also, I never said everyone is aligned on one axis. I actually have explicitly said otherwise.

This is more evidence to me that it is your own rigidity that is causing you to be overly sensitive and "whiny".

For the record, what is your particular distinction between the words leftist and liberal?

I said: "Yet determinism is not an easy concept. "
To which you responded:

I think you have some weird idea that we'd never heard the ideas that you are talking about before you were available to inform us of them. As a veteran of plenty of discussions about determinism (and as someone who thinks that your own thinking has ignored certain conflicts that you yourself have between your asserted beliefs on this subject and others), I find this slightly annoying, yes.

I put that sentence in italics(!) and offered an explanation for why you might be misinterpreting me as talking down to you. That you would ignore that lengthy bit of exposition on my part, taken in the hope of possibly engendering less bad-faith on your (and others) part as to my tone and style, and then go right on and point it out as what I explicitly said it was not, is exasperating!

stephanie
04-07-2011, 03:42 PM
To some extent that gets at Hayek's differentiation of contemporary (and non-contemporary) conservatism as he saw it (more approaching Paleoconservatism) and the type of 19th century liberalism that he advocated: the former was firmly entrenched in the traditional order and structure of society, whereas the latter rejected such structures.

Yep. It's interesting, because liberalism and conservatism are dramatically opposed in certain ways, but both parties in the US have elements of both. This is in part possible, because the traditions in the US are largely liberal ones, so one can be both a liberal and a conservative in the US (much as Burke supported the American Revolution and was okay with the rights of Englishmen, but not the rights of man).

stephanie
04-07-2011, 03:44 PM
This is true if that's where the conversation starts. But I think operative's drilling-down into the various strains of conservatism was exactly the right direction to go in.

You didn't think so when I made a similar point in one of the other threads where this came up. You ignored it and kept right on talking about "liberals" and "conservatives" as monolithic entities.

But I'm glad you'll listen to operative, I suppose, since I happen to agree with him on this issue.

stephanie
04-07-2011, 03:56 PM
"Pedant: A pedant is a person who is overly concerned with formalism and precision."

And as I pointed out, my concern has nothing to do with "formalism," but goes to the heart of the discussion.

My claim is that you are not allowing me to use the term liberal loosely, as it has a well-known meaning of describing left-wing politics in general.

My objection is that however often it may be used in an incorrect manner (I think less often than you suggest, actually, especially if actually in a discussion of political philosophy and the reasons people adopt particular politics, which is what you seem to want to talk about). It's not possible to discuss the ideas underlying particular views if the views are defined incorrectly or include a variety of contrary groups, which is what I think you are doing in treating as identical libertarians and conservatives or liberals and leftists, etc.

But to say that liberal, as I have used it - a term commonly excepted as no different than "left-wing"...

You are simply wrong about this.

snobbery

Ah, it's "snobbery" to say that the well-known distinction between liberalism and radicalism exists. To say that liberalism is different than Marxism? Jeez.

This is more evidence to me that it is your own rigidity that is causing you to be overly sensitive and "whiny".

Ah, overly-sensitive and whiny, too. I do think there's a commentor position on FOXNews that might have your name on it. Liberals who object to being equated with Marxists -- snobbish elitists or just whiny?

This is not complicated stuff. It's impossible to have even the slightest understanding of political philosophy, of the history thereof in the US (and in Europe) and not to see a difference between liberalism and radicalism (or leftism). Let's make it easier and just look at American politics in the post-WW2 period. There aren't clear divisions and it will also be clear that there are still other competing views in the Democratic Party, but that we aren't talking one consistent set of views seems obvious. (The neocons were not originally good liberals, they are converted radicals (leftists).) The only difference now is that the extremes (the real leftists) have generally been neutered.

stephanie
04-07-2011, 04:14 PM
I put that sentence in italics(!) and offered an explanation for why you might be misinterpreting me as talking down to you. That you would ignore that lengthy bit of exposition on my part, taken in the hope of possibly engendering less bad-faith on your (and others) part as to my tone and style, and then go right on and point it out as what I explicitly said it was not, is exasperating!

Okay, let's take that bit in more detail and see if I was unfair. You said:

Yet determinism is not an easy concept. (*note on italics: In case this was just now an example of the kind of writing where you felt spoken down to, I'd just say that my intent was to establish a baseline, not to try and inform you of some special knowledge I have about the complexity of determinism. I think you and others may be mistaking what I think is probably just a dry, academic kind of style for allusions of grandeur on my part. I likely just neglected to add the customary "In my opinion", or "I think". I certainly have convictions, but I make no pretensions to any special expertise - except maybe in education!)

I think I addressed the substance of this in my other post -- I don't think your conclusions follow from the nature of determinism (that it makes more sense to say "I don't agree with you, thus you must secretly agree with me" wrt this topic then with any other). You did not respond to that portion of my post, preferring instead to complain about being allegedly misunderstood.

Does the parenthetical which I didn't quote before make a difference to my interpretation of your tone? No, it really doesn't. I don't think you sound grand or as if you are claiming expertise. I do think you are suggesting that I (like those liberals who don't get that they agree with you) am unaware of the nature of the topic we are discussing and need you to tell me.

But, okay, let's say it said "as we both know, determinism is a complex topic..." My answer from the prior post stands. For the reasons stated there, I simply don't agree with your claim that the nature of the subject is such that people cannot merely disagree. Those who accept any limits on freedom must, unbeknowst to them, actually be determinists.

(And it still sounds to me like you are claiming that if I only understood how complicated this super complicated topic was I'd get why you must assume that liberals like me agree with you, even if we don't think so. That's what's behind my reading of your tone, and the parenthetical really doesn't change that. However, I do agree that this really isn't a helpful addition to the conversation, whoever bears the most fault for it, so I'm certainly willing to drop that part of it.)

operative
04-07-2011, 05:11 PM
You didn't think so when I made a similar point in one of the other threads where this came up. You ignored it and kept right on talking about "liberals" and "conservatives" as monolithic entities.

But I'm glad you'll listen to operative, I suppose, since I happen to agree with him on this issue.

Ah, I must pause here to enjoy the phenomena of actually reaching some level of agreement with folks beyond my fellow travelers ;)

eeeeeeeli
04-07-2011, 06:02 PM
You did not respond to that portion of my post, preferring instead to complain about being allegedly misunderstood.

Yes. I've decided you're more prickly than I'm interested in. I just don't think you try hard enough to understand what I'm saying, and are too quick to assume I mean things I don't. Maybe that's because what I'm saying truly is incoherent. But at this point, I've reached my limit.

Thanks for taking the time though..

rfrobison
04-07-2011, 07:53 PM
...

I dunno, Steph, (Can I call you that? Had a friend in college whom I called that) Seems to me Eli's only calling you dense, pedantic, and whiny. Could be worse: You could be a closet (or overt) racist like me and every other rightie on the planet.

I wonder how far to the left one has to be before one can be rid of that particular character flaw. If I vote for Obama in the next election...

The thing is, from what I can tell, Eli does seem like a nice guy. He doesn't want to give offense and some of what he says seems insightful, but well, you know the rest.

operative
04-07-2011, 07:59 PM
I dunno, Steph, (Can I call you that? Had a friend in college whom I called that) Seems to me Eli's only calling you dense, pedantic, and whiny. Could be worse: You could be a closet (or overt) racist like me and every other rightie on the planet.

I wonder how far to the left one has to be before one can be rid of that particular character flaw. If I vote for Obama in the next election...

The thing is, from what I can tell, Eli does seem like a nice guy. He doesn't want to give offense and some of what he says seems insightful, but well, you know the rest.

Eli probably comes across better in person than in text.

bjkeefe
04-07-2011, 08:00 PM
I dunno, Steph, (Can I call you that? Had a friend in college whom I called that) Seems to me Eli's only calling you dense, pedantic, and whiny. Could be worse: You could be a closet (or overt) racist like me and every other rightie on the planet.

Further proof that Bob and Aryeh have no clue what goes on in their own forums.

stephanie
04-07-2011, 08:04 PM
I dunno, Steph, (Can I call you that? Had a friend in college whom I called that)

Sure. Lots of people do, and I like it.

The thing is, from what I can tell, Eli does seem like a nice guy. He doesn't want to give offense and some of what he says seems insightful, but well, you know the rest.

Yeah, agree.

TwinSwords
04-07-2011, 08:12 PM
Yeah, agree.

I hate it when I see two people whom I admire and respect a great deal -- in this case you and Eli -- get into a contentious debate. I haven't followed your debate about determinism at all, and I've only been able to skim some of the discussion about labels like "liberal" and "conservative," so I can't take sides on either position. (I know, you're crushed. ;-) But I will say that I think you both contribute enormously to the discourse here. And I really like Eli a lot because he's one of the few people I know on the left who doesn't seem apologetic or ashamed of it. Our side has been so badly compromised and defeated in the last four decades that a significant number of ostensible liberals spend half their time trying to prove their Seriousness and Reasonableness and Willingness to Submit Completely to ultraconservatism, and it makes me sick. I like seeing a liberal with some backbone and some pride in American values, instead of the raging contempt for our values that predominate in the GOP.

chiwhisoxx
04-07-2011, 08:25 PM
I hate it when I see two people whom I admire and respect a great deal -- in this case you and Eli -- get into a contentious debate. I haven't followed your debate about determinism at all, and I've only been able to skim some of the discussion about labels like "liberal" and "conservative," so I can't take sides on either position. (I know, you're crushed. ;-) But I will say that I think you both contribute enormously to the discourse here. And I really like Eli a lot because he's one of the few people I know on the left who doesn't seem apologetic or ashamed of it. Our side has been so badly compromised and defeated in the last four decades that a significant number of ostensible liberals spend half their time trying to prove their Seriousness and Reasonableness and Willingness to Submit Completely to ultraconservatism, and it makes me sick. I like seeing a liberal with some backbone and some pride in American values, instead of the raging contempt for our values that predominate in the GOP.

I think the idea of liberals without a backbone isn't that common on these boards. What your saying may have some bite if you're talking about a lot of people in the media, but I don't see a lot of liberal shrinking violets here. Just sayin.

operative
04-07-2011, 08:27 PM
I think the idea of liberals without a backbone isn't that common on these boards. What your saying may have some bite if you're talking about a lot of people in the media, but I don't see a lot of liberal shrinking violets here. Just sayin.

What are you talking about? BJKeefe, Aemjeff, handle, and graz totally bring to mind submissiveness.

stephanie
04-07-2011, 08:43 PM
I like seeing a liberal with some backbone and some pride in American values, instead of the raging contempt for our values that predominate in the GOP.

I think it might have been popcorn karate who suggested that Eli actually has the relatively uncommon beliefs about a number of things that many RWers like to attribute to "liberals." (I'm happy to find the post I'm thinking of if anyone thinks this is unfair.)

I think that's likely true. And as such it doesn't bother him when RWers accuse liberals of various things -- possibly being Marxist or not being patriotic (I'm basing this on Eli's own statements, not trying to be insulting) or rejecting notions of personal responsibility (including holding those who commit violent crimes responsible for their actions), being soft on crime, believing that equality should result in equality of results in order to be meaningful, so on. (If I'm wrong about any of these, Eli, I apologize -- it's supposed to be a list just illustrating that there are a lot of such areas).

However, much like Wonderment's pacifism, which I respect a great deal, the areas on which Eli fits certain RW stereotypes somewhat are not, in fact, areas in which he has views that the majority of liberals hold (let alone the majority of Dems, and of course "liberals" is being used in a really loose sense that seems to me to equate somewhat with "the left side of American politics or even "Dems and those to their left"). Therefore, while I'd be happy for him to argue for his views as, in fact, his views, it does bother me when he insists these are the liberal views (especially when he does so in response to a suggestion from a RWer). (If he were merely to state these as his own views, I'd probably still argue with him, as I disagree with quite a lot of these, but would find it a much more interesting and fun argument, and I wouldn't complain about the stereotyping, obviously.)

But I wouldn't agree (and don't think you are saying) that objecting to the claim that the views that Eli has are also generally the views of "liberals" means that one is not proud to stand up for one's own liberal views. I certainly am. I just don't like having views I find wrongheaded attributed to me, as a liberal, whether it's by a conservative on the forum, by Sarah Palin, or even by Eli. I think it's bad for liberalism and the Dems, generally, to go along with the notion that, yes, we are basically Marxists or, yes, we aren't especially patriotic, or, yes, we don't believe in personal responsibility or that murderers should be considered responsible for their choices in most cases or parents who refuse to care for and support their children or even, yes, we hate vaccines and modern medicine.

But my problem is not simply that this buys into RW propaganda in a way that's unwise and unnecessary. It is, more importantly, that I think these are inaccurate statements, not merely of my own beliefs, but of the beliefs of the majority of liberals. And I say this with plenty of pride in what I think liberalism is.

Indeed, I'd say the same about arguments (which you hear from RWers sometimes) that liberals are basically pacifists. Unlike some of the things that Eli argues for, I don't consider being called a pacifist insulting. I admire them and rather wish I could be a pacifist. But it's factually untrue and misunderstands the argument that the majority of Dems have made about the military actions we've opposed to claim they are pacifist ones. It might be tempting for a pacifist to claim the opposition to the Iraq War as evidence that lots of Dems agreed with him, but we can easily see how misleading that would have been.

And I'd also say this about some of the arguments about "liberal" views where I do agree with Eli's own views (edit: I mean the underlying view about the badness of racism) and find the claim (that liberals are anti racism) flattering. For example, the racism and conservatism argument -- although this is flattering to liberalism, it seems to me unfair, at least when made as broadly as it has been. (We've actually discussed this before on a few threads so I'll refer there for a more considered statement of our respective views.)

Beyond this, I do think that on a forum like this one the arguments are less interesting the more they are posed as "liberal" vs. "conservative," because that ignores the distinctions between the views of individuals here and the fact that just because we may be "liberals" or "conservatives" (let alone "on the left" or "on the right") doesn't mean that we agree on particular issues. (I still think I could well agree with rcocean and operative each on more than they do with each other.)

TwinSwords
04-07-2011, 09:04 PM
I think the idea of liberals without a backbone isn't that common on these boards. What your saying may have some bite if you're talking about a lot of people in the media, but I don't see a lot of liberal shrinking violets here. Just sayin.

Yeah, I don't think I said anything that could be construed as suggesting that there are weak-willed liberals here in the forum. Frankly, the liberal side of this forum is just amazingly impressive -- as the right side of this forum is all too painfully and keenly aware. What I said of Eli - that he isn't apologetic or ashamed of liberalism, that he has backbone, and that he's a passionate defender of American values in the face of a relentless assault from the GOP, I could equally say about so many liberals in this forum I wouldn't dare to try to list them all. But, wow, what an impressive liberal lineup one finds here. I'm in awe of all of them. I wish I could name them, actually, because each and every one of them deserves recognition and our thanks. If the line against the fascism that the right craves is going to be held, it will be because people like them. Your children may well owe their freedom, someday, to the selfless efforts these men and women are making here every day -- in exactly the same way that you owe your freedom and your comfort to the efforts of the brave fighting liberal men and women who went before them, tearing down one wall of conservative oppression after another. We've built a paradise, a glorious society, and we gave it to you. And now you are trying to fuck it up.

We're not going to let you.

eeeeeeeli
04-07-2011, 09:18 PM
But I will say that I think you both contribute enormously to the discourse here.

Thanks. For what it's worth, I think Stephanie is really bright and a great poster. @Stephanie: I've always enjoyed your posts.

I've obviously not enjoyed the contentiousness of this particular debate. My hope is that future discourse I can find a way to be less pedantic and overly general, while Stephanie less prickly!

chiwhisoxx
04-07-2011, 09:19 PM
Yeah, I don't think I said anything that could be construed as suggesting that there are weak-willed liberals here in the forum. Frankly, the liberal side of this forum is just amazingly impressive -- as the right side of this forum is all too painfully and keenly aware. What I said of Eli - that he isn't apologetic or ashamed of liberalism, that he has backbone, and that he's a passionate defender of American values in the face of a relentless assault from the GOP, I could equally say about so many liberals in this forum I wouldn't dare to try to list them all. But, wow, what an impressive liberal lineup one finds here. I'm in awe of all of them. I wish I could name them, actually, because each and every one of them deserves recognition and our thanks. If the line against the fascism that the right craves is going to be held, it will be because people like them. Your children may well owe their freedom, someday, to the selfless efforts these men and women are making here every day -- in exactly the same way that you owe your freedom and your comfort to the efforts of the brave fighting liberal men and women who went before them, tearing down one wall of conservative oppression after another. We've built a paradise, a glorious society, and we gave it to you. And now you are trying to fuck it up.

We're not going to let you.

um...ok? your ability to flip the switch and spew incredible hostility completely unprovoked suggests that you might be bi-polar. you may wanna get that checked out. in the meantime, I think this post can just be a stand-in for the phrase "self-righteous douchebaggery" for the foreseeable future.

operative
04-07-2011, 09:29 PM
um...ok? your ability to flip the switch and spew incredible hostility completely unprovoked suggests that you might be bi-polar. you may wanna get that checked out. in the meantime, I think this post can just be a stand-in for the phrase "self-righteous douchebaggery" for the foreseeable future.

I hope that TwinSwords wasn't be entirely serious there, though it wouldn't be too surprising if he was being entirely serious.

Tbh overall the conservatives on here are more civil. We have plenty of civil liberals, but we also have the Alan Grayson wing of obnoxious, borderline-militant leftists spearheaded by BJKeefe.

graz
04-07-2011, 09:50 PM
Tbh overall the conservatives on here are more civil.
That's due to the fact that at least three terminal conservative cancers were excised and banned by bwana Bob/Brenda.

We have plenty of civil liberals, but we also have the Alan Grayson wing ...
Excerpt brought to you by: the self-deluded branch of wingnuttia ... just like Paul Ryan.

eeeeeeeli
04-07-2011, 10:06 PM
I hope that TwinSwords wasn't be entirely serious there, though it wouldn't be too surprising if he was being entirely serious.

Tbh overall the conservatives on here are more civil. We have plenty of civil liberals, but we also have the Alan Grayson wing of obnoxious, borderline-militant leftists spearheaded by BJKeefe.
I don't know. Personally, I can probably be all over the map. Maybe depending on the time of month. :)

As to the overall percentages and post-by-post analysis, someone oughtta do a study. Someone with more time on their hands then me!

TwinSwords
04-07-2011, 10:10 PM
Thanks. For what it's worth, I think Stephanie is really bright and a great poster. @Stephanie: I've always enjoyed your posts.
Well, yeah. She's totally amazing. It might be a bit difficult for you to appreciate right at the moment, given the surprisingly unfriendly tenor of the debate, but I have no doubt that you will gain — more likely regain — a full appreciation for the incredibly effective and important contributions she makes every day in the fight against irrationality and ignorance -- a war we are doomed to fight for the rest of our days, and a war we must never surrender. Stephanie doesn't like to talk about "sides," but she's on ours, and we owe her our gratitude.


I've obviously not enjoyed the contentiousness of this particular debate. My hope is that future discourse I can find a way to be less pedantic and overly general, while Stephanie less prickly!
Oh, well, I wouldn't just automatically assume that the reason for the contentiousness was because of any failing on your part and that you need to be "less pedantic."

Now, maybe I missed something that would make me want to take those words back -- I've skipped 85% of the posts in this ongoing, multi-thread debate.* But I would not assume this issue is some failing on your part; you and she have different styles and sometimes different views. But that doesn't mean either of you is "right" or "wrong" or should change what you are doing and how you do it. I think it's actually interesting to see the different effects of the different approaches people take.

And besides, I think we ultimately have to be true to who we are. Unless you plan on redefining your whole personality, I think you're probably going to be most effective if you act like your real self, and not twist yourself into behaving like some other person due to criticism or complaints. The more effective you are, the more you will be attacked. You can't satisfy all your critics.

(Sheesh! Now who's being pedantic!?)


*And I apologize for that. I normally keep up better, but the last month at work has been intensely busy.

TwinSwords
04-07-2011, 10:14 PM
Tbh overall the conservatives on here are more civil. We have plenty of civil liberals, but we also have the Alan Grayson wing of obnoxious, borderline-militant leftists spearheaded by BJKeefe.

BJKeefe is really the Mickey Mantle of the Yankee lineup. The whole team is amazing, but the team would be a shadow of itself without Brendan.

operative
04-07-2011, 10:27 PM
BJKeefe is really the Mickey Mantle of the Yankee lineup. The whole team is amazing, but the team would be a shadow of itself without Brendan.

More like the Ty Cobb.

chiwhisoxx
04-07-2011, 10:29 PM
BJKeefe is really the Mickey Mantle of the Yankee lineup. The whole team is amazing, but the team would be a shadow of itself without Brendan.

you're referring to the Mick's drinking and infidelity, right? #alittleknowledgecanbeadangerousthing

rfrobison
04-08-2011, 12:04 AM
...passionate defender of American values in the face of a relentless assault from the GOP...line against the fascism that the right craves....owe your freedom and your comfort to the efforts of the brave fighting liberal men and women ....tearing down one wall of conservative oppression after another. We've built a paradise, a glorious society and we gave it to you. And now you are trying to fuck it up.

We're not going to let you.

Wow, just wow. Would you like some fries and a Coke with that, TS?

operative
04-08-2011, 12:09 AM
Wow, just wow. Would you like some fries and a Coke with that TS?

A sedative may be a better recommendation.

handle
04-08-2011, 02:33 AM
That's due to the fact that at least three terminal conservative cancers were excised and banned by bwana Bob/Brenda.


Excerpt brought to you by: the self-deluded branch of wingnuttia ... just like Paul Ryan.

I bet if the " Alan Grayson wing of obnoxious, borderline-militant leftists" pretended the GOP operatives were winning arguments for a week they wouldn't be so sensitive about tactics.

bjkeefe
04-08-2011, 06:36 AM
A sedative may be a better recommendation.

So, someone says what he thinks about the wingnut-controlled GOP agenda and you think he should be medicated into submission. How very fascist of you.

rfrobison
04-08-2011, 07:13 AM
So, someone says what he thinks about the wingnut-controlled GOP agenda and you think he should be medicated into submission. How very fascist of you.

Mmn, they do it all the time on "Star Trek."

McCoy: Nurse Chapel, hypo!

SHHHH

Kirk (now very relaxed): Bones! What was in tha--ugh...
(falls limp to the floor)

Everybody knows what good friends THEY are.

bjkeefe
04-08-2011, 07:26 AM
Mmn, they do it all the time on "Star Trek."

McCoy: Nurse Chapel, hypo!

SHHHH

Kirk (now very relaxed): Bones! What was in tha--ugh...
(falls limp to the floor)

Everybody knows what good friends THEY are.

So, we've got a Koch apologist prescribing chemical silencing of someone who correctly characterizes the GOP agenda, being applauded by someone who thinks life is accurately modeled by a forty-year old teevee show, and Twin is the crazy one?

I guess this goes some way to explaining why Paul Ryan's "budget plan" is considered Very Serious, public health care is considered Nazism, and the teabaggers' first choice (http://publicpolicypolling.blogspot.com/2011/04/romney-leads-in-nh-trump-makes-things.html) for preznit (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/donald-trump-seriously/2011/04/06/AF0481rC_blog.html) is someone whose entire campaign consists solely of braggadocio (http://wonkette.com/442439/donald-trump-orator-and-statesman-i-will-be-better-than-anybody) and racist dog whistles.

operative
04-08-2011, 09:03 AM
So, someone says what he thinks about the wingnut-controlled GOP agenda and you think he should be medicated into submission.

Totally.

bjkeefe
04-08-2011, 09:06 AM
Totally.

Couldn't bear to include the last sentence of my post (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=203496&postcount=11) in your blockquote, could you?

An uncomfortable truth, I suspect.

operative
04-08-2011, 09:13 AM
Couldn't bear to include the last sentence of my post (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=203496&postcount=11) in your blockquote, could you?


Totally couldn't bear it. I tried to tiger it too.

Ocean
04-08-2011, 10:28 AM
Aww, lighten up wouldja? I wasn't "applauding" anyone for anything.

I. Was. Making. A. Joke.

And far be it from me to intrude on your juvenile, pointless feud with the operative, but to be blunt, your attempt to equate his suggestion that TS be OFFERED-- not forcibly administered--"a sedative" (again, this is what we call a jest, BJ) with some kind of call for TS to be "chemically silenced" is, well, far funnier than my feeble attempts at humor.

It's nearly as funny as TS absurdly over-the-top yammering about "fascist cravings" in the GOP and conservative "walls of oppression." The only thing funnier is that you guys seem to take yourselves so seriously.

Carry on, please. You're knocking us dead...Oh, that's a metaphor for making the audience laugh. I'm not advocating that you actually shoot anybody. Just in case you failed to see the humor.

Hey, Rob, you're not making points for the Robie awards.

It would be nice to appease not to inflame. I don't know why you would expect others to take your comment as humorous but not Brendan's. I thought the whole thing was at least half humorous, wasn't it?

rfrobison
04-08-2011, 10:40 AM
Hey, Rob, you're not making points for the Robie awards.

It would be nice to appease not to inflame. I don't know why you would expect others to take your comment as humorous but not Brendan's. I thought the whole thing was at least half humorous, wasn't it?

Point taken. Perhaps Brendan's comments were tongue in cheek. If so, I apologize all 'round. I'm not sure why my clearly jocular reference to "Star Trek" merited a slam from BJ, and to be honest, I find nothing at all funny about my (very loosely speaking) political party being accused of fascism, oppression and the like.

TS has been nothing but kind to me personally, expressing concern for my well-being here in Japan etc., It's really quite touching. But I see no reason to let that kind of slander go uncontested--if only by ridicule.

If I said anything halfway as outrageous about your side of the aisle, I'd have hundreds of people from your team all over my case, and rightly so.

So here it is again: BJ, if you were joking, sorry I reacted badly. If you weren't, well, then I think I'll let my previous post speak for itself.

No Robie for me this month, maybe. Can't win 'em all.

Ocean
04-08-2011, 11:07 AM
If I said anything halfway as outrageous about your side of the aisle, I'd have hundreds of people from your team all over my case, and rightly so.

So the handful of us in this forum feel like hundreds?

We've had posters from the right making really outrageous comments. I personally think that's better to ignore them whenever possible. But I do understand that from time to time something rubs you in the wrong way beyond your ability to refrain from responding.


So here it is again: BJ, if you were joking, sorry I reacted badly. If you weren't, well, then I think I'll let my previous post speak for itself.

No Robie for me this month, maybe. Can't win 'em all.

I think you should win them all. I'm not sure that others are interested in winning them. We live in a wild world.

( I do endorse overall civility with an occasional flare of passion.) :)

rfrobison
04-08-2011, 11:51 AM
So the handful of us in this forum feel like hundreds?

We've had posters from the right making really outrageous comments. I personally think that's better to ignore them whenever possible. But I do understand that from time to time something rubs you in the wrong way beyond your ability to refrain from responding.



I think you should win them all. I'm not sure that others are interested in winning them. We live in a wild world.

( I do endorse overall civility with an occasional flare of passion.) :)

Again, good points. If it were in my purview, I'd give you a Mega-Robie.

rfrobison
04-08-2011, 12:15 PM
NOTE TO BJ (and anyone else who cares): I have formally retracted-- and deleted the original post that Ocean quoted above. Upon consideration, I have decided that she is right. My intemperate remarks contribute nothing useful to the discussion.

Still, what's done is done. I hope all concerned will let it pass and attribute it to unwarranted sensitivity.

And I'm not just saying this 'cause I'm plugging for a Robie. :)

See y'all in the morning.

Ocean
04-08-2011, 12:20 PM
Again, good points. If it were in my purview, I'd give you a Mega-Robie.

Thank you for the good intentions. But, really, I prefer not to indulge my ego with the idea of awards which may not reflect all aspects of our average posting styles. Once an award is given, the person may think that now they have to keep the reputation given by the laurels, and down the drain with spontaneity. So I like to reserve the right to the occasional abrupt remark without disappointing anyone's expectations.

A little saintly is good, too saintly is boring. And it doesn't matter how you look at it, you don't balance a scale by putting all your weight in the middle.

rfrobison
04-08-2011, 12:22 PM
Thank you for the good intentions. But, really, I prefer not to indulge my ego with the idea of awards which may not reflect all aspects of our average posting styles. Once an award is given, the person may think that now they have to keep the reputation given by the laurels, and down the drain with spontaneity. So I like to reserve the right to the occasional abrupt remark without disappointing anyone's expectations.

A little saintly is good, too saintly is boring. And it doesn't matter how you look at it, you don't balance a scale by putting all your weight in the middle.

Hmm, well, I'm still not gonna un-retract my retraction. Because you were right, in that instance.

Ocean
04-08-2011, 12:32 PM
Hmm, well, I'm still not gonna un-retract my retraction. Because you were right, in that instance.

I saw your retraction after posting my above post. It's fine if you think that was the right thing to do. I wasn't suggesting you retracted anything and I won't suggest that you un-retract.

Let's stop it here before this becomes a tongue twister.

Here for your Spanish lesson:

"R con R guitarra, R con R barril, rápido ruedan los carros cargados de azúcar al ferrocarril."

That's an easy one and is supposed to be sung very quickly.

rfrobison
04-08-2011, 12:38 PM
I saw your retraction after posting my above post. It's fine if you think that was the right thing to do. I wasn't suggesting you retracted anything and I won't suggest that you un-retract.

Let's stop it here before this becomes a tongue twister.

Here for your Spanish lesson:

"R con R guitarra, R con R barril, rápido ruedan los carros cargados de azúcar al ferrocarril."

That's an easy one and is supposed to be sung very quickly.

This problem seems quite tractable to me.

I'll work on the Spanish later.

Oyasumi. (Night.)

TwinSwords
04-08-2011, 01:38 PM
You have to read this:

http://www.ginandtacos.com/2011/04/08/banana-republic/

chiwhisoxx
04-08-2011, 01:50 PM
You have to read this:

http://www.ginandtacos.com/2011/04/08/banana-republic/

edit: nevermind.

uncle ebeneezer
04-08-2011, 02:27 PM
Just want to agree with Twin. Eeeeli has borne alot of criticism and many of the points made are fair and worthy of consideration, but I personally enjoy the questions he asks, and the persistency with which he asks them. Everyone has their own thought-process and style of formulating their arguments. I can see how some people can find approaches different to their own, to be maddening/frustrating and even get to the point where they assume that the other person is being difficult just for difficulty's sake, but more often I think that it's just a "different strokes" thing happening. Stephanie is obviously great at dissecting issues and really honing in on specific points and elements, and keeping the discussion very linear and focussed. And it's a pleasure to read her threads. Eeeeeli takes an interest in trying to incorporate elements that are more on the periphery and asks questions about how they can fit into the narrative. I find these questions very interesting too because personally, I often lack the attention span to follow a really tight, focussed discussion for too long before I get bored and I tend to enjoy bigger picture views. I enjoy the tangents as much as (even more than) the main discussion sometimes. So when I see discussions like this one between Steph & Eli, it seems to be more a simple difference of approach and thought-process rather than any willful effort to obfuscate or purposely irritate.

TwinSwords
04-08-2011, 03:06 PM
Steve M. bets they are just stupid, not evil (http://nomoremister.blogspot.com/2011/04/kathy-nickolas-reasons-you-might-want.html).

popcorn_karate
04-08-2011, 03:12 PM
I think it might have been popcorn karate who suggested that Eli actually has the relatively uncommon beliefs about a number of things that many RWers like to attribute to "liberals." (I'm happy to find the post I'm thinking of if anyone thinks this is unfair.)

That is an accurate portrayal of my view. I find it a little shocking that you are the only other liberal that finds Eli's caricatures of liberalism offensive.

before Eli started posting i thought that the right wing caricature of liberals was completely baseless. Now i have to reassess that based on Eli's embrace of the idea that liberals don't believe in personal responsibility and the general approval he meets with from twin, uncle eb, ocean etc. Far from a full throated defense of liberalism, i find Eli's posts to be slyly underhanded attempts* at discrediting the liberal point of view - and I think that is born out by Operative's approval of Eli's posts.

on the other hand, my political views are idiosyncratic enough that I recognize that although i strongly identify as a liberal, I'm probably not a very good representative of the majority of people who also identify that way.

* speaking of effect rather than motivation, i have no reason to believe that eli is anything but sincere in his posts.

operative
04-08-2011, 03:19 PM
That is an accurate portrayal of my view. I find it a little shocking that you are the only other liberal that finds Eli's caricatures of liberalism offensive.

before Eli started posting i thought that the right wing caricature of liberals was completely baseless. Now i have to reassess that based on Eli's embrace of the idea that liberals don't believe in personal responsibility and the general approval he meets with from twin, uncle eb, ocean etc. Far from a full throated defense of liberalism, i find Eli's posts to be slyly underhanded attempts* at discrediting the liberal point of view - and I think that is born out by Operative's approval of Eli's posts.

on the other hand, my political views are idiosyncratic enough that I recognize that although i strongly identify as a liberal, I'm probably not a very good representative of the majority of people who also identify that way.

* speaking of effect rather than motivation, i have no reason to believe that eli is anything but sincere in his posts.

Say what now? I've mostly discussed conservatism with Eli. Not that I disagree with Eli on liberalism ;)

Ocean
04-08-2011, 04:27 PM
Just to be clear, I like Eli's posts and how he expresses and expands his ideas. But I had the same difficulty that pk and Stephanie expressed, in terms of his generalizing too much to "all liberals" and about his repeated statements that those liberals who don't want to label themselves as determinists must have a flaw in their reasoning. There's been abundance of arguments back and forth about the topic, so I won't expand.

I think that other commenters (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=203168&postcount=11) have expressed the same kind of frustration.

I don't see a need to pile on this issue. Over time we'll know Eli more and we will dismiss or strengthen our impressions about his ideas.

bjkeefe
04-08-2011, 05:23 PM
That is an accurate portrayal of my view. I find it a little shocking that you are the only other liberal that finds Eli's caricatures of liberalism offensive.

I find it a little shocking how little you've read (or retained).

nikkibong
04-09-2011, 07:01 PM
That is an accurate portrayal of my view. I find it a little shocking that you are the only other liberal that finds Eli's caricatures of liberalism offensive.

before Eli started posting i thought that the right wing caricature of liberals was completely baseless. Now i have to reassess that based on Eli's embrace of the idea that liberals don't believe in personal responsibility and the general approval he meets with from twin, uncle eb, ocean etc. Far from a full throated defense of liberalism, i find Eli's posts to be slyly underhanded attempts* at discrediting the liberal point of view - and I think that is born out by Operative's approval of Eli's posts.

on the other hand, my political views are idiosyncratic enough that I recognize that although i strongly identify as a liberal, I'm probably not a very good representative of the majority of people who also identify that way.

* speaking of effect rather than motivation, i have no reason to believe that eli is anything but sincere in his posts.

it all makes a lot more sense if you recall that Eli has copped to spending a lot of time in santa cruz, california.

rfrobison
04-11-2011, 06:39 AM
...which I just did (almost) on time this year, I post the following link for your enjoyment. Ahh, the U.S. tax code. Somthing only an accountant could love. (http://custom.yahoo.com/taxes/article-112485-2306a83f-c6fe-3fe5-af62-1d7e48c47870-most-tax-efficient-man-wsj)

Still think we don't need reform, folks?

Ocean
04-11-2011, 08:32 AM
...which I just did (almost) on time this year, I post the following link for your enjoyment. Ahh, the U.S. tax code. Somthing only an accountant could love. (http://custom.yahoo.com/taxes/article-112485-2306a83f-c6fe-3fe5-af62-1d7e48c47870-most-tax-efficient-man-wsj)

Still think we don't need reform, folks?

Yes, all income above 500K should pay a flat tax rate of 40-45%, no deductions.

rfrobison
04-11-2011, 09:54 AM
Yes, all income above 500K should pay a flat tax rate of 40-45%, no deductions.

I bet you could get a bunch of takers on that proposition in exchange for:

1. No capital gains taxes;
2. A uniform corporate tax rate of, say, 25%;
3. An end to the mortgage interest deduction
4. All income tax withheld at the source (i.e., the employer handles all the paperwork. In other words: NO DANG PHONEBOOK OF A TAX FORM THAT TAKES AN ADVANCED DEGREE IN FINANCIAL ACCOUNTING TO UNDERSTAND!!!)

I'm game—'course I make nowhere near 500 grand a year. And I suspect under your proposed tax rate, you'd see a lot of people's salaries cut magically to $499,999.99 a year, with the difference made up in perks like company cars, etc., but it'd still be a darn sight better than the insanity we have now...

Don Zeko
04-11-2011, 11:07 AM
I'm game—'course I make nowhere near 500 grand a year. And I suspect under your proposed tax rate, you'd see a lot of people's salaries cut magically to $499,999.99 a year, with the difference made up in perks like company cars, etc., but it'd still be a darn sight better than the insanity we have now...

I may be misreading you, and I don't want to pick on you specifically, Rob, but you appear to be making an error here that really gets my goat. Stopping a penny short of 500K doesn't accomplish much because we're talking about a marginal tax rate increase, not a total tax rate increase. So if you take someone making $499,999 and compare his tax bill to someone making $500,050, our hypothetical 40%-45% rate will only be applied to that last $50 of income. There's no reason to stay right below the cap, and there's plenty of reasons to try to get untaxed non-income compensation even at much lower wage levels.

This may sound pedantic, and to a degree it is, but when you look at how the possibility of extending tax cuts for people earning more than $250,000 was discussed or the various other exchanges about taxes, wealth, and who is or isn't rich, there are tons of people obviously misunderstanding the tax code. You certainly will find tons of journalists and politicians acting as if a 4% increase in the top marginal bracket would have huge consequences for someone making $260,000, when the actual tax increase would only be 4% of that last $10,000.

This is why Barack Obama's promise to refuse to raise taxes on anyone below that line was foolish, and why his failure to increase taxes on people above that line says so much about the priorities of our political system. If you want to raise enough revenue to deal with our medium-term deficit problem, then you at the very least need to raise taxes on the wealthy but not super-rich class of professionals, small business owners and so forth that are sitting between $100,00 and $250,000-$300,000, most of whom are basically unaffected by changes to the top bracket. And if you want to look at who had real money at stake in the fight over the top bracket, the people that our political system refused to cross no matter how well it polled, then what you find are the very, very wealthy: the 2% or 3% of people making ten times the median income or more.

JonIrenicus
04-11-2011, 05:18 PM
I continue to not see the necessary connection between "liberals are this, conservatives are this" and your argument about determinism (which I'm not interested in, but which doesn't bother me if you want to talk about it with others, of course). In fact, I think trying to graft it on to ideas about liberals and conservatives which many have objected to weakens whatever point you are trying to make, because that part of it is so flawed.

The connection is only broken if people treat statements like "liberals are this" as a defined equation like "Liberals = this" as opposed to "Liberals ~ this"

If we cannot even make a case for the last example, then any reasonable sort of descriptions about a set of beliefs and ideology becomes meaningless.

But then using language in this way requires a couple of things to be true. One has to internalize that statements like "liberals ~ this" does not mean that "all liberals are ~ this"

Now here goes my generalization. Liberals are more likely to get bent out of shape with this type of language usage.

Based off my observations, *they are overly sensitive to such things compared to the general population.

Oh look, I generalized again. Now many liberals go ballistic over such language. In part because of the negative effects of generalizations used against groups in the past. The prescription from many of them seems to be to dramatically cut down the usage of any of those types of statements, if not hold a blanket ban on the whole lot.

My general response to this reaction is, No. Sorry, not going to do that (not so psychologically scarred from the potential negatives). As a courtesy, for those who repeatedly cannot get past this different use of language, I will sometimes use operators like "many" or "most" or "some."

stephanie
04-11-2011, 06:28 PM
The connection is only broken if people treat statements like "liberals are this" as a defined equation like "Liberals = this" as opposed to "Liberals ~ this"

Actually, no. The objection isn't that the various stereotypes (or generalizations, if one prefers) don't fit all liberals or all conservatives. It's a variety of other things.

First, in many of the cases being discussed, the generalization in question is basically an insult or negative claim, that is intended to suggest that only a bad person (or one with whom reasonable people simply could not agree) is an X (whether liberal, conservative, or something else). Examples of this are the "conservatives are racist" claim, the "liberals don't believe in personal responsibility" claim, or the latest from DS "leftists just want to control people because they are mean and controllling." Obviously, even if one believes that some conservatives are racist (and even if one believes that racists are more likely to be conservative than liberal), it could be reasonably objected to -- as it has been, by Rob and operative, among others -- to simply claim "conservatives are racist." (I guess that by "liberals are oversensitive," then, you didn't mean to exclude conservatives.)

Second, and a significant part of the current discussion, it could be that the claim is true only for a minority of the category in question, so it doesn't make sense to claim, say, liberals share Hitchens' view on religion or liberals are pacifists or conservatives think we shouldn't get involved in the affairs of countries other than the US. A minority of people believe those things, it's even possible that larger minority believe those things (and many others) who self-identify as X than who self identify as Y, yet that doesn't make it reasonable to claim that X are whatever. It's like saying men are homosexual, and women are bi-sexual. Even if more men self-identify as homosexual than women, and more women self-identify as bi than men (I don't know if either of these is true, but both seem quite possible), the claim is silly, and drawing major conclusions about men and women based on the assumptions that men are homosexual and women are bi-sexual is also silly.

Third, also a significant part of the current discussion, given that we are talking about claims rejected by many or most of the categories in question (i.e., conservatives are racist, liberals hate personal responsibility), it makes no sense to draw major conclusions about how liberals and conservatives are different based on these assertions. Better to actually look at the political issues which divide them, than to try to come up with some generalized explanation that bears no connection to the reasons most liberals and most conservatives skew the way they do.

Fourth, and finally, it's not reasonable to pretend like there's two easily identifiable categories, "liberals" and "conservatives" that most Americans fit in. The differences between the parties depend on the issues that people prioritize, and there are a variety of quite different political views that fall under the broader umbrellas of "Democrat" and "Republican" -- for example, the differences between libertarians and conservatives and the differences between liberals and leftists and old-fashioned Dem and so on.

If we cannot even make a case for the last example, then any reasonable sort of descriptions about a set of beliefs and ideology becomes meaningless.

That seems crazy to me -- if we can't boil it down to "liberals are red and conservatives are blue" then the terms have no meaning. Nonsense! But in any case, if we could even try to focus on the actual political differences, I'd be happy. Operative just said something about liberals being in favor of raising taxes and conservatives of cutting benefits which I didn't entirely agree with (the way he said it) but which I would not call a silly generalization or stereotype in the way we've been discussing here, because it actually related to the policy arguments. No one is saying that differences between Dems and Republicans can't be identified or that "liberal" and "libertarian" and "conservative" and "radical leftist" or whatever lack meanings. We've been saying that "liberals are defined as those who are opposed to personal responsibility" or "the difference between liberals and conservatives is that conservatives are racist" are problematic statements.

I'm ignoring the rest of your post, since you seem to have completely misunderstood what was being discussed. I want to give you a chance to respond to -- and defend, if that is your desire -- the types of generalizations in question.

Okay, I will admit that I tend to read arguments such as "oh, the difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals are nice or conservatives are responsible or the like as basically an inability to talk about the issues and thus a desire to reframe the questions as emotional, fluffy, personality traits, and to favor your side with whatever your self-identity is. I think that's rather anti-intellectual and conversation-stopping, so yes I do find it pretty objectionable. I wouldn't have said that was particularly "liberal" of me -- lots of conservatives actually do have interesting things to say about the issues and not just dumb stereotypes about liberals, but if you say so...

Ocean
04-11-2011, 06:41 PM
Now here goes my generalization. Liberals are more likely to get bent out of shape with this type of language usage.

Based off my observations, *they are overly sensitive to such things compared to the general population.

Oh look, I generalized again. Now many liberals go ballistic over such language. In part because of the negative effects of generalizations used against groups in the past. The prescription from many of them seems to be to dramatically cut down the usage of any of those types of statements, if not hold a blanket ban on the whole lot.

My general response to this reaction is, No. Sorry, not going to do that (not so psychologically scarred from the potential negatives). As a courtesy, for those who repeatedly cannot get past this different use of language, I will sometimes use operators like "many" or "most" or "some."

You can exercise your free will and say whatever you want. That doesn't mean that your choice is good or right.

People tend to object to generalizations when they carry bias, prejudice or an effect (intentional or unintentional) of misrepresenting a group.

You may not care for those expressions of prejudice when they refer, for example, to you, but that doesn't mean that no one else cares or that no one else should care when it concerns them. Most of the time it isn't that people can't "get past" generalizations, they just think it's plainly inaccurate or misrepresenting their true opinion. We all let many, many things go by without fussing about it, but from time to time we want to get a message across clearly without misunderstandings. I think it's rather obvious that sloppy communication can potentially lead to all kinds of problems.

rfrobison
04-14-2011, 01:56 AM
I may be misreading you, and I don't want to pick on you specifically, Rob, but you appear to be making an error here that really gets my goat. Stopping a penny short of 500K doesn't accomplish much because we're talking about a marginal tax rate increase, not a total tax rate increase. So if you take someone making $499,999 and compare his tax bill to someone making $500,050, our hypothetical 40%-45% rate will only be applied to that last $50 of income. There's no reason to stay right below the cap, and there's plenty of reasons to try to get untaxed non-income compensation even at much lower wage levels.

No, Zeke, you weren't misreading me and the elementary error was all mine. You are of course right that the higher rate would apply only to income over the ceiling, which is, in fact, what "marginal" means as economists use the term. I'm embarrassed by the lapse in my thinking.

On the other hand, I do think higher marginal rates are a disincentive to work and economic growth on a macro level, especially for those near the upper end of a tax bracket: assuming that someone's gross income isn't going to double due to a promotion or whatever, and Uncle Sam will get a significant chunk of the extra income earned, people may decide it isn't worth the extra effort--as in fact often happens with two-income families where one parent's income is much lower than the other's. Factor in the government's pound of flesh plus child-care costs, etc., and the benefit of that extra income is significantly reduced.

This may sound pedantic, and to a degree it is, but when you look at how the possibility of extending tax cuts for people earning more than $250,000 was discussed or the various other exchanges about taxes, wealth, and who is or isn't rich, there are tons of people obviously misunderstanding the tax code. You certainly will find tons of journalists and politicians acting as if a 4% increase in the top marginal bracket would have huge consequences for someone making $260,000, when the actual tax increase would only be 4% of that last $10,000.

Again, true. But the costs to the economy can be large nonetheless. When economists talk about economic decisions being made at the margin this is what they are getting at, I think. At the corporate level, whether to build that extra factory or hire that extra worker is often decided based on a razor-thin cost calculation. Add those choices up over an entire economy and the impact is not negligable.

This is why Barack Obama's promise to refuse to raise taxes on anyone below that line was foolish, and why his failure to increase taxes on people above that line says so much about the priorities of our political system. If you want to raise enough revenue to deal with our medium-term deficit problem, then you at the very least need to raise taxes on the wealthy but not super-rich class of professionals, small business owners and so forth that are sitting between $100,00 and $250,000-$300,000, most of whom are basically unaffected by changes to the top bracket.

It may be fiscally foolish, but it's electorally smart. The top 2% of income earners are probably not going to swing the election one way or another; going after everybody making over 100 grand a year, on the other hand, would be begging for tens of millions of voters to take their revenge at the polling booth.

But more to the point, I guess I disagree with your premise that we can tax our way to fiscal prudence. History has shown again and again that the more money the government has, the more it will spend--and by an increasing (there's that word again) margin. I'd be thrilled if I were proven wrong in the next go-round, but I doubt I will be.

What irks me about this whole "debate" is that neither side is willing to acknowledge the simple truth: that getting the U.S. financial house in order will require BOTH tax increases AND significant spending cuts to popular and (at times) even useful government services.

In my ideal world, we'd trade Jack Kemp's tax-form-on-a-postcard simplification for a rollback of the latest round of tax cuts. I'd even be willing to see rates go back up to Clinton's magic 39.5% top income tax rate or whatever it was.

In addition, I'd push hard for scrapping or at least sharply cutting capital gains taxes and lowering corporate taxes to the average OECD level (around 25% I believe), again in exchange for closing the assinine loopholes for congressmen's pet industries and the hugely distorting giveaways to favored sectors.

And I see no reason to discriminate against renters by subsidizing homeowners with the hugely expensive mortgage interest deduction, though you'd have to phase the change in slowly or you'd depress the housing market even further.

In the U.S. we subsidize consumption and penalize investment. We need to do less of each.

Chance of enactment overall: about the same as that of pigs flying.

[SIGH]

Ocean
04-14-2011, 08:59 AM
On the other hand, I do think higher marginal rates are a disincentive to work and economic growth on a macro level, especially for those near the upper end of a tax bracket: assuming that someone's gross income isn't going to double due to a promotion or whatever, and Uncle Sam will get a significant chunk of the extra income earned, people may decide it isn't worth the extra effort--as in fact often happens with two-income families where one parent's income is much lower than the other's. Factor in the government's pound of flesh plus child-care costs, etc., and the benefit of that extra income is significantly reduced.

When I read something like the above, I truly have to wonder where this thinking comes from. I hear (or read) it over and over, coming from the libertarian/conservative camp, and the more I think about it the less sense it makes. People who have incomes above a certain level, let's say $500,000, don't get incentivized or disincentivized for work due to a few percentage points of increased marginal taxes. People at that income level don't punch cards, or work extra pay overtime, or will stop attending meetings, or will decrease the number of surgeries, or will play fewer games in their professional teams, or will stop making deals for their companies. It just doesn't work that way.

When you're talking about a two income family, the spouse with a much lower salary (as you say above), may have many reasons to do it, but I bet the most important ones (wanting to maintain independent income, a personal career choice, a constructive use of their time, personal satisfaction, benefits, etc.) have little to do with the tax rate applied to the combined household income.

Is there any data to support your kind of thinking or is it just speculation? Because, as I said, if we are to speculate, I have my own, well founded thoughts about it. It would be important not to assume that your (not yours only, of course) version of the story is necessarily accurate.


Again, true. But the costs to the economy can be large nonetheless. When economists talk about economic decisions being made at the margin this is what they are getting at, I think. At the corporate level, whether to build that extra factory or hire that extra worker is often decided based on a razor-thin cost calculation. Add those choices up over an entire economy and the impact is not negligable.

Again, is there any hard data to support this?


But more to the point, I guess I disagree with your premise that we can tax our way to fiscal prudence. History has shown again and again that the more money the government has, the more it will spend--and by an increasing (there's that word again) margin. I'd be thrilled if I were proven wrong in the next go-round, but I doubt I will be.

Since the objective here is to reduce the deficit and pay off debt, I'm not sure how to interpret the above. It's clear that there has to be a limit to spending while increasing revenues to pay off debt. The key issue being discussed is what sector of the population should make "sacrifices". The elderly, the poor, disabled, or the rich. I don't know. But, who do you think may have a little more to spare?



What irks me about this whole "debate" is that neither side is willing to acknowledge the simple truth: that getting the U.S. financial house in order will require BOTH tax increases AND significant spending cuts to popular and (at times) even useful government services.

I don't think you need to be irked. If you're listening to the discussion, the Democrats are proposing cuts as well. The difference is that they are trying to protect programs directed to vulnerable populations that don't have other resources. It is the Republican party that doesn't want to talk about increasing taxes. You can get irked with them.


And I see no reason to discriminate against renters by subsidizing homeowners with the hugely expensive mortgage interest deduction, though you'd have to phase the change in slowly or you'd depress the housing market even further.

Whenever I hear this, I irk. The catastrophic consequences would be beyond my imagination. If added to the recent housing debacle, and the lingering foreclosure market that we have right now, the net effect may end up being another huge blow to the economy, from which we don't have reserves to recover.

I would like to hear an economist discuss this possibility so that it can be taken out of the table. We're wasting time discussing issues like this that may indeed be impossible anyway.

stephanie
04-14-2011, 12:33 PM
When I read something like the above, I truly have to wonder where this thinking comes from. I hear (or read) it over and over, coming from the libertarian/conservative camp, and the more I think about it the less sense it makes. People who have incomes above a certain level, let's say $500,000, don't get incentivized or disincentivized for work due to a few percentage points of increased marginal taxes. People at that income level don't punch cards, or work extra pay overtime, or will stop attending meetings, or will decrease the number of surgeries, or will play fewer games in their professional teams, or will stop making deals for their companies. It just doesn't work that way.

I made a similar argument recently on one of the diavlog threads, so feel compelled to jump in and agree here.

In fact, I think above a certain level (not sure what level, but certainly mid-6 figures) a whole lot of people's interest in more money relates to considerations other than the money itself. Either keeping up with the standard of living that those around them have or compensation as a proxy for respect/self-worth are bigger parts of it. Not to mention that a lot of time the work that might mean just a little more money in the short-term is crucially related to building a career that will be much more profitable in the long term.

If a lawyer, for example, turned down work or hours or putting in the time to try and cultivate a client, because, eh, the extra bonus or salary bump or whatever won't be worth as much due to taxes, the likelihood is that her image/reputation would be affected,* which is a much greater reason to choose otherwise than "ooh, it's only taxed at 25%." I'd say the same is true in business, in other professions, and even for a lower-earning partner who thinks that he or she at this point doesn't make enough to make it worth working (although there are a lot more issues with that, and taxes only matter if you have a major income disparity between partners in the first place, in which case taxes won't be the main factor).

Similar with people who start businesses (which is what we are supposed to be in favor of, since that creates other jobs, right?). In my experience with people who do that, it's not primarily driven by a marginal increase in pay, but by a desire to work for one's self, create something, etc. And one ends up working really hard usually to try and make it a success. It's not the kind of thing one can desire, eh, I'll just make less because of taxes -- one is focused on making it a go and generally pretty into the work itself. At a certain point, and at all salary levels, sure, people decide whether to choose time or money, but I think how much money they think is necessary and what kind of lifestyle they want and their age and so on tends to be the real considerations, not taxes.

*Or perhaps that she thinks it would be, which is what's more important, or just doesn't conceive at working at a different pace. At any rate, I see no sign of a large number of high-earning types who are choosing to make less money due to taxes. It doesn't feel plausible to me. (And I don't think it would be a bad thing, either.)

stephanie
04-14-2011, 12:57 PM
History has shown again and again that the more money the government has, the more it will spend--and by an increasing (there's that word again) margin.

My problem with this is that I think we got ourselves into the current mess in large part by tax cutting.

What irks me about this whole "debate" is that neither side is willing to acknowledge the simple truth: that getting the U.S. financial house in order will require BOTH tax increases AND significant spending cuts to popular and (at times) even useful government services.

As Ocean said, I think the Dems are talking about both. The question is what we cut. I do not find credible the assertion that the only way we fix the problem is by essentially getting rid of our main -- and popular -- safety net for the elderly, SocSec and Medicare. I don't think it makes sense to assert that a country like the US can't afford even that, despite the fact that our other safety nets are, for the most part, quite a bit less generous than other western countries. Seems to me that what's going on when the only answer is "get rid of Medicare" is an excuse for a position that one is taking for ideological reasons (I'm talking about Ryan here -- I don't know your position on Medicare, etc.).

That said, I do think we need to deal with the cost curve on health care costs, and part of that will be handling Medicare differently (as well as giving the government bargaining powers and so on that have been resisted due to RW policy views). Personally, I think we'd pay less as a society on health care if we had a system like, say, France, but oh well. I'd also willing to consider a variety of adjustments to SocSec -- let's talk about the plus and minuses of raising the eligibility age at some point in the future, and definitely let's talk about raising the cap (which would increase my taxes, certainly, but I think it's fair). But the idea that we can't afford the programs at all or must basically get rid of them without admitting it through some privatization scheme seems, again, clearly not about what we can afford.

In my ideal world, we'd trade Jack Kemp's tax-form-on-a-postcard simplification for a rollback of the latest round of tax cuts. I'd even be willing to see rates go back up to Clinton's magic 39.5% top income tax rate or whatever it was.

In addition, I'd push hard for scrapping or at least sharply cutting capital gains taxes and lowering corporate taxes to the average OECD level (around 25% I believe), again in exchange for closing the assinine loopholes for congressmen's pet industries and the hugely distorting giveaways to favored sectors.

First, I agree on closing corporate tax loopholes and think a lot of people would trade that for lowering the rate (which would quite possibly give us a real higher rate than we currently have and thus make more money).

There's a conflict between your capital gains position and your "simplify taxes" position, though, because what makes taxes complicated for the people for whom they really are is not the fact that we can take a variety of deductions. The deductions that most people take aren't complicated -- charitable deductions, mortgage income, certain health expenditures, dependents, etc. Where taxes get really complicated in figuring out the variety of income sources and how each should be categorized and properly taxes and, of course, issues like basis for investment income. Increasing the difference between capital gains and income increases complexity, because you get a greater incentive for higher income people to try and classify their income in ways that get taxed at lesser rates.

Personally, I see no need to reduce capital gains taxes. People are investing as it is, Wall Street bounced back faster than the rest of the economy, and why is making money through investments (something that middle class people do, yes, but not nearly at the rates of the wealthy) prioritized over income that one works for?

And I see no reason to discriminate against renters by subsidizing homeowners with the hugely expensive mortgage interest deduction, though you'd have to phase the change in slowly or you'd depress the housing market even further.

Mostly I agree. But this is an issue of whether a specific deduction is worth it and how to structure taxes in return (I'd lower taxes on the middle class, who would otherwise have their taxes go up, if we got rid of this, so that getting rid of it would end up being an effective increase on higher earners, as well as a fairness provision for renters).

Don Zeko
04-14-2011, 01:52 PM
No, Zeke, you weren't misreading me and the elementary error was all mine. You are of course right that the higher rate would apply only to income over the ceiling, which is, in fact, what "marginal" means as economists use the term. I'm embarrassed by the lapse in my thinking.

Hey, everybody gets things wrong sometimes. As I said, I didn't mean to dig at you personally. This is an very common error because it's an easy one to make.

On the other hand, I do think higher marginal rates are a disincentive to work and economic growth on a macro level, especially for those near the upper end of a tax bracket: assuming that someone's gross income isn't going to double due to a promotion or whatever, and Uncle Sam will get a significant chunk of the extra income earned, people may decide it isn't worth the extra effort--as in fact often happens with two-income families where one parent's income is much lower than the other's. Factor in the government's pound of flesh plus child-care costs, etc., and the benefit of that extra income is significantly reduced.

Again, true. But the costs to the economy can be large nonetheless. When economists talk about economic decisions being made at the margin this is what they are getting at, I think. At the corporate level, whether to build that extra factory or hire that extra worker is often decided based on a razor-thin cost calculation. Add those choices up over an entire economy and the impact is not negligable.

Well sure, marginal income rates are definitely a disincentive to work. The question is how big of a disincentive. If we were running a balanced budget right now I wouldn't be nearly as enthusiastic about raising taxes. But given that we have a large short-term, medium-term, and long-term deficit, we need to think about how to get back to solvency. That means figuring out just how strong this disincentive is so that we can accurately compare the tax increases with other unfavorable outcomes, like cutting social programs. And when you look at the economic effects of higher-income marginal rates, I think that there are a lot of reasons, including the excellent ones Stephanie and Ocean brought up, to think that a modest increase in the top bracket's rate is less bad than our other politically feasible deficit-reducing options.

It may be fiscally foolish, but it's electorally smart. The top 2% of income earners are probably not going to swing the election one way or another; going after everybody making over 100 grand a year, on the other hand, would be begging for tens of millions of voters to take their revenge at the polling booth.

Oh sure, he's definitely playing politics astutely here. But I think that this is an issue where Democrats need to start changing the tide instead of just following it.

But more to the point, I guess I disagree with your premise that we can tax our way to fiscal prudence. History has shown again and again that the more money the government has, the more it will spend--and by an increasing (there's that word again) margin. I'd be thrilled if I were proven wrong in the next go-round, but I doubt I will be.

I'm not sure that history shows any such thing. If anything, there is some quantitative research (http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~cromer/draft507.pdf)(pdf) suggesting the opposite, that tax cuts lead to deficits, which make government services seem "cheaper" to voters. What's more, it appears to me that we've seen a steady decline in income tax rates since the 1970's that hasn't reduced the size of government at all.

What irks me about this whole "debate" is that neither side is willing to acknowledge the simple truth: that getting the U.S. financial house in order will require BOTH tax increases AND significant spending cuts to popular and (at times) even useful government services.

"A pox on both your houses" between Republicans and Democrats on deficits is the most false of all equivalencies. In the last two years, the Democratic party has passed large cuts to Medicare and the federal student loan program(the ACA), Obama just agreed to a deal with Boehner to cut spending in order to avoid a government shutdown, and Obama's proposed 2012 budget includes all sorts of other spending cuts. Apart from rising health care costs, the Republican party's fanatical support for deficit-financed tax cuts is the biggest driver threat to our government's solvency. The problem isn't getting both party's to agree; it's getting congressional Republicans to acknowledge the laws of arithmetic.

In my ideal world, we'd trade Jack Kemp's tax-form-on-a-postcard simplification for a rollback of the latest round of tax cuts. I'd even be willing to see rates go back up to Clinton's magic 39.5% top income tax rate or whatever it was.

In addition, I'd push hard for scrapping or at least sharply cutting capital gains taxes and lowering corporate taxes to the average OECD level (around 25% I believe), again in exchange for closing the assinine loopholes for congressmen's pet industries and the hugely distorting giveaways to favored sectors.

And I see no reason to discriminate against renters by subsidizing homeowners with the hugely expensive mortgage interest deduction, though you'd have to phase the change in slowly or you'd depress the housing market even further.

In the U.S. we subsidize consumption and penalize investment. We need to do less of each.

Chance of enactment overall: about the same as that of pigs flying.

[SIGH]

In an ideal world, I'd be on board with revenue-neutral simplification of the tax code along the lines you describe, provided that we don't go too far in terms of removing brackets and reducing the tax code's progressivity. But I think we do need to pay attention to political realities. The inefficiency in our tax code is a problem, but our unwillingness to bring revenues and expenditures in line with each other is a much bigger problem that will be hard enough to solve without trying to tackle the mortgage tax deduction while we're at it.

Starwatcher162536
04-14-2011, 03:20 PM
Well sure, marginal income rates are definitely a disincentive to work.

I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing, mainly because I see the stochastic component of people's success as huge. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are not God's among men. There are plenty of people out there whose ability is equal to the aforementioned but we have never heard of because of the vagaries of chance. If a thousand Warren Buffet's choose to stop working because of the marginal tax rates, a dubious proposition itself, others of equal skill who earn much less and are glad to boost their pay, regardless of marginal tax rates will step in and step in gladly. Marginal tax rates may be a disincentive to work at the micro level (individual), but are not at the macro level (society). All they do is shuffle the work around some.

Just to be sure I'm being clear; The reservoir of people who have the ability to perform the top paying jobs as well as the current holders of those top paying jobs dwarfs the number of spots available.

The only reason we have so many truly shocking incomes is because people have no appreciation for how large the error bars should be when gauging job performance. Maybe the following is my own confirmation bias at work, but maybe not; Wherever I look, everything from expected product lifetimes of light-bulbs or motherboards to the measurement of strain stress curves I see error-bars (Maybe not technically, but whatever, let's run with it). I see large errorbars. I absolutely refuse to believe it easier to minimize the error-bars of a macroscopic metric (Job performance) that is composed of many different components that are hard to quantify then the aforementioned examples where many if not all the components of the metric are well understood.

Ocean
04-14-2011, 07:27 PM
Mostly I agree. But this is an issue of whether a specific deduction is worth it and how to structure taxes in return (I'd lower taxes on the middle class, who would otherwise have their taxes go up, if we got rid of this, so that getting rid of it would end up being an effective increase on higher earners, as well as a fairness provision for renters).

If mortgage interests were no longer deductible, I would like to know how that would affect: current homeowners, housing value (when people start selling their houses because they no longer can afford mortgage payments and there won't be enough buyers for the same reason), rents (rents are kept within limits because they have to be somewhere below mortgage payments). Who is going to own all that rental property? How is that going to affect family stability? If people tend to rent instead of owning homes, they may have to move more, change schools, etc.

Is there any source of information for the above?

rfrobison
04-15-2011, 01:26 AM
Well sure, marginal income rates are definitely a disincentive to work. The question is how big of a disincentive. If we were running a balanced budget right now I wouldn't be nearly as enthusiastic about raising taxes. But given that we have a large short-term, medium-term, and long-term deficit, we need to think about how to get back to solvency. That means figuring out just how strong this disincentive is so that we can accurately compare the tax increases with other unfavorable outcomes, like cutting social programs. And when you look at the economic effects of higher-income marginal rates, I think that there are a lot of reasons, including the excellent ones Stephanie and Ocean brought up, to think that a modest increase in the top bracket's rate is less bad than our other politically feasible deficit-reducing options.



Oh sure, he's definitely playing politics astutely here. But I think that this is an issue where Democrats need to start changing the tide instead of just following it.



I'm not sure that history shows any such thing. If anything, there is some quantitative research (http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~cromer/draft507.pdf)(pdf) suggesting the opposite, that tax cuts lead to deficits, which make government services seem "cheaper" to voters. What's more, it appears to me that we've seen a steady decline in income tax rates since the 1970's that hasn't reduced the size of government at all.



"A pox on both your houses" between Republicans and Democrats on deficits is the most false of all equivalencies. In the last two years, the Democratic party has passed large cuts to Medicare and the federal student loan program(the ACA), Obama just agreed to a deal with Boehner to cut spending in order to avoid a government shutdown, and Obama's proposed 2012 budget includes all sorts of other spending cuts. Apart from rising health care costs, the Republican party's fanatical support for deficit-financed tax cuts is the biggest driver threat to our government's solvency. The problem isn't getting both party's to agree; it's getting congressional Republicans to acknowledge the laws of arithmetic.



In an ideal world, I'd be on board with revenue-neutral simplification of the tax code along the lines you describe, provided that we don't go too far in terms of removing brackets and reducing the tax code's progressivity. But I think we do need to pay attention to political realities. The inefficiency in our tax code is a problem, but our unwillingness to bring revenues and expenditures in line with each other is a much bigger problem that will be hard enough to solve without trying to tackle the mortgage tax deduction while we're at it.

Well, despite our differences in emphasis, and in our sense of who or what is to blame for the current mess, I think if Sen. Zeko (D-The Good Carolina) and Rep. Rfr (R-Tokyo) were in charge of hammering out a bipartisan medium- to long-term fix to the debt/tax/entitlement reform issue, the chances of success would be better than even.

Unfortunately we're not in charge. It looks as though both sides have calculated that there is more to be gained politically from vilifying the other side, consequences be damned. I am becoming more and more convinced that no serious effort at a solution will be attempted until there is a Greek-style meltdown--and maybe not even then.

There are plenty of times I'm happy my salary is paid in yen, though Japan has serious economic and debt ailments of its own...At least they don't rely on the rest of the world to keep the government solvent.

stephanie
04-15-2011, 12:26 PM
If mortgage interests were no longer deductible, I would like to know how that would affect: current homeowners, housing value (when people start selling their houses because they no longer can afford mortgage payments and there won't be enough buyers for the same reason), rents (rents are kept within limits because they have to be somewhere below mortgage payments). Who is going to own all that rental property? How is that going to affect family stability? If people tend to rent instead of owning homes, they may have to move more, change schools, etc.

Is there any source of information for the above?

I don't know. I don't think it's been a serious enough proposal (I think it's politically impossible) for anyone to pin down the details that you'd have to have to measure all this. For example, the price that anyone who owns a home today paid was premised on the expectation of the deduction, so it would be grossly unfair to take it away, especially for those (basically all non-rich people with real estate) for whom the home represents such a huge portion of their assets (and liabilities). (This is one of the reasons why it's politically impossible.) Therefore, I think you'd have to grandfather in people who obtained the mortgage before the date of the change and at least phase out the interest deduction slowly for those people (since the amount of the interest deduction decreases over time, that seems workable). On the other hand, this would likely place an incentive against refi'ing, which should be considered.

The other big reason, of course, why it's politically unworkable, and also why I think it's a bad idea, is that it would cause real estate prices to go down a lot. While in other contexts that might be a good thing, it's not a good thing right now, as you pointed out.

(My interest in the argument that we should get rid of the deduction dates back to the '90s when I was in school, and at the time it wasn't really a partisan issue -- the opposition tended to be as much from people who questioned the "everyone should have a house" idea, who were as likely to be urbanites who saw renting as more common and acceptable, and others who thought houses were too unaffordable to most and the deduction tended to drive prices up, than flat taxers. Indeed, the proposal I heard was the one I referenced -- where it would be replaced with a tax cut for the middle class, basically. In any case, as with the "we have to do something about the deficit RIGHT NOW! and we have to fix Medicare RIGHT NOW, after acting as if any change was evil during the debate over health care reform, I am pretty skeptical about the seriousness and purpose of the political use of this proposed reform. However, I think there are serious issues about tax reform that have included it that predate the recent nonsense, and I'm happy to treat Rob's thoughts as part of that.)

In any case, we'd certainly need a lot more information to discuss the question seriously, and I don't see the political will for doing it that would lead to people pinning down the specifics of a proposal and us being able to analyze the pros and cons. Not that there aren't efforts out there to do it, since I bet there are, but I don't know about them.

Ocean
04-15-2011, 04:13 PM
Thank you for your reply. I'm not familiar with the proposal at all, and even less so the details that I was wondering about. I've always seen mortgage interest deductions as the only reasonable path to home ownership for middle and low income people. And as I said before, the idea of a massive shift to rentals would raise the issue of who would ultimately be the owners of such larger number of residential properties, and whether we would be once again directing more wealth to the already wealthy, and therefore increasing the gap.

uncle ebeneezer
04-15-2011, 05:55 PM
Shed a tear for the upper bracket. They are suffereing as never before (http://politics.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474977623449).

bjkeefe
04-15-2011, 08:28 PM
Shed a tear for the upper bracket. They are suffereing as never before (http://politics.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474977623449).

On a related note: "Let Us Count The Ways: Nine reasons the rich get richer thanks to U.S. tax policy (http://citypaper.com/news/let-us-count-the-ways-1.1131424)."

Among other things, provides a succinct rebuttal of several of the hoariest wingnut claims concerning taxes.

(h/t: Ken Layne (http://wonkette.com/443246/witchcraft-in-the-white-house-wingnut-was-just-pranking-townhall-com), in a post worth reading for completely unrelated reasons)

rfrobison
04-15-2011, 09:08 PM
...

My interest in seeing the mortgage interest deduction (slowly) phased out is twofold: One, it distorts the housing market. A huge reason for the housing bubble that we saw up until a few years ago, and the subsequent collapse that is still plaguing the economy today, is that the tax break artificially boosts the price of housing. It led, indirectly, to the belief that house prices could never fall. A lot of people got in over their heads. Others were just looking to make a quick buck. Mortgage securitization, lax lending standards, and the implicit (now explicit) government guarantee behind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did the rest. We're still paying for it. Literally. Those that were prudent, keeping up with their house payments are paying most of all. Bailing out the irresponsible AND watching their own property values fall as their neighbors are foreclosed on.

Second, the mortgage interest deduction is a hugely regressive subsidy. The larger the size of your mortgage, the bigger the tax break. Let's say I have a $100,000 mortgage balance that carries an interest rate of 5%. If all the interest is deductible, that comes to $5,000 a year. Not bad. Now lets say I'm (in the words of "The Jeffersons") Movin' on Up in the world. I buy a $500,000 de-luxe condo in the sky-y-y! How much is the tax break worth? $25,000. So the more money I have to pour into a house, the bigger the tax break.

The poor, on the other hand are far, far more likely to rent. And contrary to Ocean's contention, the rent they will pay will be higher that it would be without the deduction because real estate developers are likely to be able to make more money on land for owned housing than on rental housing -- which, to the extent that it's available, will tend to go more to low-income renters. It's Robin Hood in reverse!

This outrageously expensive giveaway ought to offend the sensibilities of any true progressive. That it does not, I suppose, merely reflects nostalgia for the New Deal.

As for evidence, Germany offers no tax break on mortgage interest. It also had no housing bubble. There's no reason to make a fetish out of home ownership. A home is a place to live and a (potential) financial asset, like any other. Ending the deduction would make the tax code MORE progressive and free up billions in government money that could be put to use in other ways or, better yet, handed back to the people that made it.

This is not a partisan issue. You will find few if any Republicans clamoring for an end to the mortgage interest tax freebie. The middle and upper classes love it. They're the ones that decide elections. I call for it because it offends MY sense of fairness and because it imposes huge and hidden costs on the economy. But I would only advise changing it as part of a comprehensive simplification of the tax code, and, once again, it should only be done slowly because it would tend to depress house prices, which is the last thing we need at the moment.

Basically, when it comes to taxes, I'm in favor of the copy editor's rule: KISS (Keep it simple, stupid). Tax reform can and should be about more that "tax breaks for the wealthy," which is exactly what the mortgage deduction is. I posit it as a sort of trade-off of the sort that might help facilitate a "grand bargain" between liberals and conservatives.

Incidentally, I'm also in favor of a carbon tax to tackle global warming, which would raise a huge amount of revenue and control carbon dioxide emissions far more effectively than the silly, useless, and expensive mishmash of ethanol subsidies, windmill subsidies, gas mileage requirements (and inevitable exemptions for the coal industry and gas-guzzling pickup trucks!).

But I'm not at all optimistic that any of these ideas will see the light of day. Our politicians -- and it must be said, voters -- are too short-sighted to see the danger the country is in. I hate to sound alarmist, but the U.S. is beginning to look like Argentina--a once rich country on a seemingly unstoppable downward slide to second-rate economic status.

Oh well, all good things...

Ocean
04-15-2011, 09:30 PM
As I said in my comment my main concern about eliminating mortgage interest deductions is about its effect on current mortgagees. And I'd love to know more about the other aspects in order to form an opinion.

In terms of the rest you mention in your comment, it sounds like a whole lot of speculation. You may be right or terribly wrong. I don't know and your reasoning alone doesn't convince me.

You confound the real state/lending practices fiasco with mortgage interest deductions. They are not the same. Why are you putting them together as if the deduction had caused the problem? Unfortunately, the rest of the comment, including your Robin Hood paragraph, doesn't quite make sense to me.

As to your comparison with Argentina, I would say that would be a rather benign outcome for the US. The income gap and the Republican's disregard for the vulnerable sectors of the population may point at a much worse outcome.

rfrobison
04-15-2011, 10:37 PM
As I said in my comment my main concern about eliminating mortgage interest deductions is about its effect on current mortgagees. And I'd love to know more about the other aspects in order to form an opinion.

In terms of the rest you mention in your comment, it sounds like a whole lot of speculation. You may be right or terribly wrong. I don't know and your reasoning alone doesn't convince me.

From a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Summary is here. (http://www.oecd.org/document/13/0,3746,en_21571361_44315115_46917325_1_1_1_1,00.ht ml)

The passage below does not deal directly with the mortgage interest deduction, but if you read my post carefully, you'll see I said it contributed to the bubble, not that it caused it. It contributes mainly by artificially boosting house prices, thereby encouraging people to take out larger housing loans than they otherwise would. Here's the relevant passage:

The OECD says that easy credit over the past two decades amplified price volatility, with real housing price jumps of 90% or more in Australia, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom over the study period. Deregulation and innovation in mortgage markets – coupled with inadequate supervisory frameworks – contributed to a significant relaxation in lending standards, an increase in non-performing loans and the sub-prime crisis.

Among its recommendations:

Other key policy reforms should:

* Increase responsiveness of new housing supply to market demand. Countries should reassess licensing procedures that limit new housing starts and reconsider land-use regulations that unduly prevent development. More responsive supply can limit price volatility, excessive price increases and encourage labour mobility.
* Eliminate tax policies that favour housing over other investments. Favourable tax treatment lowers borrowing costs, encouraging excessive investment, speculation and price volatility and limit mobility. Tax breaks are capitalized in house prices, preventing some lower-income households from home ownership. Property taxes should better reflect market values.
* Encourage labour mobility. Lowering transaction costs would enable more financially-constrained households to move. Redesigning strict rent control regulations could increase housing supply. Better targeted social housing could improve access for households in need.Policymakers should avoid concentrating low-income households Portable housing allowances may be preferable over direct provision of housing.

You confound* the real state/lending practices fiasco with mortgage interest deductions. They are not the same. Why are you putting them together as if the deduction had caused the problem? Unfortunately, the rest of the comment, including your Robin Hood paragraph, doesn't quite make sense to me.

See above. See also here (http://dolanecon.blogspot.com/2011/02/case-against-mortgage-interest.html). Key passage:

From an economic perspective, the goal should be equal tax treatment of housing and other forms of investment. Unequal tax treatment of housing encourages speculative behavior, increases price volatility, and crowds out more productive forms of investment, all to the detriment of growth and macroeconomic stability.

and this Brookings Institution study, here. (http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/url.cfm?ID=412099) Key passage:

The mortgage interest deduction (MID) is the largest single federal subsidy for owner-occupied housing, but the benefits are not evenly distributed among taxpayers. Only individuals who itemize deductions can benefit from the MID, and the value of the deduction increases with the marginal tax rate.

One more, (http://www.roubini.com/us-monitor/260453/the_case_against_the_mortgage_interest_tax_deducti on) mostly a repeat of the one above, with some elaboration.

Key passage:

First, because it is a tax deduction, not a tax credit, mortgage interest relief benefits only those who itemize deductions on their personal income tax returns. Some 98 percent of tax units with incomes over $125,000 itemize, compared with just 23 percent with incomes of $40,000 or less. Second, because there is no cap on the deduction, owners of more expensive homes gain more than those with more modest homes. Third, a dollar of tax deduction is worth more to households in higher tax brackets than to those in lower tax brackets.

There's a lot more I could cite, but you get the idea.

As to your comparison with Argentina, I would say that would be a rather benign outcome for the US. The income gap and the Republican's disregard for the vulnerable sectors of the population may point at a much worse outcome.

My point was only that bad economic policies can turn a rich country into a non-rich country, something Argentina illustrates well. Zimbabwe does too, though it went from being a poor country with potential to being destitute. The distributional question you point to is a separate, though still important issue.


*Just a side note: I think the word you're looking for is "conflate." Sorry, the copy editor in me, again.

Ocean
04-15-2011, 11:29 PM
From a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Summary is here. (http://www.oecd.org/document/13/0,3746,en_21571361_44315115_46917325_1_1_1_1,00.ht ml)

The passage below does not deal directly with the mortgage interest deduction, but if you read my post carefully, you'll see I said it contributed to the bubble, not that it caused it. It contributes mainly by artificially boosting house prices, thereby encouraging people to take out larger housing loans than they otherwise would. Here's the relevant passage:

The OECD says that easy credit over the past two decades amplified price volatility, with real housing price jumps of 90% or more in Australia, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom over the study period. Deregulation and innovation in mortgage markets – coupled with inadequate supervisory frameworks – contributed to a significant relaxation in lending standards, an increase in non-performing loans and the sub-prime crisis.

Among its recommendations:

Other key policy reforms should:

* Increase responsiveness of new housing supply to market demand. Countries should reassess licensing procedures that limit new housing starts and reconsider land-use regulations that unduly prevent development. More responsive supply can limit price volatility, excessive price increases and encourage labour mobility.
* Eliminate tax policies that favour housing over other investments. Favourable tax treatment lowers borrowing costs, encouraging excessive investment, speculation and price volatility and limit mobility. Tax breaks are capitalized in house prices, preventing some lower-income households from home ownership. Property taxes should better reflect market values.
* Encourage labour mobility. Lowering transaction costs would enable more financially-constrained households to move. Redesigning strict rent control regulations could increase housing supply. Better targeted social housing could improve access for households in need.Policymakers should avoid concentrating low-income households Portable housing allowances may be preferable over direct provision of housing.

The most persuasive argument so far is that the deduction favors those who buy more expensive homes. Based on that, there could be a cap to how much can be deducted. I would like to hear more about that, although it's still among the last items in a list of priorities to balance revenue/expenditures.



and this Brookings Institution study, here. (http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/url.cfm?ID=412099) Key passage:

The mortgage interest deduction (MID) is the largest single federal subsidy for owner-occupied housing, but the benefits are not evenly distributed among taxpayers. Only individuals who itemize deductions can benefit from the MID, and the value of the deduction increases with the marginal tax rate.

One more, (http://www.roubini.com/us-monitor/260453/the_case_against_the_mortgage_interest_tax_deducti on) mostly a repeat of the one above, with some elaboration.

Key passage:

First, because it is a tax deduction, not a tax credit, mortgage interest relief benefits only those who itemize deductions on their personal income tax returns. Some 98 percent of tax units with incomes over $125,000 itemize, compared with just 23 percent with incomes of $40,000 or less. Second, because there is no cap on the deduction, owners of more expensive homes gain more than those with more modest homes. Third, a dollar of tax deduction is worth more to households in higher tax brackets than to those in lower tax brackets.

People choose to itemize or not depending on what is more suitable for their individual situation. Are they saying that people with incomes of $40,000 or less don't take advantage of mortgage interest deductions when they could?


There's a lot more I could cite, but you get the idea.

So far, the argument seems a bit more solid towards capping the deduction. The rest seems to be "soft" argumentation at best.


My point was only that bad economic policies can turn a rich country into a non-rich country, something Argentina illustrates well. Zimbabwe does too, though it went from being a poor country with potential to being destitute. The distributional question you point to is a separate, though still important issue.

Okay.


*Just a side note: I think the word you're looking for is "conflate." Sorry, the copy editor in me, again.

Good. Conflate, confound, confuse.

con·flate (kn-flt)
tr.v. con·flat·ed, con·flat·ing, con·flates
1. To bring together; meld or fuse:

con·found (kn-found, kn-)
tr.v. con·found·ed, con·found·ing, con·founds
...
2. To fail to distinguish; mix up: confound fiction and fact.

con·fuse (kn-fyz)
v. con·fused, con·fus·ing, con·fus·es
v.tr.
...
2.
...
b. To make opaque; blur: "The old labels ... confuse debate instead of clarifying it" (Christopher Lasch).
c. To assemble without order or sense; jumble.
...

v.intr.
To make something unclear or incomprehensible:


Confidently confess to confabulatory confutation.

Rob, I love to learn, but in case you didn't know, if you keep doing this, it can be annoying.

rfrobison
04-15-2011, 11:48 PM
The most persuasive argument so far is that the deduction favors those who buy more expensive homes. Based on that, there could be a cap to how much can be deducted. I would like to hear more about that, although it's still among the last items in a list of priorities to balance revenue/expenditures.


A billion here, a billion there...I'm not sure why it should be "among the last...in a list of priorities," but sure, it's no cure-all.


People choose to itemize or not depending on what is more suitable for their individual situation. Are they saying that people with incomes of $40,000 or less don't take advantage of mortgage interest deductions when they could?


I don't believe there is a minimum income one must have to itemize. Nevertheless, itemization is far more valuable to those with higher incomes. If nothing else, the rich are far more likely to be able to afford tax advisers who can help them wade through the arcane and constantly shifting tax law to find clever ways to shelter their (already higher) incomes from the grasping fingers of the IRS. That's another argument for a radical simplification of the tax code.

So far, the argument seems a bit more solid towards capping the deduction. The rest seems to be "soft" argumentation at best.


A cap would be a good start, though in my view, only a start. The mortgage interest deduction is regressive, costly, and distortionary. It takes money away from the relatively poor and gives it to those who are relatively better off. It should go.


Rob, I love to learn, but in case you didn't know, if you keep doing this, it can be annoying.

No offense intended.

Ocean
04-15-2011, 11:53 PM
I don't believe there is a minimum income one must have to itemize. Nevertheless, itemization is far more valuable to those with higher incomes. If nothing else, the rich are far more likely to be able to afford tax advisers who can help them wade through the arcane and constantly shifting tax law to find clever ways to shelter their (already higher) incomes from the grasping fingers of the IRS. That's another argument for a radical simplification of the tax code.

A cap would be a good start, though in my view, only a start. The mortgage interest deduction is regressive, costly, and distortionary. It takes money away from the relatively poor and gives it to those who are relatively better off. It should go.


If all of the above is accurate, keep it up, Rob, you're turning into a good old liberal. ;)

rfrobison
04-16-2011, 12:02 AM
If all of the above is accurate, keep it up, Rob, you're turning into a good old liberal. ;)

Yeah, maybe. Or it could be that I've taken the ad slogan of The Economist a bit too literally: "I used to think, now I just read 'The Economist.'"

rfrobison
04-16-2011, 08:10 AM
STILL?? (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703983104576262643576148806.html?m od=WSJ_Opinion_carousel_2) don't think we need tax reform?

stephanie
04-16-2011, 12:15 PM
STILL?? (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703983104576262643576148806.html?m od=WSJ_Opinion_carousel_2) don't think we need tax reform?

I don't think this has any connection to any of the tax reform proposals, no, or even to be related to the idea that taxes are too complicated (and again I do think taxes are too complicated, but not in a way that affects the average filer, and not because of the major itemitized deductions).

Also, to the extent anyone is suggesting that bureaucracy is a problem only with the government, I could describe an insane experience with my former health insurance company and, more relevantly, perhaps, a problem with real estate taxes that I assumed initially was the fault of the County, but ended up being a mess made by my mortgage holder.

Ocean
04-16-2011, 12:22 PM
I don't think this has any connection to any of the tax reform proposals, no, or even to be related to the idea that taxes are too complicated (and again I do think taxes are too complicated, but not in a way that affects the average filer, and not because of the major itemitized deductions).

Also, to the extent anyone is suggesting that bureaucracy is a problem only with the government, I could describe an insane experience with my former health insurance company and, more relevantly, perhaps, a problem with real estate taxes that I assumed initially was the fault of the County, but ended up being a mess made by my mortgage holder.

I agree. Some of the worst experiences I've had related to bureaucratic incompetence, have been with private companies. It seemed to me that there's been so much outsourcing that you end up dealing with low wage people who only know the little piece that involves their immediate task, but they don't know enough about the rest of the system to figure out where to go to solve a problem.

rfrobison
04-16-2011, 12:25 PM
I don't think this has any connection to any of the tax reform proposals, no, or even to be related to the idea that taxes are too complicated (and again I do think taxes are too complicated, but not in a way that affects the average filer, and not because of the major itemitized deductions).

Also, to the extent anyone is suggesting that bureaucracy is a problem only with the government, I could describe an insane experience with my former health insurance company and, more relevantly, perhaps, a problem with real estate taxes that I assumed initially was the fault of the County, but ended up being a mess made by my mortgage holder.

Aww, it's all in good fun! BTW the U.S. is one of like only three countries that require non-resident citizens to file income taxes, even if said citizen had no income in his home country. The other two are North Korea and Libya, I believe.

Oh well, at least there's hope for Libya, eh? ;)

Ocean
04-16-2011, 12:30 PM
Aww, it's all in good fun! BTW the U.S. is one of like only three countries that require non-resident citizens to file income taxes, even if said citizen had no income in his home country. The other two are North Korea and Libya, I believe.

Oh well, at least there's hope for Libya, eh? ;)

Ahhh... that's what all the fuss was about! ;)

Do you have to pay taxes? SS/medicare perhaps? At least you'll be eligible for those when you come back, if you do, right?

stephanie
04-16-2011, 12:39 PM
My interest in seeing the mortgage interest deduction (slowly) phased out is twofold: One, it distorts the housing market.

As indicated above, I generally agree with this. I think you go too far in attributing the bubble to it, though, as we've had bubbles with and without this kind of distortion, and we had the deduction for years without the bubble. Moreover, I don't believe the primary cause for the bubble was the purchasers of real estate. I think it was the belief by lenders and investors that we'd found a way to make any real estate purchase by anyone under whatever terms basically a winning investment.

It's true that the deduction probably inflates real estate prices higher than they otherwise would be (and this is a reason I'm not convinced it's a good policy), but this is far different than a bubble. It would be a steady inflation of the price that wouldn't have changed over time. It in particular wouldn't cause the huge increase in prices that we saw or the crash.

Indeed, like I said, I found the argument more convincing pre-bubble, because right now getting rid of the deduction (unless one had specific ways to avoid it) would make the problem resulting from the bubble worse.

Those that were prudent, keeping up with their house payments are paying most of all. Bailing out the irresponsible AND watching their own property values fall as their neighbors are foreclosed on.

This is worth pointing out -- many that have been responsible are hurt by what happened (and would be hurt worse if the economy collapsed or housing prices dropped further). This is why I find rather disgusting the calls for the market to be left alone, because we need to punish those who acted irresponsibly. Most of the "punished" ones would be people who did nothing that needs to be discouraged. And that's the problem with RWers bringing up the mortgage deduction as a pet cause now (which is something I've noticed happening) when they basically ignored it other than on the fringes before and during the bubble. (As I said, the talk about it I recall from the '90s was wonks on a variety of sides. It wasn't partisan then. Now it tends to be part of a claim that the middle classes don't pay enough in taxes or as part of a desire to have a flat, no deduction code or to move toward that way.)

However, I will note that not everyone who was responsible has been hurt. It has to do with whether one needs to sell or not.

Second, the mortgage interest deduction is a hugely regressive subsidy. The larger the size of your mortgage, the bigger the tax break.

Yes, this is another reason why I generally favor the argument. However, that doesn't change the fact that it likely plays a much bigger role in the ability of a middle class person to afford a house or in the total taxes he pays vs. richer people. That's why I think you'd have to grandfather it in and offset getting rid of it with some kind of tax adjustment for the middle classes. (Also, I will note that FICA is regressive too, yet most people on the right who talk about tax reform ignore FICA, to come up with a misleading estimate of the percentage of income people at various income levels pay. Again, it may not be fair to direct these comments at you, but they play a role in the discussions about tax policy that have been going on in the US.)

This outrageously expensive giveaway ought to offend the sensibilities of any true progressive. That it does not, I suppose, merely reflects nostalgia for the New Deal.

The question is whether it's more important to treat renters and owners fairly (with the understanding that renters are more likely to be young, poor, and urban) or whether it's more important to encourage home ownership (with the idea that those who need help to become home owners, so who we are really talking about, are those who are younger/poorer relative to others, though still basically middle class). I'd liken it to the arguments over whether to means test SocSec. In theory it would be more directed at those who need it (and thus more "progressive") if we did that, but it would also cut the program off at the knees, since it's popularity is based on the idea that it's for everyone, and thus we are willing to put up with richer people paying more (not much more and not the rich, really, since the cuts off at such a low income level) for a much more flat return. Similar principles are at work here. Plus there's been the idea that encouraging home ownership vs. renting was a kind of encouragement of investment.

I'm not comfortable with the current way we are handling it (one that both parties basically agreed on), but I'm suspicious of the focus on it from some quarters at the worst possible economic time. I also think (and thought even in the '90s when the problem was much less) that we would have to figure out a fair way out of it, or you are screwing over a bunch of people.

rfrobison
04-16-2011, 01:23 PM
Ahhh... that's what all the fuss was about! ;)

Do you have to pay taxes? SS/medicare perhaps? At least you'll be eligible for those when you come back, if you do, right?

No, and I don't know. I don't have to pay U.S. taxes -- I pay plenty in Japan, though -- because my yearly pay is well under the foreign income exclusion, which is something like 96 grand at the moment. So, while I won't spell out my income precisely on these boards, you'll see I'm not one of the super-rich who'll benefit from all those goodies the Republicans keep trying to give away...

Nor do I have to pay SS and Medicare taxes. I'm currently paying into Japan's equivalent. But last I heard you have to pay in for like 20 years to be eligible to get a pension. Plus Japan's public pension system is going broke even faster than Social Security. Too many long-lived oldies, too few babies, very few immigrants.

I have paid so little into Social Security that I won't be eligible to receive a dime, more than likely. And I may not be able to rack up enough years to get anything here, either.

In short, I'm screwed. Can I come live with you in my dotage? I promise not to take up too much space, and I won't make you listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch "Fox News."

Ocean
04-16-2011, 06:06 PM
No, and I don't know. I don't have to pay U.S. taxes -- I pay plenty in Japan, though -- because my yearly pay is well under the foreign income exclusion, which is something like 96 grand at the moment. So, while I won't spell out my income precisely on these boards, you'll see I'm not one of the super-rich who'll benefit from all those goodies the Republicans keep trying to give away...

Nor do I have to pay SS and Medicare taxes. I'm currently paying into Japan's equivalent. But last I heard you have to pay in for like 20 years to be eligible to get a pension. Plus Japan's public pension system is going broke even faster than Social Security. Too many long-lived oldies, too few babies, very few immigrants.

I have paid so little into Social Security that I won't be eligible to receive a dime, more than likely. And I may not be able to rack up enough years to get anything here, either.

Man, you're better off voting Democrats. There will be some compassion there.

In short, I'm screwed. Can I come live with you in my dotage? I promise not to take up too much space, and I won't make you listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch "Fox News."

What kind of proposal is that, Rob!

Okay, okay, I'll consider renting a room for you and your wife, and adopt the kitties. I said, consider, after extensive background search and psychological testing. How are you at gardening? Home repairs? ;)

Don Zeko
04-16-2011, 06:20 PM
Okay, okay, I'll consider renting a room for you and your wife, and adopt the kitties. I said, consider, after extensive background search and psychological testing. How are you at gardening? Home repairs? ;)

I can help you with that, Ocean. I am a PAI-scoring machine.

rfrobison
04-16-2011, 08:00 PM
Man, you're better off voting Democrats. There will be some compassion there.

But then we'd have to just sit around complimenting each other on how smart and moral we are. Sounds pretty boring to me. :D



What kind of proposal is that, Rob!

A purely platonic one, I assure you. And even if it weren't, I'd be so old you should have little trouble fending off any unwanted advances...

Okay, okay, I'll consider renting a room for you and your wife, and adopt the kitties. I said, consider, after extensive background search and psychological testing. How are you at gardening? Home repairs? ;)

Thanks. The wife, the kitties and I are in your debt. Which, being a Democrat in good standing, I'm sure you'll be willing to forgive. And if not, you can always raise taxes on "the rich"!

As far as the testing goes, I can save you the trouble by self diagnosis: Subject -- Rfrobison: mildly neurotic, but also mildly entertaining.

I'm lousy at gardening and worse at home repairs. But my wife is good at both. You guys can amuse yourselves with stories of my helplessness. I'll wash the dishes and clean the bathroom. I also make decent chili con carné. Do I get the job?

rfrobison
04-16-2011, 08:05 PM
I can help you with that, Ocean. I am a PAI-scoring machine.

I like cherry and chocolate meringue. Is that gonna help or hurt my score? I really need this gig.

Don Zeko
04-16-2011, 08:12 PM
I like cherry and chocolate meringue. Is that gonna help or hurt my score? I really need this gig.

Beats me. When I say that I'm a PAI-scoring machine, what I mean is that I have a lot of experience putting people's handwritten responses into a machine without knowing anything about how the test functions. And besides, haven't you ever met a psychologist? There are no right or wrong answers and you can't score badly, even when you can totally score badly. I do have one piece of advice for you though: if she administers a rorschach test, then no matter how much blood or genitalia you see in the inkblots, don't tell her about it.

Ocean
04-16-2011, 08:14 PM
But then we'd have to just sit around complimenting each other on how smart and moral we are. Sounds pretty boring to me.

Is that what people do in church? Just wondering whether being compassionate has to come attached to self celebratory behavior.

A purely platonic one, I assure you. And even if it weren't, I'd be so old you should have little trouble fending off any unwanted advances...

You forget how old I would be!


Thanks. The wife, the kitties and I are in your debt. Which, being a Democrat in good standing, I'm sure you'll be willing to forgive. And if not, you can always raise taxes on "the rich"!

If I had that power, I would raise taxes now, so that you don't have to depend on me for your subsistence. You would get a nominal SS and Medicare. I assume you have some savings for other necessities.

As far as the testing goes, I can save you the trouble by self diagnosis: Subject -- Rfrobison: mildly neurotic, but also mildly entertaining.

I'm lousy at gardening and worse at home repairs. But my wife is good at both. You guys can amuse yourselves with stories of my helplessness. I'll wash the dishes and clean the bathroom. I also make decent chili con carné. Do I get the job?

I don't know about you, but your wife is looking good to me. ;)

rfrobison
04-16-2011, 08:15 PM
Beats me. When I say that I'm a PAI-scoring machine, what I mean is that I have a lot of experience putting people's handwritten responses into a machine without knowing anything about how the test functions. And besides, haven't you ever met a psychologist? There are no right or wrong answers and you can't score badly, even when you can totally score badly. I do have one piece of advice for you though: if she administers a rorschach test, then no matter how much blood or genitalia you see in the inkblots, don't tell her about it.

Bwaahahahahahahahha!

Ocean
04-16-2011, 08:16 PM
I do have one piece of advice for you though: if she administers a rorschach test, then no matter how much blood or genitalia you see in the inkblots, don't tell her about it.

LOL!!!

rfrobison
04-16-2011, 08:34 PM
Is that what people do in church? Just wondering whether being compassionate has to come attached to self celebratory behavior.

I don't remember. Why don't you join the wife and me some Sunday and find out? :)


You forget how old I would be!

Well, then, you'll be able to distract me with an offer of prune juice and sitting down to watch "Murder, She Wrote," I suppose...



If I had that power, I would raise taxes now, so that you don't have to depend on me for your subsistence. You would get a nominal SS and Medicare. I assume you have some savings for other necessities.

I require naught but the fellowship of my fellow fellows, fellow.

Totally unrelated, but I did a week-long "inner city mission" with some Mennonites in college once. They fed a group of like five full-time missionaries (one of them had a job as a teacher or something, who supported the others) on like $1.50 per person, per day. And they ate well, if simply. It was pretty cool.

I don't know about you, but your wife is looking good to me. ;)

Dang, she always looks better than me! (That should be "I," as my step-father is wont to remind me, but it just SOUNDS wrong, you know?--Ed.) You guys have fun. I'll be fine here in the corner. [SNIFF, SNIFF!]

Ocean
04-16-2011, 08:43 PM
I don't remember. Why don't you join the wife and me some Sunday and find out? :)

Well, then, you'll be able to distract me with an offer of prune juice and sitting down to watch "Murder She Wrote," I suppose...

I require naught but the fellowship of my fellow fellows, fellow.

Totally unrelated, but I did a week-long "inner city mission" with some Mennonites in college once. They fed a group of like five full-time missionaries (one of them had a job as a teacher or something, who supported the others) on like $1.50 per person, per day. And they ate well, if simply. It was pretty cool.


Dang, she always looks better than me! (That should be "I," as my step-father is wont to remind me, but it just SOUNDS wrong, you know?--Ed.) You guys have fun. I'll be fine here in the corner [SNIFF, SNIFF!]

http://smileys.smileycentral.com/cat/36/36_11_21.gif

bjkeefe
04-17-2011, 02:54 PM
How Congress can balance the budget in eight years by literally doing nothing. This is not a joke.

A pretty intriguing article from B'head Annie Lowrey (http://www.slate.com/id/2291054).

(h/t: Don McArthur (http://donmcarthur.com/2011/04/17/how-congress-can-balance-the-budget-in-eight-years-by-literally-doing-nothing-this-is-not-a-joke/))

stephanie
04-18-2011, 01:18 PM
How are you at gardening? Home repairs?

You know, these are the first two items I need handled by my staff, when I get said staff. (Room for the staff's quarters is another issue, but one thing at a time.)

I spent hours yesterday trying to find a piece of matching tile, and (on another matter) was forced to go to Home Depot, which needs to be fit into Dante's Inferno in some capacity. And gardening is something I keep trying to convince myself I enjoy, because I like the idea of it, and the vegetables and flowers. But it would be easier to like if I could "garden" by just messing around in the garden when I felt like it.

operative
04-18-2011, 01:27 PM
You know, these are the first two items I need handled by my staff, when I get said staff. (Room for the staff's quarters is another issue, but one thing at a time.)

I spent hours yesterday trying to find a piece of matching tile, and (on another matter) was forced to go to Home Depot, which needs to be fit into Dante's Inferno in some capacity. And gardening is something I keep trying to convince myself I enjoy, because I like the idea of it, and the vegetables and flowers. But it would be easier to like if I could "garden" by just messing around in the garden when I felt like it.

I went to the Home Depot, which was unnecessary. I need to go to the Apartment Depot. Which is just a big warehouse with a whole lot of people standing around saying "We don't have to fix anything."
-Mitch Hedberg

It's peculiar to be part of a church whose culture very clearly champions home ownership and associated tasks (gardening, etc.)--very suburban. Yuck, give me an apartment on the 20th story or so, where I have perhaps one plant out on my balcony and merely have to make a call when something goes wrong.

uncle ebeneezer
04-18-2011, 01:35 PM
Speaking of the misery of a trip to Home Depot...on a related note. One word: Ikea (http://superduperband.tumblr.com/post/4719923098/never-get-outta-this-maze-there-are-many).

I can see how gardening and home-renovation projects etc., can be a really addictive thing. They improve your living space, aesthetics, etc. and have a very rewarding element of challenge and relaxation, but gosh, they seem to become the bane of all my home-owner friends' existences (I'm still a renter), and the amounts of $$$ spent boggle my mind.

handle
04-18-2011, 01:49 PM
Speaking of the misery of a trip to Home Depot...on a related note. One word: Ikea (http://superduperband.tumblr.com/post/4719923098/never-get-outta-this-maze-there-are-many).

I can see how gardening and home-renovation projects etc., can be a really addictive thing. They improve your living space, aesthetics, etc. and have a very rewarding element of challenge and relaxation, but gosh, they seem to become the bane of all my home-owner friends' existences (I'm still a renter), and the amounts of $$$ spent boggle my mind.

Color me jealous, yesterday found me in my crawl space (after the home depot fun) running a 20 amp service for a under sink hot water thingy, (you know, for tea), and the heartbreak of field mouse infestations, and finding the stairwell was never well insulated (thanks for letting me whine). The only fun I had was during small breaks countering the anti-tax crowd here, and a truly amusing (only for me, I'm sure) flame war with a hot headed french guy with a burka fetish.
There's a lot to be said for renting.
Stephanie: Staff is the way to go... (like I'd know).

Ocean
04-18-2011, 08:35 PM
You know, these are the first two items I need handled by my staff, when I get said staff. (Room for the staff's quarters is another issue, but one thing at a time.)

I spent hours yesterday trying to find a piece of matching tile, and (on another matter) was forced to go to Home Depot, which needs to be fit into Dante's Inferno in some capacity. And gardening is something I keep trying to convince myself I enjoy, because I like the idea of it, and the vegetables and flowers. But it would be easier to like if I could "garden" by just messing around in the garden when I felt like it.

I love doing both, gardening and home repairs. Unfortunately, gardening isn't such a good idea after I herniated three discs in my cervical spine a few years ago. And home repairs are fine for the most part, except that I'm not too good at it. I installed vertical blinds for the double doors going to the deck last year, but, don't ask me to hammer a nail!

I don't like shopping a whole lot, but I do like shopping for the house.

I agree that "staff" is a much better way to go.

bjkeefe
04-19-2011, 07:26 PM
The good news from McClatchy (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/04/18/112386/poll-best-way-to-fight-deficits.html), via Riley Waggaman (http://wonkette.com/443425/gop-hacks-donald-trump-makes-our-loins-tingle-paraphrase):

Poll: Best way to fight deficits: Raise taxes on the rich

[...]

On tackling the deficit, voters by a margin of 2-to-1 support raising taxes on incomes above $250,000, with 64 percent in favor and 33 percent opposed.

Independents supported higher taxes on the wealthy by 63-34 percent; Democrats by 83-15 percent; and Republicans opposed by 43-54 percent.

Best part?

Support for higher taxes rose by 5 percentage points after Obama called for that as one element of his deficit-reduction strategy last week. Opposition dropped by 6 points. The poll was conducted before and after the speech.

operative
04-19-2011, 07:45 PM
The good news from McClatchy (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/04/18/112386/poll-best-way-to-fight-deficits.html), via Riley Waggaman (http://wonkette.com/443425/gop-hacks-donald-trump-makes-our-loins-tingle-paraphrase):



Best part?

I believe that's about the same percentage as believe in Creationism. Clearly the American public is a sophisticated bunch. Tax them rich, dont talk about us comin' from no monkeys.

handle
04-19-2011, 07:49 PM
I believe that's about the same percentage as believe in Creationism. Clearly the American public is a sophisticated bunch. Tax them rich, dont talk about us comin' from no monkeys.

denquoteOP

rfrobison
04-19-2011, 08:35 PM
Color me jealous, yesterday found me in my crawl space (after the home depot fun) running a 20 amp service for a under sink hot water thingy, (you know, for tea), and the heartbreak of field mouse infestations, and finding the stairwell was never well insulated (thanks for letting me whine). The only fun I had was during small breaks countering the anti-tax crowd here, and a truly amusing (only for me, I'm sure) flame war with a hot headed french guy with a burka fetish.
There's a lot to be said for renting.
Stephanie: Staff is the way to go... (like I'd know).

Shall I consider myself countered, then? I have not yet begun to gripe! ;)

handle
04-19-2011, 09:50 PM
Shall I consider myself countered, then? I have not yet begun to gripe! ;)

No more than commiserated with, at best.

I didn't want to chime in during your on scene reporting, but I feel it more important to express concern after the smoke clears. Hope things are returning to normal and the radiation threat is minimal, and for a limited time.
I was treated with great hospitality and respect there, and it seriously grieved me to witness the disaster, even from afar.

There, cheered up now? :)

rfrobison
04-20-2011, 12:09 AM
No more than commiserated with, at best.

I didn't want to chime in during your on scene reporting, but I feel it more important to express concern after the smoke clears. Hope things are returning to normal and the radiation threat is minimal, and for a limited time.
I was treated with great hospitality and respect there, and it seriously grieved me to witness the disaster, even from afar.

There, cheered up now? :)

Hey, thanks. It was never as bad here in Tokyo as the media made it sound. Life goes on, though for the first week or so a visit to the store conjured up images of the Soviet Union -- lots of empty shelves due to supply disruptions and panic buying. That was a bit unnerving. Things are pretty much normal now.

Up north, however, it will be a long, hard slog, to paraphrase Rummy. Please give generously to the Red Cross or other reputable relief organization.

stephanie
04-20-2011, 12:23 PM
No more than commiserated with, at best.

From me too, for what it's worth.

rfrobison
04-20-2011, 12:37 PM
From me too, for what it's worth.


Aww, you and Handle are so nice to me. If I can hold my own against such towering intellects. that's good enough for me! ;)

Er, or maybe you were just expressing sympathy over the quake. That's also good...

handle
04-20-2011, 06:35 PM
Hey, thanks. It was never as bad here in Tokyo as the media made it sound. Life goes on, though for the first week or so a visit to the store conjured up images of the Soviet Union -- lots of empty shelves due to supply disruptions and panic buying. That was a bit unnerving. Things are pretty much normal now.

Up north, however, it will be a long, hard slog, to paraphrase Rummy. Please give generously to the Red Cross or other reputable relief organization.

Good to hear, and will do.

bjkeefe
04-21-2011, 07:01 PM
"Nine things you should know about taxes and the tax system."

Worth a look (http://www.newsreview.com/chico/tax-myths-misunderstandings/content?oid=1958533). Most of you probably know these already, but this is a nice succinct collection of rebuttals to the talking points babbled forward by the fans of Dreamy McSerious, et al.

uncle ebeneezer
04-26-2011, 07:51 PM
Another problem that the wealthy don't really have to fret about (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/affordable-rental-housing-scarce-in-us-study-finds/2011/04/25/AFcBjilE_story.html).

Cue the responses that if only these people would work as hard rich people, affordable housing would magically appear (along with jobs.)

operative
04-26-2011, 08:21 PM
Another problem that the wealthy don't really have to fret about (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/affordable-rental-housing-scarce-in-us-study-finds/2011/04/25/AFcBjilE_story.html).

Cue the responses that if only these people would work as hard rich people, affordable housing would magically appear (along with jobs.)

If the government wasn't artificially inflating the housing market (thus directing resources away from apartment building) this wouldn't likely be an issue. Also, if the government didn't subsidize tenements, the private market would be much more lively.

bjkeefe
04-28-2011, 05:19 PM
Occasional B'Head Jonathan Cohn (http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-cohn/87460/republican-budget-dodd-frank-wall-street-financial-bailout):

Love Bailouts? Then You'll Love the GOP Budget

Discussion of the House Republican budget has focused mostly on the privatization of Medicare, the block-granting of Medicaid, and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And that’s appropriate, given the magnitude of the changes and widespread impact they would have. But those proposals are obscuring some other proposed shifts that, in any other context, would be plenty troubling for their own sake. This week I'll highlight five of them. On Monday, I talked about radical changes to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) (http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-cohn/87310/republican-budget-cut-block-grant-food-stamp-snap-hunger). On Tuesday, I talked about raising the eligibility for Medicare (http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-cohn/87378/5-worst-republican-budget-raising-medicare-eligibility-age). Today I look at the weakening of financial reform.

Also available: part four, on infrastructure cuts, "Roads to Nowhere (http://www.tnr.com/blog/87545/gop-budget-ryan-discretionary-spending-roads)."

Part five will probably be available as a sidebar link on one of those, starting tomorrow (Friday 29 Apr 2011).

[Added] On a related note, see also (http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-cohn/87493/ryan-mccaughey-medicare-voucher-ipab-ration):

Betsy McCaughey, Paul Ryan, and their Latest Health Care Distortions

Oh, yeah. Her (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=132718#post132718) again.

rfrobison
04-30-2011, 10:37 AM
Whether you're a Keynesian or a Hayekian, you'll no doubt find this musical debate (http://econstories.tv/2011/04/28/fight-of-the-century-music-video/) funny — if you love the dismal science as much as I do.

bjkeefe
05-02-2011, 02:29 PM
O.
M.
G. (http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2011/04/maids-rooms-making-a-comeback-in-the-new-guilded-age-but-this-time-the-rooms-are-bigger/)

operative
05-02-2011, 02:35 PM
O.
M.
G. (http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2011/04/maids-rooms-making-a-comeback-in-the-new-guilded-age-but-this-time-the-rooms-are-bigger/)

"New Guilded Age" aka the embarrassing and completely obliterated idea postulated by the formerly relevant Larry Bartels.

bjkeefe
05-02-2011, 02:40 PM
"New Guilded Age" aka the embarrassing ...

What's embarrassing is the misspelling. A pity, because his punchline was so good (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=206808&postcount=38).

However, at some point down the road, say, when reporting on an uptick in membership in professional societies, we'd have the makings of a clever pun.

bjkeefe
05-06-2011, 11:32 AM
[...]

This fact is separate from the politically charged questions of whether government spends too much, the fairness of who pays how much and what we value or don't in government spending. It's simply that our tax burden is low in the long view of U.S. history, and there are many ways to measure that central truth.

One way is to look at the trend of total federal revenues ... [...] Revenues plunged to around 15 percent of the economy in 2009 and 2010 amid the deep financial crisis, and dipped even further this year, to 14.4 percent, the lowest level since 1950.

Don't like that tax measure? Here's another:

Americans across all income classes paid lower effective tax rates in 2007, the last year of complete Internal Revenue Service data, than they did in 2000. The effective tax rate is what people pay after all exemptions and deductions. This is according to the most recent comprehensive look at taxes by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The highest 20 percent of tax filers saw their total average federal effective tax rate fall from 28 percent in 2000 to 25.1 percent in 2007, according to the CBO. That's considerably lower than the current top marginal tax rate of 35 percent, and lower than the 27.5 percent effective rate in 1979, the first year that CBO data are available.

For the wealthiest 1 percent of filers, the effective tax rate fell from 33 percent in 2000 to 29.5 percent in 2007. The poorest 20 percent of filers saw their effective rate fall from 6.4 percent to 4 percent.

That's not to say the wealthy don't pay taxes — the top 1 percent paid 39.5 percent of all U.S. income taxes in 2007 — but taxes take a smaller share of their wealth today than historic post-World War II norms.

[...]

Still doubtful?

There's yet another way to gauge the tax burden, using data from the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis that go back to 1929. The bureau's data on personal income make it possible to guess roughly what portion of income goes to the taxman.

Under this calculation Americans on average saw 17.3 percent of their income go to federal taxes in 2009 and 2010. The last time the percentage was this low was 1975, and during the late 1960s.

If you exclude social insurance taxes on wages — for Medicare and Social Security — the share of taxes as a percentage of income drops to 9.4 percent in 2009 and 9.3 percent in 2010, the lowest since 1950.

[...]

Read the whole thing (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/05/05/113759/this-fact-may-not-sit-well-americans.html).