Sunday, September 04, 2011

Most Sobering Political Analysis You'll Read Today

Don't even start. Yes, there will be posts about political stuff in an election year. Welcome to the world. Don't wanna read it, don't go past the jump...

Mike Lofgren, a GOP political staffer, has ended his 30 year political career. Upon his exit, he has published a lengthy "get this off my chest" piece about what he thinks has become of his own party. Spoiler: He ain't happy.

You should really read the whole thing. It's long and dry, as from-the-inside political business always is, but picture he paints is stark yet altogether unsurprising: A party that's gone from champions of practical small-government to what he calls an "apocalyptic cult" cynically willing to destroy and undermine the very bodies they serve in in order to have a "broken government" to run against, with a side-helping of unreasoning religious insanity and a blinding hatred of gays, foriengers, "intellectuals" and anyone different.

He also pulls this quote from Jon P. Judis, which seems especially insightful:

"If there is an earlier American precedent for today's Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery."


bigjkt said...

After reading this I would like to say I'm surprised but I'm not. The Donkeys have their faults for certain but Elephants have serious issues and don't seem to have what's best for the country at heart.

DarkKnight86 said...

I wouldn't trust anything on that website

Ryan said...

What's weird to me is that there's anyone in America (barring infants and the illiterate) who doesn't already know that this is true.

jojjo said...

A very interesting article, but I have one major objection to it. Even though I agree that what the tea-party people (in congress) currently are doing is obstruction for short term political gain, in other words populist demagoguery, Americas biggest problem right now IS government spending. In Bush's presidency, that will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the lousiest administrations in American history, more debt was amassed then by all previous administrations put together (even if you account for inflation); and by his refusal to treat problems in any other manner then by throwing borrowed money at them Obama has again increased the debt more than all his predecessors put together, including Bush! This cannot go on! The ground is crumbling, the bubble is bursting and the cards are falling.

Extensive reform is needed quickly, and I don't think ether party is prepared to do what is necessarily: deregulate the economy, open up for true free trade and abolish all corporate welfare (including the hugely destructive fishing and agricultural subsidies). (My home country Sweden, the go to example of excessive government, is actually more capitalistic then America in these respects, absurdly enough our Social-democrats seem to have a better appreciation for free markets then most of your Republicans; we have other problems however, especially with the EU.) Furthermore all spending need to go down and taxes need to be temporarily increased to pay of the debt and help smoothen out the shift for people (there will be an initial rise in unemployment when all government aid is cut, so workers have to be paid for a while, as a compensation for how badly everything's been run), but with the market reforms the economy should sanitize itself in perhaps two years. One tip is to look at how the Balts, and especially the Estonians handled the crisis.

But again: neither party seem to be willing to do this. All I can hope for is that they both start to loose heavily to the Libertarians and the Greens, otherwise I don't see how the downward spiral is going to be broken.

p.s. Sorry for the long, rambling post, I needed to get it out of my system :)

Nixou said...

Basically, the Republican Party has become the embodiment of the fraction of the upper-class which has become similar to an hereditary aristocracy: it is hard to imagine someone willing to sabotage their own State to win a shallow, empty, pyrrhic, ideological victory, but someone working for the part of the upper-class whose members could never retain their wealth, status and privileges if the Power That Be did not rig the competition in their favor is always going to try to sabotage the very State he or she claims to serve so that it never, ever make the system more fair.
Lofgren, the author of this text, openly makes the comparison betwenn the GOP and fascist parties of early 20th century Europe. The irony is that one thing that is always forgotten about the raise of fascism is that it did not come in a vacuum: the worst members of the existing upper-class were the staunch allies of the far-right of its time: it is only logical that the same pre-existing conditions (an upper-class which has become too wealthy, a groing number of heirs among said upper-class who are aware that they lack the talent and skills to retain their status and wealth by themselves, a middle-class afraid to fall into poverty, with many of its members being more envious than resentful toward the upper-class) would produce similar results.

Dan Carvajal said...

This is exactly why I get offended when people make comparisons between Republicans and libertarians like myself. I don't even feel connected with these assholes, and they don't like me either.

I once went to an early Tea Party rally in DC out of curiosity and saw much of this lunacy described. It was the final cap on my opinion of who represent the closest political allies to libertarians (which I currently consider to be the moderate Left)

I want small government because it is more consistent in fostering an environment of high personal and economic freedom. These people want small government only in the sense that they want to cut out the parts of big government that they don't want. Sure it might be on net smaller, but they are still in favor of state interference in the lives of people. I don't support that, which get me called a "Hippy" but the Right. (The Left calls me a "Fascist" for supporting economic freedom, regardless of my pro-drug legalization, anit-war, pro-gay rights, and pro-open borders positions)

However the article has flaws, stereotypes, and myths which I think undermine the other parts that are good analysis. Regardless, the real question is, where do we go from here?

TheAlmightyNarf said...

I'm certainly no friend of the Republican party and much less so of anything affiliated with the Tea Party. I've said before that the party is on the verge of collapse right now with the seemingly incompatibility of the radical fringe with moderate conservatism... and good riddance to it when it goes. That said, I'm far from convinced that they're any worse than the Democratic party. Or have we already forgotten the fringe radicals the Democrats were more than happy to welcome in the late 60s and early 70s?

Also, the idea that the US is not in the middle of a potentially catastrophic budget crisis is completely absurd. Our country's debt is growing exponentially. The Republican party did not make that up... they're using that fact for political gain, sure. But, so are the Democrats.

Smashmatt202 said...

We all knew this, but it's nice to have someone on the inside say it, and actually admit it.

Ryan said...

@Dan, I can't speak for all liberals, but I don't think you're a fascist, but I do think that many so-called libertarians support a lot more government control of society than they think they do (witness my "libertarian" relatives who say they "can't support" the "gay lifestyle"), and I also think that ALL libertarians are confused about or willfully blind to the power that unchecked corporatism would wield in the unregulated, tax-free environment they support. I tend to think of libertarians as perpetual teenagers who want freedom but need structure (whoah, now *I'm* a fascist...)

@Narf, the Democratic party of the 1960s isn't a relevant point of comparison, since none of them currently hold office, but it's important to remember when you cite that group that although the radical fringe was really flipping batty, that fringe was reacting to some very problems with civil rights, class inequalty, and an illegal war that killed 55 thousand Americans and millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians for reasons that, from my perspective, cannot be made to look defensible. You also need to remember that during that same time period, the Republican party was headed up by Richard Nixon, who was pretty obviously worse than any of them despite being (by today's standards) a flaming liberal on domestic policy.

I think the phrase "catastrophic budget crisis" is also problematic. We definitely have a budget problem, but words like "catastrophe", "emergency", etc. are the reason the problem persists, since the only people who use words like that are people who want to scare the public so that their irrelevant or irresponsible policy ideas will get through congress. If we were serious about the budget/entitlement reform, we would 1) Raise the marginal income tax rate to 40% in the $250k - $1m range, and raise it to 50% after that, 2) tax capital gains, including hedge funds, only once, as income, 3) Cut payroll taxes on the bottom 50%, 4) Stop subsidizing oil, private jets, corn, etc., 5) Eliminate the cap on social security taxes, and stop paying out social security benefits to rich peoiple, 6)Cut the military budget in half, and 7) Implement Medicare for All and take the burden off of small business owners. Problem solved, more or less (there's actually a widget on the internet somewhere where you can do this for yourself - it balances the budget over 15 years or so, if I remember right).

The reason that doesn't happen is that we're still dealing with the Plutocratic Party and its army of cultural ideologues. And it makes me sad.

Dan Carvajal said...

@Ryan, Here's the thing, I totally agree that some people defend what they think is the free market but support many forms of corporatism. They miss the other side of corporatism, the benefits that the government gives to corporations, subsides, tariffs, and other protections. The way our tax code and other incentive systems set up, creates these large corporations and stifles competition. Under a fully free market you'd get less corporate power not more because you get rid of the system that sustains them (the entire Medical industry is a racket like this). Libertarianism isn't just discussions of economic freedom, there is a whole hippy group that is fighting to end government farm subsides to corporations so that they can go back to natural farming. As for your relatives, I don't know what they mean by "support" but I live under the adage, "Live and let live." So long as you don't harm someone else, who am I to try and control how you live, that's tolerance. Support is a difference concept though which may be where they're coming from

biomechanical923 said...


1. We're becoming a global economy. Taxing the rich is the quickest way to ensure that they take their ball and go home (meaning take their money and go overseas.) You need some kind of incentive for wealthy and creative people to stay, and justify why they should let you empty their wallets.

2. I agree with this.

3. I partially agree with this. I think taxes shouldn't be withheld from any paycheck unless you specifically ask for it.

4. I partially disagree. Some subsidies go way too far. However, governments need to subsidize things that are necessary to keep the country going. Corn, for example, will always need subsidy. If corn is not subsidized, either: A. farmers will stop growing corn in favor of more profitable crops, or B. the price of corn will skyrocket, and there will me no food surplus. More people will starve.

5.That's absolutely absurd. You would propose a 40-50% income tax on "rich people" and then deny them access to social security / disability when they finally need it? It makes no sense at all, and sounds like you're just bitterly trying to punish people for making too much money.

6. I agree with this. I think the military budget would decrease dramatically if we allowed PMCs to compete for defense contracts.

7. Medicare for all is just not possible. As I said earlier, the increased tax burden on wealthy families will drive some of them to leave the country or hide their money over seas. Compound that with an aging population and a growing population, and "lol tax the shit out of the rich lol" will soon turn into "tax the shit out of everybody because we have to" which is on the Road to Communism.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Ryan

My point is that as a rule politicians and political parties in general have absolutely no principles or integrity to speak of and will jump on board any band wagon that will bring in votes. It is the job of a politician to get re-elected and everything the do is toward that end. It is the job of political parties to get affiliated politicians elected and everything they do is toward that end.

The only reason the Democratic party isn't supporting a radical movement is because there doesn't happen to be one going on right now.

Darren said...

Well I guess he just figured out the republican party is pure evil, but if he would have watched The Simpsons he would have discovered that sooner XD

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ ryan

"I think the phrase "catastrophic budget crisis" is also problematic. We definitely have a budget problem, but words like "catastrophe", "emergency", etc. are the reason the problem persists, since the only people who use words like that are people who want to scare the public so that their irrelevant or irresponsible policy ideas will get through congress."

Or people who think this is a real issue that isn't being taken with the seriousness and timeliness it needs.

"1) Raise the marginal income tax rate to 40% in the $250k - $1m range, and raise it to 50% after that"

Raising taxes on just the super rich has always seemed like a bit of a "stick-it-to-the-man" policy to me and not serious about actually increasing revenue. How about instead we raises taxes on everyone making more than... say, $100k (top 15%)? Or even $80k (top 25%)? Spread the burden out a bit. I mean, if you're in the top quarter of Americans, you could probably handle a bit of a tax increase.

"2) tax capital gains, including hedge funds, only once, as income"

What benefit would that have?

3) Cut payroll taxes on the bottom 50%

And that helps increase revenue... how?

"4) Stop subsidizing oil, private jets, corn, etc."

I would support stopping any form of subsides entirly. If a venture can't survive on it's own, it shouldn't.

"5) Eliminate the cap on social security taxes, and stop paying out social security benefits to rich peoiple,"

Yea, see, there's that "stick-it-to-the-man" thing again. I think people should get whatever benefits they pay into it. Social security shouldn't have any net financial impact on US revenue.

"6)Cut the military budget in half"

Support completely.

"7) Implement Medicare for All and take the burden off of small business owners."

Again, how does this help the budget issue? I just looks like it'd make things worse.

Stefan Sasse said...

Bob, you shouldn't always excuse your political statements. It's your blog, isn't it? Either you want to make those statements, or if you think they're inappropriate, simply open a new, political blog for that stuff. I most certainly would read it.

Sam Robards, Occasional Gamer said...

Hey, Bob, I'm back. Yeah, I said I wasn't gonna, but I still quite enjoy your nerdly musings: it was the new Big Picture episode on the DC reboot that brought me back, by the way. God, I love comics.

At any rate, I am a political conservative, for the most part (I'm pro-gay marriage, so that's where I break on that) and I can admit that one of the worst things in the history of this country was the forming of political parties. It's just become this see-saw of one side getting their way, and then the other side paying them back for it however many years later.

Really, I can't say it any better than my man George here:

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

-George Washington, Farewell Address, Sep. 17, 1796

Ryan said...


I'm glad you asked how this would work, Narf!

Ok. We live in an economy that is driven by consumer spending. That is to say, around 70% of our jobs relate to helping people buy things in some way. An economy like that only works if lots of people are buying things. We also live in an economy that has, for the last 35 years (ever since Reagan, essentially) been increasingly stratified economically. The rich have gotten spectacularly richer, and the poor have gotten...well, not poorer, but there are way, way more of them, and the middle is dwindling away to nothing. That's bad, because the single factor that we need to be prosperous is DEMAND. If lots of people want, and can afford, to buy lots of stuff, the economy will build on itself. Currently, too many Americans are struggling, and as a result the economy is stagnating. We've held off the problem by buying on credit for the last 10 years, but now that bill is due, which is why so many people are underwater on their mortgages. The only real, permanent solution to the problem is a stronger middle class.

You want proof? Compare the United States' economic situation to Germany's. Germany has done pretty much what I laid out, putting heavier taxes on the wealthy, spending heavily on social programs like universal health care, and generally acting to build up the middle class as much as possible, even when it doesn't seem 100% fair...and their economy is much, much better than ours. They aren't in crippling debt, their median income is higher, their schools are better, etc. etc.

The American obsession with maximizing the wealth of the top .01% is silly and dangerous. No other industrialized country has income tax rates as low as ours, regulates industry as laxly as we do, or fails to ensure health care for its citizens...and most of them are in better shape than we are. Our per-capita debt is worse than Greece, and they were retiring at 55 and living off government pensions! Seriously!

I'm not suggesting we hose the rich because I have a chip on my shoulder, I'm suggesting it because it would work, and because, morally, it's the right thing to do. I doubt this argument is changing any minds, but I'm right on the numbers, and I'm not fooled by the silly "we have to protect the job-creators" argument. Those people will head straight at any big group of people with money to spend, and if the United States doesn't bolster its middle class, there won't be one for them to care about, and they'll continue heading for China after packing up all the American cash they can get their hands on on the way out.


So wait, is a "free" market heavily regulated or not? How does it avoid regulatory capture of the type we saw between 1998 and 2008? What possible incentive does a corporation, which is legally bound to maximize profits for shareholders, have to avoid asserting its power as authoritatively as possible, thus denying the very freedoms Libertarians claim to care about? What happens when a company with a "moral" CEO who wants to, say, protect the environment has to compete with an "immoral" CEO who doesn't give a crap? What happens when a scientist wants money to study something that doesn't have an obvious economic application? What happens when a poor person's house catches fire? Libertarianism doesn't have an answer to these questions because its first tenet is the abandonment of social responsibility in favor of disciplined self-interest. It's Communism in reverse, and it's a bad strategy for pretty much the same reasons.

biomechanical923 said...

quoted from your last post:
"I'm not suggesting we hose the rich because I have a chip on my shoulder, I'm suggesting it because it would work, and because, morally, it's the right thing to do"
"What possible incentive does a corporation, which is legally bound to maximize profits for shareholders, have to avoid asserting its power as authoritatively as possible"

To this I ask: What possible incentive does an individual or business have to work harder if that only means that they will be "hosed" and have that extra money taken from them?

Who would want the responsibility of being a CEO, doctor, lawyer, etc, if they knew they were going to be paid the same as the burger flipper and the janitor? This is where Communism fails and fails hard.

Benfea said...

Thanks to our corrupt campaign finance system, extremely rich people and multinational corporations have more say than regular people over what the government does or does not do.

Normal people look at this and think "This is unfair and unjust. How can we transfer power back to the people where it belongs?" Libertarians look at this same set of circumstances and think "This is unfair and unjust. How can we transfer even more wealth and power to the aristocracy?"

Because of this, they believe they are supporting "economic freedom". Neofeudalism is most emphatically not a net increase in freedom for anyone but the aristocracy, and if you are not instructing lobbyists on how your senators are to vote, you are not part of that aristocracy.

Libertarians are as much a force for freedom as conservatives are, which explains why they vote for the same candidates.