There’s A Lot to Be Pissed Off About, But . . .

September 18, 2010 at 11:31 am (By Amba)

I’m worried that people like being pissed off much better than they like getting things done.  And that’s one of the reasons why there’s so much to be pissed off about.

Being pissed off is an addictive drug, maybe literally.  It’s exciting.  It is sensation in a deadened and deadening world.  It mobilizes adrenaline and fight-or-flight feelings that are primal and revitalizing.  And it reinforces our feelings of being right and righteous.  The feelings that drove small tribal wars in hunter-gatherer times, probably helping human groups compete and cohere.  (Just read about how, say, the Lakota despised the Crow, traditional enmities that European colonists were able to exploit until it was too late for both and more.)

When one extreme gets in power, you have to go to the other extreme to push them out.  Thus the Obamites and the Tea Party.  I would vote for the latter even though they are too far right for me, because the Dems are too far left for me.

But the extremes push each other to extremes.  Obama claimed to be willing to compromise (and indeed, some leftists see him as unacceptably centrist).  Republicans claimed that was just lip service and the Dems were all about ramming their radical agenda through, so they refused them any bipartisan window dressing.  Repubs say the Dems never really meant to listen and compromise.  Dems say Repubs never gave them a chance.  The whole picture is contaminated by power-seeking.  If Repubs actually helped Dems accomplish something, the Dems might get credit for it and stay in power.  Meanwhile, Dems think the way to stay in power is to paint the Repubs as total obstructionists, “the party of no.”

It’ll tell you something that my favorite politician (God, those words grate on my ear — oxymoron alert!!) is Lindsey Graham.  Almost nobody can stand him:  to Dems he’s a conservative, to conservatives he’s a RINO.  But while there are wimpy, wishy-washy RINOs, I think Graham is a gutsy one.  He seems willing to sacrifice getting reelected to do what he thinks is right, and what he thinks is right is to disagree where necessary and compromise where possible.  He commits the cardinal sin of the day, which is to acknowledge that we (right and left) still live on the same planet, in the same country, and have a mutual stake in it.  The metaphor of King Solomon and the baby often comes to mind.  The real mother is the one who would rather give up the baby than even entertain the idea of it being cut in half.

If more pols on both sides of the aisle were like Lindsay Graham, maybe more would get done that actually worked in a both/and, neither/nor kind of way, and the country would be in better shape, and people would be less pissed off.

BUT PEOPLE LIKE BEING PISSED OFF . . .

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41 Comments

  1. chickelit said,

    BUT PEOPLE LIKE BEING PISSED OFF . . .

    @%$*-IT! I JUST HATE IT WHEN I’M WRONG!

  2. Peter Hoh said,

    And the people also hate taxes but demand spending.

  3. realpc said,

    I guess some people like to be angry, but there are other reasons for being an intolerant hysterical extremist. Extremists are people who believe they have the ideology that can fix everything and solve everything. Somehow they became convinced that there is a general philosophical perspective that is basically correct, and others that are basically wrong. So if you have complete faith in free enterprise, for example, you would be very angry at anything you perceive as socialist. On the other hand, if you believe it is possible for a government to make things nice for everyone, you would be angry at anyone who disagrees.

    Extremists are people who have definite answers to the serious problems of life. They think everything that is wrong is caused by the Dark Side, which includes everyone who disagrees with them.

    Some people need to be extremists for some reason, and others don’t. Maybe it depends on whether or not you perceive a well-defined enemy. Or having been exposed to only one side of the story, so you can’t possibly have any sympathy with the other side.

    I think that if we really understood what another person is thinking and why, we would sympathize with their views. I don’t believe anyone is really stupid, crazy or evil. Even people who really act stupid, crazy or evil, in my opinion, have their reasons that we just don’t understand.

    If you believe there are answers and you believe it’s possible for millions of people to be wrong, stupid, crazy and/or evil, then you will feel very angry at them. If you think everyone is partly right, and no one really knows much at all, then you might not be angry.

    Anger is a painful emotion, but I think that painful emotions can feel good, so yes it is possible that some people love to feel angry. It is energizing, and it’s reassuring to know you have the answers and that anyone who disagrees is an evil idiot.

    All the extremists I know are full of contradictions any hypocrisy. Like, they will yell about pollution and then drive a big SUV, Or they get all upset about killing baby seals, but partial birth abortion is just fine. I have not seem much rationality in extremists. They would rather not stop and think and see the contradictions. If they started to think, they would have to recognize that there are no simple answers.

  4. Icepick said,

    A lot of people have run out of options – nothing constructive remains to be done. All that’s left is a choice – rage or despair? Rage has a record against despair that is almost as good as the one the Harlem Globetrotters have against the Washington Generals.

  5. amba12 said,

    Agreed. LOL! Well said.

    Except that I’m talking less about where we are now (it’s about too late) than how we ended up here.

    I am really curious what the Tea Party people will do and what will happen to them once they’ve been elected.

  6. Peter Hoh said,

    Do you remember what happened to the Contract with America?

  7. Donna B. said,

    realpc — first let me say that I agree 100% with you about extremists. And I hate that they and their extremist ideas seem to get such good news coverage.

    However, what bothers me most is that so many people are party-line partisans when it does not align with their actual views at all.

    Union members are my main example here. Because my husband is a union member, I was privy to several online message boards. The union he belongs to is somewhat unique in that it provides apprenticeship training and is not tied to a major employer like GM.

    My first post to one of those message boards (in 1996) was to say that most of members sounded like socially conservative Republicans rather than the Democrats they professed to be. Their opinions on social issues lined up exactly with the right wing extremist social conservatives. Also, their opinions on immigration aligned perfectly with the “they are taking our jobs and abusing our welfare system” right wing opinions.

    Yet these people denounced Republicans as evil and called themselves Democrats. Many of them said they did not bother to examine candidate platforms, but simply “pulled the lever” for the Democrat.

    I was appalled and amazed.

    I consider myself a conservative, but I am also in favor of a more open borders ideal unlike most conservatives, especially those who actually call themselves Republicans. I could not believe that these professed Democrats were unintentionally aligning themselves with the most right wing, anti-immigrant Republicans of the time.

    These people are — I think — the core of the tea party. They have finally realized that neither party represents their interests.

    Most importantly, they are now balking at taking voting orders from their union bosses. Of course, I am speaking of a small union that is merely one among many, most of them larger and more powerful in the union hierarchy.

  8. Icepick said,

    I am really curious what the Tea Party people will do and what will happen to them once they’ve been elected.

    A sign of the times – Tea Party candidates have displaced the “party-insider” types in seven or eight elections nation-wide, and it’s called a revolution. How many incumbents are getting re-elected in the primaries? A large majority of them. So much for the revolution.

    (I’m also amused that Marco Rubio is supposed to be a Tea Party candidate, despite the fact that he’s a career politician and has even been Speaker of the House in the Florida legislature – hardly an outsider. Such are the times we live in….)

    I doubt the Tea Party will accomplish much even if the Rs retake both houses of Congress – McConnell and Boehner will then be in charge. Change we can believe in!

  9. amba12 said,

    I’m also amused that Marco Rubio is supposed to be a Tea Party candidate, despite the fact that he’s a career politician and has even been Speaker of the House in the Florida legislature – hardly an outsider.

    Maybe what amazes me most about politics is that people become enthusiastic about politicians and vote for them based on what they say. They will say whatever they think will get them elected! (Newt Gingrich posing as a social-conservative Christian comes to mind. I mean, I don’t doubt that he’s a Christian. I am just unconvinced that religion is the driving force in his life.)

    We really are the Bandar-log, the chattering monkey people of Kipling’s Just So Stories, if we can still be that impressed by mere words. (Says one who slings them for a living.)

  10. William O. B'Livion said,

    It’s about tribe. It always is.

    Humans may not be herd animals, but they are certainly creatures of the pack, and nothing *NOTHING* hurts more than being thrown out of the pack.

    And anger? Anger–rage–is what you need when you grab that spear and go out to face the tiger. You know you’re going to die. You know you may not even manage kill the beast in doing so, but you’re hoping you can slow the f’ing thing down enough that your wife and kids (or just kids if your husband already got eaten) can get away.

    A lot of the Tea Party folks think we’re at that point. That between the wealth transfers to wall street (both parties), the shenanigans with the TARP money (not spent AS THE LAW PROVIDED), the takeover of GM and Chrysler, the takeover of the Health Care Industry, the push for cap and trade etc. the tiger is in the yard.

    I disagree. The tiger’s in the room. We’re already dead. Politics no longer has a point. Now it’s just playing out the death of America. Long, slow, whatever. It won’t happen tomorrow, but it WILL happen.

    People as a-political as my mother (in the 40+ years I’ve known her she has NEVER until this year made a political comment. I have NO IDEA how she voted in the past) have done things that indicate they do not think the future will be as good as the past or the now (She’s had an “elective” surgery this year. She needed it, but she could have done things to put it off a year or two. She was afraid that in 2-3 years she wouldn’t be ABLE to get a knee replacement. Now, she’s not a Fox News type, she’s not strictly on Medicare (she has some variety of fixed benefit retirement after working 30+ years for the same institution that includes health insurance). But she’s scared.

    Me? I’ve known for a while the Boomers were going to suck the life out of this country when they retired. Spoiled whiny f’ks.

    Upthread Mr. Hoh said “And the people also hate taxes but demand spending.”

    Which is true, but when you look at the people who “demand” spending, they are either professional whiners (aka “Activists”) or they are the people who pay the least in taxes.

    Slightly over 50% of workers in this country pay no Income Tax. Yes, they pay various payroll taxes, their 1040ez tax load is 0.

    And they’re the ones that want “free” health care. And the rest of the crap.

    I’m not in a rage any more.

    The TEA party won’t have any effect. They don’t want to make fundamental changes to how things work, they just want the 1990s back.

    We need the 1920s back.

  11. amba12 said,

    I’m one of those f*cking boomers. I don’t know if I’m whiny.

    Medicare makes sense to me, but Social Security does not and never has. How to get out of it, though?! All those people who’ve had earnings taken away from them for decades are hardly going to say “Forget it, I don’t need it” (even if they actually don’t). What a trap!

    Frankly, I think the size of the population (both American and global) is one of the driving forces behind government gigantism. Somehow, this many people cannot all support themselves. (I freely admit I have not worked out the logic behind this statement. I know there are bad political and cultural trends that create and sustain an underclass that is uneducated and unmotivated. But even supposing they were all educated and motivated, would there be enough work for them all?) For a couple of decades our economy has “grown” because people were consuming like crazy on credit, assuming their home values would keep going up and they could keep refinancing. That was “prosperity” if a bubble is a rock foundation. Everybody’s been thinking short-term.

  12. Peter Hoh said,

    Which is true, but when you look at the people who “demand” spending, they are either professional whiners (aka “Activists”) or they are the people who pay the least in taxes.

    I bet you weren’t thinking about military spending when you wrote that.

    Medicare, Part D, was written in collusion with the pharmaceutical industry. These are the big ticket items driving the federal deficit.

    Ag subsidies are another example of federal spending done at the behest of moneyed interests who have learned to work the system.

  13. david said,

    Active observance of Yom Kippur has been really enlightening and liberating (from time to time, and in an unpredictable way),because, on one level, it’s about really pulling back from telling yourself sob stories about your life, and focusing on the grief you **cause,** rather than the wrongs from which you supposedly suffer.

    This isn’t to say Judaism has a lock on equanimity. No religion does. The discipline of observing and retreating from anger, though, can be useful.

    Anger can be justified, even righteous. It can also get to be a habit. As Shantideva said, “Let but this angry mind be overthrown, and every foe is then and there destroyed.” He also said, “The protection of all being is accomplished through examination of one’s own mistakes.”

    Wonder if he observed Yom Kippur?

  14. wj said,

    I think William O nailed it: people are scared. In particular, they feel that the world as they thought they knew it is changing (has changed?) to something that they don’t recognize and don’t understand.

    And the world has changed. In part (and it is a factor just because it keeps being so obvious), new technology has intruded way more into everyone’s life. Once upon a time (say a century ago) people saw new technologies as a boon to everybody. Now, while it may still be a boon, it isn’t viewed the same way. (Outside a few of us who are engineers, of course — whether engineers by training, or just by mind-set. But the Luddite tendency is rather more common.)

    In part, they spent decades seeing the economy expand by leaps and bounds, without any sign of the business cycles that previous generations knew were part of the way the world worked. And so they are feeling ill-done-by because their planning (however vague) for their future has been shown to be a castle in the air. Granted, their mis-perception of what Social Security would do for them was encouraged (strongly) by a lot of politicians. But that just makes them angrier at politicians.

    And in part, for at least some of them, the last straw was seeing someone of a different race in the White House. Not that they are necessarily racists (a few of them clearly are; but not the vast majority of the Tea Party set). But it was yet another change.

    And, let’s face it, the vast majority of the population don’t like change. Never have. They may be fine with an upward change in their personal economic circumstances, but otherwise they really, really prefer that things stay the way they remember them (probably thru rose colored glasses) from their childhood. The fraction of the population who actually like new things has always been pretty small.

    The question in my mind is where the anger at all this change will get focused. So far, it seems to be vaguely focused at politicians in general, and national politicians in particular. (Although not, in most cases, on each individual’s local Congressman. Odd that, isn’t it?) Whether it carries thru to actually forcing changes in the way things are, remains to be seen. We might see a political upheaval. Or we might see an economic upheaval (I’m thinking the sort of protectionist tariffs which exacerbated the Great Depression). Or we might even see something altogether different — even as different as having people get the anger out of their systems by a bunch of rallies and ranting, and settle back down.

  15. amba12 said,

    I’m not so sure about the Luddism. Millions of people seem utterly addicted to their iPads and pods and phones. It’s a must-have for many who probably run out of food by the end of the month.

    But the irony is that technology is used to stoke nostalgia and xenophobia and populist outrage. The very things that are connecting the globe are also carrying the fear of the inrush of strangeness and the dissolution of what we feel is the immune system of the body politic, our unique values.

    I think the latter is the real issue, not race. Obama’s looks wouldn’t bother anyone if he were a traditional American (and certainly there are African Americans who are). But he’s a post-1960s globalist who (via his white mother and grandparents) bought into the notion that America was evil. (His mother’s decision to marry men of color from Africa and Asia was probably a political statement or fantasy at least as much as an accident of falling in love. The latter would be a much more common reason for outcrossing now.) Now, the notion that America can do NO evil, never ever, is jingoism. But we need healthy self-regard, and a clear sense of our distinctiveness, and we deserve it, because the fact is, we’re the worst except for all the rest.

    The borders of a nation are like the skin of an organism: they have to keep out influences that will kill it. Immigrants won’t kill it, diversity won’t kill it. It’s the lowering of our immune system to the cultural viruses, not the carriers thereof, that could kill it.

    Many have noted that in the past, immigrants were forced, often quite cruelly, to fake being mainstream Americans till they made it. They learned to be ashamed of their origins, abandon their traditions (I’m thinking of my own grandparents). White immigrants could do this with more success because they could “pass.” Nonwhite immigrants were regarded as permanent outsiders or second-class citizens for so long that many finally erupted in rage and said “FU, America, we’ll take whatever we can get because you owe us, you bitch.”

    So yes, the chickens ARE coming home to roost — but it’s time for those movements to realize that they will gain nothing by destroying their host. America needed enlarging, culturally. It needed more generosity to different traditions, and it got it, largely to its benefit. But those core political and cultural values — self-reliance, responsibility, defending one’s own, the pioneer spirit — those are what the Tea Party people really fear losing. And they’re right.

  16. amba12 said,

    You could say that the counterculture of the 1960s was like cultural HIV: it lowered our national immune system to self-destructive influences. And I’m not talking about people, nationalities, or races — I’m talking about ideas.

  17. wj said,

    Can you document stuff that Obama has said and/or done which demonstrate that he sees America as evil? (Not that he sees particular actions that our government has taken in the past as wrong. But that he sees America in general as evil.) Because, for all the points on which I disagree with him, I have seen no sign of that.

  18. amba12 said,

    Note that Asian immigrants with strong families and a fanatical work ethic have been very successful in America and have assimilated without much fuss. It’s easy to say they don’t stand out as much visually as other minorities, but they don’t stand out visually BECAUSE they don’t stand out culturally. Americans used to be very racist against Asians.

    African Americans’ families were destroyed by slavery, then mended by the church, then torn apart again by drugs and welfare. Many in that community understand that regardless of where the problems originated, they are now theirs to solve. They have become victims of remaining victims.

    I don’t know about Latinos. They seem to have had strong families that are falling apart once they get here and into the welfare bureaucracy. Many worked really hard at those illegal wages, but to send dollars home, rather than with a goal of becoming American. In that sense they are a bit analogous to Muslims in Europe, and it’s interesting that there is at least a latent Muslim/Latin American leftist alliance. I suspect machismo (touchy pride, jealousy, control of women) is a corrosive influence in Latino culture, as it is in the Muslim world. They rubbed off on each other in Cordoba, maybe.

  19. amba12 said,

    I wouldn’t say Obama, today, sees America as evil, but I bet his mother did. (I’m speaking as someone who shared that culture of the ’60s.) And he is on his way back from that critical perspective, as witness his penchant for apologizing for us and bowing to others. It’s a question of degree, where one is along that continuum. I don’t think it’s wrong for the President of the United States to acknowledge that America has sometimes done wrong — that can be a sign of strength, “my country right or wrong” is brittle with denial — but he needs to start from a position of feeling proud of the country he leads. Obama doesn’t come from there.

  20. wj said,

    Obama’s mother might have come from there. I grew up in the same era, including spending the late 1960s in Berkeley, so I’ve seen it, too. Even if I didn’t share it at the time.

    But he was largely raised, from what I recall, by his grandparents. And, given that my parents are also from that generation (and also from the Midwest), I’d give long odds that their perspective was very much pride in this country. Which, IMHO, means that saying he started from a perspective of not being proud of this country requires some actual evidence.

  21. wj said,

    The Latinos that I have known were assimilating pretty fast. Those who are hear illegally are in a different category. They know they can’t stay, so they send money home because that’s where their families and their roots are. There are some parallels to Muslims in Europe; albeit no real links. But those Latinos who are legally here are as integrated as anybody else. (And sending money to relatives elsewhere is hardly a sign of not being assimilated. Know any Jews who have sent money it Israel? I’d bet that they were pretty thoroughly assimilated Americans.)

    As for Muslims, those who are here and those in Europe are two entirely different cases. Muslim’s in Europe (at least, those who came to northern Europe in the later part of the 20th century, as opposed to those in the Balkans, who have been there for centuries) have never been accepted; can’t even become citizens in some places. As opposed to the Muslims in the US, who are mostly indistinguishable from anybody else.

  22. Icepick said,

    But [Obama] was largely raised, from what I recall, by his grandparents.

    You mean the ones that were typical white people? With their casual prejudice and racism? I’m sure he was very attentive to their beliefs.

    Which, IMHO, means that saying he started from a perspective of not being proud of this country requires some actual evidence.

    Don’t know about that. But his pastor of twenty years clearly does hate America. And Obama’s wife didn’t become proud of America until her husband was about to grasp the Golden Ring. Perhaps he wasn’t as attentive with them as he was with his grandparents.

  23. wj said,

    …typical white people… With their casual prejudice and racism…

    Well, Ice, I don’t know about them in particular. But I have observed that a) racism may have been common, but it was far from universal, and b) a fair number of people who come from racist backgrounds show a willingness (startling to those looking for easy stereotypes) to adjust their beliefs when someone of that race turns up in their family. No, it’s far from universal. But given the fondness with which Obama has always written about his grandparents, I would conclude that either they didn’t start out racist or got past it. do you have evidence to the contrary?

    And, again given the fondness with which Obama speaks of them, I would think that he actually was likely to absorb their beliefs. At least as far as anyone absorbs the beliefs of those who raised them. And, again from my experience, either kids mostly absorb their parents belief system, or they go into total rebellion and reject it — which is pretty hard to miss.

  24. amba12 said,

    His grandparents were radicals? or his grandfather was. I need to check reliable sources.

  25. amba12 said,

    Muslims in the US, who are mostly indistinguishable from anybody else.

    True. And also true that legal Latinos assimilate, and illegals don’t for perfectly obvious reasons. (Although they used to, quietly, back when their presence here was much less noticed. I had a friend in junior high who later told me of his family, “We were wetbacks, you know.” I didn’t.)

  26. Icepick said,

    But given the fondness with which Obama has always written about his grandparents, I would conclude that either they didn’t start out racist or got past it. do you have evidence to the contrary?

    Yes, Obama’s words. Remember his famous speech about racism, “A More Perfect Union”? (Otherwise known as the speech where he tried to distance himself as much as possible from the good Rev. Wright, with whom he had previously taken pains to get close to.)

    He threw his grandmother under the bus in that speech. In a later effort to back out of that problem he called his grandmother a “typical white person”. Here are the relevant passages. First his speech:

    [M]y white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

    Later he tried to explain why he threw his grandmother under the bus:

    The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn’t. But she is a typical white person who, uh, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know there’s a reaction that’s been been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way and that’s just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it…

    As I wrote at the time,

    This statement makes no sense. If his grandmother reflexively has negative reactions to people of another race for no other reason than race, then she does in fact harbor racial animosity.

    Throwing Granny under the bus (again) isn’t the worst part of his comment, though. The worst part is his overly simplified stereotype of the “typical white person” as a racist. One wonders if the Stuff White People Like blog has shaped Obama’s views of white people. No, that can’t be it, as that blog has a very recent origin. Or perhaps “to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality” is just something that the typical black person does.

    Future historians will be mystified that Obama was considered a great public speaker.

  27. William O. B'Livion said,

    “””
    “How to get out of it, though?! All those people who’ve had earnings taken away from them for decades are hardly going to say “Forget it, I don’t need it” (even if they actually don’t). What a trap!”
    “””

    There is no constitutional or natural right to a retirement. Especially not one at other peoples expense. Retirement is a feature of a successful society. Until people figure out how to make an economy run such that it gives off ~20% excess production at costs that approach 1-2% of production you’re going to have to work longer.

    And yes, we promised workers for the last 55 something years a *supplement* to their retirement plan. Of course the Ruling Class and their lapdogs talked about it as a retirement program and bathed us in sob stories about granny eating cat food etc.

    So how do you fix it?

    Simple. Very simple.

    From now on every two years that pass the requirement age goes up by one year. All workers are required by law to place a certain percentage of their pre-tax wages in a “compliant” retirement account, one that meets rational requirements–no investing double digits of your portolio in alpaca farms or in any specific single stock. Choices based mostly on large index funds with risk weightings changing over time to migrate people from higher risk investments to bonds and treasuries as they age and accumulate wealth.

    Building a secure, reliable middle class retirement fund that lets you keep most of your lifestyle intact after you stop working is relatively easy. Take the money out before you get your hands on it. Put it somewhere where compound interest takes effect and don’t vote for redistributionist pricks.

    The biggest problem with redistributionism is that to keep power you have to walk “The Rich” further and further down the SE scale. Now you have a government that is transferring wealth from solid middle class business and white collar workers to union workers in the government, teachers and auto workers (in PA and NJ teachers unions are refusing to pay ANY part of their freaking health care insurance ANY PART. Up against the wall you f’wits. ) Sorry, got side tracked.

    I have a buddy who could probably write a software package that could manage this sort of thing. Then again he believes that most of the mutual fund managers are “Syphilitic Guidos” and that the average person shouldn’t be allowed in the stock market.

    Of course, even if you’d bought treasuries you’d be ahead of what you get out of SS if you paid in from 18 to 65.

    Remember that there is a second program inside Social Security for those who become to broken or sick to work. It’s called Social Security Disability Insurance.

    “””
    Frankly, I think the size of the population (both American and global) is one of the driving forces behind government gigantism. Somehow, this many people cannot all support themselves. (I freely admit I have not worked out the logic behind this statement.
    “””

    I’m sorry, that statement doesn’t make sense.

    The driving force behind government gigantism is power and sloth and activism. From both European and Russian literature, and what little I’ve seen from Chinese stories we see very similar notions:

    1) Petty mid-level bureaucrats who desire for power over others, both underlings and those whom they are suppose to service.
    2) Of a largely unaccountable bureaucrat who does as little as possible but is is un-fireable either because of nepotism, policy etc.
    3) Of people whose sole desire is to be lord and master of all they survey.

    I think the sample is large enough and diverse enough to suggest that this is part of the human condition.

    You add to this the Progressive Notion that Experts Know Best, and that the best way to solve a problem is to hire a bunch of experts and make people do what they say…

    It’s no coincidence that the size of the state correlates with the rise of progressive politics in the states.

    “””
    I know there are bad political and cultural trends that create and sustain an underclass that is uneducated and unmotivated. But even supposing they were all educated and motivated, would there be enough work for them all?)
    “””

    Does the phrase “Some people are only good for picking up garbage and sweeping the floors” bother you? Offend you?

    There has always been a group of people who were uninterested in education beyond what they needed to put food on the table. Unmotivated in doing the least little thing more than they needed to pay the rent and eat.

    In the early 1900s someone got the idea that all these people needed was a little direction. That they could create New Men Of Industry.

    People like Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt and the rest of the progressives. They didn’t like what history told them, they thought they could change things.

    Does the phrase “Some people are only good for picking up garbage and sweeping the floors” bother or offend you?

    Then you’ve been infected with this attitude.

    You’ve always had the sort of person who, in middle age, wanders around the city in the decade appropriate version of wrinkled shorts barely hanging off his butt, a soiled t-shirt and worn out shoes. They didn’t have more class back then then just had better low standards.

    “””
    For a couple of decades our economy has “grown” because people were consuming like crazy on credit, assuming their home values would keep going up and they could keep refinancing. That was “prosperity” if a bubble is a rock foundation. Everybody’s been thinking short-term.
    “””

    That was really only about 2000-2006 (with a year or two on either side).

    The 3 decades our economy grew for *several* reasons, but at their base was:

    0) The Intel 4004. This is 0 because it happened in 1971.

    1) Ronaldus Magnus did not *cut* taxes in the early 1980s. He caused a fundamental restructuring of the tax code that made it financially intelligent to invest money for growth rather than hide it in tax shelters. This (over the course of a few years) moved money out into the stock market, bonds and etc.

    1.1) Apple II, IBM PC.

    1.2) Lee Iaccoca figures out that people no longer care what the price of a car is, only how much they have to pay per month.

    2) Alan Greenspan and the Fed focusing on keeping inflation under control through fiscal policy.

    3) The rise of the Asian Tiger. Cheap goods.

    3.5) Walmart’s business model. Emulated to a large degree by Target.

    4) The cold war ended, also bringing the end of the longest government stimulus package(s) EVER, bringing the “recession” of the early 1990s that was functionally the tail end of the great depression. This led to layoffs of a LOT of middle class engineering and managerial types from the defense industry. This causes:

    4.5) The Tech Boom. The internet. Dot Coms. Robotics. All this drives down the cost of Stuff, the cost of transportation and logistics, the cost of making stuff, finding buyers. etc.

    It was only as the dot com crash happened that people started looking for the next bubble.

    Credit did start to get a bit out of control in the early 90s, but that wasn’t people using their houses as ATMs, it was a culmination of financial events stretching far into the past (Store credit mixed with cheap data transfer that made credit card clearing faster etc.)).

    And yes, “everybody” is thinking short term. But that’s not really new. Most people always have, it was their communities–neighbors, churchs, and other cultural institutions that “did their thinking for them” and told them how to manage for long term–to the extent that they did. And when they got too old to work their kids, or their brothers/sisters kids took them in, and they watched the grandkids, or whatever.

    But we broke that cycle, because we could build new men, a new culture, a new civilization.

    But we’re still us.

  28. William O. B'Livion said,

    Hoh said:

    “””
    I bet you weren’t thinking about military spending when you wrote that.
    “””

    “Section 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, …
    To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
    […]
    To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

    To provide and maintain a Navy;

    To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

    To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

    To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

    I am, at heart, a soldier. A not very good one (due to neurological wiring mostly). I have spent 10 years in uniform, both active and reserve. I have spent, as an employee of a defense contractor, a year in a war zone, and may soon be off to another god forsaken (but much safer and niftier) part of the world.

    I know, with in an order of magnitude or two, just how rotten, disgusting, wasteful and pathetic our military industrial complex is.

    However, it IS in the constitution.

    I am PERFECTLY willing to wind down (being a conservative I don’t wish to generate immediate radical changes) ALL agricultural subsides, all power generation subsidies (especially wind power, what a f’ing joke). Get rid of stupid ideas like High Speed Trains, cut Amtrack loose, wind down the Department of Education.

    And yeah, you show me how to successfully clean up the DoD appropriations and budget, and I’m all for it.

    But that ain’t activism, that’s plain old fashioned lobbying and political favoritism.

    Well, except for Medicare Part D, which was brought up by professional activists (AARP etc.) and was written with input from the Pharmaceutical Industry because it was really bad idea and they needed all the backing they could get.

    You want to repeal Part D? Ok. I’ll vote for that.

  29. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Credit did start to get a bit out of control in the early 90s

    I think it got out of control way back when credit card interest was deductible. That was phased out under Reagan, IIRC. But it had promoted the buying-on-credit habit. As the mortgage interest deduction may have promoted the buying-a-house-you-can’t-really-afford habit.

    As for the people only fit to sweep up garbage, etc., Jesus said “the poor ye have always with you.” All I object to about your statement is that it begins to smack of European “class is destiny.” We say “character is destiny,” but it’s usually middle-class people saying that, who had the foundations of character built into them from birth. It’s very very hard to get up out of, not material poverty, but the culture of poverty. I don’t think middle-class people can really grasp how hard it is. Some people do it, though. But it’s very easy to sit back in the middle-class easy chair and say everybody ought to do it and those who don’t are merely blameworthy. Our most profound advantages (such as hearing a rich vocabulary before you’re old enough to speak) are the ones we’re least aware of.

  30. Peter Hoh said,

    William, you yourself described defense spending as the “longest government stimulus package(s) EVER.”

    Of course I realize that national defense is one of the legitimate functions of the federal government, as laid out in the constitution.

    But the military-industrial complex has done a very good job of milking this legitimate function. Want to build a fighter jet? Make sure parts are made in just over half the congressional districts, and you’re in business. In a business that will be extremely difficult to shut down, and in a business in which your customer will be hard-pressed to exact cost-savings.

    Annie, the mortgage interest deduction goes back too far to get the blame for the bubble that just popped. Loans without down payments — they were a more recent development, and they seem much more tied to the recent bubble.

  31. wj said,

    Peter, I’d agree that the no-down-payment (and extremely low down payment) loans were a significant factor. I’d also include two other kinds of loans as at least minor contributors:
    — those written as interest only (with a balloon payment at the end). In effect, a rental agreement, but without a lot of the protections (for both parties) of a regular rental agreement
    — those which, while there was some amortization, still envisioned a serious balloon payment at the end.
    In both types of loan, the purchaser is left with a substantial (and frequently ignored) financial obligation which pops up far in the future. And, for a 25-30 year loan, baby boomers who “purchased” their house in the 1980s were suddenly going to get hit right about now with a big debt that they hadn’t provided for.

    It’s sort of like all the folks who have been cheerfully assuming that Social Security would be sufficient to cover their retirement – and allow them to live in the manner to which they had become accustomed. In both cases, any concept of financial planning is totally absent.

  32. realpc said,

    ” It’s very very hard to get up out of, not material poverty, but the culture of poverty. I don’t think middle-class people can really grasp how hard it is. Some people do it, though. But it’s very easy to sit back in the middle-class easy chair and say everybody ought to do it and those who don’t are merely blameworthy. ”

    But if you don’t expect everyone to do it, then what? The compassionate idea used to be to give them welfare as long as they want it. I really think that everyone, unless they are severely mentally or physically disabled, will work hard to avoid starving or freezing.

    And what about our grandparents and great grandparents, who didn’t necessarily have a great vocabulary, and had no English vocabulary? They came here to get out of poverty, and they did.

  33. wj said,

    I think it is worth distinguishing between those who do not succeed in working their way out of poverty, and those who do not even try to do so.

    We can, I suppose, argue about the merits of those who did not succeed, and what should or could have been done to help them. But those who do not even make the effort? Much harder to feel a lot of sympathy for. That’s why the effort in the mid-90s to give people welfare contingent upon trying to work their way out of poverty was so popular. You could get a whole lot more support for “a helping hand” than you could for what was perceived as a “hand out.” (The fact that it had some notable successes didn’t hurt either.)

  34. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    That was a great example of smart centrism.

  35. realpc said,

    Some people think that welfare created the culture of poverty. Teenage girls could study in school and try to find a job, or they could do what their mothers did and get pregnant. Then they could stay on welfare as long as they were raising children.

    I had seen a couple of apartments of welfare mothers and they were nicer than what I had at the time.

    I don’t think the culture of poverty results from lack of education or not speaking good English. The illegal immigrants work very hard and live in crowded rooms, because they are motivated to send money back home. Most don’t speak English at all.

    And as I said, our grandparents came here with minimal education and no English, and they did fine.

    So maybe chronic poverty was created by welfare. I can’t think of any other good explanation. I don’t think it was racism, because the illegal immigrants are obviously non-white, and so are orientals.

    What really happens to people when they never have to work for anything? I really don’t know. I wonder what happens to people who are born rich and never face any big challenges.

    Not that welfare is like being rich. But in a way it is, if your needs are taken care of.

  36. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Messed-up trust fund kids? More the rule than the exception…

  37. wj said,

    real, have you considered the possibility that welfare created a “culture of poverty” simply because without it a lot of those people would have simply died off? Not saying I believe that, mind. Just that it seems like an alternative possible explanation.

  38. Peter Hoh said,

    And what about our grandparents and great grandparents, who didn’t necessarily have a great vocabulary, and had no English vocabulary? They came here to get out of poverty, and they did.

    You mean the ones who got 40 acres?

    Just kidding, sorta.

  39. realpc said,

    [have you considered the possibility that welfare created a “culture of poverty” simply because without it a lot of those people would have simply died off?]

    My grandparents didn’t starve, and some of them came here with nothing. All of them were Jewish, and none were privileged in any way, that I know of.

    [You mean the ones who got 40 acres?]

    They didn’t.

    And I realize I can’t generalize scientifically from just my own grandparents and great grandparents. But I bet they were typical of poor American immigrants.

  40. amba12 said,

    Hey, I mentioned the mortgage interest deduction at 12:45 a.m. on the 21st. Now Nassim Nicholas Taleb, whom I enjoy and admire, has recommended eliminating it:

    Canada’s economy also benefits from the fact that homeowners, unlike their U.S. neighbors, can’t take mortgage interest as a tax deduction, Taleb said. That removes the incentive to take on too much debt, he said.

    “The first thing to do if you want to solve the mortgage problem in the U.S. is to stop making these interest payments deductible,” he said. “Has someone dared to talk about this in Washington? No, because the U.S. homebuilders’ lobby is hyperactive and doesn’t want people to talk about this.”

  41. Peter Hoh said,

    Boehner explains why we need to have a grown up discussion about entitlement spending — but not until after he’s Speaker of the House.

    The Pledge is a plan, but not a specific plan. It’s a commitment to have a conversation.

    Can you imagine the shitstorm if Hillary had said that?

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