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Not So Fast

Friday, April 28, 2006
A week ago I wrote about the problem of identity politics and the "cult of authenticity." I argued that liberalism requires not only an emphasis on class politics but tying it to nationalism. And lo and behold, it looks like there is an emerging consensus in this direction: Sam Rosenfeld (referring to David Brooks), Halpin & Teixeira, and Michael Tomasky are all writing about the decline of multiculturalism (i.e. identity politics) and the creation of a politics of the "common good" (i.e. nationalism). And as Ruy Teixeira points out, these themes can be easily linked with the structural renovation of the Democratic Party being pushed by Kos and others to create an effective vehicle for the new Democratic message. Teixeira goes so far as labelling the combination of the politics of the common good + "crashing the gate" as the new formula for success.

Woah boy. Hold your horses. There's a lot of work to do yet.

This is certainly a promising direction, and one I support. Of course it's not exactly new. Ben Wattenberg preached it in the 1970's. Hell, it is a basic description of FDR's New Deal, what William Jennings Bryan was preaching in the 1890's, and every major Democrat back to Andrew Jackson.

There are some important pieces missing to the Teixeira narrative, and some real limitations. First, the reform of the Democratic party has got to be more than an altered organizational chart. The decline of democratic participation in our society is one of its most serious problems. We need to make a clear break with top-down, technocratic, big government liberalism. We also need to make a clear appeal to small business and rural America and avoid being too wed to an urban vision of liberalism. And I want to hear more about executive power and the court system - in short, the health of our constitution.

But what worries me the most is that while we emphasize our new class-based nationalist politics (let's call it Neopopulism), we are in dangering of throwing some of our most loyal allies over the side. What I don't hear a lot about in this discussion are women's rights and civil liberties. One could argue that the thrust of neopopulism to to abandon a focus on the "culture wars." This might be an effective political tactic, but I worry that we might abandon women's rights, gay rights, and civil liberties in the process. Nowhere do I hear mention of the word "abortion," for example.

I don't think that african-american or latino politics will necessarily suffer through "common good" appeals, because we can easily include them in the "we" group, and because class-based policies that distribute universal benefits and opportunities will inevitably help these groups more. No, the real danger is for the politics of personal liberation.

If the suggestion is that we imitate the right in pursuing liberal social policies under the radar once we win power, and to use coded language to communicate the idea to our supporters, then I'm willing to entertain the idea (albeit reluctantly). But if instead we are going to suggest that abortion rights or gay rights should be abandoned , then count me out. I think that there is a useful way to frame these issues within the context of freedom: that conservatives are just like the Taliban, and that we don't have any business in people's bedrooms or spying on them.

I'm not saying that abortion or gay rights has to be the most important element of the Democratic message, because it can't be. But if we don't throw it in there somewhere, then I think we're going to give up on the votes of some of our most dedicated supporters, not to mention the cause of justice itself.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:49 AM

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Citizens as Sports Fans

Friday, April 21, 2006
If I could sum up what's wrong with American political culture in one phrase, it would be that we care too much about what someone is and not enough about what someone does. This feature of our politics complicates the liberal project more than any other. And ironically we did it to ourselves.

Mark Schmitt at TPMCafe hints at this problem when discussing the strange appeal of John McCain. McCain has earned a free ride in the media despite his pusillanimity and conservatism because he is a “straight shooter.” In much the same way, George Bush used to be able to marginalize criticism by presenting himself as a "regular guy." On the other hand, people like John Kerry and Al Gore lose elections not because of their policy positions, but because people have been persuaded (by Republicans) that these political figures are somehow alien to the common man.

The problem is far greater than just advantaging conservative Republican Presidential candidates, however. The "cult of authenticity" is the personalized reflection of today's dominant political paradigm: identity politics. The basis for supporting candidates has less to do with what positions that candidate holds than what demographic or symbolic characteristics the candidate exemplifies. It is the most puerile, professional sports-inspired, "ra ra, go team!" sort of politics. It is not only inconvenient for liberals, it is destructive of democracy itself.

The primordial conservative political tactic is to use identity politics to shift the political debate away from class alignments. The right will inflame any latent division in society to serve this end: gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, region, etc., etc. Once they have changed the subject away from class, the elites in society (who unlike everyone else still vote monolithically for the conservative party) can enlist enough residual support among the working and middle classes to win election victories.

Liberals only win elections that are about class rather than identity (or if you prefer, economic identity as opposed to some other kind). Unfortunately for the left, the usual habit of people is practice identity politics, which is why conservatives usually win. The left has 3 basic responses to the conservative tactic of divide and rule. It can hope that something splits the conservative base - usually either some handy cleavage issue or a catastrophe of some kind or another. It can wait for economics to become an overriding concern. Or it can use universalistic rhetoric that emphasizes nationalism and common citizenship, a form of identity of politics that mutes sub-national loyalties.

Michael Tomasky to his credit has pointed to the latter strategy with his suggestion that Democrats use the language of the "common good." Digby points out the most obvious problem with this strategy – that people may ignore it in favor of identity politics. And he also identifies the reason that liberalism abandoned the universalistic strategy in the first place, and how conservatism was able to get back into the game in the 1960's.

When liberals were focused on broad (largely economic) issues of middle class prosperity, it maintained its New Deal majority. When it moved on to narrow problems, like civil rights and cultural liberation, it shifted the grounds of political debate back to identity politics. As such, it sacrificed much of its working class base. Now I want it clear that I think that Democrats were right to pursue equal rights for historically oppressed groups. I just want it clear that as usual no good deed goes unpunished.

Civil rights alone wasn't enough to destroy liberalism's postwar rhetorical advantage. The other thing that did it was the Vietnam War. Democrats' failure in the war and opposition to military intervention allowed the Republicans to paint themselves as the party of America. In other words, they stole nationalism from us. Without the cement of national loyalties to give universalistic rhetoric some political bite, the left was simply unable to counter the divisive strategy used by Republicans.

So here we are. Democrats are caught in a post-1960's multiculturalism in which our basic strategy is to talk about how one group or another is getting screwed. This kind of talk is exactly what the right wants. As long as we keep doing it, they will continue to be able to play the identity card. The lack of a common vision also makes it extremely difficult for Democrats to organize, or to push back against conservative propaganda. But the problem is bigger than just changing our tone (as Tomasky seems to think). As a practical matter, the voters do care more about identity politics that generalized nationalism or class politics. So such an appeal might fall on deaf ears in any event.

I wish that the effect of identity politics was limited to undermining liberalism. Unfortunately it goes much deeper than that. The more serious problem is that when voters have a knee-jerk support for a candidate because he or she is "one of them," then that politician can take those voters entirely for granted. No matter what that person does while campaigning or in office, their supporters will find a way to make excuses. No matter what sins they commit, no matter how corrupt they become, no matter how dishonest or hypocritical they behave, their actions will still be justified by their loyalists. Identity politics destroys political accountability and paves the way for irresponsible leaders, and ultimately authoritarian politics.

So I beg you: the next time a candidate tries to enlist your support by telling you that he is "one of you," ask yourself if you want someone who is like you or who is for you. And whatever you do, don't just take their word for it. Otherwise, you risk being one of the suckers born every minute.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:51 PM

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Old News

Thursday, April 20, 2006
Historian Sean Wilentz thinks that Bush is the worst President ever. I want it on record that I said it first, using basically the same arguments Wilentz employs. So there.

More later.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:50 PM

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The Coming Oligarchy

Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Read this article. Now. Next consider the fact that the Republican party's dominance is both a product and a cause of growing political and economic inequality, and how conservatives have harnessed divisive politics and McCarthyism in the service of their upper-class allies. Then look me in the face and tell me that all is well with American democracy.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:50 PM

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Why So Vicious?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Sorry for the late post today. I was out until 3AM watching my wife sing Poison to a horde of screaming fans. Extra sleep was required.


Over at TPM Cafe Book Club, a discussion has broken out over Juliet Eilperin's book Fight Club Politics. I want to hone in on 2 arguments inspired by this conversation. The first is that her argument for more compact congressional districts would help Republicans.

Eilperin thinks that one of the primary reasons for the fierce partisanship of Congress is the decline in the number of marginal districts due to gerrymandering. In other words, rather than a bunch of swing districts that either party could win, which would produce moderates, now every congressional district is drawn to be either overwhelmingly liberal or conservative - producing extreme politicians. Eilperin thinks that we should create more "rational" rather than bizarrely drawn districts. Stirling Newberry thinks that "solid" districts would be biased towards Republicans, since they tend to live in more spread out rural areas.

I have 2 points. First, Eilperin is wrong in thinking that there are no more marginal seats - while there are far fewer, there are still about 100 of them. Even in theoretically marginal seats, ideological incumbents are re-elected by wide margins. So gerrymandering can't be the only major cause of extreme partisanship.

Second, I think Newberry might be making a mistake in assuming that cleaner district lines would tend Republican. The current district lines advantage Republicans, and they are the ones that look all crazy. They are drawn that way to "pack" minorities into a few districts, thus creating a couple of 90% Democratic districts and a lot of 60% Republicans ones. If these districts were rationalized, minorities would be distributed across more district and a lot more competitive districts would be created.

The other critique of Eilperin's work I want to comment on is by Mark Schmitt. I agree with 99% of what Schmitt writes in his piece, but I want to quibble with his closing remarks. I will quote the key passage in full:

My greatest fear coming out of this singularly partisan era is that the Democrats, especially those who became interested or involved in politics only in the last few galvanizing years, will think this is the way it is, that an era of one-party absolute control will be or should be followed by another. It will not be. Even if by 2009, Democrats win back the House, Senate and presidency, they will not be able to govern as the current Republican majority governs but will need to find ways to work together, especially given the need for unpopular actions such as postponed tax increases and difficult choices as on Iraq and health care. Eilperin’s book shows how much the common practices within Congress that might make these decisions possible have been eroded, and that is indeed a great tragedy.

Since Schmitt's whole point is that it is the ruthless behavior of Republicans that is driving extreme partianship, I find if curious that his concluding argument is to imply that Democrats should avoid being as tough on the Republicans as the Republicans have been on them. He seems to be suggesting that Democrats to try their best to govern in a bipartisan manner. I'm sorry Mark, but I don't see how that's possible, since the Republicans have no interest in bipartisan politics. Their sole consideration will be to recover their political majority. They don't care about policy but about power. Yes it is unfortunate that Democrats are going to have to govern without any bipartisan support, but that situation will exist no matter what the Democrats do. The sooner Democrats realize that Republicans will never do anything to help them constructively govern, the better off they'll be. Otherwise they'll screw us like they did Clinton in 1993 over the budget and health care. Let' s not make the same mistake twice, shall we?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:49 PM

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You've Got To Be Freakin KIDDING Me

Monday, April 17, 2006
I hope everyone had a happy Bunny Day. Word to the wise - pizza and Reese's Pieces do not mix. Ouch.

And from the land of wacky public policy (heretofore known as Nebraska), comes this tidbit:

He [Ernie Chambers, Nebraska's only African-American state senator] was also a driving force behind a measure passed by the Legislature on Thursday and signed into law by the governor that calls for dividing the Omaha public schools into three racially identifiable districts, one largely black, one white and one mostly Hispanic.

An african-american politician in a largely white state pushes through a segregation law? What's next? Nuking a place next door to a country where you have 150,000 troops bogged down in a civil war?

It's unconstitutional, of course - in case anyone has ever heard of Brown vs. Board of Education. It's also very telling that the law passed with the support of conservative (white) legislators from suburban and rural regions. It's also wildly impractical. Where do Asians go? Or Native Americans? And what about those of mixed race? Shall we return to the "one drop" policy? I am positively weary with the notion that there are clearly definable distinctions between ethnicities. Has anyone noticed what mutts we all are?

I find it just sad that a man would reach such a level of frustration with anti-urban, anti-ethnic politics that he would attempt to revive "separate but equal" politics. I can understand his desperation, but this is scarcely a reasonable reaction to it.

Let me give you a little hint, Mr. Chambers. As bad as things are now, they will become much, much worse if everyone in this country becomes convinced that those of "other" identity have no moral claim upon them. Such thinking has led to every genocide in the history of the world. Shame on you.

P.S. My favorite headline of "Duh!" news for the day, from the Washington Post: "Anger At Bush May Hurt GOP At Polls." No, really.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:48 PM

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The Best Show On TV

Thursday, April 13, 2006
If you aren't watching South Park, you should be. In the last year or so it's moved beyond fart jokes to the most incisive social criticism on television. No I'm not kidding.

Last night was a good example. In response to Comedy Central's pulling of an episode attacking Scientology, the South Park writers essentially dared their corporate executives to permit an image of Muhammad appear on the screen. As predicted, the corporate management flinched and blocked the scene - displaying for all the world to see the cowardice of television producers.
Incidentally, last night's episode also equated Bush's political use of fear with terrorism, mocked the Muslim's world intolerance, criticized Americans' unwillingness to defend the first amendment and our desire to wish big problems would just go away, abused the media for its facile coverage of important issues, and ridiculed the "Family Guy" program as a very poor piece of comic writing (while doing a spot-on satire of the show).

And they did all this in only 22 minutes. How's that for good writing?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:48 PM

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Too Many Enemies

Wednesday, April 12, 2006
One of the reasons the Democratic coalition fell apart in the late 1960's was that it was fighting on too many fronts. In their desire to reform American society, liberals tried to tackle too many issues at once. Poverty, civil rights for blacks, feminism, the Vietnam War - the left was extremely busy in those days. By pursuing so many changes simultaneously, they alienated too many constituencies hostile to the change. The result was a sadly diminished Democratic coalition and a predictable conservative backlash.

It appears that conservatives may have made the same mistake. They have forfeited any loyalty from (deep breath): Muslims, the poor, blacks, single women, labor unions gays, seculars, environmentalists, foreign policy realists, budget hawks, and now Latinos. Hell, if we could get them to realize it, we could probably even win over the small business community, those who live in small towns, and independent farmers - each of whom has been badly damaged by the pro-corporate policies of the Republican party.

In short, the Republican party has offended most of the American population in one way or another. They have reduced themselves to an uneasy coalition of religious fundamentalists, xenophobe ultranationalists, big companies - and those voters who can be persuaded by propaganda and fear-mongering. Scarcely a recipe for a long-term political majority.

The conservative coalition is ripe for destruction. What remains for Democrats is to move in for the kill. I just hope we have the intelligence and discipline to make it happen.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:47 PM

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The Virtue of the Wealthy

Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Do you know why rich people are rich? Why they have so much more than you? Well if you ask them, they'll tell you that they deserve it. Because they are smarter, or work harder, or contribute more to the community.

Or so goes the theory. But I ask you, where is all this superior character when you need to put out a fire? I find it ripsnortingly funny that wealthy communities can't seem to find enough volunteer public service workers (via Kos). They have to import them in from neighboring towns. Meanwhile they try to lure some in by offering - get this - free pool passes worth 500 dollars! I can't decide whether the lack of social responsibility, the utter cluelessness or the ridiculous cost of going to a pool is more outrageous.

This is the society we are fashioning - in which the privileged among us shift burdensome tasks to the peons while sipping martinis at their private pools. Ah, the American Dream.

P.S. Eugene Robinson thinks that white people should get used to the idea of being a minority. This is fine as well as it goes, but it buys into what I call the fallacy of ethnic unity. Whites are not an ethnicity - they are a blend of different European nations who have fashioned a common culture (Raise your hand if your ancestors are only from one country! Liar!). And Latinos will not remain a "pure" ethnic bloc (in fact they aren't even now) - they'll intermarry with "Anglos" and African-Americans. In a generation or two everyone will have a Latino grandparent, and no one will care.

And as for the US having an unofficial 2nd language, I don't think that is likely to happen in the long run either. Latinos who are born in this country are fluent in English (as Robinson points out), and in the following generation they barely speak Spanish at all. Which is exactly the same thing that happened with Italians, Germans, etc.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:47 PM

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On Becoming The Thing You Hate

Monday, April 10, 2006
Tom DeLay is a power-hungry crook with no respect for the rule of law. His success as Majority Leader was almost exclusively because he was willing to ignore every principle of ethics in the pursuit of his aims. If he hadn't been willing to bribe, intimidate, manipulate, and cheat, he never would have been able to get so many of his bills through the House. His disgrace should serve as a lesson that eventually the truth will out.

Regrettably, there is a tendency on the right and the left to worship success. This tendency is put on display by Terence Samuel at the American Prospect. His position seems to be that Democrats should learn from DeLay's success. We should be as tough and ruthless as he is, and as long as we don't break the law, we'll enjoy similar results. What I must point out, however, is that without his willingness to pervert the democratic process, he wouldn't have had that success. His corruption is part and parcel - is the essential prerequisite - of his accomplishments. Take away the corruption and he's just another obnoxious pol.

Should Democrats be more organized? More determined? More willing to do what it takes to win? Absolutely. But let's not use one of the most repugnant men in American politics as a model, please. The country can't stand two anti-democratic political parties.

P.S. It's cool when policy experts agree with everything you have to say on an issue.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:46 PM

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If I didn't have to go to work today

Friday, April 07, 2006
I'd look just like this:


Two quick news items. First, suburban guerilla has a great piece on the death of the Constitution. And as for the explosive Scooter Libby revelations about Bush's responsibility for the outing of Valerie Plame - didn't everybody already know this? C'mon, it was just so obvious! Of course, the right will just say that Libby is a disgruntled ex-employee trying to save his skin. What a bunch of crooks.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:45 PM

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NYT Journalists - Born Without Brains?

Thursday, April 06, 2006
I refuse to watch Brazen Hussy's shows about kids born without brains because they're horrible and creepy. But then I look at the NYT and realize I am reading an article written by one!

In yesterday's NYT article, David Leonhardt wrote the following:

By any reasonable standard, the last few years have been bad ones for most people's paychecks. The average hourly wage of rank-and-file workers — a group that makes up 80 percent of the work force — is slightly lower than it was four years ago, once inflation is taken into account. That's right: Most Americans have taken a pay cut since 2002.

But you would never know it by looking at the headline numbers on economic growth. From the standpoint of the broad national economy — the value of the good and services the country produces — the last few years have been stellar. Despite two wars, soaring oil prices and business scandals, the economy has been growing more than 3 percent a year.

Henry Ford would have no idea what to make of this.

While I admire Mr. Leonhardt's ability to overcome his handicap, I can't help but notice how weak his reasoning capacity remains. All that has happened is that the link between productivity and wage increases have been severed. Economic growth has been driven by consumer debt - those very same consumers who haven't been getting raises. When they can no longer get credit, the economy stops dead in its tracks. The 20% of the population that has seen rises in their income aren't sufficient to keep up aggregate demand, because of the declining marginal propensity to consume.

Henry Ford continues to be right - if the working class is living in poverty, long-term economic growth is impossible.

In other news:

Nathan Newman has a good post on the Mass health care plan at TPM Cafe

Republicans demonstrate that they are hostile to democracy both at home and abroad

And Democrats consider throwing away a campaign issue.

Just your regular Thursday morning.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:44 PM

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Massachusetts Pretends To Fix Health Care

Wednesday, April 05, 2006
A new health care plan intended to provide universal coverage has just passed the Massachusetts legislature (see here and here for more details). The plan is a joint effort between Republican Governor Mitt Romney and the Democratic legislature. I wish I could call this plan good news, but I have major reservations to the strategy Massachussets has embraced. Their approach to expanding coverage is the "individual mandate" system. It follows the model of car insurance in requiring that all citizens purchase health insurance. If you don't buy it, you are penalized at tax time.

The obvious question is to ask how people who can't afford health care going to be able to buy it. Massachusetts attempts to deal with this problem by subsidizing private insurers and penalizing employers who don't provide it (to the tune of $295 a month). Children will be eligible for medicaid.

I haven't read the fine details of the proposal, but it looks fatally flawed to me. There are no cost controls, no hard cap on premiums or co-pays, and all the subsidies are to insurance companies rather than to individuals. Also, the penalty to businesses is probably less than the cost of insurance, so they'll just ignore it and pay the fine. So there is a distinct possibility that, like the Medicare Part D fiasco, all this plan will do is shovel money into the pockets of the one of the nation's most profitable industries. The plan also does nothing to alleviate the crippling burden of providing health care from American's business commmunity.

But it's not just the specifics of the plan that are problematic - the entire approach to the health care crisis is mistaken. First, it assumes that most of the people who don't have health insurance could afford it if they want it to - which I doubt to be the case. Second, like privatizing social security, Medicare Part D, and school choice, this plan is yet another example of the conservative public policy ideology of focusing on individual behavior. And in each case this strategy has been a complete disaster. Substantively, it ignores the structural causes of the problem it seeks to address. Philosophically, it abandons the idea that we have a collective responsibility to each other.

It's not that people don't have health care because they are lazy or irresponsible. People don't have health care because they can't afford it. I didn't have health care until very recently. I was young and healthy, and therefore would seem to be taking a big risk. On the surface I would appear to fit into the conservative case of the young, shiftless free-rider. But the reality is that I didn't choose not to have health insurance. I didn't have insurance because I didn't have the money.

If this plan goes into effect, and (God forbid) goes national, then here is my prediction: health care costs will continue their dizzying rise. Insurance companies will use their lobbying power and the lack of regulation to keep jacking up premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. Individuals will no longer be able to fork over the money to pay for health insurance, and as a consequence they will see their tax burden go up. The end result will be a massive tax increase on the bottom 3/5ths of society (and small businesses) for the purposes of providing a public subsidy to insurance companies - already one of the country's most profitable industries.

What a plan.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:44 PM

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The King Is Dead - Long Live The King

Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Tom DeLay is gone. To the irritation of my wife and my own disappointment, I'm not as happy about DeLay's departure as I should be. With DeLay running for re-election, Democrats had an opportunity not just to win a heavily Republican seat, but to hang DeLay's corruption around the necks of every Republican in the country. Now the chances of stealing a seat are probably gone, and the Republicans will distance themselves from their fallen leader.

I am also not as happy as I might be because the problem is much bigger than DeLay. DeLay will become another Gingrich - a sacrificial lamb meant to protect the corrupt Republican majority. Boehner is just as bad, but it will take the Democrats (and the media) a couple of years to discover this. Then we'll repeat the whole kabuki performance over again, as we target and finally destroy another Republican leader - leaving the party as a whole free to continue as before. Until we challenge the infrastructure of the Republican party - until we attack the machine itself, it will continue to roll these guys off the assembly line, one after another.

But I will admit that it sure is nice to see this particular exterminator on his way to the roach motel.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:43 PM

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Conservative Silliness Report

Monday, April 03, 2006
So this morning I conducted one of my periodic trolls of the major conservative blogs. As usual I discovered some really cute posts, displaying a remarkable blend of political naivete and substantive incompetence.

Captain's Quarter's supports John McCain's ludicrous idea that we should isolate Russia. His argument is that because Putin isn't much of a democrat and has failed to support U.S. foreign policy, we should ditch the next G-8 meeting. This proposition indicates how wrong-headed and incoherent right-wing foreign policy really is. How do you isolate somebody by not attending an international meeting? Doesn't that isolate yourself? Are we going to shun every nation that doesn't agree with us - because in that case we are reduced to a coalition of one. And finally, I thought the 2 great conservative bugaboos were Islamic fundamentalism and China. Seriously, how many enemies would you like? Russia is critical in the attempt to isolate either of these forces. The entire strategy of isolation is to identify one hostile power as the exclusive focus of one's diplomatic efforts. Trying to isolate more than one power leads to those multiple objects forming a coalition - hence no more isolation, but instead a hostile alliance. My God these people don't know ANYTHING about foreign policy.

Next, Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy argues that people unhappy with a state's policies should "vote with their feet" - in other words, move someplace else with better policies. His logic is that since voting apparently doesn't make all that much difference (!), it is more effective to impoverish that community by leaving. There is a screwy sort of sense to Somin's argument, if one has fetishized free market doctrine. But it also reveals a total lack of civic responsibility or commitment. If your marriage isn't going well, do you just get a divorce? If your child is making you angry, do you kick them onto the street? If your job isn't perfect, do you just quit? Where is the sense of responsibility? Unless a community is fatally compromised in some way, your obligation is to get involved and try to make things better - not wash your hands and call it someone's else's problem. Ugh, these people make me sick.

Finally, the Free Republic links to an LA Times op-ed in which the author attempts to exploit frustration over taxes (it is April, after all) to push the idea that we dump income and payroll taxes in favor of a national sales tax. Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha. I'm not going to bother getting into the poor public policy this represents ( ok I will just summarize - massive inflation, lack of progressivity, the inevitable black market it would create, loading a giant administrative burden on small businesses, etc.). Let's just say that this idea is politically radioactive. I DARE Republicans to push this issue. A candidate in the 2004 S.C. Senate race almost lost the election on this issue - we're talking about a heavily Republican state in a Republican year. Can you imagine what would happen to the Republican party if they adopted the sales tax as part of their platform. The Democrat campaigns would run themselves!

How in the world did these lunatics ever get in charge?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:42 PM

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