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Are We Really All Socialists Now?

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This week the cover of Newsweek made the audacious claim "We Are All Socialists Now," promoting an article which makes the argument that the United States is moving inevitably towards becoming more and more like a Euro-socialist state, even painting the unappealing picture of a future of soft and pervasive socialism, combined with a continued trend towards moral conservatism. I don't think they're necessarily wrong in identifying this trend, but I think they are engaging in wishful thinking when they play up the inevitability and popularity of this development.

The underlying misunderstanding in the article and which I saw repeated several times on the Sunday morning talk shows, is that the American right and the Republican party are to some degree ready to accept socialism because so much of it got implemented by President Bush in what they described as a "conservative Republican administration," particularly in reference to the quasi-nationalization of financial institutions in the TARP bailout bill. I've seen this misconception repeated a lot over the last few years in the media and on the left, where there is this firm and inexplicable conviction that Bush was a hardcore conservative. Certainly if you asked most Republicans and anyone who is in the far right, Bush was not a conservative on social or fiscal issues. At best he was a equivocal on social issues and moderate on fiscal issues. Watching from my perspective on the libertarian wing of the GOP this was always obvious, but one would think that it would be clear even to the often-muddleheaded media, given the soft and often disposable nature of conservative principles in the Bush administration's policies.

Yes, Bush talked a very conservative line and pandered to conservative interest groups, but his hallmark was not following through on those promises. To anyone watching from the right this was obvious, and it was equally clear that the decision to support Bush and later McCain, who had many of the same problems, was made reluctantly; in the belief that even if they compromised on some principles they were still better than the alternative. It's even a sign of how utterly opposed to creeping socialism the core of the right is that they were willing to accept Bush and McCain, suggesting that they saw the threat of socialism as so serious that they were willing to turn to almost anyone they thought could slow its progress.

Throughout his years in office there were constant examples which made clear how unconservative Bush really was, and how willing he was to give lip service to principles he didn't really believe in. One classic example came during the 2004 election when there was a huge pro-life rally on the national mall. Bush, the supposed hard-line social conservative born again Christian, didn't walk or drive the mile or so to go address that rally of fervent supporters. Instead, he sent them a brief and generic video message which was essentially an insincere smile and meaningless thumbs-up; enough to keep their votes, but at the same time showing clearly that he wasn't all that eager to be seen with a bunch of religious fanatics.

The Iraq war was another huge, glaring example. The left and the media assume that because the war involved a buildup of the military, that somehow made it a conservative policy. Yet if you look at the goals and accomplishments of the war, it was an example of an almost Wilsonian foreign policy of missionary diplomacy, where American wealth and resources and military power were used primarily to spread liberal ideas and provide freedom and democracy to a foreign nation with the goal of creating a new partner in a chaotic part of the world; a partner who would help us spread the principles of liberal civilization. Bush's coalition was made up mostly of nations who still cling to the idea of  building an international community of liberalism, while those who opposed the war were mostly those nations who have moved from liberalism to socialism.

Other examples abound, like the halfheartedness of Bush's attempts to reform Social Security and his No Child Left Behind initiative, but if your memory can stretch back to Bush's first term, it becomes clear that most of the really conservative policies like substantial tax cuts and such limited reduction of government programs as was undertaken originated in Congress, and not in the Bush White House. Bush had things he wanted, like the Iraq War, and he was willing to give Democrats and porker Republicans almost anything to get them behind his pet programs.

There's also very little conservative about the TARP bailout. It represents an alliance between the Bush administration and their friends in the financial sector, and the Democrats in Congress. While Bush may have supported it, in fact TARP was overwhelmingly opposed by Republican legislators. Only 18 Republicans in the House voted for it; 90% of Republicans voted against it. The breakdown was similar in the Senate, with almost all Republicans opposing it. What's more, TARP was not the beginning of this break between the administration and Republicans and Conservatives in the grassroots and in elective office. While conservatives wholeheartedly supported Bush on issues like cutting taxes, none of his budgets passed with unanimous approval, and when his final budget was voted on in 2008, it received not one Republican vote in the House and only 2 in the Senate, passing exclusively on Democrat support. Bush signed it, demonstrating that for all practical purposes he had become a rubber stamp for the policies of the left at the same time that legislators had begun to respond to the outrage within the GOP and on the right.

Critics in the media and Democratic spokesmen are making the self-serving argument, as David Axelrod did on Meet the Press, that the beliefs of Republicans are represented by the policies of the last 8 years, or that it ought to be okay with Republicans and conservatives to pass the Stimulus Bill because Bush signed the TARP bill, or that massive spending on the Iraq War excuses massive spending on other programs. What they choose not to understand is that on these issues the vast majority of the political right and eventually, even the majority of Republicans in Congress, did not actually agree with the Bush administration; they vocally opposed his excessive spending and wanted to break the unholy alliance with the left which made it possible. By the end of his administration the split between Bush and the right was complete and clearly represented in votes on spending legislation.

Now that Bush is gone, trying to pin his policies on Republicans who overwhelmingly opposed them and to claim that we've demonstrated a willingness to accept the socialism which is being promoted by congressional Democrats, and which was rubber stamped by Bush, is grossly deceptive. We may be in the minority, but those who oppose socialism and still stand for freedom and smaller government never really supported Bush, do not accept the blame for his bad policies, especially those towards the end of his term when he worked with the Democrats, and are not going to be told that they have to support Obama when he perpetuates the same mistakes and irresponsible spending in which Bush engaged.

In Bush we gave the Democrats a Republican they could live with, and after 8 years it became clear that it was a mistake to make that compromise. Bush is gone and is now an object lesson, and all we have left are our principles. It's time to stand by those principles and remind the people that Obama is just repeating Bush's mistakes; that we didn't support them then, and don't support them now. We are not socialists, we will not be socialists, and we will continue to fight for America to be a nation which represents the principles of liberty, responsibility and prosperity on which it was founded.

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    This is a well-written article with a faulty central premise: that George Bush was not only not a ‘real’ conservative, but was in fact an ally, albeit a reluctant one, of Democrats.

    Democrats despised him then and despise him now, for nearly all of his domestic and foreign policy.

    You don’t give him enough credit for the idea of the [ginormous] tax cuts in the first term or the attempt to privatize social security in the second.

    Claiming that Bush’s foreign policy was unsupported by conservatives borders upon fantasy. The split with conservatives was over two things: big domestic spending and insufficient action to back up the rhetoric on social issues.

    But where was the Republican dissent to either the so-called “War on Terror” or the war in Iraq? Or to the policies on detention and torture and warrantless wiretapping and the expansion of executive power that stretched our constitution and its ideals to the breaking point?

    There was virtually no such dissent on the right. It all came from the left. And those policies were the biggest legacy [I would say darkest stain] of the Bush presidency.

    Dave often fuzzes up the difference between his own brand of libertarianism and the ‘mainstream’ hard-right conservatism espoused by most GOP members of congress. They occasionally overlap but are not the same. I wish his brand were bigger; I think it is still a minority view within a minority party.

    It is a classic, pernicious Nalle twist of words and logic to claim that Obama is repeating Bush’s mistakes. Just because both sets of policies involve spending a lot of money doesn’t make them the same.

    You were, as I recall, ambivalent about Tarp last fall – supporting the necessity for doing something but opposing the specific bill in the end. We do have to do something to salvage and restart the banking system. Without doing that, the other efforts to help the economy have no chance.

    The Obama administration seems determined to do the second half of Tarp correctly and to institute a big multi-part effort to restart lending.

    You have every right to oppose the administration’s plans. But falsely caricaturing them as being the same as Bush policy is not a very promising way to start a fair, meaningful discussion.

    What’s your alternative? Let the frozen credit markets and crippled banks continue the way they are? That way madness lies.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    This is a well-written article with a faulty central premise: that George Bush was not only not a ‘real’ conservative, but was in fact an ally, albeit a reluctant one, of Democrats.

    Democrats despised him then and despise him now, for nearly all of his domestic and foreign policy.

    Yet he ended up getting his bills passed with their support – including the war in Iraq and subsequent Iraq funding and PATRIOT 1 and 2 and REAL ID and every other bad idea – the majority of the Democrats were with him. You can’t deny that even if your progressive buddies were as outraged as we Libertarians were, your party and your elected representatives were willing accomplices. No getting away from it.

    You don’t give him enough credit for the idea of the [ginormous] tax cuts in the first term or the attempt to privatize social security in the second.

    I gave him full credit for the tax cuts. IMO his efforts at SS reform were feeble.

    Claiming that Bush’s foreign policy was unsupported by conservatives borders upon fantasy.

    Which is why I never claimed it. Go back and read the article.

    The split with conservatives was over two things: big domestic spending and insufficient action to back up the rhetoric on social issues.

    Primarily the spending. He threw them enough social issue bones that complaints in that area were minor.

    But where was the Republican dissent to either the so-called “War on Terror” or the war in Iraq? Or to the policies on detention and torture and warrantless wiretapping and the expansion of executive power that stretched our constitution and its ideals to the breaking point?

    In the halls of power only a few individuals in both parties spoke up on these issues. And I never said conservatives didn’t support Bush on these things, just that the character of the war was basically liberal – not Democratic or progressive or socialist – but liberal in a more authentic and non partisan sense.

    There was virtually no such dissent on the right. It all came from the left. And those policies were the biggest legacy [I would say darkest stain] of the Bush presidency.

    But ironically the one area where history is clearly going to prove him dead right.

    Dave often fuzzes up the difference between his own brand of libertarianism and the ‘mainstream’ hard-right conservatism espoused by most GOP members of congress. They occasionally overlap but are not the same. I wish his brand were bigger; I think it is still a minority view within a minority party.

    A more influential minority all the time, but my observations here apply to far more than just the true libertarian elements. All Republicans have a streak of libertarianism somewhere in them even if they are compromisers.

    It is a classic, pernicious Nalle twist of words and logic to claim that Obama is repeating Bush’s mistakes. Just because both sets of policies involve spending a lot of money doesn’t make them the same.

    It doesn’t require me to twist anything. It’s an obvious implication of what David Axelrod and other Obama flacks have bene saying. If they can say that Bush’s spending legitimizes Obama’s spending then Obama’s spending is clearly associated with Bush’s spending by their own admission.

    You were, as I recall, ambivalent about Tarp last fall – supporting the necessity for doing something but opposing the specific bill in the end. We do have to do something to salvage and restart the banking system. Without doing that, the other efforts to help the economy have no chance.

    I think this is debatable. And the current stimulus bill is certainly not a good answer.

    You have every right to oppose the administration’s plans. But falsely caricaturing them as being the same as Bush policy is not a very promising way to start a fair, meaningful discussion.

    Sorry, they opened that door. As did the media with articles like the one in Newsweek which I reference.

    What’s your alternative? Let the frozen credit markets and crippled banks continue the way they are? That way madness lies.

    Shut them down, sell off their assets.

    DAve

  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    I’m beginning to think career politicians are all the same. No, I think I turned to that belief months ago.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Good article, Dave. But why do you need Bush to argue the point? In particular, why his (recent) lack of enthusiasm for the evangelicals (because he didn’t need them anymore) should count here one way or another against “socialistic” ideas?

    Roger

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Well, I had to include Bush because he’s being used by the left as a symbol that all conservatives are the same, a notion which had to be debunked.

    As for his turning against the evangelicals or selling them short, that’s just another example of how he used various conservative factions in pursuit of his own goals.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Right, but you want to exclude that aspect as part of the anti-socialism argument, no?

    Roger

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I included it as part of the explanation of Bush’s behavior.

    Not sure exactly what you’re getting at, but I don’t think the religious right is as anti-socialism as most of the other factions, but I didn’t want to open the Mike Huckabee can of worms here.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Dave,

    Well, I only mean that Christianity itself is not ipso facto anti-socialistic, nor is it the case with the right-to-life ideology as such – so “religiosity” is not an integral part of the argument.

    I understand, of course, the object of demonstrating Bush’s departure from the conservative principles (if he had them in the first place); but at first reading, it’s a little bit confusing because it’s all lumped together.

    Roger

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I agree 100% on the compatibility of christianity and socialism. Jesus said a lot of things which sound an awful lot like socialism, even if his motivation and focus were different than your modern secular socialist. Plus there are christian socialist political parties all over Europe, so they clearly embrace that compatibility. And, as I mentioned before, there’s the big glaring horror that is Mike Huckabee.

    Sorry to confuse with using the manipulation of the christian right as an example, but it’s all part of the same syndrome as I see it.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    The syndrome being – departure from the conservative principles (as exemplified by the party occupying the Oval Office for the last eight years)?

    Roger

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Pretty much. The idea being that Bush has been in the white house, but that doesn’t mean that he has really represented the interests of conservatives of any stripe very well, including both fiscal conservatives and fundamentalists. yes.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Dave,

    In that case, the following is the only part of the article which is POSSIBLY subject to dispute:

    “Yet if you look at the goals and accomplishments of the war, it was an example of an almost Wilsonian foreign policy of missionary diplomacy, where American wealth and resources and military power were used primarily to spread liberal ideas and provide freedom and democracy to a foreign nation with the goal of creating a new partner in a chaotic part of the world; a partner who would help us spread the principles of liberal civilization. Bush’s coalition was made up mostly of nations who still cling to the idea of building an international community of liberalism, while those who opposed the war were mostly those nations who have moved from liberalism to socialism.”

    Do you agree?

    Roger

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Well Roger, I certainly believe that was part of Bush’s motivation, in combination with a desire for revenge. Remember the Neocons come out of a leftist tradition, so it makes some sense. But I’m writing a whole article comparing Neocon and Neo-wilsonian foreign policy which will address this issue at some length.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Dave,

    That may be so; I’m not sure however whether I would be willing (at this point) to characterize the opposition solely in the terms in which you’re so doing. Other factor(s) may have been decisive as well.

    But let’s shelve it till tomorrow. We can resume then.

    Roger

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Dave on Bush’s anti-terror policy:

    the one area where history is clearly going to prove him dead right.

    I [and many, many others] think you are already dead wrong on this of course, on both practical and moral grounds. But it is in any case remarkably arrogant to claim you know the judgment of history in advance. It has, um, been known to change with time, ya know.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Handy, the problem is that you HAVE moral grounds. A luxury which a lot of people can’t afford. And history doesn’t change in time, just how it’s interpreted. And I can live with being arrogant given the alternative.

    Dave

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Sorry, Dave,

    I was in J-lem a good part of the day and was just too exhausted to even read this article when I got back last night.

    Socialism?

    Gimme a break! These fools in Congress wouldn’t know a socialist if he smacked them in the face. Saul Alinsky was a subversive, my kind of fellow, who taught Obama to dissimulate well enough so that nobody would smell the state socialism he is pushing. What Bush did in the closing days of his term was to pull a “Bismarck” – a “conservative” playing out to “left field” to steal their agenda.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    A very astute comment, Ruvy.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    You may be right about Congress, but that’s hardly relevant. The real point is the effort by political partisans and the media to distort the record and try to redefine reality to suggest that socialism is widely accepted when in fact it is not.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    I won’t comment on this thread anymore before I read that Newsweek article.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    But socialism is not all one discrete thing, is it? There is a wide range of governments and economies in the world, and most [all?] are a hybrid of socialism/capitalism, democracy/oligarchy, left/right, religious/secular.

    The Newsweek article title is just an attention grabber, not an indication of where “The Media’s” sensibility is or will be. In fact, your own article titles serve much the same purpose, and, believe me, their significance is very limited indeed.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Sure, Handy. But in my article I do reference other examples of the attempt to expand the simplistic concept of the title to suggest that there is a general acceptance of the kind of socialization of the economy we see going on, a contention which I dispute. That’s the point.

    Dave

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I think even Obama would say that the “socialism” in the stimulus bill and the bank rescue are primarily intended as temporary emergency measures.

    Of course he believes in more federal government than Dave does, but that doesn’t mean his aim is socialism, or even “socialism.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Dave,

    You might look at the following site and the article someone just referred me to:

    Liberalism and Evil.

    Now, that’s why I call first-class analysis in terms of concepts and ideas, in the philosophical tradition.

    You might want to write or expand on the subject, but I reserve the right to right a rebuttal.

    It might be like “The Firing Line” format; anyway, something to consider.

    Let me know.

    Roger

  • Baronius

    Great, great article, Dave. One quibble. There’s a large pro-life rally in Washington every year, and no president has ever attended it. Presidents, as a rule, don’t attend issue-oriented rallies.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    For all –

    It’s becoming clear to me that, given the eventual passing of the Cold War generation, the stigma that has long been attached to the word ‘socialism’ is lessening, if only gradually so. In my opinion, that stigma has played a role in the failure of our country to keep up with the other modern democracies in terms of life expectancy, education, and living standards of the population.

    But the stigma of ‘socialism’ is diminishing, and the paradigm is changing. America is not evolving as quickly as much of the rest of the world, but we are certainly doing so. I look forward to the next eight – and perhaps sixteen, if HRC follows on – years of Democratic leadership to see if America can catch up to the rest of the free world.

  • Rob Daugherty

    I read the Newsweek article with a slightly different take. I interpreted it as the writer drawing this conclusion, “Since Bush’s conservative less-government, less taxes principles failed, then the only solution is more government and higher taxes.”

    The writer did not understand that Bush was NOT less government and did not exercise conservative economic principles. As a result, he thinks that less government is bad for the economy. This is the inherent flaw in his article; and the inherent flaw in Obama and his followers’ argument (i.e. Bush got us into this mess, so now we need to do the opposite of what Republicans want).

    Somehow, the media has lost this point and, as a result, all those who simply believe Obama (and the media) without question and without research, are marching right into more government higher taxes economic disaster.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    I don’t quite read it that way, Rob Daugherty. Perhaps you’d care to elucidate it?

  • http://www.iamcorrect.com Lono

    I think the terror over the phrase ‘socialized…’ is stupid and fear based.

    We bailed out the failing banks, and own a chunk of them now. That makes them socialized.

    Know what else is ‘socialized’? The police, fire department, the post office. They seem to work pretty well. We are all safe right now.

    I can’t imagine what letting the precious free market try fire protection would look like. However, there was a scene in Scrosesee’s ‘Gang’s of New York’ where this was the case. Fire protection was open to the free market. I fire broke out and several companies showed up and ended up fighting each other.

    My point being, maybe programs being ‘socialized’ isn’t the worse thing in the world. The word is demonized, which gets us nowhere. Same with Global Warming. Y’all thought that was hippy nonsense. Guess what, it’s real, and it’s official. We can call it climate change if you want, but it is happening.

  • Rob Daugherty

    I found the original article online.

    Quoting:
    “The U.S. government has already—under a conservative Republican administration—effectively nationalized the banking and mortgage industries.”

    Here the writer establishes that a conservative Republican administration, versus an economically liberal Bush and various Democrat votes, nationalized the banking and mortgage industries.

    Later he does the same thing:
    “… under a conservative GOP administration that we enacted the largest expansion of the welfare state in 30 years: prescription drugs for the elderly.”

    Then he begins to draw the conclusion:
    “Now comes the reckoning. The answer may indeed be more government. In the short run, since neither consumers nor business is likely to do it, the government will have to stimulate the economy.”

    This is where the disconnect begins. And even the writer admits one sentence later; “The catch is that more government intrusion in the economy will almost surely limit growth (as it has in Europe, where a big welfare state has caused chronic high unemployment).”

    Later:
    “The Obama administration is caught in a paradox. It must borrow and spend to fix a crisis created by too much borrowing and spending.”

    And that right there is the problem. The writer never once suggests that economic conservatism — less government, lower taxes (to over-simplify) — is the solution. This was hinted at, but then poo-poohed as a failure:

    “… and our instinct, once the crisis passes, will be to try to revert to a more free-market style of capitalism—but it was, again, under a conservative GOP administration that we enacted the largest expansion of the welfare state in 30 years: prescription drugs for the elderly…”

    Did you just notice the subtle connection; Bush = conservative GOP = economic failure?

    It’s been a long time since true conservative economic principles were actually used. Should people stop being indoctrinated with government being the solution and, instead, LESS government being the solution, we may actually find a journalist or two able to conduct a little historic research and write an article about how LESS government would actually be good for the economy.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Of course, a lot of Bush’s profligate spending was on war, not domestic items. Two conservative priorities tugging against each other: cutting taxes during wartime.

    The biggest domestic item was Medicare prescription drug coverage – which may be expensive but is surely not all that outrageous or objectionable. In fact, it’s objectionable to have a healthcare plan for the elderly without drug coverage.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Lono, all the volunteer firemen in all the volunteer fire departments in America would strongly disagree with your assertions.

    Handy, I’m not as sanguine as you are over the medicare prescription drug deal. It seems awfully expensive for relatively modest returns. It would be better just to make it legal to bring in drugs from Canada and Mexico. Break down those barriers and the price for all but the rarest drugs for everyone in the US would go down to a reasonable level.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    Know what else is ‘socialized’? The police, fire department, the post office. They seem to work pretty well.

    Plenty of private security companies already perform as police departments in closed communities; no reason they couldn’t do it on a larger scale, and they’d certainly do it less expensively and more efficiently.

    In re firemen, see Dave’s #32.

    In re the USPS: It doesn’t work as well as either FedEx or UPS. The only reason they haven’t taken all the First Class business from USPS is the law stops them and protects USPS’ monopoly. FedEx and UPS make a profit. Last year, USPS lost $2.8 Billion, even with a postage increase. This year, they’re back for more, in May.

  • http://www.thecobraslair.com Cobra

    One could accuse Teddy Roosevelt of being a socialist for his trust-busting as well.

    I fail to see the intrinsic evil in having facets of government socialized. The Constitution compells Congress to regulate trade, commerce and promote the general welfare of citizens.

    We have seen on too many occasions what happens with laissez faire capitalism. Greed, graft and corruption always rears up, because the system is run by human beings. Any and EVERY form of government or economic system is flawed and must be checked by regulation and safeguards because mankind is flawed, and must be checked by safeguards.

    –Cobra

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Regulation is not socialism. Reasonable government oversight of business and trade as Teddy Roosevelt practiced it is part of the government’s trust to protect the people from fraud and theft.

    Regulation is a far cry from centrally planned economies and direct government administration and management of business operations. Surely you can see the difference between the Chinese Red Army’s slave factories and having a few laws guaranteeing decent working conditions? Or maybe you can’t.

    As for problems with laissez faire capitalism, it’s not the source of greed. If anything it minimizes greed by setting the greed of one group against every other group with competing interests to produce the best possible result.

    Capitalism is taking competing bids for a job and choosing the lowest bid from the best qualified contractor. Socialism is automatically hiring the contractor who bribed the right bureaucrat.

    Dave

  • Cindy

    As for problems with laissez faire capitalism, it’s not the source of greed. If anything it minimizes greed by setting the greed of one group against every other group with competing interests to produce the best possible result.

    Dave,

    I hate to tell you this. But, there is no Santa.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Sorry, Cindy. You’re wrong about Santa.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    We’re a long way from laissez faire capitalism; the playing field is anything but level – hasn’t been in years. It’s a corporate-welfare system, as all the bailouts clearly indicate.
    No better place, in short, in which for fraud, corruption, and greed, too, to take root as dishonest businessmen and likewise dishonest government officials and politicians collude.

    So to talk of the good old days only obfuscates the issue and denies the reality of what our capitalist system has become. If you’re so dreading the advent of socialism, beware that you have brought it by yourself – starting with your Reagan whom everyone so admires and who, through his ideas of deregulation, had created the Frankenstein monster.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Plenty of private security companies already perform as police departments in closed communities; no reason they couldn’t do it on a larger scale, and they’d certainly do it less expensively and more efficiently.

    wrong, Wrong, WRONG!

    Why? Because THEN you’d have corporations doing police work FOR PROFIT. You think there’s corruption now – wait till you’ve got companies competing to do police work! And the SAME applies to EVERY function of the Commons – the governmental framework that belongs to ALL Americans, and ALLOWS the American people to do business.

    That’s what the conservatives never seem to get – Our journey on the road of American life does depend on our own initiative and effort…and the job of the American government is (1) to make sure that road is as smooth and clear of obstacles as possible, (2) to make sure that you’re less likely to crash and injure yourself and others along the way, and (3) to make sure that ALL Americans have the same opportunity.

    Whether you like it or not, Clavos, you NEED the government…and most things the government does CANNOT be trusted to the private sector.

    Examples?

    On police work – does ‘Blackwater’ ring a bell? And what happens when you have companies competing for police work contracts? “Yes, I know there’s more problems over in the ghetto, but we’ve got to pull a few cops from there. We’ve got to cover Sherwood neighborhood better – a lot of our stockholders live over there. But in the meantime, if we can screw over X Company who’s got the contract over in Bigville, we can get their contract! All we need to do is….”

    On privatizing Social Security – gee, didja notice a small PROBLEM with how the private sector has handled investments over the past few years? Remember Enron?

    On health care – hey, we’re 30th on the health care list even though we pay TWICE as much as the other modern democracies do! We’re even below Bosnia and Jordan!

    On prisons – Prisons for profit! And HOW do prison companies make a profit? By making sure their prisons stay full…and THIS fiscal incentive results in problems like judges sending kids to jail for profit…and it was the prison companies paying off the judges to send the kids to jail!!!!

    That’s one thing I learned between a military career and my time in the private sector: In for-profit companies, the emphasis is on profit, profit, profit…and all too often, doing what is RIGHT takes a back seat to doing what is PROFITABLE, as we’ve seen in the peanut recall wherein the company owner said, “we … desperately at least need to turn the Raw Peanuts on our floor into money.”

    In government service, however, there is NOT so much of a for-profit mindset, which means that they can concentrate on doing what is RIGHT.

    One last example – the Post Office. Sure, UPS and FedEx are doing wonderfully when it comes to packages, but no one in the world – public or private – can hold a candle to the USPS when it comes to delivering a letter cheaply, safely, and securely. Why? Because – like other government workers – the postal clerks and carriers don’t have to worry so much about profit, and they can concentrate more on doing what is RIGHT.

  • Cindy

    Dave,

    You are the second person today to make me cry. So, I will have to go to work to escape, before number three arrives…although working will likely have me crying more…

    But, now that you’ve made me believe in Santa again Dave, I think it only fair that you return the favor and stop believing in Uncle Milton. :-)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Glenn,

    We need all those security people – public or private – in preparation for social unrest, riots and discontent. The good times are surely coming.

  • bliffle

    Glenn, an interesting thing about the judges in Pennsylvania who sent juveniles to prison for trivial offenses, is that they were finally convicted on federal income tax charges.

    Apparently, the state of Pennsylvania has no interest in prosecuting crooked judges.

    And that explains why crooked businessmen always want to devolve criminal and anti-trust regulation/prosecution down from the federal level to the state level. It’s easier to get away with crime at the state level. politicians are cheaper (helps to widen the profit margin) and relationships are cozier and more immune to disruption by mere citizens.

    That’s why, for example, they slipped through the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson act that prohibited the feds from enforcing anti-trust laws against insurance companies, which has led to widespread insurance monopolies across the USA. That’s just one of the reasons that the USA pays twice as much for health insurance as any other nation while having deteriorating care and coverage.

  • bliffle

    The USA has had an administered economy from the beginning. Administered on behalf of Certain Business Interests for the most part. the first administrations invested in the Clipper Ship industry that soon came to dominate world shipping. Because the US government backed them with tax dollars. We also sent the US Navy to invade other countries under the guise of anti-piracy. This has been going on since the country was founded.

    Since ‘we’ backed the shipping industry ‘we’ also had to back the trans-continental railroads, too, right? It’s only fair. Otherwise the Shipping subsidies create an unfair competitive field, right? So we paid for the railroads (thus establishing some fabulous new personal family fortunes). Then, of course, when trucks started running on public highways we had to subsidize them, too, right? Had to have favorable fuel taxes and build the roads to carry truck traffic while the general public paid for it.

    Then, of course, when airplanes came along and started carrying cargo we had to subsidize them, too, right? It wouldn’t be fair not to.

    And what about sports? Sports teams were subsidized by local businesses and governments from the beginning. The Texas rangers are a contemporary example. Financed by a “Tax increment override” that was made possible through the political influence of one George W. Bush, a failed Texas businessman, who was loaned $600k by friends to ‘buy’ a 2% interest, which interest was increased to 8% upon successful passage of the Tax Increment (and claimed by Bush as a Capital Gain on his taxes, though the IRS never allowed such a payment to be claimed as anything other than wages for anyone else). Yes, Bush’s fortune was all due to TAXES.

    The truth (if you can stand the truth) is that business investment in this country has been socialized from the beginning. But we attempt to maintain a belief system that says otherwise. But it’s a sham.

    What we have is a Potemkin Free Enterprise system, that brags that there is such a thing in the USA and tells everyone else they should copy us.

    But it’s all a lie.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    bliffle,

    I posted a link relating to your #42 on the “privatization of prisons” thread (Jason Campbell’s article).

    A corrupt judge was taking money for incarcerating juveniles in private prisons and long sentencing.
    Found and convicted. But the opportunity for abuses abound.

    It makes one wonder how the proponents of the idea turn a blind eye. They must be moral-defectives – no other way to explain it.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle


    But, now that you’ve made me believe in Santa again Dave, I think it only fair that you return the favor and stop believing in Uncle Milton. :-)

    Uncle Milton does look a bit like one of Santa’s Elves. Might explain a lot.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    I hope I didn’t make you cry, Cindy, in the course of yesterday’s talk.

  • Cindy

    You should know you did Roger…wait…um…you mean you don’t cry when you have to read Hobbes?

  • lumpy

    I cried today when obama signed the porkulus bill and the stock market plunged downward.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Good for you, Lump. A nice cry is cleansing for the system.

    The market goes up and down for many reasons. Of course, great financial mind that you are, you can always pinpoint the precise one in any given case. What would we do without your wisdom?

    You may call the bill all the names you like. It is now the law of the land. I find it fairly exhilarating.

  • Clavos

    but no one in the world – public or private – can hold a candle to the USPS when it comes to delivering a letter cheaply, safely, and securely.

    You don’t know that — no one has been allowed to try, it’s against the law that protects USPS’ monopoly.

    like other government workers – the postal clerks and carriers don’t have to worry so much about profit, and they can concentrate more on doing what is RIGHT.

    That’s a load of crap; and I can and do speak to that point as an ex PO employee. My first day on the job (first day) I was able to sort, case and deliver my route in just under 51/2 hours. When I returned to the PO, I taken aside by a supervisor and told to disappear for another two hours, then come back. The letter carriers’ union has repeatedly shot down attempts by successive PO administrations to increase the number of stops in the average route. The entire time I worked for the PO, I was reprimanded repeatedly for doing the job too well (though they obviously didn’t put it that way).

    My wife was a letter carrier even longer than I was — several years. She finally quit in disgust at the waste — of time, personnel, and materiel; the results of union work rules.

    Mind you, I blame the honchos nearly as much as the unions; if they would grow a pair and break the letter carriers and clerks the way Reagan broke the air traffic controllers, the whole country would be better off.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    As an interesting aside – how did the expression “going postal” come about?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    I was a postal clerk too, so don’t go telling me how bad postal workers are. I DO know – and you cannot effectively refute this – that the screening process for postal workers is FAR more comprehensive than that given for the vast majority of workers in the for-profit sector.

    Come to think of it, the screening process for an eighteen year-old kid joining the military is FAR more comprehensive than that for, say, new hires working for a contractor doing work with a ‘Secret’ clearance. I know this one from personal experience, too.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger – It came from a couple of multiple killings by postal workers back in the 80’s. All of a sudden people began assuming that postal workers are time bombs waiting to go off…but statistically speaking, it’s still one of the safest places to work…

    …but the public perception was such that even now postal workers worry about a co-worker going nutso….

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos – one more thing, on the air traffic controllers. WHO stepped in and did the job to perfection? It wasn’t anyone from a for-profit company, was it? They were from the most socialist organization in America: the military, where (since we don’t have to worry about making a profit) we can concentrate on doing it right the first time.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Clav…

    in just under 51/2 hours.

    Hint: if you’re using a PC: [ALT] + 171.

    You’re welcome!

  • bliffle

    Reagans attack against the Air Traffic Controllers was a failure, as far as costs go. After a bunch of ATCs were dismissed and their lives ruined, the next couple of groups of ATCs soon had even better benefits and pensions. It’s a difficult and demanding job: not just anyone can do it so ATCs get premium pay. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right?

    In fact Reagans attack on ATCs created a problem that we are reaping now: so many ATCs were hired at once that now we have a replacement problem since they’re retiring as a group too.

  • Clavos

    that the screening process for postal workers is FAR more comprehensive than that given for the vast majority of workers in the for-profit sector.

    So why do they turn out to be such bad workers?

    Come to think of it, the screening process for an eighteen year-old kid joining the military is FAR more comprehensive than that for, say, new hires working for a contractor doing work with a ‘Secret’ clearance.

    Another load of BS. When uncle sam wanted me he took me — no screening at all; I got a physical and I was in, like it or not. It wasn’t until I was put in for a security clearance (months later — after all training and after assignment to a combat unit) that any background check at all was performed.

    the military, where (since we don’t have to worry about making a profit) we can concentrate on doing it right the first time.

    Those of us who weren’t lifers knew there were two ways to do things: the right way and the Army way.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I have to say Clavos’s description of the USPS rings truer.

    They once returned as undeliverable a business letter I’d sent to Target because I’d got one digit wrong in the building number. Somehow the carrier must have missed the huge building with the big red and white target symbol on the side.

    I once read a delicious story about someone who was waiting in line at the Post Office and happened to spot a sign on the wall with the unofficial USPS motto:

    “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

    Underneath, some wag had written:

    “Well, what is it, then?”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Since we’re on the subject – this is a must read:

    Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Ah, another Pratchett fan. Fantastic book.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Isn’t it? It’s the only one I’ve read, but it sure was a lot fun.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Apparently you worked at a truly crappy post office then, because at the one where I worked we busted our butts and did the job right.

    That’s a fairly common error, though – looking at the one place where you worked and assuming the whole of the organization is the same way. Those who work in junior and/or nonsupervisory positions (such as letter carriers) are particularly susceptible to such assumptions.

    And when it comes to the military, you as much as admitted that again, you assumed the whole from your own career – whether that may have been three years or thirty I have no idea, but from the way you write, it sure seems like ten or less.

    And frankly, unless you joined back in the mid-70’s or earlier perhaps that’s all the examination you got – but if you joined as early as 1981, then it’s obvious that you really don’t understand how much a good recruiter does (if he does his job properly as most do).

    You see, unless you’ve been in the military since the mid-90’s, you may not realize the the military is a FAR more professional force than it once was. Someone who had only been in the military before then would be in for a bit of a shock.

    It’s funny – my Navy retirement ceremony was the day before 9/11 (I’m not kidding)…and my command master chief on the USS Ranger (CV 61) was a crusty old bastard (I’m sure he’d agree) named Boatswains Mate Master Chief Hobbs, who’d joined the day after Pearl Harbor (IIRC) and had two tin cans sunk out from under him in WWII….

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Now, that’s what I consider a sob story:

    Lance Armstrong urges Twitter ranks to find stolen bicycle
    9 hours, 24 minutes ago
    Buzz up! 0 votes
    Print
    SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong is calling on legions of Twitter users to track down a one-of-a-kind bicycle stolen from a northern California racing venue.

    Armstrong sent out a rallying cry to the more than 128,000 Twitter members who have signed up to receive the brief text messages he routinely fires off on the popular micro-blogging service.

    “Whoa! They just came to my room and said our truck was broken into and someone stole my time trial bike!” Armstrong wrote in a Twitter message sent before sunrise on Sunday. “APB out to the twitterati.”

    The seven-time Tour de France champion had used the bicycle a day earlier at a rain-pelted, wind-pounded opening of the Amgen Tour of California. The 750-mile race continues through the week.

    Armstrong’s bicycle was one of four stolen from an Astana team truck parked behind a hotel in the California capital city of Sacramento.

    The other bicycles reportedly belonged to team members Janez Brajkovic, Steve Morabito and Yaroslav Popovych.

    Armstrong later posted a picture of his stolen bicycle in a Twitter “twitpic” accompanied by the message “There is only one like it in the world therefore hard to pawn it off. Reward being offered.”

    Replies ranging from supportive and empathetic to biting and cynical streamed back to Armstrong.

    “On it,” a Twitter user with the screen name ‘krenoir’ replied to Armstrong on Tuesday. “Spread the word and get it found … and the perps too!”

    Another Twitter follower wrote that he or she posted the bicycle’s picture on social-networking website Facebook to “help spread the word in hope of finding this amazing machine.”

    “Sorry to hear about the bike,” Twitter member ‘Hotonabike’ said Tuesday in a message to Armstrong. “If it’s any consolation, you can borrow mine.”

    A Twitter member noticed what may have been the bicycle for sale at online auction house eBay, which was alerted and the page removed.

    “Why some lowlife would list this bike on eBay is beyond me,” wrote Twitter user ‘seaflite,’ who sent a message revealing a defunct eBay page.

    “Definitely poor taste.”

    Cancer-survivor Armstrong, 37, retired in 2005 but has set out to make a comeback. The California race is his second on a comeback trail that started last month in Australia, where he finished 29th place in the Tour Down Under.

    Armstrong intends to compete in this year’s Tour de France.

    “Hitting the sack early tonight,” Armstrong wrote in a Twitter update late Monday. Two days in the pouring rain has worn my old a…(expletive) out.”

    Didn’t he represent USPS in Tour de France?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger that!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    I just thought I’d offer that as comic relief.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I chuckled – but I did so while sitting at attention…

    …which reminds me of the onboard brigs where the dirtbags and/or poor saps who got sent to the brig had to do everything – eat, sleep, sit, use the toilet, etc. – at attention, and all movements had to be at right angles. And yes, they still do send kids to three days bread-and-water in the brig (which makes them quite nauseated on a pitching and rolling ship)…but only the kids the command thinks and salvagable and could greatly improve with a not-so-gentle wake-up call….

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    The Amgen Tour is coming through Fresno tomorrow. Well, Clovis actually, but same difference – the two cities are adjacent.

    I don’t know what Lance is doing about a spare bike – perhaps he took that Twitter user up on their offer – but he seems to be doing pretty well so far. I think he’s fifth at the moment.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Does it work? Do they become officers and gentlemen?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    No, but about a third to a half of them eventually become petty officers (noncommissioned officers)…but almost never gentlemen. This IS the Navy we’re talking about here, and we’ve got a certain reputation to uphold….

    What do you do with a drunken sailor,
    What do you do with a drunken sailor,
    What do you do with a drunken sailor
    Ear-ly in the mornin’?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Well, I do know that Navy is much more disciplined than other services. Is the six-year hitch still the minimum? Sounds kind of corny, but it does build character.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Actually, the Navy is LESS disciplined than the other services. I’ve often seen people from other services say that they’d never tolerate the borderline disrespect that is often seen among Navy junior enlisted…but I came to understand that the reason is that unlike the other services except the Coast Guard, in the Navy one is completely surrounded by a truly industrial environment 24/7…and those who work in heavy industry tend to be a rough-and-tumble crowd.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’ve often gotten within an inch of a kid’s face and yelled at him at the top of my lungs (and NOT because I wanted to, but because that was my job (which I hated)). But despite the lack of discipline when compared to the other services, when push comes to shove there’s nobody you’d rather have on your side. In fact, I think the lesser degree of discipline (which is still FAR above that in the civilian world) is necessary because sometimes the petty officer with the greater technical knowledge and proficiency needs the wherewithal to tell someone more senior and less knowledgeable just where he needs to go….

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    “a truly industrial environment” – you mean close quarters? Perhaps I should have phrased it in terms of work-ethics.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    No, I mean being surrounded by a truly industrial environment 24/7. You’re surrounded by steel and wiring and paint and vent ducts and pipes and tubes…and the list goes on. Then there are the noises of pumps and vents and the screws and hatches slamming open/shut and hammers/drills/whatever…and (on carriers) flight operations too. And then there’s the all-too-frequent announcements over the ship’s intercom any time of day or night…

    Then there’s the constant smell of metal or paint or chemicals or (if you’re close to the mess decks) food…and then it’s back to work.

    Add to that the close quarters – 200 men sleeping in a compartment with perhaps 1500 sq. ft. floor space is normal – and the smells of people who pass gas at any time of day or night, or who don’t bathe like they should, or doing something a little too loudly in their bunks (we call them racks) and you really wish they’d take it elsewhere, and the occasional guy who pukes right by your rack…and tempers are bound to rub.

    And you know what? I wouldn’t trade if for the world!

  • bliffle

    “#67 — Dr Dreadful [URL]

    The Amgen Tour is coming through Fresno tomorrow. Well, Clovis actually, but same difference – the two cities are adjacent.”

    So, are you a Clovis Man, now?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Well, Glenn, I’m a social kind of person and I need people, too, but I also need my space. Weren’t you glad when it was over?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    I’ve been through Clovis, sort of Fresno’s suburb, no? At least they had a decent bar at Day’s Inn, I think, when I stayed.