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The Politics of “Why”

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Children are always asking "Why?" They want to understand what they observe. They want to know what lies behind things. They want to be able to read some order and sense into the world.

As adults, we get out of the habit of asking why. Why? Because "Why?" can be a very uncomfortable question. Growing up means learning to function in society, which requires keeping our relationships with the people around us running smoothly, avoiding offense. That's great for greasing the gears of surface society. But it's bad for real mutual understanding.

Those of us who are politically engaged find ourselves arguing repetitively during election cycles and times of controversy. Back and forth we pitch our opinions, our arguments, even allowing them to devolve into insults and spitefulness. Why?

Maybe because we've grown out of the habit of asking why.

Instead of taking offense at one another's convictions, let's ask each other why. Why do you believe what you believe? You seem so sure of it. But how is it possible that you are so sure of your position, while I am equally sure of the exact opposite position?

My view seems so obvious to me that it shouldn't even need explanation. Yours seems the same way to you. Clearly, we're both making false assumptions about what's self-evident and what isn't. So let's stop assuming. Let's put our cards on the table. Let's be honest with those we're talking with, and with ourselves, about why we hold our opinions.

Have we thought them through? Or did we just inherit them from our parents or fellow students or teachers? Do we like them because they're aesthetically appealing? Because they come from rhetorically gifted writers or politicians or fake newscasters? Because they appeal on an emotional level? Or because they make logical sense?

Are they based on current information, or on old information?

While we're at it, let's go further. Let's not be ashamed to admit the validity of an opposing argument. It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of using our brains. An argument can be valid, yet weaker than an opposing argument. Just because I'm convinced I'm right doesn't mean everything you think is idiotic, and vice versa.

What makes us disagree about, say, tax policy? If we both possess basic common sense and a normal amount of compassion for the unfortunate – and let's assume we do – what makes you so sure a certain tax policy is beneficial to society, or fair, and me so sure that your policy is hurtful or unfair? Both of us can marshal some evidence to support our positions. But what is it that puts my argument over the top for me, and yours for you? What's our reasoning behind our opinions? And what are our feelings? Feelings are valid too – we're emotional creatures.

To take an even more divisive example, it's "common sense" to me that if a being can't survive outside its mother's body, it's not an individual, so a woman should have the right to end her pregnancy. And even if we do grant the fetus some rights, they obviously have to be subordinate to those of its mother, who is already a functional, independent human being.

I say "obviously" – but what that really means is, it's obvious to me. It's obviously not obvious to everyone. Some people believe that "life begins at conception" – that as soon as there is conception, there exists a new individual being with the full rights of any born person. But if that belief comes from a religious interpretation, which it usually does, wouldn't enshrining it in secular law be imposing your religious beliefs on me? Can't you understand that? I hope you can, because I've just explained the why behind my opinion.

On the other hand, if the law of the land allows abortion, and you believe abortion is murder, how can you help but oppose that law and want to change it? Can't I understand that? Sure I can, since you've explained why.

Let's try to understand. And without getting angry.

We may never agree on some issues, but if we lay out where our convictions come from, we ought to still be able to be civil to each other, get along, and maybe work towards, say, reducing the number of abortions by discouraging teen pregnancy. Or coming up with a tax policy most of us can live with.

It all starts with asking why.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/39420/joanne_huspek.html Joanne Huspek

    Good points.

    Asking “why” is a lot more logical than trying to shout down the other guy. Of course, the whole thing depends on whether or not your person is LISTENING. That seems to be a lost art these days.

  • Zedd

    Jon,

    I love the way you think.

    I really do want to understand why it’s assumed that the free market will correct everything? From my vantage point, people are self serving (even the most well meaning people). The notion of the market playing out like a lovely ballet, everyone having their turn in the sun is a beautiful notion but the truth is that people tend to be greedy. Because of the greed, some will act greedy and we will have the crisis that we are facing. The free market is not correcting it. Governments all over the world are bailing this financial institutions out. Am I missing something?

    I want to know what makes people think that it is not our responsibility to one another (as a society) to provide free healthcare; that access to being well shouldn’t be free. Why do people believe that people should be in the business of charging people to let them live?

    I can’t wrap my mind around these ideas. Perhaps someone will help me get their point of view.

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    Zedd, that’s exactly the sort of “Why” questions I think we should be asking. Let’s see if we get some thoughtful answers.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    here is one reason why I can’t support Palin, for example and here is just one of the multitude of reasons why John McCain won’t get my vote. If you follow the links, you will find more.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Just out of curiousity…do you get your news from anywhere other than huffpo, nyt or msnbs? I’m curious, because that’s where your links always lead to…

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    It would be nice to get personal views on those links, in the spirit of “asking why.” That Times blog was a pretty nifty summation of Palin’s cronyism, and it suggests – but doesn’t in any way prove – that it’s worse than average. Let’s not forget that cronyism is alive and well at all levels of government and in both parties.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Sure, Andy. The Washington Post (even though they consistently disappoint me), NBC, CBS, ABC, various shows on Air America, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Salon, CNN, MSNBC. the BBC, NPR regularly, including their long talk shows, PBS. Lately, I have been following the Alaska papers online. I also read the WSJ from time to time.

    When I can stomach it I love to laugh at Fox.

    Oh!!! and I an a loyal follower of The Daily Show:)

    If you follow the links, you will see that HuffPo gets ITS news from a variety of sources.

    The article I quote from the Times has it sources well backed up. You can just follow the links.

    And the HuffPo article provides the tapes of Poor Old McCain fumbling his way again……

    and by the way, your prejudice against the New York Times being liberal, well, in the true sense of the word, it is. It IS the paper of record. It’s good, solid reporting. And the winner of hundreds of Pulitzers. And it’s been disproved over and over that it’s a leftist paper. I know you and others like to think so, but it just ain’t true.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Jon, the NYT had a long, very long front page piece on Sunday detailing her cronyism. It’s been well documented in many places.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    You know, Zedd, what I think it all comes down to really, is what we think our country is. Is it a country that is responsible to its people and for its people, or is it a country that allow capitalism, which i basically believe in–although not allowed to run free with no oversight or restriction–to run completely free, destroying whatever it sees fit in its wake? I think there ARE two Americas, and I think they see things in two different ways.

    When Bush got on television, in the wake of the financial meltdown, and had the chutzpah to ask Americans to send money to the Hurrican victims in Texas, I almost blew a gasket. Americans are, individually, the most generous people in the world. And I just knew that, even in this time of enormous and horrible financial turmoil, most of them, even the very poor, would probably sent their last 5 or 10 bucks. But I was furious. How DARE he ask that? When he hadn’t even said one word to calm the public about what had happened? AND waited another three days to do so!!
    And then, in the next 3 days BILLIONS and BILLIONS of government money went toward bailing out greedy and stupid companies whose CEOS and employees made hundreds of millions of collars while the rest of the country not only lost their shirts but will wind up paying the bill for the bailout.

    And FEMA fucked up again. And Bush sat there and asked us to send in money.

    What’s wrong with this picture, Zedd. I know what’s wrong and you do, too.

    That is the difference between the two Americas.

    And that is WHY, Jon, I cannot and will not vote for any Republican.

  • cuervodeluna

    Hmmm: I wouldn’t vote for EITHER candidate.

    The US is a one-party system. The same folks–Big Oil and Big Guns–own both candidates.

    It’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum all over again.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    hmmmm cuervo
    not quite true

  • cuervodeluna

    Instead of calling me a liar, maybe you should ask WHY I think the way I do?

    Even though I believe I made it quite clear that both products are owned and promted by the same company.

  • Baronius

    Lisa, if I’m not mistaken, Cuervodeluna used to post here under the name Moonraven, until she was booted from the site for abusive comments. Agree with her or don’t, she’ll rain insults down on you. This thread is about the power of honest communication; you’ll find that won’t happen with Moonraven.

    I realize that this comment seems over-the-top, but she really is that bad.

  • troll

    Baronius – cuervo’s comments are valuable…give the past a rest

  • cuervodeluna

    Post 13 is a direct personal attack against ME.

    Direct personal attacks against this Red Lady is why she went on the warpath here a couple of years ago.

    A word to the wise….

  • Baronius

    Troll – Would that include the comment that Clavos’ wife is faking paralysis in order to avoid sleeping with him? Never mind the past; look at comment #12, where she takes “not quite true” as someone calling her a liar?

  • troll

    …words have meaning – pay attention when dealing with folks who might take them seriously

  • cuervodeluna

    Telling someone that what they wrote is not quite true IS calling the person a liar.

    There is no such thing as a little bit tue, nor a little bit false, nor a little bit pregnant.

    There is only one reason I can think of why Baronius should be feeling personal rencor about a post made to SOMEONE ELSE many moons ago: and that’s if Baronius is actually a clone of the someone else in question.

    I believe I said before: a word to the wise.

  • Jordan Richardson

    There is only one reason I can think of why Baronius should be feeling personal rencor about a post made to SOMEONE ELSE many moons ago

    Nonsense. I’d be pissed too if you said something like that to Clavos. It’s a little something known as empathy….quite a good thing to have.

  • troll

    …or a friend

  • cuervodeluna

    Baronius seems not to have read the article that began this thread, and is just here to make personal attacks.

    I suggest that he read the article in question.

  • Jordan Richardson

    cuervodeluna, is that a word to the wise?

  • cuervodeluna

    Considering that the whole brouhaha began 2 years ago when I was accused of sleeping with a Mexican gardener–which was clearly meant as a racist personal attack–I don’t feel that empathy is a quality that most of the people on this site have.

    YOU might also consider reading the article that this thread proceeds from, as I believe it is about something called EMPATHY.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Cuervo, What I mean was that the Dems are certainly not owned by the gun lobby which is what it sounded like you meant.

    I have noticed that you are quick to assume when people disagree with you that they are calling you a liar…. And yes, there certainly are shades of truth…. it’s called nuance. It’s called the color gray. The world is not black and white.

    That was certainly not what I wrote and certainly not my intention. Goodness.

  • Cannonshop

    Lisa…look at the eventual outcome…

    Ms. Cole said the extra time allowed the farmers to find new buyers, including a private creamery that recently opened near Wasilla with a federal grant. Meanwhile, the state has raised $2.9 million from the sale of property, equipment and inventory and is seeking to sell another parcel appraised at $1.3 million. “At the end of the day, farmers are still working, and that’s a positive thing,” Ms. Cole says.

    Whole story HERE. I’d expect most Democrat governors would pursue similar actions, especially taking over from an administration as dirty and pervasive as the Murkowski regime.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    And PS Cuervo, I have had positively horrifying things said to me by several people here, and I haven’t gone “on the warpath.” I’ve merely declined to engage with those people, tried to defend myself, or allowed others to try and set those people straight. It certainly hasn’t stopped me from doing intelligent opinion pieces, book reviews, and whatever it suited me to write. I don’t base my opinion of myself on what others choose to decide to yell at me.

    And I certainly yelled nothing at you. I merely disagreed with you lumping the Rs and the Ds together as being “owned” by the same interests.

  • Zedd

    Focusing back to the post, TROLL do you have a WHY?

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    You know, Canon, the story I heard yesterday was that it actually finally went out of business just recently, bankrupt again. I will see if I can find that source.

    HERE IS A QUESTION:

    Why do so few people use their real names? You don’t? Cuervo? Troll? Barnonius? And on and on.

    I do, Clav does, right? Dave does, cause he is an editor, too, Jordan does. What’s up? My feeling is, especially if people are going to get snippy, they should use their real name and let people know who they are? As I said in my column long ago on the “art of bloggin” there is something sort of cowardly about anonymity, I think….

    it is easy to say whatever the hell you want, if no one know who you are.

    Not you, necessarily, but it seems sort of odd to me….
    Maybe it is an age thing. But I take responsibility for what I write. I have always put a byline to my work…. since I was 17.

  • cuervodeluna

    Sorry, Lisa, but I am going to diagree with you. And you are protesting too much, and in my opinion, being needlessly holier-than-thou.

    YOu also did NOT ask me WHY–which was the point of the article.

    Can you dig it, sister?

    I did NOT mean the gun lobby (NRA)–when I say Big Guns I mean the US Arms Industry–the largest in the world and getting fatter by the minute on bilions and billions of YOUR tax dollars.

    Big Oil and Big Guns are the largest contributors to both candidates–and they also shelled out Big Bucks for Hillary’s campaign.

    War is supposedly good for US business.

    And it is, for a few. Most of the others look pretty pasty right about now.

    (The NRA is a whole different kettle of fish which I did NOT address and really do not see why I should at any length. Let’s leave old Charlton Heston to his just reward down below–more for being a bad actor than for acting bad. I will say, however, that I was raised in an NRA family, and I taught firearms and bowhunting safety when I was in high school to teenage boys who wanted hunting licenses. I also wrote the Washington State Firearms and Bowhunting Safety Manual in 1973. I don’t have a gun, and I won’t have one. I have moved on. Other folks have to feel more pain before they move on, I guess.)

  • cuervodeluna

    Lisa, this “snippy” person posted under her own name when she first blogged here in Sept. of 2006–which led to an enornmous invasion of my privacy as well as accusations that I was an alcoholic and slept with a Mexican gardener–

    WHY?

    Because I asked Chavez-bashers for evidence to back up their libelous claims against him.

    Now, I am asking you WHY you find it necessary to present such a holier-than-thou attitude on this site?

    Seriously, I would really lilke to know.

  • cuervodeluna

    Lisa, I hope I have put your mind at ease about the WHY of my “cowardly” behavior.

    Have a nice weekend.

    Mine just started.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Oh, dear, Cuervo. Such virulent anger. Hope you calm down for your weekend. Anger is so very self destructive.

    Best,

    A Gringo from Gringoland

  • Baronius

    Zedd – If I could take a stab at your question about the free market, I’d like to.

    I don’t believe that everything will work out for the best, all the time, with a free market. I believe that each decision made in a free market is a decision willingly made by the buyer and the seller. I don’t see any more just way of setting a price than letting the buyer and seller agree on a price, which is what happens when you purchase something.

    Some outside authority can monitor transactions for their lawfulness. But for their fairness? Not without great risk. And that caution is the first principle for free-marketeers. A truly free market solution to the current financial crisis would allow failing companies to fail. It may not be the best solution, but it’s the one that does the least to accumulate power into the hands of an outside authority.

    I hope this makes sense.

  • Cannonshop

    #29 Lisa, when I write something “For keeps” I’ll put my name on it. Arguing politics is more or less recreational for me, If I ever buckle down again and do something that I think has real value, I’ll put my name on it,post a link, and you can dismantle it at your leisure, but right at this point in time, I’ve got a pretty realistic view of my own ability (or, more precisely, lack thereof).

  • troll

    (Focusing back to the post, TROLL do you have a WHY?

    …yup:

    (image a green scaly troll – obviously paranoid – assuming a pose similar to Jon’s in his photo)

    why do you ask – ?)

  • cuervodeluna

    Lisa,

    Righteous anger is something that my people have carried with them since the smallpox blankets and the genocidal greed of the white man put an end to 20 million of us here on Turtle Island.

    And we will continue to carry it like a torch, no matter how many “snippy”, condescending little white girls tell us how “very destructive” it is.

  • Baronius

    Lisa – Maybe it is a generational thing. I was taught to never give out personal information online, back in the old days. I guess if you grew up with Facebook and the like, you look at the internet differently.

  • cuervodeluna

    Hard copy newspapers and magazines usually strongly request that folks who write letters to the editors indicate their name, address, email and sometimes even telephone numbers. That’s the case here in Mexico, except for when the person requests that those personal indicators not be published for fear of harrassment or reprisals. or some other sort.

    For folks who demand that kind of information, I suggest that they publish a newspaper or a magazine that is not online, and set those guidelines.

    In internet I believe it is unrealistic and even fascist to demand that folks blog under their own names.

    In some cases it would even be dangerous to do so.

    And I also think that folks on this forum should respect other folks’ choices–especially when they have indicated WHY.

  • troll

    …I used to post using my name (and commas) and took on the moniker in protest against the blatant anti-trollism that I encountered here

  • cuervodeluna

    troll,

    I think you are gilding the lily.

    Are there any folks posting here who are NOT trolls?

    Besides you, I mean.

  • Zedd

    Baronius,

    Thanks. It does make sense.

    However it seems to me more of a way of staying true to a principal instead of a solution for society. This principle is not safe. You acknowledged that. It seemed as if it would work at the time it was conceived. At that time the land owners with massive power were the bad guys and could get away with anything. No one could imagine that Joe down the street could gouge people without repercussions. We now know that Sally, Joe, Juan and Jamal can all get together and drive prices up, causing an avalanche of problems and in the end destroy themselves along with everyone else, world wide.

    So is the conclusion that complete free market thinking is not good. We need a system that is somewhere in the middle.

  • Zedd

    Troll,

    I knew you’d come up with something clever. You never disappoint.

  • Cindy D

    This somewhat parallels one of Lisa’s questions at #2, but with a slightly different emphasis.

    Why don’t people who work 40-60 + hours per week to give a service to society not deserve to have their basic healthcare needs met? Why does the cashier at Walmart not deserve heathcare?

    Why does anyone think it’s okay to reward people who manipulate society (say the oil traders), yet hesitate to reward those who serve society? (As in the Walmart example above.)

    Why is it welfare if it is for an individual (the we of “we the people”), but it’s what nothing? overlooked? if it’s a subsidy or bail-out for big business?

    Why is there a perception that individuals cheat by going bankrupt (and don’t deserve even a home to live in), but corps that go bankrupt (and cheat their employees out of their pensions) aren’t questioned?

    Why do old people (who may have never had any kids) have to pay for rich people’s kids to go to school (for years) and when their ailing health and drugs costs reduces their income, no one minds that they are forced out of their homes? (Don’t worry they get to keep 18-20k to find a new home.)

    Finally:

    Why are we a nation so full of of selfish individuals ready to condemn the poor or imagine that they are to blame for their plight?

  • Baronius

    Whoa, Cindy. I thought the idea was to ask “why” so as to understand the other side. Its seems like you’re using it as a rhetorical tool for criticizing the other side.

  • Cindy D

    No Baronius. I’m asking why to understand why I keep getting the answers I am getting.

    The answers I have gotten to questions about the above, when I didn’t actually ask the question “why”, are the answers that I have posed as questions.

    With the exception of the final question. And that’s not to attack anyone but, to elicit a self-questioning.

    So, why do YOU feel attacked?

  • Cindy D

    because here are the facts, as a society:

    We do all those things I mentioned above. So, why?

  • Cannonshop

    Let’s continue this game, it’s fun…

    Why is the group that claims to represent the working man so hot to put him out of a job?

    Why do the people who talk a storm about the environment push industry into places that don’t have regulations or rule of law?

    Why do the people who condemn big business continue to press laws that only favour the largest companies?

    Why can’t tax rates be indexed to inflation?

    Why aren’t the bankers who artificially inflated property values using 125% loans supported by falsified evaluations going to jail for fraud?

    Why in the fuck are we bailing out Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros…?

    What Imbecile came up with the idea that tourism is an adequate replacement for industry? (it isn’t. It generates a hundered part-time, minimum-wage jobs that disappear for six to nine months out of the year.)

    Why don’t some people understand that “Service Economy” doesn’t WORK???

    Why, oh, why is it so hard to get through some people’s skull that Wealth is generated by PRODUCTION, not by processing paperwork and living off the savings of the last generation?

  • Cindy D

    Good game Cannon. Now you need to explain what you’re asking so someone may answer. We don’t automatically understand whatever examples are in your head.

  • http://www.parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Alas, Jon, it’s clear that your plea for respectful discourse based on a recognition that none of us owns the truth has (mostly) fallen on ears stuffed with self-inflated opinions.

    I don’t spend much time on other sites, but it seems to me that BC political commenters are entirely too interested in scoring points and demonstrate little interest in understanding “why” people have different points of view.

    Good article…but but next time try a sledge hammer rather than quiet common sense, LOL.

    Curmudgeon-At-Large
    In Jameson Veritas

  • Baronius

    Cindy, you asked why no one cares about old people thrown out on the streets. I read that as an unfair characterization of conservatives. That’s what got my hackles up.

  • Cannonshop

    Easy one first then…

    Taxes. Everyone pays taxes, right? mmm-kay, now, as the purchasing power of the dollar slides (and it does), shouldn’t the tax-brackets move to reflect ACTUAL purchasing power? Wouldn’t that make, oh…sense, if you’re intent on “Taxing the rich”?

    Right now, and for most of my life, it’s been “Work harder, the numbers get bigger, but what you get with those numbers continues to go down, and you’re taxed MORE.”

    A couple of us actually worked it out-working ten hour days five a week, and weekends (both days)on a two week pay period, the NET-that’s what shows up as Pay, and not taxes, is about two dollars an hour for the last three days in that pay-period.

    You actually LOSE money.

    Last year’s tax return (that’d be for FY 2007) I made 51,000 (rounded up), but in terms of what I could buy with that fifty one grand in terms of net, as in purchasing power, compared to 1997 when I made 32,000…

    LESS purchasing power, and I paid more in taxes.

    Isn’t this the least bit screwed up? work harder, pay more, get less for it?

    Shouldn’t people who work harder, for longer hours, be encouraged instead of punished for doing so?

  • Zedd

    Lets see if we can fix this. I feel like I have to lean to read.

  • Baronius

    Zedd, there really isn’t a difference in who does the gouging. As long as there’s muscle, someone is going to be tempted to use it. The problem is, as often as not they do the gouging through the government. I’d rather that the power not be accumulated by anyone.

    I said that free purchase of goods and services is not always fair. But it’s probably fairer than any intervention could be. And it’s efficient. In the long run, the greater efficiency pays off to everyone in the system.

  • Cindy D

    Baronius,

    Thank you for explaining and continuing the conversation.

    Here is what I meant.

    In my town, the real estate taxes (most of the large share for schools, libraries and local police–and they (the police) are in excess of what is needed for a virtually no-crime township) have grown exorbitantly.

    A person who built a home here in the 70s now faces real estate taxes of $9,000 in 2008 and more in 2009. He can’t afford to keep his home. He can’t afford his medications, medical expenses and his taxes.

    So my why was not aimed at anyone in specific.

    But, we (as a society) have designed this system. We decided to create a system so that this man’s wealthy neighbors (most of the ones with children are new and buying at 500k for a home) are having their children’s education subsidized by an older, ill person who has to give up his home because he can no longer (after 35 years of paying real estate taxes here–much of the fruit of which was spent on others) afford to take care of himself AND those others.

    Why do we design a system like this? It’s not like we have no experience with old people.

  • Cindy D

    Cannon,

    Do you identify with the rich?

    I would classify you as the middle and in NJ you are below the middle income.

    Why would you have a problem with taxing people who are rich?

    Maybe I don’t understand something.

  • Cindy D

    Baronius,

    …free purchase of goods and services is not always fair. But it’s probably fairer than any intervention could be.

    But that supposes that there actually is a free exchange of goods and services. There is no free exchange. Government gives business a lions share of subsidies and breaks (i.e. our money).

  • Baronius

    Cindy, I meant “free” in the context of my comment #33. As for your comment #54, I don’t know the specifics of the case.

  • Cindy D

    Baronius,

    Unfortunately our society doesn’t care about and has made no allowance for the specifics of this case or any like it.

    It’s not addressed, so a whole portion of our old people can be forced from their homes and no one seems to have given a thought about it.

    It happened a few years back in Maplewood, NJ The town reassessed taxes to make them “fairer”. The result was news articles about old people being displaced because they couldn’t afford the new tax rates. What action was taken? None.

  • Cindy D

    That free market from #33 can’t exist. It never has for long nor could it ever. That’s why we subsidize business. because it won’t work if we don’t.

  • Cannonshop

    #55 No…not exactly. I’d Like to, but more than that, I’d love it if “tax the rich” schemes didn’t just kind of magically land on people like me. People who aren’t raping the system or winning lotteries. If I work extra hours, or save enough to actually rack up some interest, I get taxed MORE- ’cause I get taxed on the interest in my savings account-which is money that was taxed before I put it in, unless I go with an IRA or other instrument, in which case it’s going to be taxed higher if I let it get too big, or put too much away.

    And it’s even worse if I don’t elect to put myself into thirty-years’ debt (not including ever-increasing property taxes), Hell, I’m not even allowed to opt out of the “Voluntary” ponzi-scheme known as Social Security. the system is structured to punish the frugal and reward the careless, and it’s WRONG.

    Right now, I’m renting-because I refuse to put myself INTO debt to get permission to get into SERIOUS debt. (no debt history=no credit score, no credit score=massive interest on ANY mortgage.)

    Am I the only person out here who thinks this is screwed up??

    Last year we got a bonus-three grand, it was appended to a standard paycheque, and after taxes, (adding up the capital gains tax and the income tax taken out) it ate a week’s wages and the total cheque was about five hundered dollars more than I would have gotten without overtime.

    So, maybe I should Identify with the Rich, since I’m obviously paying the taxes as if I WERE-well, not quite, since I can’t afford the necessary Senator and Congressman to write in the right exemptions to cover ME, the way that “The Rich” do-and even THEY get it wrong (Paging mister Rangel, Mister Charles Rangel…).

    Why is it that I have to pay for it when a crooked banker hires a crooked appraiser to over-estimate the value of a house so he can sell the mortgage paper to Morgan Stanley (a practice that, among other things, increases property taxes and pushes up both rents, and the amount that everyone pays for a house?)And then, why do I have to pay more tax to bail out Morgan Stanley, or Bear Stearns, or WaMu,or Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac, or Lehman Bros. because they bought a fraud and found out too late? Can someone explain to me why these guys aren’t going to jail for fraud, instead of getting big bailout money from taxes I PAID in liew of the taxes they don’t have to because the code’s eighteen thousand pages long with enough exceptions that they don’t have to pay a fucking dime?

    Why, for that matter, am I paying to help people with no income, job, or assets to buy a house when I can’t buy a house myself (and I HAVE an income, and a job) because I didn’t borrow money over-and-over-and-over-again to live beyond my means in order to prove that I CAN borrow money?

    Does this make any sense to you? Our markets are in crisis because people have been encouraged to spend more than they make, which makes it acceptable for government to spend more than it makes, and this situation is exacerbated by bankers who first wrote in, then exploited, rules that allow them to do to each other things that would be termed “Fraud”, and prosecuted if they were done by individuals to banks-rather than by Banks to Banks.

    I don’t get it, I guess. Maybe if I went to Columbia or Yale or Harvard or something this would make sense.

  • Cindy D

    I hear you Cannon, but I think you’re laying the blame at the wrong doorstep. People with no job or income don’t get to by houses.

    Tax the rich, get rid of corporate welfare. Then we (you and I) won’t have to pay all that.

  • Cannonshop

    Why is it then, Cindy, that every time someone actually gets a bill through to “Tax the Rich”…

    MY taxes go up?

  • cuervodeluna

    Somewhere is this mess of spaghetti I THINK someone asked about the rich–should they or should they NOT pay taxes?

    It’s not a question of should or should not.

    There are folks out there called accountants who sometimes even give classes on how NOT to pay taxes.

    When I was an accountant I know I had such an educational business for awhile.

    Funniest darn thing, though–it always seemed to lose money.

    Which, of course, offset my tax liability from my other businesses and salaried employment.

    Rich people can afford to have fistfuls of accountants working for them to the objective that they don’t pay taxes.

    Nothing the least bit mysterious about any of it.

  • Baronius

    Cindy, I think you’d be suprised how many taxes, regulations, and just plain hoops the government puts in front of businesses. But it shouldn’t be a question of who gets mistreated most. You and Zedd both more-or-less asked why some people always oppose governmental involvement. My answer is I guess fourfold:

    – free trade of goods and services is voluntary
    – free trade of goods and services is probably closer to fair than any arbitrary intervention
    – free trade of goods and services, in the long run, is more efficient
    – repeated interventions, in the long run, result in accumulated power

  • Zedd

    Cannonshop,

    “Why is the group that claims to represent the working man so hot to put him out of a job?”

    What group is that? There is no group in America that is hot about putting people out of work. Ask a real question.

    Why do the people who talk a storm about the environment push industry into places that don’t have regulations or rule of law?

    If you make such statements you have to say how industry is being pushed out. Perhaps if we understand who they are being pushed, we can see that environmental regulation is not working. Help us out.

    Why do the people who condemn big business continue to press laws that only favour the largest companies?

    Who is condemning big business?

    Why aren’t the bankers who artificially inflated property values using 125% loans supported by falsified evaluations going to jail for fraud?

    Because they are not the only bad guys. So many people were complicit in this debocle that we would not be able to sustain them in our prisons.

    Why in the fuck are we bailing out Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros…?

    Because they owe other banks and countries all over the world. Those banks owe other banks all over the world. Letting these guys topple would topple the world economy.

    What Imbecile came up with the idea that tourism is an adequate replacement for industry? (it isn’t. It generates a hundered part-time, minimum-wage jobs that disappear for six to nine months out of the year.)

    It depends on the type of weather you have.

    “Why don’t some people understand that “Service Economy” doesn’t WORK???”

    Tell that to the Republicans. That is where we are headed per George Bush.

  • bliffle

    So then Baronius, I take it you are against the Wall Street bailout?

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Baronius, free trade is voluntary in theory but not in practice. There is not a lot that is voluntary about buying food for example.

    Similarly, there are many examples, if you care to look, where unregulated free trade has been anything but fair.

    Arguably there is greater efficiency in a free trade system, but it can depend on what exactly is meant by efficient.

    Repeated interventions have often proved necessary, as events this week have shown.

    The goals of free trade are not efficiency or fairness but profit, pure and simple.

  • Baronius

    Bliffle – Certainly. The Wall Street bailout is stupid beyond doubt.

    Christopher – I’m not here to prove that I’m right. See above article.

  • Zedd

    Chris,

    I think originally the goal was efficiency. However, just as communism is Utopian so is capitalism. Both ideas omit the impact of human nature. We are greedy AND we have different motives. We are not single minded and rarely do we ever unite and work towards one goal for an extended time. What sustains our systems without regulations is bandwagoning. We get caught up and believe. After a while we burn out or see through the dogma and reality sets in. What makes society work is when we can tweak our systems ever so slightly to accommodate the shifts that will inevitably occur. Sticking with ideas simply because they sound like a good thing even though they don’t work is fatal.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    B, what’s the point of being wrong though?

  • Clavos

    Letting these guys topple would topple the world economy.

    In the long run, that could be a good thing.

    500,000,000 or bust…

  • Baronius

    Chris, I should have stated that more clearly.

    I believe I’m right. I doubt I’m going to persuade you that I’m right on this thread. I’ve pretty much given up persuading anyone online – but if I can at least state my views coherently, maybe somewhere down the road, they’ll click for someone.

  • troll

    (500000000 or bust…catchy – kinda rolls off one’s tongue)

  • Baronius

    When I say short-term efficiency, I mean efficiency in allocation of resources. Resources go to production of the desired goods. We probably get closer to allocative efficiency with market pricing than with any other economic system. A lucky guess or a proper intervention can do better, but they don’t happen that often. Generally, governments shift resources incorrectly.

    There’s also long-term efficiency, or adaptive efficiency. This is where the free market is indisputably better than any other system. A free market can adapt to changes in technology more efficiently than a managed market.

    Semi-digression: I have no respect for socialism, but I’ll admit to a nostalgia for feudalism. It was a great system for what it was trying to accomplish. But it only worked because every year was identical to the last one. That’s when you can manage an economy. It’s when technology, wealth, and population are changing that you need to adapt as efficiently as possible. And that’s where a free market can outclass socialism, feudalism, and any other system.

  • Zedd

    Baronius,

    The challenge with the free market as we experience it is that the market forces are artificial. The manipulation of the indicators which determine the value of products makes the possibility of a truly free market impossible.

    I am interested in the notion that what we have is all there can be. Off course you know that there will be other solutions. Just as the monarchy and land owners could have never imagined the systems that we live under.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Baronius, well, you’ve already shown above that your economic understanding is paper thin and your objection to government involvement is based on dogma rather than pragmatism, in addition to your already cloudy faithist approach to life in general.

    You may well be stating your views coherently but those views are so obviously based on theory rather than actual reality that I doubt they will convince anyone other than those who already share your position.

    There is no such thing as a market that is not managed in some way, even if that is only the management of things to suit those running the market in the first place.

    Hedge funds are a great example. These financial derivatives have been so unregulated as to cause a large part of the financial turmoil we have seen recently.

    Yes, they were producing spectacular profits and salaries for those practising them but the end result almost brought down the US economy. That this damage was so profound that Bush 2 was persuaded to go against his own dogma and initiate an economic rescue is eloquent evidence that reality is more demanding than your theories.

    You have no respect at all for the idea that collective action around a shared need or purpose can often be a positive thing but you do approve of the idea of an elite running things independently of the views of everybody else?

    No wonder you don’t believe you can actually influence the debate, your political and economic views are as “special” as your spiritual ones…

  • bliffle

    What astounds me is the alacrity with which all those Free Market Capitalist Milton Friedman guys have thrown over their professed beliefs in order to get their hands on a trillion dollars of tax-payer money.

    I guess it was all hot air all this time.

  • bliffle

    Baronius nonchalantly reveals one of his reasoning flaws:

    “…I’ll admit to a nostalgia for feudalism.”

    Ah feudalism, a system where a nobleman and a serf negotiate while the noble holds a knife to the serfs throat.

    Alas, Baronius himself would be more likely to be serf than noble and find himself in the inferior position.

  • Cannonshop

    #78
    MOST people that sigh over the Feudal era would be Peasants in it, Bliffle. One of the things I found out hanging out with SCAdians is that very few of them really want to consider where they would be in a Feudal state for-real. It’s a bit like spending time with Earth Firsters-most of THOSE wouldn’t survive the world they’re advocating either.

    #77
    Agreed. (again. damn it.) but I don’t find it astounding in the least. Hypocrisy in the perfumed and tie-wearing cliques is practiced like a special virtue, from the IT dude that protests to get a dam knocked down, to the thousands of fur-prostesters that walk around in toxic-waste generating artificial fibres, to the greenpeacers and their oil-leaking boats, on up to the self-proclaimed “Free Market” advocates who really don’t want to work in a market that’s free-they want just enough regs to keep competition out, to the activists who hate congress, but re-elect THEIR congresscritters because they bring the bacon home, and don’t forget all those ‘anti-war’ people who’re perfectly good with War so long as it’s against “Kapitalizt Pigz”. (oh, and the folks who think Mugabe’s doing a swell job, Chavez is a great guy, and Che Guevarra was anything but a thug that even Castro wanted to be rid of). It’s all part of the same puzzle. It’s disappointing, but far from a surprise.

  • Clavos

    Pretty much everyone in America is of serf/peasant stock. The ruling classes of the countries from whence our ancestors came had no incentive to emigrate, and for the most part, did not do so.

    Those who did were of the underclasses of their respective homelands.

    We are a nation of peasants — a nation whose most pervasive cultural bequest to the world is the garbage produced in Hollywood.

  • Baronius

    Bliffle – Hey! I said “nostalgia”, which by definition isn’t rational. Believe you me, I’m happy I didn’t live then. (Actually, I wouldn’t have lived then, because I’d be dead from a childhood strep infection.)

    Zedd – I can’t imagine a better system. History hasn’t indicated that there is one. I’m open to the possibility.

    Christopher – Again, I’m talking in general terms because I thought that fit the thread better. If you want to talk specifics about polar bear populations, ethanol subsidies, or ACORN, we can. It won’t explain why I think the way I do. But in each case, you’ll see that my principle is completely practical, and that interference in markets by an outside agent is rarely beneficial.

    “You have no respect at all for the idea that collective action around a shared need or purpose can often be a positive thing but you do approve of the idea of an elite running things independently of the views of everybody else?” I have no idea what you’re referring to.

  • Baronius

    OK, I’ve got a “why” question for you, a genuine inquiry for whomever wants to answer. It’s felt like, up until about a month ago, the left-of-center wouldn’t allow any discussion of Obama’s thin resume. Experience didn’t matter; Cheney was often cited as someone who had great qualifications but was wrong for America. But now, Palin is getting slammed for her lack of experience. My question is, is this just campaign spin, or is there a sense that Palin has substantially weaker qualifications than Obama? Please explain.

  • http://meetdavidblack.blogspot.com David Black

    I am not surpised that a lib would lament the passing of that childish preoccupation with asking “why” every second about the most mundane occurences.

    Isn’t liberal thinking very much a childish preoccupation in regard to its fantastic idealism and unrealistic hopes for a world that can never exist?

  • Cindy D

    DAVID BLACK IS A DARK SPIRITED AMERICAN WITH A STRONG CONSERVATIVE BENT. HE’S NEVER MET A SWEEPING GENERALIZATION HE DIDN’T LIKE.

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    Baronius #82: the problem is, there is clearly sexism that causes Palin to be scrutinized more closely and perhaps judged more harshly for her lack of experience. This is unfortunate and muddies the waters, but we have to put it aside and think clearly about the actual issue of experience.

    While Obama has little “executive” experience, he has years of lawmaking experience in the the Illinois State Senate and then the US Senate. He has dealt with national issues closely and on a daily basis for a number of years. Those with more experience, like McCain or Cheney, come out of a decade of failed policymaking – but I know that’s not your question.

    Obama has, in fact, been challenged strongly on his lack of experience for many months, in the primaries and now the general election. He’s been “vetted” and found intelligent and capable.

    That’s extremely important. There is another kind of experience besides quantity of years doing a particular job. There’s the experience of being a deeply thinking, highly intelligent, culturally and politically active human being engaging in difficult work – in his case, public service – on planet Earth. In this, Sarah Palin is a wisp of nothing compared to Obama. That’s just plain obvious after listening to her talk for twenty seconds – she’s a lightweight. She could be governor of Alaska for 32 years and she’d still probably be a lightweight. And this isn’t sex-related – there a plenty of equally lightweight males (our current President being the most obvious example, his father’s VP being another). As Jon Stewart puts it (I’m paraphrasing), I don’t want someone for President who’s “like me” and who I’d “like to have a beer with” – I want someone for President who’s smarter and “better” than I am. That’s Obama. It’s not Palin (and it’s not McCain either).

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    “Or coming up with a tax policy most of us can live with.”

    17% flat tax, everyone pays the same rate regardless of earnings or income.

  • Cannonshop

    There is another kind of experience besides quantity of years doing a particular job. There’s the experience of being a deeply thinking, highly intelligent, culturally and politically active human being engaging in difficult work -

    And the question of “Can and will deliver”. You’re measuring Obama as some kind of great Philosopher-king archetype, but when it comes to his record on delivery, he DOES fall short-short of the gal from Alaska, short of his vice-president, possibly short of the redneck in the White House now. I know a guy, he’s studied all the books on mechanics and auto maintenance. He can talk the talk, but put a wrench in his hand, and not only will he not succeed, he ends up making the situation worse.

    To me, that’s the kind of guy Obama is. Love, hate, despise, whatever, Palin gets Results, and she gets the results she’s SUPPOSED to get, not necessarily the ones she herself finds pleasing. When there is lots of time, a Philosopher can be very useful-but when the shit is hitting the fan, and work needs doing NOW, a Philosopher winds up being paralyzed (Jimmy Carter, for example) by doubts or indecision.

    And all of that is presuming you’re RIGHT about the man.

    I have a different view. In my view, he’s learned the right psychobabble and he’s a Mirror-man, a con-artist, and a Chicago Politician. he reflects back to his supporters what they want to see in him, and they give him a pass because he’s clean and articulate-and a minority-and that last bit only matters to a Democrat.

    To anyone who really gives not a shit about race, he’s no Martin Luther King, he’s not even Mike Steele, and he certainly isn’t a John Kennedy or Harry Truman. Obama’s books are about…Obama. Doesn’t this strike you the least bit odd? Kennedy wrote “Profiles in Courage” about people who were NOT John Kennedy. he wrote about people he admired and respected, this communicates a lot more about a man’s character than what he writes about himself- look at history, then read, for instance, Westmoreland’s book defending his record in Vietnam. When you write books, and the only books you write are about yourself, that tells quite a story in and of itself about who you REALLY are-not the text, but the ACT.

    Compound that with a look at Obama’s career…

    he’s been running for office the entire time. You talk about his “Community Service”, so, I ask you….

    Is the south ward of Chicago better for having had Barack Obama represent them in the Illinois State Legislature?

    Was Chicago helped in some tangible way by Barack Obama the Community Organizer?

    Did the Chicago Annenberg Challenge succeed in improving Chicago’s schools under Barack Obama’s directorship? did Literacy, Math, or Science scores among ALL the students in the schools his decisions impacted improve?

    Did people get family wage jobs as a result of his community organizing, or NOT?

    Have the Ethics reforms he (co)sponsored in Illinois impacted political corruption or NOT?

    Have the bills he (co)sponsored in the U.S. Senate impacted Senate corruption…or not?

    You speak to what you presume to be his motives, but speak to his ACTIONS-did they have positive impacts, did they deliver what he promised his voters in the past??

    A man who fails to deliver may have deep thoughts and wonderful intent, but there’s that whole failing to deliver thing to consider. Palin’s popular mainly because she DID deliver what she promised when she ran for office. This tends to make her very popular in some quarters. Not yours, obviously, but some.

  • Franco

    Baronius

    The economic principles you expressed throughout this thread are sound, logical, and thus worthy of recognition. They have value for all of us.

    I have read through your discourse with Cindy D, and Zedd, and others, and while it might appear that they do not agree with you, they are a lot closer to it then they, or you, realize.

    I have noted your self-professed frustrations at being unable to express your economic principles to the fullest extent you desire, as noted by your following post to Christopher Rose.

    #72 — September 20, 2008 @ 22:50PM — Baronius

    Chris, I should have stated that more clearly.

    I believe I’m right. I doubt I’m going to persuade you that I’m right on this thread. I’ve pretty much given up persuading anyone online – but if I can at least state my views coherently, maybe somewhere down the road, they’ll click for someone.

    For these reasons I wanted to call your attention to the following economist, Frederic Bastiat.

    Many economists have made important contributions to the discourse on economic liberty, and Frederic Bastiat is among them. But Bastiat’s greatest contribution is that he took the discourse out of the ivory tower and made ideas on economic liberty so clear that even the man/woman on the street can understand them and statists cannot obfuscate them. Clarity is crucial to persuading others of the moral superiority of personal economic liberty.

    I thought maybe Frederic Bastiat might help you do that, for he firmly shared your sentiments, and fare more of Cindy D, and Zedd’s then they, or you, realize, as he answers their concerns as well.

    Bastiat was the author of many works on political economics, generally characterized by their clear organization, forceful argumentation, and acerbic wit. But his most famous work, however, is undoubtedly “The Law“, originally published as a pamphlet in 1850.

    “Self-preservation and self-development are common aspirations among all people. And if everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted, and unfailing.” – from The Law

    “But there is also another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others. This is no rash accusation. Nor does it come from a gloomy and uncharitable spirit. The annals of history bear witness to the truth of it: the mass migrations, religious persecutions, universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies. This fatal desire has its origin in the very nature of man – in that primitive, universal, and insuppressible instinct that impels him to satisfy his desires with the least possible pain. – from The Law

    “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

    You can find these and other selected quotations at the Wikipedia link below, and most all if his writtings in “The Law” at the two other links. The book can be read in one eveining.

    It is from within Bastiat writings in “The Law” that you will find all the purity and power to express how you feel on economic issues and why and in plain launguage. So much so that Christopher Rose will find himself the one who stands on paper thin economic theories, and not you.

    Enjoy :-)

    Frederic Bastiat at Wikipedia

    Frederic Bastiat book “The Law” at the Foundation for Economic Education

    Frederic Bastiat book “The Law” Read Free Online

    This text should be a required reading for those who study political science, civics, government, and law, or those who are employed in government.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Franco, you’re obviously very excited about Bastiat but I think you’ve posted these links enough times now. Enough with the repetition and on with the debate…

    For what it is worth, despite his denials, I do find his thinking to be springing from a “gloomy and uncharitable spirit” and personally, despite having met many thousands of people in my life, very few of them have been of the habit or view that “everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else”.

    What you’re doing here is the classic superficial argument of taking a few, usually self-serving, quotes and trying to make them have some universal relevance.

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    Baronius, it doesn’t sound like you’ve looked at Obama’s actual legislative record. Health insurance, ethics, and immigration are some of the issues on which he sponsored bills, some passed, some not. When you’re a legislator, obviously, not every bill you sponsor is going to pass. But some major ones did. You just have to look it up. Health care is one of the major issues facing the country, and he has led on it, for example.

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    Also, I don’t agree with your point about Obama’s books – they’re memoirs. They’re supposed to be about your own life. Do you think Sarah Palin or GW Bush could sit down and write a book about anything? Intellectual featherweights should not be leaders of our nation. Period.

  • bliffle

    Obama and Lugar sponsored a bill dealing with nuclear proliferation that could produce more felicitous results for the USA than all GWBs pre-emptive wars.

    You can check out anyones congressional record at opencongress.com

  • Baronius

    Jon – In terms of big-league experience, Palin has two years as governor. Obama has four years in the Senate: two as the lowest-ranked member of the minority party (on one committee), and two spent campaigning for president. They’ve got about 6 years of experience between them. Between Biden and McCain, they’ve got about 60 years experience in the big leagues. That’s an order of magnitude.

    As for the vetting process, that’s not really the same thing as experience. That’s more about what the press considers important.

    So I’m still stymied. If Obama is considered presidential despite inexperience, how can inexperience be a disqualifier for Palin? Or is it more that the overall impression of the person is positive with Obama and negative with Palin?

  • Baronius

    Bastiat, huh? I’ll look him up.

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    B, I think I explained what is to me a pretty important “Why” in comments 85 and 90. I will note that you’ve just ignored Obama’s state legislative experience, although I know you must be aware of it, so are you leaving it out on purpose to try to bolster a weak point? That experience would seem to be more meaningful in this context than being mayor of a town of 9,000. I think 9,000 people live on my block, ferchrissakes.

    No one’s addressed my point about basic intelligence, either.

  • Baronius

    No, Jon, I’m not ignoring it. I’m just talking about high-level experience. I’ve known state senators and mayors (ok, a mayor), and I wouldn’t consider either job sufficient qualification for a cabinet position, much less President or VP. There’s maybe a dozen cities and zero state legislatures that would be exceptions to that rule.

    Remember, I’m not trying to argue my side, just understand yours. If you want to say that Obama’s more intelligent I’m not going to challenge you.

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    OK… let me step back a bit further to lay out my thinking. For me, experience is only one factor to consider. Counterbalancing a candidate’s lack of experience (e.g. Obama) is his judgment, and that includes judgment on the kinds of advisers he’d surround himself with. Looking at Obama’s published proposals and plans in the campaign, it’s clear to me that he’s done a lot of cogent thinking about both economics and foreign policy, and obviously some very smart people have advised him.

    The same is true of McCain, although it seems to a lesser degree (Carly Fiorina, oy vey), but the proposals that he has come out don’t jibe, in most cases, with my view of how things should best be done. This takes us into the other important factor in deciding who to vote for – the issues. On that, when it comes to decisions a President, specifically, will have to be making, the Democrats align better with how I deeply believe things should be done. (Diplomacy vs. war, tax relief for the middle class before the rich, etc.)

    So that’s how I come down.

  • Baronius

    Jon – Thanks.