Thursday, April 16, 2009

teabag clarification

Robert takes me to task in the comments. In the service of cleverness, I implied that all the tea party participants were incipient klan members.

This is not true, of course, and my apologies for lumping all the protesters together in this manner. In a more general sense, I do get the idea that a lot of the people (mostly poor, and white) who are most upset by the government's recent policies are motivated by, shall we say, less than appropriate ideas of what makes a person a full citizen of this republic. Not to dwell too much on the point, but growing up in Wise County I had a rather keen insight into the kind of person who is downtrodden in one way or another and who, in a fruitless search for ways to feel better about themselves, ends up settling on, for example, differences in skin color as a way of looking down on others.

But yeah, not everyone is like that, and clearly there are many rational and well-thought-out reasons why one might protest our government's policies. You can read this blog and see a few, in fact. And your humble blogger isn't exactly downtrodden. (And, I would be remiss if I didn't ask where these teabag folks were during the last 8 years as George W. Bush was implementing massive increases in the size and power of government.)

But to address the substantive point here, I think it is correct to say that this particular protest was somewhat incoherent. (See this Sullivan post for the hodgepodge of "issues" represented -- it is truly laughable.) As I pointed out, T.E.A. apparently stands for Taxed Enough Already. Well, taxes are low -- at least relatively speaking, compared to the last several decades. And yet, government spending is high -- compared to just about any historical context. In my view this is unsustainable. This country has far too much debt, public and private.

But, ultimately, if these protests are to be taken seriously, then they have to drop the "high taxes" focus (taxes aren't high), and concentrate on something else. And if that something else is government spending, that's fine, but then you have to say where you want to make cuts. Social Security? Medicare? Military? Cutting any of these items is politically impossible, and together they represent over 60% of the federal budget. Debt service is another 8%. All the other many many things the government does and pays for are part of the remaining 30%. Presumably some of this stuff is worthwhile. Some of it is almost certainly not, but you're never going to be able to cut out even half of that even if you performed your budget-cutting with a chainsaw. And even if you could, you're still looking at a reduction of only 15%. Which could be used to pay down the debt. Or, of course, you could lower taxes by 15%, which wouldn't really be that big of a cut (especially for the type of lower-income folks who make up the bulk of the Fox News protesters).

And then you have to confront the idea that cutting government spending in the middle of a massive economic downturn may very likely represent a monumental disaster of an economic policy. I'm certainly no economist, but from my admittedly cursory investigation of this topic, it appears there is somewhat of a consensus of economic thought that says that this is a very bad idea. (Think Hoover.)

Anyway, I'm not prepared to argue this last point. But it definitely is arguable, and in fact it was argued by the candidates in the last presidential election. One of them won, and the other one lost.

But beyond all of that, the fact is, we are going through a very painful period in this country because we -- collectively -- lived beyond our means for a long period of time. This needs to stop somewhere, or we're likely doomed. On this, I'm sure Robert and I can agree. Furthermore, I agree -- in the abstract -- that there is an almost exact inverse relationship between the size of a government and the amount of freedom enjoyed by its citizens. And, as a believer in the concept of maximizing freedom, I too would, in principle, love to see a great deal of government shrinkage. The trouble is in how to apply that principle in the current context. It's not simple.

5 comments:

Robert Guest said...

Spot on. We, (government, citizens, corporations) have been living on credit too long. It's time to cut back and make hard choices.

Spending more on bailouts and stimulus is like pulling the goalie in hockey, it's a desperate stunt that won't work.

Point of clarification- I was bitching about spending and entitlements while W was president.

oakleyses said...

longchamp outlet, christian louboutin, nike air max, cheap oakley sunglasses, nike air max, christian louboutin uk, chanel handbags, replica watches, louis vuitton, ugg boots, nike roshe, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp outlet, nike free run, ray ban sunglasses, prada outlet, louboutin pas cher, sac longchamp pas cher, uggs on sale, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp pas cher, jordan pas cher, ugg boots, nike free, michael kors pas cher, oakley sunglasses, gucci handbags, prada handbags, polo outlet, burberry pas cher, kate spade outlet, louis vuitton outlet, oakley sunglasses, christian louboutin outlet, polo ralph lauren, oakley sunglasses, ray ban sunglasses, replica watches, oakley sunglasses wholesale, jordan shoes, nike outlet, ray ban sunglasses, tiffany and co, polo ralph lauren outlet online, tory burch outlet, longchamp outlet, tiffany jewelry, christian louboutin shoes, air max

oakleyses said...

north face uk, coach purses, kate spade, true religion outlet, michael kors, michael kors outlet online, coach outlet store online, ralph lauren uk, burberry outlet, nike roshe run uk, hogan outlet, new balance, sac vanessa bruno, guess pas cher, true religion outlet, nike air force, oakley pas cher, ray ban pas cher, michael kors outlet, nike air max, michael kors outlet online, hollister pas cher, lululemon canada, michael kors outlet, nike air max uk, sac hermes, abercrombie and fitch uk, nike free uk, michael kors outlet, ray ban uk, uggs outlet, north face, mulberry uk, polo lacoste, uggs outlet, burberry handbags, coach outlet, michael kors outlet online, vans pas cher, hollister uk, timberland pas cher, true religion outlet, nike tn, michael kors outlet online, converse pas cher, true religion jeans, nike blazer pas cher, replica handbags, nike air max uk

oakleyses said...

valentino shoes, celine handbags, ghd hair, herve leger, beats by dre, new balance shoes, nike huaraches, north face outlet, soccer shoes, reebok outlet, hollister, north face outlet, instyler, nike air max, baseball bats, ralph lauren, converse outlet, lululemon, insanity workout, hermes belt, nike air max, babyliss, longchamp uk, gucci, ferragamo shoes, hollister, mont blanc pens, soccer jerseys, lancel, p90x workout, chi flat iron, timberland boots, nfl jerseys, hollister clothing, abercrombie and fitch, bottega veneta, wedding dresses, nike trainers uk, oakley, ray ban, iphone cases, mcm handbags, giuseppe zanotti outlet, louboutin, jimmy choo outlet, nike roshe run, asics running shoes, vans, vans outlet, mac cosmetics

oakleyses said...

louis vuitton, canada goose outlet, pandora jewelry, moncler, louis vuitton, karen millen uk, pandora jewelry, replica watches, marc jacobs, doudoune moncler, swarovski crystal, canada goose, canada goose, moncler uk, links of london, wedding dresses, ugg, canada goose uk, louis vuitton, canada goose, moncler, juicy couture outlet, moncler, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, louis vuitton, coach outlet, hollister, moncler, thomas sabo, canada goose outlet, canada goose outlet, pandora charms, louis vuitton, canada goose jackets, juicy couture outlet, toms shoes, pandora uk, moncler outlet, ugg uk, swarovski, montre pas cher, ugg pas cher, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, supra shoes, moncler outlet