May 17th, 2009

It is more than just alarming to note how far some right-wingers are going in their protest against the mostly-imagined threat from the Oval Office.

Ranks of tea-baggers (stop that giggling) railing against what are in fact the lowest tax rates in decades, and the possibility that taxes for the richest people may be raised slightly.

Gun owners and advocates reeling in horror at the prospect of Obama sending jack-booted thugs to break into their homes and strip them of their weapons despite no indication whatsoever of any such intent–indeed, the Supreme Court recently ruled most favorably toward gun rights.

Daily cries of “socialist!” and “communist!” and even “fascist!” government because of the feeblest of demands on corrupt bank executives who brought the economy crashing down. (Glenn Beck actually went on a “First they came for the bankers” rant, equating the Obama administration to the Nazis committing the Holocaust. Yes, he’s a certifiable loon, but he’s got a show that millions of other loons watch.)

And the continuous chant of rebellion against the supposedly unlimited and irresponsible spending spree (mostly on quite responsible infrastructure in efforts to prevent economic disaster) of this new president–though the same people were virtually mute and unprotesting when the previous president (whom they deemed a responsible patriot) spent far, far more money in rash, uncontrolled, and undocumented giveaways to corporations and the rich.

Despite their mocking dismissal as “unpatriotic” and even “treasonous” of many Americans who protested eight years of Bush-Cheney, this same bunch have gone completely off their nut after just a few months of the other party controlling things. They are now raising louder and louder cries to actually secede from the union.

Maybe I’ve got the wrong spin on what “patriotism” is, but if I am not mistaken, forsaking the United States of America and wanting to smash it into tiny little pieces after four months of Democratic leadership and psychotic ravings by the likes of Hannity, Cavuto, and Beck… well, it is slightly less than patriotic.

And this is not exactly just a fringe element we’re talking about. As many as 12% of Republicans think they’d be better off seceding from the country, and 9% would actively approve of it. And it’s not limited to loons on the Beck show or radical wingnuts; prominent Republican politicians, especially at the state level and especially in the South, have not only openly advocated secession but have started actually passing laws which pave the way for an eventual departure from the union.

Texas Governor Rick Perry’s statements were among the early prominent calls for secession. While he carefully stated that he was not calling for secession, he nonetheless threatened exactly that:

Perry told reporters following his speech that Texans might get so frustrated with the government they would want to secede from the union.

“There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

He and others have started to refer to the Tenth Amendment (reserving to states powers not delegated to Congress) as code for secession, or at least for some form of rebellion. While he carefully stopped short of open approval, the context and thinly veiled intent made the statements rather shocking, even for the governor of Texas.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay supported Perry’s idea and laid out a manner in which Texas could secede. If you watch the video, note DeLay’s reference to the “usurpation of power,” which suggest that there is something nefarious and threatening about the Democrats being elected by the people of the United States and then actually daring to take power as a result–something which DeLay says is threatening the sovereignty of the state of Texas. Apparently, Democrats being lawfully elected is such a horrific fate that Texas is right and just to protect itself by seceding.

Then we have the state legislature in Georgia actually passing a resolution in which they lay the groundwork for secession:

In the waning days of this year’s state legislative session, members of the Georgia Senate reached near-unanimous consent on the terms under which they believe Georgia can secede from the United States, and under which the United States itself can be dissolved. …

Beyond that, the resolution contends there are circumstances under which the federal government can overreach its authority to the point that it nullifies the Constitution, presumably bringing an end to the United States. Among the circumstances under which the federal government can nullify the Constitution is prohibition of any kind of arms or ammunition, meaning presumably that a federal ban on the sale of assault rifles would be sufficient cause to tear the country asunder.

What this leads me to conclude is that a fair number of right-wingers, perhaps the 10% core, are not patriots at all, but instead resemble fair-weather baseball fans who love their team only when it’s winning–otherwise, they’re a bunch of bums who can go to hell. Call them “PatriNots,” people who drape themselves in the flag, claim to love their country no matter what and rail madly at those whom they call “traitors”–but as soon as their party falls out of favor, America is a rotting dung heap from which they cannot wait to bolt.

These people are not patriots, they are loyal only to their political worldview and nothing else. They don’t love America, they love their party, and would just as soon burn the Constitution and throw America into the trash bin.

They say, “America, love it or leave it.” And now they want to leave it. Goes to show.

  1. Troy
    May 17th, 2009 at 17:41 | #1

    They don’t love America, they love their party, and would just as soon burn the Constitution and throw America into the trash bin.

    I think this is unfair to them.

    Republicans stand for 19th-century laissez-faire conservatism — no welfare state; if you can’t make it in this world as an economic actor, you need to seek charity from your family, church, or community, not some massive government program administered from 3000 miles away.

    Federalism might not be a bad deal if it came with a reduction of Federal Income taxes. It when I first started paying Japanese income taxes that I saw how cool it was when local taxes were higher than national taxes.

    Granted, I think Federalism is inefficient and something of a race to the bottom, but decentralization is in fact what the United States was in the 19the century.

    They consider abortion infanticide, and while I disagree I can’t argue with their moral argument (as long as it extends to artificial contraception), we can only agree to disagree on what I consider the woman’s inviolable right to control her own body.

    Conservatives may have a childlike if not perverted view of history, progress, the cosmos, etc. but I’d never consider them anti-American. They’re just too chauvinistic and lack the faith that our secular institutions and social mores can being progress in the future without having us go back to the past America, which never really was.

  2. Tim Kane
    May 17th, 2009 at 23:31 | #2

    Republicans stand for only one thing: the ever concentration of wealth and power. It just so happens that 19th century laissez-faire capitalism allows them to do.

    The founders knew that concentrated wealth was corrupting influence. They knew it destroyed the Roman Empire. They believed it was the source of England’s corruption that they were breaking away from. They believed in free contract on a level playing field. They hoped that democracy would keep the playing field level and avoid the fate of both Rome and what they saw happening in England.

    England’s economic revolution, once it cleared the Napoleonic wars manifested in Dickensian England.

    Meanwhile the United States evolved into the most distributed wealth in history – even with 3 million citizens living in slavery in the South. In 1861 the nation went to war to free those 3 million. Yet 25 years after the Civil War the United States had arrived at massive concentrations of wealth.

    What went wrong?

    The invention of the modern limited liability corporation in 1862 (in England, but quickly spread everywhere across the western world) is what went wrong.

    Corporations are collectives. As a collective, corporations had enormous bargaining power over individuals. (Added to this was the closing of the fronteer by 1890). The situation wasn’t adequately addressed until the New Deal made collective bargaining efficacious.

    Since 1980 collective bargaining has lacked efficacy, thanks to Ronald Reagan.

    Reagan promised that if we give more money to the rich, they would invest the money in factories, creating jobs for all of us – allowing the money to trickle down to all of us – this is caused supply-side (biases) economics because building factories means increasing supply (of products).

    The problem with Uncle Ronald’s analysis is that Rich people won’t build a factory if there is no demand. The median wage today is below what it was in 1974, even though the GNP has gone up some 150%. That means trillions and trillions of dollars flowing to the ‘supply-side’ rich year-in and year-out for decades. Eventually the supply-side of the economy becomes saturated. This doesn’t take too long because the economy is only 1/3rd production (supply) and 2/3rds consumption (demand).

    Supply-side saturation is when supply is relatively too large in comparison to demand. At that point demand is too small in comparison to supply. This causes several things: deflationary recessions (too much supply, too little demand), investment bubbles (investor’s have harder and harder time finding decent returns on orthodox investments, over invest in the few sectors that provide decent returns creating a bubble), and finally a proliferation of unorthodox investments (investors, per Uncle Ronald, are supposed to invest in orthodox investments building factories and businesses, but once these no longer offer good returns, investors start to eye-ball the areas they’ve been roped off from – things like pay day loans, credit card loans, and things like subprime loans, anything to get a good return, and because they are rich, powerful and relentless eventually the government relents).

    Getting back to the main theme here: the Republican’s desire to every concentrate wealth and power (by attacking the middle class as the poor have little wealth nor power).

    The current depression is the result of supply-side saturation that was reached in the late 1990s, and confirmed in the recession of 2001. Unfortunately President Bush pored the coals on supply-side economics instead of reversing it, and then covered his tracks with cheap borrowed money from China.

    The quid-pro-quo here was China got a huge chunk of our industrial base in exchange for cheap money. The combination of illegal and some legal immigration and the export of jobs resulted in an overall loss of bargaining power for the median worker: the first term of the Bush presidency saw a 5% decline in the median wage while the top .01% enjoyed 500% growth. That was long before the recession kicked in.

    Bush, in the face of bubble economics, and a deflationary recession moved as much as 11 trillion more dollars to the supply side of our society’s ledger.

    The middle class is currently in a free fall in the United States. The Depression in the United States won’t go away until the median worker’s wage start’s to go up and he gains added purchasing power to drive up demand.

    My back of the envelope calculations suggest that something like 24 trillion dollars sitting on the supply side of the ledger need to be moved to the demand side of the ledger.

    There are little signs of this occurring yet. The Obama administration’s current economic policies continue to funnel billions if not trillions to the same people Bush gave money to.

    The result is that wealth has become so heavily concentrated, especially on Wall Street, that it has infiltrated an dominated politics, so that Obama can’t govern from the left, economically, even if they wanted to. Obama started out right: “change begins from the bottom up, not the top down.” He said that prior to his inauguration. I haven’t heard it since.

    The fastest way to end the recession would have been a stimulus of $2 trillion with more to come as projects are defined – any thing less than $1 trillion just isn’t serious; single payer health care (the government’s combined spending in health care is already comparable to that in France – meaning universal health care could be implemented without any new taxes at all) – the existing system is so innefficient that single payer would release enormous amounts of purchasing power out into the economy increasing demand; Card Check – workers need to gain more bargaining power.

    In regard to the stimulus bill, it is ridiculously too small. It doesn’t hold a candle to what Roosevelt implemented in the New Deal when that was still a novel experiment (more successfully executed in Japan, Germany and England where the Great Depression ended in 1933, 34, and 35, respectively).

    The idea that the current recession is not catagorically equivalent to the Great Depression in the United States also appears wrong. My understanding is that production declined one third during the Great Depession. Consumption of Automobiles, the single most important industry (still) in the United States peaked at around 17 million at one point, but in a typical year demand is around 15 million. I’ve seen reports that expect demand to be at 9 million. That’s less than two thirds of normal production.

    The troubling thing is that it took the depression three or four years between it’s initiation in 1929 and it’s nader in 1933. We are in the first year of this thing (or second if you count the summer of 2007 as the starting point.)

    My general sense is that this recession is worse because of the deficits we are starting out with. I think this was done on purpose by the Bush administration. When Republicans are out of power, they want to succeed from the United States. When they are in power they loot the treasury and try to the ruin the country. It’s the same thing.

    Whether or not Obama is aware of what’s happening or cares, I’m not sure. Even if he does care and is aware, the concentration of so much wealth, after 30 years of ‘supply-side’ biased economics, has had it’s effect on politics – neither democrats nor republicans can ignore that kind of wealth and that kind of power.

    I desperately hope I am wrong. I am not an economist, after all. At this point, I don’t see anything stopping the Depression from getting worse. I feel like I am living in St. Augustine’s Rome – the twilight of a golden age. Like the Roman’s we don’t have the political will to stop this concentration of wealth from reversing. (For Economic Causes to the collapse of the Roman Empire, Please see Nobel Laureate and Economic Historian Douglas C. North’s “Structure and Change in Economic History” pages 100-115)

    The only thing that could cause a reverse is people in the streets (not unlikely when people can’t feed their children) and even still, perhaps a new political movement – to the left of the Democrats (the Greens?), because, as an established party, the Democrats are captive to the gravitation pull that concentrated wealth causes.

    The situation is not totally hopeless. The money to fix the problem is still there. It’s just on the wrong side of the ledger- the supply side, and needs to be moved to the demand side. It’s simply a lack of political will to fix the problem.

    These are truly disturbing times.

  3. Troy
    May 18th, 2009 at 14:13 | #3

    Reagan promised that if we give more money to the rich

    ? Let the rich keep more of their income stream, you mean, yes?

    Now, I am no supply-sider and think we need to raise taxes substantially on everyone to bring the national fisc back into order, but I come to my policy desires from a different philosophical basis than you.

    I’ve been infected by the Georgist argument — that private profit from publically-created land value is the root cancer of our modern economic system — and that until we address the root cause of inequity — which Henry George described in his best-selling book Progress & Poverty over 100 years ago — we are just chasing our tails.

    There are two kinds of capital investment: One into people and machines and the other into land. The former should be encouraged and the latter taxed punitively since it is sheer rent-seeking without any social benefit.

    It’s no accident that Japan’s economy ran into the ditch after a blow-off of land speculation.

    The money to fix the problem is still there.

    Money is irrelevant, it’s just a claim to wealth not actual wealth or wealth-producing capability (ie fixed capital).

    The root problem is too much of the national income is being collected by rent-seeking, be it in real estate, oil, pharmaceutical, medical, financial fields.

    Taxing the rent-seekers more would be a good start.

  4. Luis
    May 18th, 2009 at 18:12 | #4

    They don’t love America, they love their party, and would just as soon burn the Constitution and throw America into the trash bin.
    I think this is unfair to them.

    Troy, I think I see your point, but whatever their philosophy is, it does not change the fact that they want to bolt from the union primarily because the other party is in power. Bush’s spending was also out of control, yet the same core constituency now calling for secession did little to stop him, though they were best positioned to do so; certainly they did not speak of seceding from the union because of the economy. Tax levels were the same now as they were under Bush; if the threat of raising tax levels on wealthy people a lousy few percent so they are at a level they were for years before, and much less than before that, causes them to suddenly want to secede… that makes no sense. It’s like filing for divorce because your spouse’s hair is a quarter inch longer than you claim you want, despite the fact that she wore it even longer for the first ten years of your marriage and you didn’t file for divorce then. Something else has got to be the real reason.

    When you cut through the nonsense, it comes down to one thing and one thing only: they are out of power, it looks like they’ll stay that way for a while, and so now they want to go home and take the ball with them.

  5. Troy
    May 18th, 2009 at 18:53 | #5

    from the union primarily because the other party is in power. Bush’s spending was also out of control, yet the same core constituency now calling for secession did little to stop him, though they were best positioned to do so

    They’d respond that the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

    To be frank, I think conservatives are seriously fucked in the head, but I can still get into their thinking and understand the fables and bullshit they think is true and the thinking the draw from these bases.

    Federal spending wasn’t a problem when the economy was tooling in 2004-2006. As long as the deficit spending was going to killing Arabs and muslims they were quite happy with it. Also, all the money creation and windfall profits in the lending sector was starting to close the deficit again:

    Debt held by the public:

    09/30/2002 3,553,180,247,874.74
    09/30/2003 3,924,090,106,880.88
    09/30/2004 4,307,344,596,908.92
    09/30/2005 4,601,238,726,062.04
    09/29/2006 4,843,120,736,192.43
    09/28/2007 5,049,305,502,926.48

    The conservatives are fighting for their worldview: American Exceptionalism — we as a nation can do no wrong since we are under divine protection — children taught in home, school, and church that Christianity is good and Darwinism and secular materialism is bad, abortion (and perhaps birth control, depending on the sect) is a sin against God, government must stop displacing private charity and church missionary efforts, honest citizens shouldn’t have their guns taken away just because criminals use them, a muscular military policy consisting largely of “no-brainer” decision-making that does not allow subtlety, analysis, and realism, and of course all the urban-type Welfare Queens get off their asses, stop making babies like animals, and stop draining money from the working people of America.

    A very large bloc of people in this country are idiots, being made stupid by their ideology, and truly believe that the non-conservative Democrats and Obama are attacking the hoary institutions that conservatives believe hold this nation together and made it what it was. Their worldvew is largely bullshit but is what motivates them to listen to Rush, Savage, Hannity, etc. GIGO.

  6. Tim Kane
    May 18th, 2009 at 21:58 | #6

    Well, that is a new twist on it. I will hopefully find the time to explore that further.

    Now, continuing in the mind frame I have now, I would say that all economic agents are rent seekers. Rent being all income gained that exceeds a normal rate of return for an investment – historically 4%.

    What is bargained for is rents. When I say that the GNP has gone up 150% and the per hour median wage hasn’t gone up (in real terms) since 1974, I mean all that added rent has gone to the ‘supply-side’ investing classes. The median worker got nothing – that’s nothing for 35 years.

    It seems to me that money that I said was still there, that’s also a claim on labor. Which is highly disturbing since the cost of labor has stubbornly stayed flat for 35 years, which is to say it never goes up.

    Disturbing I tell you. Disturbing.

  7. Tim Kane
    May 18th, 2009 at 22:04 | #7

    In addition to what you say here, it occurred to me while I’m reading it, that there is a certain utility for a rich person to be a member of the United States: maybe there is prestige, bargaining power, access to markets, the security of the legal system, the security of the military system etc…

    It seems to me, we could, and probably should, tax these people to just below the break even point for these folks – just below the point where utility and cost intersect. Now, that’s seems harsh and draconian in one sense, but in another, that’s precisely the kind of calculation they use when approaching almost any situation.

  8. Tim Kane
    May 18th, 2009 at 22:21 | #8

    conservatives are fighting for their worldview: American Exceptionalism — we as a nation can do no wrong since we are under divine protection — children taught in home, school, and church that Christianity is good and Darwinism and secular materialism is bad, abortion (and perhaps birth control, depending on the sect) is a sin against God,

    I submit to you, that these are all false issues. These are all culture war issues. The Culture wars are a false issue – they are a proxy for the class war. Back to what I said before: the middle class is collapsing, the upper class is gaining ‘rents’ at their expense.

    The real culture war ended in 1791 with the passage of the bill of rights. The fake culture war is the wealthy trying to rake up as many idiots as they can to surrender their bargaining power so that the wealthy can separate the idiots from what little they have. If the wealthy hadn’t put up the money to sponsor all these have baked movements and the conservative media to push it all, most of these idiots wouldn’t care at all. They got their civics class, belatedly, from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

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