Patterico's Pontifications

3/7/2015

Jeff Spross and His “Killer” Real-World Policy

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:12 pm



Jeff Spross at The Week has a piece titled How to turn Frank Underwood’s America Works program into a killer real-world policy. The irony is deep but unintentional, for Spross’s suggested policies, taken to their logical extreme, have been tried . . . in the Soviet Union, China, and elsewhere — and they have literally killed millions of people.

Now that’s a “killer real-world policy”!

The piece is worth my time to debunk, because its ignorant fallacies are representative of the sorts of misconceptions that are destroying this country’s prosperity and freedom.

Spross’s dross uses as its springboard a proposal made by the fictional president of the series “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey. (Season 3 was just released, and I binge-watched the first six episodes Thursday night. It is quite entertaining!) In an effort to create a grand program that might secure his political standing, Spacey’s presidential character proposes a giant jobs program, to be funded by equally giant cuts in entitlements. (Yes, it’s a fictional show.) Spross says that the cuts to entitlements would be horrible, but that government throwing billions of dollars into creating jobs is genius:

But first, the merits of America Works. In recent decades, lawmakers have tried to indirectly cajole the private sector into job creation, through subsidies and tax cuts and the like. But if jobs are what we want, then why not just have the government create them itself? In policy circles, it’s called a jobs guarantee.

Actually, in policy circles, it’s called socialism. But look at me, interrupting ignorance in the process of revealing itself:

There are different possible approaches; subsidizing businesses to hire at specific salaries, doing the same through the nonprofit sector, or hiring for government jobs directly. Here in America, for example, we need to build massive amounts of green energy generation, revamp public transit, upgrade our infrastructure, and we have an entire city — Detroit — that needs to rebuild basic civic services. There’s plenty of government work that needs doing. But what it boils down to is Frank’s idea: a big federal spending program to give paid work to people who want it.

Oh, Good Lord.

Listen closely, Mr. Spross. The reason jobs in the private economy are a good thing is because we know they’re a good investment. In other words, what the workers produce is worth the amount of money spent to pay the workers. How do we know this? Because businesses are giving people the jobs. Businesses would not give people the jobs if they couldn’t make a profit.

Sure, sometimes businesses make mistakes. When they do, they either fix them, or go out of business. But in the long run, it is a truism that, for any business that survives, the business is getting at least as much from the worker as the business is paying.

Again: in the private economy, the job is worth the cost. Always.

You can’t say that about government jobs — whether the government is the direct employer, or merely subsidizes private jobs. Once the government interferes with the market system for determining whether a particular wage is worth paying, there is no longer any way to tell whether the benefits are truly worth the cost. You can make a guess, but it is only a guess. It is not a truism, the way it is a truism that a free-market job is either a) worth the wages, or b) given by an employer who will go out of business.

That is why the number of government jobs should be restricted to the lowest number possible. Only those jobs that serve the function of protecting our citizenry from aggression, whether internal or external, can be tolerated. All other jobs should be handled by the market economy.

This is not mere theory, folks. It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

You see: the world has already tried an economy where jobs are allocated by government rather than the market. Karl Marx assured the world that socialism would be more efficient, because those lazy capitalists would finally be forced to work. We would live in a utopia where people enjoyed more leisure than ever. Exploitation would be a thing of the past, and world history would essentially come to an end, as the struggle of the worker for equality would be resolved.

Tens of millions died as a result. This is not a debatable proposition. It is a matter of historical fact. Whether we are talking about the millions upon millions exterminated under Stalin, or the tens of millions who died in Mao’s Great Leap Forward, communism and socialism are . . . killer real-world policies.

I don’t want to exaggerate the effects of Spross’s proposal. I am not saying that a jobs program like that proposed would immediately result in millions of deaths. The reason is: we don’t (yet) have socialism in the United States, as Austrian economists like Ludwig von Mises would define it. In a socialist system, the government owns the means of production. Rather, Spross favors what Mises called a “hampered market economy” — one far more “hampered” by the government than the one we currently have.

But the more hampered a market economy is, the more it slides towards socialism. Indeed, ownership of the means of production is irrelevant if the government can tell you what to do with it. In a fascist system, private citizens largely maintain nominal ownership of the means of production, but the government directs them as to how they can use it. The effect is the same as socialism, which is why fascism is a form of socialism, as George Reisman has explained in his excellent essay Why Nazism Was Socialism and Why Socialism Is Totalitarian. (It’s just 99 cents at the link, if you’re interested.)

The more government controls the economy, the fewer market transactions can take place, which reduces both prosperity (because eliminating the mutual benefits of free-market transactions decreases prosperity) and freedom (because people are no longer allowed to do what they want).

And that is why the grandest jobs program of all, pure socialism (or communism), decreases prosperity and freedom to minimums so intolerable that people start dying by the millions.

In the end, Jeff Spross is advocating policies that would result in more human misery. It is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with this country that he believes this disastrous proposal would help.

137 Responses to “Jeff Spross and His “Killer” Real-World Policy”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. but, this time it’ll w*rk…

    redc1c4 (dab236)

  3. Jeff Spross was previously a reporter at ThinkProgress. Does anything more really need to be said?

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  4. No.

    But I am just trying to spread the ideas concerning why such proposals are counterproductive or dangerous.

    Kinda preaching to the choir here, though.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  5. Maybe I’ll revert to explaining why fiat money is a horrible idea and gives government too much control.

    I’m not preaching to the choir there. I can’t even get conservatives to unify with me in agreement on that one.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  6. when you live in a sad declining little country where so many people are as stupid as this Jeff Spross person and you’re led by an anti-semitic fascist and the only opposition is led by a cowardly boehnerpoofter and an addled geriatric mcconnellwhore

    you gotta focus on defense

    if not expatriation strategies

    happyfeet (831175)

  7. its called chrysler money in this country, innit ?

    hoppyfeat (2e7f9f)

  8. Respected bloghost – it takes many repetitions for this to sink into the crania of so many of our friends and colleagues – so it does bear repeating, and sharing … it *is* worth the effort !

    Alastor (2e7f9f)

  9. You know, Patterico, the progressives always make me roll my eyes. They really don’t know any history, or rather, they only read Zinn approved nonsense.

    I remember Angela Davis, who was not known for, um, following law, running for President many years ago. When asked how she would accomplish something, she boldly said she would pass a law.

    Oh, my.

    And I am here to tell you that nowhere in any college curriculum of which I am aware are students taught about what Stalin did, nor Mao.

    So it’s not surprising that the the Juicebox Brigade would buy into the tragic conceit of central planning.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  10. Thanks. It’s nice to hear someone say this is worthwhile.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  11. I do think, sir, that you have much more influence and impact than you suspect on your readership.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  12. “But I am just trying to spread the ideas concerning why such proposals are counterproductive or dangerous.

    Kinda preaching to the choir here, though.”

    Patterico – I wasn’t trying to trash your post. I was merely pointing out anybody coming from ThinkProgress is likely to start from a bug nucking futz perspective, and Sposs is. Conservatives have frequently mocked liberals by suggesting that if everybody were employed by the government we would have no unemployment. Sposs is serious about the idea and he thinks we should just borrow the money from ourselves by printing it (or electronic journal entries).

    I wonder if he and Paul Krugman have ever been seen in the same room together?

    I thought the first two seasons were better than the third season.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  13. And I am here to tell you that nowhere in any college curriculum of which I am aware are students taught about what Stalin did, nor Mao.

    Indeed.

    That being said, it wasn’t just that it was bad people like Stalin and Mao doing bad things. I think six million or so died in the 1921 famine under Lenin. His thought was: this can’t be the result of our ideas, so the fault must lie with rebellious people not doing what they’re told. Let’s shoot them!

    China’s economic revolution began with a small group of farmers in Xiaogang daring to advance the idea that farmers should keep the fruits of their labor. A Communist Party official, rather than prosecuting them, showed interest, and the rest is history.

    Capitalism, not socialism or socialism lite, is responsible for the improvement of the lives of countless poor people in the world. Socialism is responsible for millions of their deaths.

    The defenders of capitalism have nothing to be ashamed of. NOTHING. We need to spread the message far and wide.

    Not only is capitalism the only system that is compatible with freedom, it is also the system that helps the poor more than any other.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  14. This is why I bought my kids a copy of “Free to Choose” and forced them to watch Milton Friedman put Phil Donohue in his place.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  15. 9. …And I am here to tell you that nowhere in any college curriculum of which I am aware are students taught about what Stalin did, nor Mao…

    Simon Jester (c8876d) — 3/7/2015 @ 3:35 pm

    Which is why I can’t ever pretend the people who still promote these policies are well intended.

    If these people aren’t teaching about the very real crimes these communists committed as they promote communism, then that is a willful act of concealment. It isn’t as if you can put enough research into communism to come up with a lesson plan and not run across them.

    If anybody is teaching about communism and not mentioning those crimes then that right there is evidence of criminal intent.

    Steve57 (71fc09)

  16. And Patterico, I am no fan of Ulyanov, either. He was killed early on, and I honestly think the death toll would have been much different. He was a killer…just not as thumb fingered as Dzhugashvili.

    My brother and my father insisted I read history. Schools certainly didn’t.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  17. Prom-unism?

    I’m all for it.

    The kids show up expecting a good time and I make them work all night building me a new dock for my boat in freezing winter weather under slave labor conditions.

    Win-win!

    Steve57 (71fc09)

  18. I have to be fair, though, to high school jokesters.

    When I was in high school, I liked to throw a monkey wrench into the too-serious proceedings. I led the charge to have our “Senior Theme” to be The Tubes’ “White Punks on Dope.”

    We won the vote, but the administrators overruled us.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  19. So, who’s going to build my dock for free?

    Steve57 (71fc09)

  20. ==We won the vote, but the administrators overruled us.==

    There are indications that that may also happen in New Mexico. :)

    I mean, would want to be the prom king and queen tsar and tsarina?

    elissa (e03d31)

  21. Then there’s the lady opposing Underwood for the Dem nomination in “house of Cards” who is straight out of OWS. She wants to put controls on salaries and bonuses in the private sector so that the money can be spent on living wages. Never mind that those salaries and bonuses are *paid* because the individuals bring or organize the business that pays the workers what they are worth. Lose them (e.g. convince them to go Galt retire and play golf) and that business might soon crash and burn and then it pays no one anything.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  22. Wait a minute, elissa.

    If it is a communist prom, it wouldn’t be Tsar and Tsarina.

    People’s Hero and People’s Heroine?

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  23. BTW, Obama’s initial response to the market crash in 2009 was not too far removed from AmericaWorks. Nor was FDR’s National Industrial Recovery Act, although that was far more fascist in spirit.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  24. Do a lot of people watch House of Cards? I never have and I had to google to see who “Frank Underwood” is.

    elissa (e03d31)

  25. Dzhugashvili

    You vill call him Stalin, comrade.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  26. I detest Party names. He was a vile twisted Georgian.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  27. LBJ already tried this, it was called “Guns and Butter”.

    askeptic (efcf22)

  28. “…Capitalism, not socialism or socialism lite, is responsible for the improvement of the lives of countless poor people in the world. Socialism is responsible for millions of their deaths…”

    “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
    – Winston Churchill

    askeptic (efcf22)

  29. One solar garden powering up this summer is at Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, where roof panels will serve both the church and other subscribers. Pastor Brenda Froisland said her congregation has a progressive theology and wants to be good stewards of the Earth.

    “As we learned more, it became a no-brainer for us,” Froisland said. “We talked about using the power of the sun, s-u-n, to glorify the power of the Son, S-o-n.”

    it’s like a contagion of stupid escaped from a lab somewheres

    happyfeet (831175)

  30. elissa #25 – if you get the chance, watch the original Brit “House of Cards” … it is well worth the effort of hunting it down …

    Alastor (2e7f9f)

  31. There is merit to Mr. Spross’s idea but it needs some refining. The leeches, parasites and anti-social elements cannot be allowed to live off the sweat and blood of the workers forever, that is of course true. If they cannot find work on their own and contribute to society with their taxes, work should be found for them in Voluntary People’s Labor Collectives. They would be paid a fair wage, as set by law, with deductions for 1) their food, clothing, shelter and other necessities provided to them; 2) taxes as required by law; and 3) re-payment of past years’ government assistance. Upon repayment of their debt, and with the accumulation of sufficient savings so that they would not be an immediate burden again on society, their voluntary period of service would be suspended to allow them to find private sector work on their own. If they do not find such work before their savings are used up, their voluntary labor in the collectives would recommence.

    nk (dbc370)

  32. Kevin M #24 – for whatever reason, Pres’ent Obama has chosen to take his lessons from history from some remarkably-consistent well-known and well-understood failures …

    Pres’ent Obama’s economic policies are the policies which took the US (and the planet) into the Great Depression and *kept* it there until European treasuries were emptied for war materiel …

    Pres’ent Obama’s foreign policies are those used by President Carter which were planet-wide failures …

    Pres’ent Obama’s military policies are the policies of the Democrat/Progressive Congress which, on June 19, 1973, passed the Case-Church Amendment, which called for a halt to all military activities in Southeast Asia by August 15, 1973, thereby ending twelve years of direct U.S. military involvement in the region – and leading to the consequent tragedies and atrocities through the region in the decades which followed …

    We cannot say the Pres’ent Obama has not learned from history – we *can* be and *are* astonished by how consistently *bad* are the lessons that he has chosen to learn …

    Alastor (2e7f9f)

  33. 24.
    My initial thought on this post was, Why invoke Stalin and Mao when you can simply refer to Obama’s Stimulus and its failure?
    25.
    Elissa, I did not recognize the name either.

    kishnevi (9c4b9c)

  34. Some of us are tired of supporting the Lefties over at HBO, and just don’t subscribe.

    askeptic (efcf22)

  35. What’s HBO? “House of Cards” is a Netflix original.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  36. this season it was kind of meh, Petrov the Volodya manque probably stole the show, he didn’t do anything as agriegious as invading the Ukraine, Underwood is revealed to be a hot mess, but who didn’t see that coming,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  37. This week’s reading list:

    The Sword and Shield

    Wild Swans

    Life and Death in Shanghai

    The seminar will be focused on what you learned from these books. Possible topics include:

    1. Was the Roosevelt administration riddled with communist operatives?

    2. How long can your grandmother survive while being tortured from 8am to 4 pm daily (no weekends off) in the public park?

    3. How long can a woman survive with her hands bound behind her back with 5 kg cuffs?

    Extra credit: What other extremities become numb when the hands become dysfunctional?

    This is not fiction. It is your future.

    nb: Two of the three books are linked to Kindle versions. You can be reading them in 10 minutes. No excuses.

    bobathome (cb0d92)

  38. 23. Wait a minute, elissa.

    If it is a communist prom, it wouldn’t be Tsar and Tsarina.

    People’s Hero and People’s Heroine?

    Simon Jester (c8876d) — 3/7/2015 @ 4:42 pm

    No, elissa has it right.

    The prom kicks off with a Tsar and Tsarina and then 10 minutes in the Bolsheviks execute them. At which point the kulaks attending the prom start to get forcefully “reeducated” by the vanguard of the revolution.

    Good times, good times.

    Steve57 (71fc09)

  39. I saw the BBC original. The scandal that caused the protagonist’s downfall, actually assassination arranged by his own wife to conceal the scandal, was that as a young officer in Cyprus he was “overzealous” in his interrogation of Cypriot rebels. Like, dude, that is so quaintsville. Totally old-fashioned, Gramps. Who would believe such a scenario these days?

    nk (dbc370)

  40. how bad was it, I only saw two episode, spoilered the rest.

    a neighbor of mine was in the UMAP, the Cuban tribute to the Cultural Revolution,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  41. Thank you Kishnevi.

    bobathome (cb0d92)

  42. I agree with our host that “House of Cards” is worth watching. I expected to hate it: I feared that it would be like most most politics-based shows from HBO or the other cable networks — meaning hopelessly, reflexively, unwatchably left-wing.

    But the first season walked a spectacular tight-rope between credible politics and superb story-telling. The second season is a little more “out there” — but not “way out there to the left,” just a bit less plausible in its politics — and I’m withholding judgment on the third season (I’m about a third through it so far, since I’m resisting the impulse to binge-watch that Netflix positively encourages).

    For the skeptical, here’s what you ought know: The series was based on a British miniseries that, in turn, was based on a trio of political novels written by a Brit named Michael Dobbs, whose real-life credentials include a degree from Oxford, a PhD from Tufts, and a job as a political feature writer for the Boston Globe during Watergate — all before he returned to the UK, entered politics, and became Maggie Thatcher’s chief of staff and then Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.

    The man knows whereof he speaks.

    I’ve also read the first two novels in the trilogy, and will likely read more of his fiction (which apparently includes historical fiction in which Winston Churchill is the protagonist).

    I do confess that I’ll never be able to watch “The Princess Bride” with as much relish, after watching Robin Wright play Frank Underwood’s wife.

    “AmWorks” in season 3 is the kind of “stimulus and jobs” bill that I can imagine Bill Clinton engineering for a President Hillary, unfortunately — and the linked article proves (although I never doubted it) that there are indeed American lefties who’d take it seriously.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  43. #39: Steve, I think Lenin’s method was to pick a small fraction, say 10%, of kulaks, and hang them from a convenient telephone pole. Since this will take place in a ball room, there will be a number of options that could be used to replace the telephone poles. In any event, the “re-education” will be spontaneous for those not selected. Soviet efficiency and the wonders of the future economy demonstrated for all to see.

    bobathome (cb0d92)

  44. Life and Death in Shanghai is one of my favorites. When I finished reading it, I actually wanted to go and visit the author. My heart ached for her. Unfortunately, she lived on the other side of the country (D.C.).

    norcal (b8f701)

  45. underwood is an odd character, since he is the antihero, he is allowed to be the ultimate pragmatist, in Season 1, he was for charter schools, and wasn’t keen on clean energy, in Season 2, he jettisoned the proponents of a military witchhunt even though it struck close to home, a consequence he revisits in Season 3

    narciso (ee1f88)

  46. BTW, on the subject of the millions upon millions of deaths engineered, very deliberately, by the Soviets in the lands literally between Russia and Germany, I highly recommend — although it’s the grimmest damned book I’ve ever read — Timothy Snyder’s 2012 book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. Reading it left me reeling, in significant part because of how little I actually knew about the horrors that I thought I’d known about pretty well. It’s incredibly timely, given what Putin is doing in the exact same geographical areas, and using some of the very same techniques and rationales and evasions and justifications, today.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  47. Do a lot of people watch House of Cards? I never have and I had to google to see who “Frank Underwood” is.

    elissa

    If you’ve ever worked in national level politics it’s surreal how good this show is. Even if you haven’t, for someone who follows politics closely like you do, it’s a great show. I bought a DVD set for my mom because she can’t get broadband in the sticks.

    When Underwood, a democrat, covered how absolutely broken entitlement liabilities are, and said ‘You are entitled to nothing’ on TV and stump speeches, I was amazed. Sure, he only wants the cash to bribe voters, but at least someone in pop culture is starting to point out one of the fundamental facts that will face the next generation. The baby boomers have left us in a deep, deep hole, and the next generations are digging furiously.

    I love how The Week gets it perfectly backwards. They strip out the good part of ‘Amworks’, the part where entitlements are brought down to a less impossible size, and double down on the part that obviously wouldn’t help or work. A baseline salary for fake jobs? What would it do to the private sector, upon which the government sector must be built? Transferring hundreds of billions to improve places like detroit? What does that do to places that manage their own affairs more properly? Picking winners means picking losers. And, as Patterico notes quite correctly, that level of guaranteed prosperity is communism. It doesn’t work, and it leads to incredible hardship for all but the ruling class and their sycophants.

    Fortunately America is better than that. There is a baseline to how bad things could be, and a limit to how controllable we are.

    Dustin (2a8be7)

  48. narciso, I suspect the idea was to make a show that didn’t offend anybody too much. Republicans can watch the show because the bad guy is a democrat. Democrats can watch it because he is so far outside their orthodoxy. It’s very clever, as at the same time it appeals to everyone who wants to see the party molds broken.

    Dustin (2a8be7)

  49. the Weak is an interesting artefact, on any given day”

    Snyder’s work on Bloodlands and in the NYRB and the New Republic was really topnotch,
    history does rhyme with regularity,

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2982337/Russian-secret-services-liquidated-troops-shot-MH17-planting-bugs-smartphones-laptops-investigators.html

    if you want a treatise on the era, William Vollman’s Hotel Europa, provides many character sketches from Shostakovich to the misunderstood General Vlasov,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  50. the first part of Season 1, is not an easy job, the foil in this, not to stay schlub, is a Weiner character with heart, with all that entails, (the writer started as a campaign worker for Schumer, then Hillary, and ultimately Howard Dean) so you see the level of cynicism he must have
    absorbed,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  51. “This is why I bought my kids a copy of “Free to Choose” and forced them to watch Milton Friedman put Phil Donohue in his place.”

    I watched that video. I am powerfully reminded of a passage from a mystery novel (FIELDER’S CHOICE by Michael Bowen). The scene is a cocktail party. Some twit has trotted out the old saw about monkeys and typewriters.

    “If you put 1000 monkeys at 1000 typewriters,” replied his companion, in the tone that engineers use when they talk to interior decorators, “In 15 minutes they would have run out of ribbon, and in 16 minutes you would have 1000 typewriters ready for the scrap heap.”

    The tone that engineers use when they talk to interior decorators. That’s JUST the tone Dr. Friedman used.

    C. S. P. Schofield (a196fd)

  52. the writer started as a campaign worker for Schumer, then Hillary, and ultimately Howard Dean

    Did not know that. Says a lot.

    Yeah, the guy is disgusting, and even if you watch R rated material, the perv factor is detracting at times. And yet Weiner shows that is a part of our ruling class’s world.

    Dustin (2a8be7)

  53. one of the more merciful takedowns is that of a Kerry like nominee, for Secretary of State,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  54. R.I.P. Harve Bennett, producer for Star Trek: The Original Series

    Icy (797871)

  55. Bennett, who directed ‘Khan’ the best of the series,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  56. To quote a friend:

    As a business executive permit me to also make an observation about a fatal omission in our education system and popular culture about the critical aspect of our capitalist system that is not well understood about why our system has worked so well…profit.

Why profit? What is profit really? Unlike the popular view that it is what drives the greedy Gordon Geckos to excesses and results in “income inequality” and all sorts of social abuses, the real meaning of profit is critical to understand if we are ever to have an efficient and effective government. Namely, profit is a tangible measure of successfully operating a task/project/group/enterprise for less cost than was originally thought necessary. Think about that for a moment. Less cost. Successful operation. Sustained.

People in government despise the concept of profit. Ergo, government never seeks nor ever achieves “below cost” efficiency. “Over budget” is designed into government.

Does it have to be this way? No. The key is to outsource the vast majority of government functions to private businesses on fixed term contracts on a competitive basis. End all government unions. Require achievement of goals as a condition for renewal. Result: lower cost, good service, goals achieved.

You want “American Revolution II”? THAT would be American Revolution II…a real “fundamental transformation” that would permanently restore the greatness of America. 


    ptsargenT (eb9506)

  57. #59: ptsargenT, I appreciate your comment. You would enjoy “The Thomas Sowell Reader”, as he expresses these thoughts and many others.

    I am currently working on the hypothesis that the focus of “progressives” and their enablers in the Republican Party (Boehner, McConnell) is to create an economy where everyone is either on the dole, working for government, or working for a very large corporation. The corporations will be the nominal whipping boy, the source of all misery, but at the same time they will be the source of all government revenue. Our political masters will tax the corporations while eliminating all taxes for the ordinary “citizen”. Which is to say, the corporations will be the tax collectors. This will allow them to “honor” FDR’s chain letter, aka Social Security, without actually taxing working men and women 60% of their wages. Instead, the corporations will just forward the needed funds to the government, raise their prices which will enrage the citizenry, and, after the perfunctory Congressional hearings and the passage of new laws that will further solidify the market position of the “offending” corporations, everyone can pretend to be happy.

    The downside of this vision of the future is that the corporations will be monopolies or cartels, and they will eviscerate innovation. Economic growth will stagnate, and living standards will decline. All this will be sensed by the citizenry, but the politicos will blame it on the corporations, and the “solution” will be higher taxes on the corporations, which will caused even greater stagnation. Eventually the Caliphate will look like a 50-50 proposition.

    bobathome (cb0d92)

  58. isn’t that the dystopian world of Blade Runner, Fortress, Robocop.

    narciso (ee1f88)

  59. “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

    Ag80 (eb6ffa)

  60. 36- Sorry, don’t do Netflix either.

    askeptic (efcf22)

  61. 48- Beldar, as they say in Africa: When elephants fight, only the grass gets trampled.

    askeptic (efcf22)

  62. Ag80 (eb6ffa) — 3/7/2015 @ 11:04 pm

    See #29!

    askeptic (efcf22)

  63. It’s all nice but what the House of Cards writers ignore, among other things, is that Social Security and Medicare already mostly are employment programs. Medicare is paying directly for services and prescriptions delivered — jobs. And social security is a transfer to people who aren’t really saving, but are spending that money — again, jobs.

    sing (bbbfe8)

  64. Goods and services provided to the non-productive are just as non-beneficial to society as the money stolen from the productive and given to the drones to purchase things with. They are a waste of precious and limited natural resources, from clean water, to topsoil to grow food, to energy. A society which wishes to flourish needs to weed its garden and use the detritus as compost, not fertilize and water the weeds.

    nk (dbc370)

  65. No need to feed grandma then.

    sing (bbbfe8)

  66. As long as she can still look after the kids and chew hides to soften them for clothing. When she can no longer do that, ice floe.

    nk (dbc370)

  67. It’s a big mistake to keep old people around past their usefulness; it is idiotic to allow them to vote; and it is suicidal insanity to elect them or appoint them to, or allow them to remain in, positions of power. They will make young people work for them to buy them soft foods and laxatives, and turn them into soldiers to keep those darn foreigners off their lawns. Like lightning fires clear the deadwood in a forest to promote new growth, society needs a mechanism to clear its own human deadwood.

    nk (dbc370)

  68. You’re forgetting how non-productive babies are too!

    sing (bbbfe8)

  69. That’s silly, imdw. Seedlings grow into orchards and fields of grain. Babies contain all of society’s potential and should be nurtured, by the state of course, to become the most possibly productive citizens they can be.

    nk (dbc370)

  70. And you will have to guess whether I am mocking progressives, or whether I am mocking conservatives who try to equate Hitler’s and Stalin’s “socialism” with present-day western liberal welfare states, or both.

    nk (dbc370)

  71. nd social security is a transfer to people who aren’t really saving, but are spending that money — again, jobs.

    So, saving is a bad thing?

    Chuck Bartowski (11fb31)

  72. Yes, definitely. Keeping your money is a very bad thing. If you will not plow it back into the economy voluntarily, the government will take it from you and give it to people who will. You hoarder! What do you have against the marketplace, anyway?

    nk (dbc370)

  73. imdw’s assertion that Social Security is a jobs program is based on the unproven assumption that the money is taken from people who wouldn’t be spending it. It’s a ridiculous assumption, like so many other things he has spouted here before.

    Chuck Bartowski (11fb31)

  74. imdw comes here to mock and snark, mostly, and mostly he is only worthy to be mocked.

    nk (dbc370)

  75. In the span of a few comments we’re back to taking care of old people is a bad thing. In any case, ask your financial advisor about the savings habits of the retired vs. those who work.

    sing (bbbfe8)

  76. imdw, you fail to realize that someone saving NOW means that later he won’t have to earn. So there’s a job that opens up when he leaves the job market and spends his savings, in addition to the jobs created by his spending. The more he saves now, the sooner that job is open and the sooner the jobs created by his spending are realized. Taking that savings away doesn’t actually create any more jobs than it costs.

    Chuck Bartowski (11fb31)

  77. imdw comes here to mock and snark, mostly, and mostly he is only worthy to be mocked.

    Quite right. I take him about as seriously as I would marriage advice from Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney.

    Chuck Bartowski (11fb31)

  78. In any case, ask your financial advisor about the savings habits of the retired vs. those who work.

    Har dee har har. The savings rate for workers is well short of the 12.4% taken by Social Security. There’s no evidence that all of the Social Security taken would go straight into savings, rather than into consumption.

    Chuck Bartowski (11fb31)

  79. My favorite part of the Spross piece is how he sweetly believes that a bunch of Gender Studies and Communication majors will be able to fill all of these “needed” green jobs. Because clearly the success of alternative energy is dependent upon understanding Marxist/Foucaultian terminology.

    JVW (854318)

  80. The piece is worth my time to debunk, because its ignorant fallacies are representative of the sorts of misconceptions that are destroying this country’s prosperity and freedom.

    But way too many Americans buy into or tolerate such nonsense because it’s wrapped around the ethos of “good intentions,” whether real or phony. People just adore compassion for compassion’s sake—or the notion that even though opinions can be wildly different and greatly clash, all of them should nonetheless be respected. How else to explain the emotional benefit of the doubt that a large cross section of this country (based on opinion polls) is giving to the current socio-politically corrupt presidency and its supplicants?

    How far can such lunacy go? The US — as bad as it has become and is becoming — still has a bit of catching up to do to equal these type of countries. But we’re getting there:


    stratfor.com, February 11, 2015: It is no surprise that Argentina’s story appeals to many Greeks, especially the ruling Syriza party. The Argentine default is a reminder that debt is essentially a contract, and contracts can be broken if they become too costly for one of the parties. More important, the Argentine case highlights the fact that there is life after a default. Between 2003 and 2007, the Argentine economy grew by an annual average of roughly 8 percent, while unemployment plummeted from around 20 percent to about 8 percent. Life was certainly not easy for Argentina — the country became isolated from financial markets, and inflation quickly became a problem again. But Argentina’s default and devaluation temporarily defused an extremely complex social, political and economic situation.

    [One] major distinction is that Argentina was able to benefit from a positive external environment. The Argentine devaluation coincided with an international commodity boom. China and other emerging markets were growing fast and demand for Argentina’s agricultural and mineral products was strong. The global economic climate has since changed. Now Greece would be returning to the drachma at a time when many of its economic partners, including European consumers and Russian tourists, are in crisis despite low oil prices and the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program freeing up a large amount of cash in European markets.

    Argentina also found a key ally in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela — the Bolivarian leader became one of Buenos Aires’ main benefactors. Exact numbers are difficult to establish, but between 2003 and 2008, Venezuela is believed to have bought some $5.6 billion in Argentine debt, a notable figure at a time when there were not many investors interested in purchasing Argentina’s bonds. This raises an interesting question for Greece: In a post-default scenario, would Athens be able to find its own Chavez?

    After Argentina defaulted and devalued its currency, it introduced high import tariffs to protect national industries and placed heavy tax rates on agricultural exports to take advantage of the growing demand for commodities. Both measures generated massive revenue for Buenos Aires and allowed the government to fund a long list of social programs and subsidies.

    nearshoreamericas.com, March 2015: Venezuela and Argentina both feature in the top five of Bloomberg’s index of the most “painful” economies in the world, where a large number of people are under great financial stress. Rising unemployment and soaring inflation have created misery and distress for a large chunk of both populations.

    The Misery index, created using Bloomberg survey data, indicates the countries where it is most painful to live and work. Tumultuous political landscapes, decreasing value of currency, high taxes and a variety of restrictions are crippling the businesses in these nations. Venezuela tops the list and is closely followed by Argentina, while the other three countries in the top five are South Africa, Ukraine and Greece. Colombia and Brazil also feature in the top 15 countries where life has become miserable.

    A sharp fall in oil prices and bulky social welfare programs are Venezuela’s primary problems. Oil accounts for 90% of Venezuela’s export earnings and it is the chief financier for the country’s numerous social welfare schemes.

    While decreased have oil prices drained Venezuela’s exchequer, social welfare programs have stoked inflation. According to Bloomberg, consumer price (CPI) inflation is currently soaring at 78%.

    ^ Incidentally, not one of those countries has been dominated by a right-leaning philosophy and truly (truly) right-leaning, sensible bunch of politicians. Coincidence?

    Mark (c160ec)

  81. The Misery index, created using Bloomberg survey data, indicates the countries where it is most painful to live and work. Tumultuous political landscapes, decreasing value of currency, high taxes and a variety of restrictions are crippling the businesses in these nations. Venezuela tops the list and is closely followed by Argentina, while the other three countries in the top five are South Africa, Ukraine and Greece.

    Argentina has abundant resources, is a lovely destination for travel, and was settled by immigrants who sought hard work and opportunity. One hundred years ago Argentines were on a per capita basis wealthier than citizens of Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. It should be a stern warning to us that it can all go to hell pretty quickly without constant vigilance.

    The new Pope is said to have a jaundiced eye towards capitalism and free markets. It’s been noted that as an Argentine he has never experience true capitalism or free markets, so his understanding of what they mean is rather incomplete.

    JVW (854318)

  82. It is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with this country that he believes this disastrous proposal would help.

    Speaking of which…

    Nationalgeographic.com: The latest Rasmussen Report from March 2013 found that only 37 percent of Americans surveyed thought daylight saving time (DST) is “worth the hassle,” while 45 percent said it was not.

    [S]tudies question whether daylight saving time produces any gains at all—and some suggest it may have the opposite effect. Indiana, once home to counties that both did and did not observe DST, adopted the practice statewide in 2006. That unusual event meant Matthew Kotchen, an environmental economist at Yale, and colleagues could compare before-and-after electricity use across the state.

    In their 2008 National Bureau of Economic Research study, the team found that lighting demand dropped, but the warmer hour of extra daylight tacked onto each evening led to more air-conditioning use, which canceled out the gains from reduced lighting and then some: Hoosiers paid higher electric bills than before DST, the study showed.

    During the 2000 Sydney Olympics, parts of Australia extended daylight saving time while others did not. Environmental economist Hendrik Wolff, of the University of Washington, and colleagues found that the practice did indeed drop lighting and electricity use in the evenings—but that higher energy demands during darker mornings completely canceled out the evening gains.

    Shifting our clocks an hour naturally makes for a few groggy mornings, but some research suggests a far more dangerous impact to our bodies—an increased risk of heart attack. A 2012 study by University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Martin Young found that the risk of heart attack surges by 10 percent on the Monday and Tuesday after moving the clocks ahead an hour each spring.

    The research reinforces 2008 findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that in Sweden, heart-attack risk rose just after the spring time change.

    Fortunately, these scary statistics may be balanced by the return to standard time, according to Young’s research, which also found that heart-attack risk decreases 10 percent when clocks fall back.

    ^ Incidentally, that practice — not to mention the wonderful policies and expenditures of the “Great Society” — was enacted into federal law in the 1960s during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.

    Stupidity reigns supreme in modern-day America, in more ways than one.

    Mark (c160ec)

  83. if you get the chance, watch the original Brit “House of Cards” … it is well worth the effort of hunting it down …

    It’s a better show, actually, and in any event should be watched first so that the riffs in the new show make sense. The original version is ALSO available for streaming on Netflix.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  84. The baby boomers have left us in a deep, deep hole, and the next generations are digging furiously.

    The baby boomers had little to do with it as they weren’t around when FDR started it all, and they were children when LBJ did Medicare and Medicaid. All the boomers did was pay through the nose their entire working lives (while having the rates repeated jacked up and their future benefits diminished) to support the people who actually set it up, who mostly never paid a dime.

    Now they have the temerity, after 40 years of covering other people’s bills at gunpoint, to expect maybe some reciprocity. And for most of those 40 years, many of them have been arguing for some private accounts and other reforms so we did not come to this day, but you youngsters kept voting for Dems (Boomers voted for the GOP since at least 1980) and we never got there.

    So, man up and pay the bill.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  85. “Social Security and Medicare already mostly are employment programs.”

    sing – The Social Security Administration alone employs more than 60,000 people so in that sense you are correct.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  86. Wild Swans — a fabulous read. A very painful read: Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler by Robert Gellately; took me a long time because I had to take “breaks”.

    Karen Ferris (4fd9d8)

  87. I find the entitlements issue on HoC to be at best hypocritical, at worst a Big Lie. And altogether enraging.

    For a generation the GOP has been saying “Fix entitlements now. The longer we wait the greater the pain will be.” This has been clear since the 1980’s. And every time it has come up in debate, the Democrats say “those evil Republicans want to end Social Security and Medicare.”

    The Baby Boomers, paying rapidly increasing rates on rapidly increasing portions of their income (thank you Bob Dole) — while benefits paid seniors were actually INCREASED — wanted private accounts since the Reagan era. After a long fight we got the right to save $2000/year tax free. Whoopie. Might get a decent nest egg in only 200 years. Finally, just recently and way late, we got 401(k) plans that allowed us to finally save some real money for ourselves without paying giant taxes on them.

    The Democrats fought all those changes, and Obama still hates them. They demagogued the issue shamelessly, resisting any small change that might impact their elder vote. As recently as 2012, when Paul Ryan was talking about reforming Medicare, Obama’s goons played the MediScare card yet again.

    Now the crap has buried the fan and the FDR generation is dying, so they turn on a dime and blame those Greedy Baby Boomers.

    And people actually applaud.

    Now the fan is covered in dung and the Democrat message

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  88. last line doesn’t belong

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  89. It’s all nice but what the House of Cards writers ignore, among other things, is that Social Security and Medicare already mostly are employment programs. Medicare is paying directly for services and prescriptions delivered — jobs. And social security is a transfer to people who aren’t really saving, but are spending that money — again, jobs.

    And there, in a nutshell, is the Keynesian fallacy.

    What sing/imdw fails to understand is Bastiat’s principle of what is seen and unseen. Sure, when you take money from people and give it to others, the recipients may spend it. That is seen. But what is unseen is what would have happened with that money if it had not been taken from the people who earned it in the first place. It might have been spent — or, better yet, it might have been saved, increasing the capital of the country, which is what makes production cheaper and improves people’s standard of living.

    In essence, sing/imdw is falling for the “broken window” fallacy: the idea that if someone breaks a businessman’s window, that’s good for the economy, because hey: “Jobs!” The window maker and the window installer now have something to do! Yay! That is seen. But what is unseen is all the productive uses to which the businessman could have put the money, if he didn’t have to use it to repair the window.

    These fallacies allow people to conclude that plunder and destruction are good because they allow more activity. It is the same fallacy that says WWII saved us from the Great Depression. It is the same fallacy that says, if one broken window is good, then blocks of broken windows are even better! Or that taking money from some and redistributing it to others helps “stimulate” the economy.

    The idiocy of sing/imdw’s position is revealed when we take the logic to its conclusion: tax everyone at 100% and give it to people who will spend it. Jobs!

    Yeah, more like deaths by the millions.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  90. As a business executive permit me to also make an observation about a fatal omission in our education system and popular culture about the critical aspect of our capitalist system that is not well understood about why our system has worked so well…profit.

Why profit? What is profit really? Unlike the popular view that it is what drives the greedy Gordon Geckos to excesses and results in “income inequality” and all sorts of social abuses, the real meaning of profit is critical to understand if we are ever to have an efficient and effective government. Namely, profit is a tangible measure of successfully operating a task/project/group/enterprise for less cost than was originally thought necessary. Think about that for a moment. Less cost. Successful operation. Sustained.

People in government despise the concept of profit. Ergo, government never seeks nor ever achieves “below cost” efficiency. “Over budget” is designed into government.

Does it have to be this way? No. The key is to outsource the vast majority of government functions to private businesses on fixed term contracts on a competitive basis. End all government unions. Require achievement of goals as a condition for renewal. Result: lower cost, good service, goals achieved.

You want “American Revolution II”? THAT would be American Revolution II…a real “fundamental transformation” that would permanently restore the greatness of America. 


    This.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  91. well the closer example is of the perpetual stimulus which hasn’t brought Japan out of it’s doldrums in two decades

    narciso (ee1f88)

  92. Kevin M # 86 – You, of course, can say that … I am far too polite to disagree …

    (grin)

    Alastor (2e7f9f)

  93. The baby boomers had little to do with it as they weren’t around when FDR started it all

    Well, it’s true that FDR started it. But the social security program he created wasn’t much of an entitlement. Cost of living becoming baked into the cake, as well as increased life expectancy and other expansions to social security payouts are one of the contributions. BTW, much of that came from Nixon and other Republicans. The other factor, of course, is using social security revenue to pay for other government programs. We did this to steal savings from our own successors in order to have huge government programs without paying for them.

    The Baby Boomers, paying rapidly increasing rates on rapidly increasing portions of their income (thank you Bob Dole) — while benefits paid seniors were actually INCREASED — wanted private accounts since the Reagan era. After a long fight we got the right to save $2000/year tax free. Whoopie. Might get a decent nest egg in only 200 years. Finally, just recently and way late, we got 401(k) plans that allowed us to finally save some real money for ourselves without paying giant taxes on them.

    That does get to the fundamental problem with social security as it is today. You aren’t paying for your own benefits. You’re paying for the people who are currently benefiting. Boomers, by virtue of their numbers and policy, are net leeches. So many programs are being leveraged further and further to ensure payouts now, with full awareness that this will lead to a financial disaster. Albeit the hope appears to be that this comes after the boomers are gone and have left for their kids and grandkids a huge mess.

    As far as I’m concerned, baby boomers did not actually pay a dime of social security tax. Those funds went to the government programs of their day.

    we got the right to save $2000/year tax free.

    Among many other benefits, yes, you guys even got out of paying a lot of income tax. I’m generally in favor of tax cuts, but the boomers got theirs without cutting government spending. Tax cuts must happen during balanced budgets, or they are really just stealing.

    This sense of entitlement is not unusual among any generation. Boomers are hardly special or extra evil. They just were large enough a block to vote themselves money, and now feel quite entitled to things they expect the next generations to pay for. Hopefully that’s fixed, but I’m skeptical.

    Dustin (2a8be7)

  94. narciso #95 – since it hasn’t worked, why is it still called “perpetual stimulus” ?

    Alastor (2e7f9f)

  95. should have put in ‘quotes’, the clean energy scam under Zapatero is another such example.

    narciso (ee1f88)

  96. more of spross’s wit and wisdom, from the publication Scheer started because the dog trainer wasn’t left enough:

    http://www.truth-out.org/author/itemlist/user/46309#

    narciso (ee1f88)

  97. Cost of living becoming baked into the cake, as well as increased life expectancy and other expansions to social security payouts are one of the contributions. BTW, much of that came from Nixon and other Republicans.

    Almost every aspect of the modern SS system came from Bob Dole’s reform commission in the mid-80’s. Not only did they greatly increase employee contributions, but if you were self-employed your FICA bill tripled over a few years. I was there and I paid it.

    They just were large enough a block to vote themselves money, and now feel quite entitled to things they expect the next generations to pay for.

    They did no such thing. They fought the SS increases tooth and nail, and got betrayed every time by politicians afraid of AARP. Where, exactly do you think the idea of private accounts came from? Who do you think was pushing that from Reagan to W?

    But we lost. Allow us our consolation prizes.

    You aren’t paying for your own benefits…

    Do tell. The thing is that SS is a social contract. True, that doesn’t make it a real contract, only a moral one. And breaking a social contract is the kind of thing that brings the guns out.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  98. It is interesting to note that the people who keep voting for the Democrats who have prevented a SS/Medicare solution for decades, are the same ones complaining now about the cost.

    http://www.pewresearch.org/files/2013/11/Generations1.jpg

    Except for the Boomers who came of draft age during the height of the VietNam war, every cohort now between 40 and 80 has voted solid GOP. The rest have been suckers.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  99. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme — I say that to annoy Kevin M, and also because it’s true — but we can’t whisk the rug out from under people who are depending on it. Reforms must take place going forward while keeping promises made to people who planned their futures based on those promises.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  100. let’s whisk it

    happyfeet (831175)

  101. we can’t whisk the rug out from under people who are depending on it.

    Literally, no, we cannot make that a reality in this republic.

    But sooner or later it’s going to happen anyway.

    Dustin (2a8be7)

  102. Social Security discourages real savings, which are the foundation of capital, which is the foundation of all economic progress.

    It is an utter disaster on all levels.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  103. But my point was that the problem is not Republicans versus Democrats. Both parties have concocted program after program, or expanded eachother’s programs, and now here we are. A baby boomer’s sense of entitlement to social security, which they never paid a penny for (as they were really paying for portion of their bloated government’s expenses), is one of many examples. You could point out ethanol subsidies or fighter jet production or now somebody’s health insurance I suppose…

    A lot of political arguments center around politicians pandering for preserving or limiting reform of some unnecessary government program. Gov Walker was just doing that in Iowa with subsidies! Senate leadership in both parties speak that way of Obamacare. So there’s the problem. Speaking honestly versus pandering to the entitled.

    Dustin (2a8be7)

  104. Patterico is right about savings. On the other hand, I wonder about Kevin’s savings when Hillary or whomever decides they want it.

    Do tell. The thing is that SS is a social contract. True, that doesn’t make it a real contract, only a moral one. And breaking a social contract is the kind of thing that brings the guns out.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

    I realize this is how it seems to you. No need to grab your pitchfork. Patterico is quite right that no one can do anything about it.

    Consider the other perspective.

    Boomers elected a government, over and over, that left a hole in the ground where the money was supposed to be to secure that social security. They wrote themselves a series of enormous checks, and signed their grandkids’ names as payee.

    What you call a contract came with no agreement from those who are obliged, and also wasn’t paid for.

    Dustin (2a8be7)

  105. Ask people in Argentina about their savings/retirement accounts.
    Kirchner & Co (husband and wife) pretty much took everything to keep the state afloat.
    Who says a strong woman executive won’t do the same here?

    askeptic (efcf22)

  106. Ask people in Argentina about their savings/retirement accounts.

    A bit farther south, in another part of the world where socialistic, I-love-Obama-type of instincts run rampant (eg, “nonchalance with which many people…treat scandals”) — and wondering how deep are the parallels between that society and very blue-blue, true-blue parched California — this situation apparently is unfolding:

    nytimes.com, February 16: Endowed with the Amazon and other mighty rivers, an array of huge dams and one-eighth of the world’s fresh water, Brazil is sometimes called the “Saudi Arabia of water,” so rich in the coveted resource that some liken it to living above a sea of oil. But in Brazil’s largest and wealthiest city, a more dystopian situation is unfolding: The taps are starting to run dry.

    As southeast Brazil grapples with its worst drought in nearly a century, a problem worsened by polluted rivers, deforestation and population growth, the largest reservoir system serving São Paulo is near depletion. Many residents are already enduring sporadic water cutoffs, some going days without it. Officials say that drastic rationing may be needed, with water service provided only two days a week.

    Behind closed doors, the views are grimmer. In a meeting recorded secretly and leaked to the local news media, Paulo Massato, a senior official at São Paulo’s water utility, said that residents might have to be warned to flee because “there’s not enough water, there won’t be water to bathe, to clean” homes.

    Some residents have begun drilling their own wells around homes and apartment buildings, or hoarding water in buckets to wash clothes or flush toilets. Public schools are prohibiting students from using water to brush their teeth, and changing their lunch menus to serve sandwiches instead of meals on plates that need to be washed.

    Ignácio de Loyola Brandão, a writer whose 1981 novel, “And Still the Earth,” imagined a São Paulo grappling with ecological degradation and chronic water shortages, told reporters that he was not surprised at its water problems, citing the reluctance of many households to curb their own water consumption and what he called the nonchalance with which many people in Brazil treat scandals or natural disasters. “The majority doesn’t get indignant with anything,” he said, “as if we’re comfortably strolling toward our own demise.”

    Mark (c160ec)

  107. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme — I say that to annoy Kevin M, and also because it’s true

    Of course it’s a fraud. I’m not sure it is exactly a Ponzi scheme as the SS timescale allows the replacement of participants at both ends, and a Ponzi scheme always ends up with everyone collecting and no one paying. But it is a fraud and possibly unsustainable.

    It is particularly struggling right now as the HUGE BB cohort retires and the tiny GenX cohort is footing the bill. Back when it was the other way around, with the smaller WW2 generation being supported by the BBs they had so much spare money they frittered it away until the 80’s. If they had invested it in corporate bonds instead of “special” government bonds, we would not be having this discussion.

    It is still possible to fix SS without doing anything drastic. Another year or two to retirement age, perhaps a lowering of the COLA rate, perhaps a steeper tax on wealthy recipients. As the Millenials come into play and/or the Boomers die off, the tension will ease.

    Medicare, otoh, is well and truly hosed. Whatever replaces Obamacare will replace that, too.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  108. Social Security discourages real savings, which are the foundation of capital, which is the foundation of all economic progress.

    It also preempts real savings.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  109. Boomers elected a government, over and over, that left a hole in the ground where the money was supposed to be to secure that social security. They wrote themselves a series of enormous checks, and signed their grandkids’ names as payee.

    Not exactly. The guy who decided to embezzle the SS Trust Fund was LBJ, who borrowed it all to pay for VietNam while starting the Great Society. Nixon, admittedly, was no help on that, but the other choices were worse.

    The last 35 years, the boomers voted for the GOP, which favored reform. It was the people now under 40 who have voted SOLID Dem since they could. Obama is on them. The people the boomers were voting for kept saying “FIX THIS NOW” and the people you lot voted for said “Don’t be mean.”

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  110. On the other hand, I think that, unlike the WW2 generation, the Boomers will be willing to take some hits (particularly on Medicare) to get a handle on entitlements. This is because we actually had to pay these taxes after they got big — earlier generations only paid a percent or two — and we understand the need for change; we wanted it long enough. But we are not going to cut our throats.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  111. 112. What discourages real savings is Federal Reserve policy, which has kept interest rates near zero for about a decade or more. Why should you try to save if the bank gives you 1 percent interest on a medium term CD…and not much more on a long term CD? And the alternative is the shell game known as the stock market?
    There is also a psychological aspect to generational savings. The “Greatest Generation” that fought WWII was also the generation that grew up in, or lived as young adults through, the Great Depression. They knew from childhood what money meant and how hard it was to earn it. Some of them passed that on to their children, the Boomers, but not all of them.

    kishnevi (91d5c6)

  112. The last 35 years, the boomers voted for the GOP, which favored reform.

    I wonder if the statistics, in fact, illustrate that since the boomer generation is also known as having inculcated a lot of cultural-economic liberalism in the US starting from the 1960s forward. But beyond that, the trait of foolish liberal instincts appears to be a human flaw that transcends all sorts of boundaries, including those of age, nationality, race/ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality,etc. The examples of Argentina, Greece or Venezuela (as mentioned several postings above) are cases in point.

    Mark (c160ec)

  113. Speaking of killer real-world policies, if only this poor Muslim hadn’t felt like he was an outcast in Britain he wouldn’t have radicalized. Clearly, Britain needs to listen to Marie Harf and give these people jobs.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-31749157

    5 March 2015 Last updated at 12:22 ET

    Teacher Jamshed Javeed jailed for Syria ‘jihad’ plan

    Wait, what’s that? Teacher? Clearly they mean he taught radical Islam in a local mosque as he sat around all day collecting welfare and grew increasingly bitter since British society refused to take him into its embrace.

    …Jamshed Javeed, from Manchester, was “determined to fight jihad” despite pleas from his family not to, Woolwich Crown Court heard.

    …Javeed, who taught at Sharples School in Bolton, had been preparing to leave his home on Cringle Road, Levenshulme, after helping his younger brother Mohammed make the trip to Syria.

    …Speaking after sentencing, Det Ch Supt Tony Mole from Greater Manchester Police said: “Javeed was an otherwise law-abiding man who had a responsible job, a child and another one on the way.

    This can’t be! The man had a job, a child, and a pregnant wife and he still wanted to go fight jihad? But, this isn’t how Marie Harf, State Dept. Spokeswoman/Freshman Dorm Hashtag Director/Sorority Spring Rush chair, explained the way the real world works.

    I am so confused.

    Steve57 (71fc09)

  114. What discourages real savings is Federal Reserve policy, which has kept interest rates near zero for about a decade or more. Why should you try to save if the bank gives you 1 percent interest on a medium term CD…and not much more on a long term CD? And the alternative is the shell game known as the stock market?

    Federal Reserve policy is part of it, obviously. Entitlements are, just as obviously, also part of it.

    If you reduce the incentive to save, voila! you get less saving. It doesn’t matter whether you lower the incentive by a) lowering the reward for saving or b) lowering the pain resulting from a failure to save. Both operate as disincentives to saving.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  115. I’m now caught up through episode 5 of season 3 of “House of Cards.” Season 3 is considerably less plausible in its politics, in ways that betray a profound and obvious ignorance regarding some very basic parts of American political reality. They’re screwing up on very basic things like, say, how presidential vetoes get overridden — 7th grade civics stuff, as that course used to be taught. The appreciation and accuracy, even reverence, shown for realistic political dynamics in seasons 1 & 2 seem missing. They’re running off the rails. I’m disappointed, and so much qualify my endorsement above (# 44).

    Beldar (fa637a)

  116. 110- Uh, Mark, is Brazil actually “a bit farther south” from Argentina?
    It is closer to the Equator, but then the Equator is North of Argentina.

    askeptic (efcf22)

  117. I’m now caught up through episode 5 of season 3 of “House of Cards.” Season 3 is considerably less plausible in its politics, in ways that betray a profound and obvious ignorance regarding some very basic parts of American political reality. They’re screwing up on very basic things like, say, how presidential vetoes get overridden — 7th grade civics stuff, as that course used to be taught. The appreciation and accuracy, even reverence, shown for realistic political dynamics in seasons 1 & 2 seem missing. They’re running off the rails. I’m disappointed, and so much qualify my endorsement above (# 44).

    I don’t remember the issue on presidential vetoes.

    At least watch through the end of episode six. I LOL’ed.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  118. Beldar,

    Did you note how they are treating Obama-style passive-agressiveness as SOP? Not only is he spending funds completely differently from how they were appropriated, but he says if they pass a law to stop him, he’ll veto it, and if they override his veto, he’ll just ignore it.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  119. #116:

    http://www.pewresearch.org/files/2013/11/Generations1.jpg

    The silent generation and the boomers (with the exception of those boomers who got the vote during the Nixon Presidency) have voted constantly GOP, as has the older half of Gen X who came up under Reagan. After that it is as strongly Dem as the FDR bunch.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  120. It did take the older boomers a bit longer to move red, admittedly, so maybe you have a point there.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  121. Patrick, I’ll watch at least through the end of Season 3, I’m sure. There’s still lots of things I find interesting about it, even if it spins off into complete political implausibility.

    But yeah, Kevin M, the show is full of veiled and sometimes unveiled allusions to all sorts of recent and current political figures and controversies, including the ones you mentioned. The actress cast as the SecState is a dead ringer for Hillary, Frank has Bubba’s drawl, and he’s definitely reprising Obama’s imperial presidential ambitions. Season 3 is even featuring an impotent and confused Republican congressional leadership — imagine that!

    Beldar (fa637a)

  122. I also have to admire the scriptwriters’, and Robin Wright’s (metaphorical), balls in having Claire pull on the Russian U.N. ambassador a variation on a personal-domination ploy for which Lyndon Johnson was very, very famous. Half the fun of watching the show is looking for those sorts of allusions.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  123. You know, I always think of capitalism as evolution. Like evolution, capitalism simply tries every possible solution for every possible problem. We simply don’t see all the failures, since most of these solutions are stupid and unworkable. This is just like in evolution, where most mutations are detrimental to the organism. But once in a while there is a solution (mutation) that creates distinct economic advantages. Such solutions are quickly propagated throughout the economy, raising efficiency enormously, and benefiting us all.

    Socialist are simply a economic version of creationists. They believe that the economy is directed by someone. That all the changes that occur must be because someone willed them into being. Without such a divine will, nothing would change. And they believe that THEY should be that someone. Listen to their laughable rhetoric sometime – they really believe the 1%, the Koch brothers, the Rothschild’s, or whatever the boogeyman of the moment is controlling the U.S. economy, and their ill-conceived plan is to wrest that control from those people for themselves. All evidence that no one is actually “in-charge” is put down to the “secret” nature of the rich capitalistic prigs. When their socialist ideas fail (inevitably, just as most capitalistic ideas also fail), they can only blame “sabotage” (i.e. the devil), or the fact that they simply need even MORE power and control to make something work.

    Eramus (ee4be9)

  124. this season was dissapointing, folks have started to catch on to Underwood, the Putin manque is taking up much of his slack, the Jordan Valley exercise, is a variation on the original enterprise in the British film,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  125. Beldar and Patrick – You might want to check out “Political Animals,” a one season TV mini-searies starring Sigourney Weaver that was very funny and bore strange resemblances to figures and events in the current political landscape. If I had to bet, I’m sure a lot of pressure was brought on USA Networks not to air season 2.

    It had been available for streaming on Netflix. I have not checked lately.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  126. it was interesting, Ciaran Hinds captured Bubba’s very oleaginous nature, the family was a little more transgressive, Adrian Pasdar was the Italian american analogue to Obama,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  127. @nk:If they cannot find work on their own and contribute to society with their taxes, work should be found for them in Voluntary People’s Labor Collectives. They would be paid a fair wage, as set by law, with deductions for 1) their food, clothing, shelter and other necessities provided to them; 2) taxes as required by law; and 3) re-payment of past years’ government assistance. Upon repayment of their debt, and with the accumulation of sufficient savings so that they would not be an immediate burden again on society, their voluntary period of service would be suspended to allow them to find private sector work on their own.

    Thereby pushing all the people who do those jobs in the private sector out of employment, and where do those “fair wages” come from? Tax money…

    Confiscating labor and expending it on government projects has the same economic results as confiscating tax money and expending it on government projects. It’s still the “seen” versus the “unseen”.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  128. @Eramus:Socialist are simply a economic version of creationists. They believe that the economy is directed by someone. That all the changes that occur must be because someone willed them into being. Without such a divine will, nothing would change. And they believe that THEY should be that someone.

    Nailed it. As misguided as creationists are, at least they don’t confuse themselves with the Creator. And provided they teach creationism to their own children on their own dime, they neither break my leg nor pick my pocket–and socialists will do both.

    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  129. “What [do?] you call a contract came with no agreement from those who are obliged, and also wasn’t paid for.”

    – Dustin

    Locke called it “tacit consent,” and your characterization is a pretty good stand-alone critique.

    Problem is, it was central to Locke’s whole conception of the social contract and the moral defensibility of republics.

    Leviticus (087a4a)

  130. There is going to have to be a generation that has paid in to SS that is willing to forego same in order to let the Ponzi scheme collapse. I would happily volunteer, provided the government stays the hell out of my pocket and allows me to plan for our future instead of that nonsense they do with my money.

    JD (86a5eb)

  131. Problem is, it was central to Locke’s whole conception of the social contract and the moral defensibility of republics.

    There isn’t any meaningful way for the dead to bind the living. At any point, whatever we understand the social contract to be, we can junk it. Provided that is understood there’s nothing else wrong with the idea of a “social contract”–it simply exists only from moment to moment as long as some critical fraction of the population agrees that it does.

    Gabriel Hanna (a1cb3f)

  132. “There isn’t any meaningful way for the dead to bind the living.”

    Gabriel Hanna – Laws certainly come to mind as one way unless we live in anarchy.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  133. @daleyrocks:Laws certainly come to mind as one way unless we live in anarchy.

    The dead cannot enforce their laws on the living. Example: our generation has decided that gay marriage was legalized in 1868 by the Fourteenth Amendment.

    Similarly, in 1688 all Englishmen and their posterity were bound in perpetuity to the allegiance of the House of Hanover; but that didn’t prevent their American descendants from forming a republic and the British can have one tomorrow if they choose.

    You can call this state of affairs “anarchy” if you wish, but then you have no word left for the actual lack of government.

    If our generation were to interpret our laws as meaning what they said when they were written, I would approve, I think that you don’t really have the “rule of law” otherwise. But there is no way to make that stick. If I were to persuade every American to see it my way, nonetheless I can do nothing about what Americans a hundred years from now will do, or if they will approve the actions of President William Jefferson Bush IV of the House of Obama in his decree that henceforward Article V of the Constitution shall be interpreted to require that all girls between the ages of 5 and eleven shall wear waterwings at all times, and that IRS shall have the power to enforce this decree through executive legislation.

    Gabriel Hanna (a1cb3f)


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