Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo

Here is a headline from The Washington Post:

Poll: Major damage to GOP after shutdown, and broad dissatisfaction with government

The elements in this headline, the damage and the dissatisfaction, point to two things, two important things, that every American should understand about the conservative movement, as it is now constituted, in our country:

1) Conservatives have designed their own parallel universe, one in which facts like “Major damage to GOP after shutdown” can’t exist.

I think it is fair to say that Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity represent very well the core constituency of the conservative movement, don’t you? Well, here is what Sean Hannity said to Ann Coulter on Monday night:

All those people that were doomin’ and gloomin’ Repubicans for the shutdown were wrong.

And the classless Coulter said:

The shutdown was so magnificent, run beautifully. I’m so proud of these Republicans, and that is because they have branded the Republican party as the anti-Obamacare party.

So, it’s that easy. There was no damage done to the Republican Party. Poll? Poll smoll.

2) Creating “broad dissatisfaction with government” is the entire mission of the conservative movement.

In their parallel universe, conservatives rejoice over the second finding in that poll. They want people to be dissatisfied with government because they believe government is, as Ronald Reagan famously said, “the problem.”

One would have thought that anti-government, laissez-faire conservatism could never have come back after the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent Great Depression. It should have been dead forever. But it wasn’t. It came back in 1964 after its adherents forcefully took over the Republican Party, a feat that resulted in the shellacking of their uber-conservative candidate, Barry Goldwater, in the presidential election that year. The movement should have been permanently dead after that. But it wasn’t. As Thomas Frank wrote in The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation:

The conservatism that made such a huge comeback in the seventies and eighties was a mutation specifically adapted to survive a disaster of the 1929 variety. By which I do not mean that conservatism abandoned laissez-faire, its raison d’être, but that from now on it would present itself to the world as a form of opposition to the established order…It would wallow in preposterous theories about the secret treason of the ruling liberals and encourage the darkest imaginable interpretation of the government’s every deed…

Even as he presided over that hated federal government, Ronaldus Magnus, the tutelary deity of movement conservatism, said at a news conference in 1986:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

So, you can see why that headline in The Washington Post doesn’t bother zealous conservatives one bit. They deny the first fact, that much damage has been done to the Republican Party, and fully embrace the second.

Posted below is the conversation between Hannity and Coulter I referenced, in case you make a healthful habit out of not watching these folks live. But I think you should watch this five-minute segment because it tells you so much about why these people do what they do. Not only will you hear them denying reality and inventing their own, you will hear Sean Hannity repeating the lie about Consumer Reports, claiming that it is “telling people to stay away” from the ObamaCare website. That lie became so widespread—it even found its way into “straight” reporting—that Consumer Reports published an article titled,

Obamacare opponents have misrepresented Consumer Reports’ position problems do not negate benefits of new health law

So, with that in mind, hear the echoes in the chamber:


  1. ansonburlingame

     /  October 23, 2013

    The GOP refused to vote for a budget that funded ACA. The Democrats refused to vote for a budget that failed to fund ACA. No compromise was found and the government was partially shutdown, with some e.conomic impact for sure.

    So who is to blame for partially shutting down the government?

    Accept, maybe, the figure of $24 Billion as the amount of decline in GDP. Divide $24 Billion by $15.7 Trillion which comes out to 1.5 X 10 to the minus 5 in percentage. That is a 0.0000157% economic “hit” to GDP. Does anyone believe we can even measure GDP to such level of accuracy?

    I watched the Chief’s game on TV on Sunday. I wonder if someone failed to attend that game as a result of the government partial shutdown? I wonder if the bottom 50% in America saw any blip on their financial screens because of that decline in GDP. I also wonder how many in the top 10% made a lot of money with the moves of the DOW during the shutdown situation, with the “market” going up and down by a few percentage points during those days. My recollection is smart people make money everytime the DOW “swings”, up or down by a few percentage points. Those smart people see such things as a opportunity to make more money, regardless of which was the DOW might move in a short period of time.

    On the other hand, when lenders awake to the fact, not fiction, someday, that America CANNOT pay its bills, well watch out.



    • Anson,

      You have been saying, at least since early in 2009, that America can’t pay its bills and that lenders will someday “awake” to that “fact.” So far, lenders can’t lend us money fast enough or cheaply enough.

      So, I would suggest you figure out why that is so. I suggest you figure out why it is that people who are lending us money, presumably smart people who, as you say, know how to make a buck under any circumstances, continue to ignore your doom and gloom warnings about our inability to pay our bills.

      When you come up with an answer, I’ll listen. I would, though, make this point: We have the ability to pay our bills. We are a wealthy country. It’s whether we have the will to raise revenues enough to do so. Lenders are betting that we will, in the end, come up with the will. You need to explain to me why they are making that bet.



  2. Many (most?) conservatives were sure Romney would win in a landslide too.


    • Exactly. They couldn’t believe their eyes when they were forced to look outside the bubble of right-wing media into the real world of the actual election.


  3. ansonburlingame

     /  October 24, 2013

    First Bruce,

    NOT this conservative. I hoped he would win, but was skeptical for sure. I read this blog everyday and find that it resonates with a lot of people, which of course concerns me.

    Now Duane,

    My only resource to prove my point, America reaching some point in time where the money to pay the bills is not available, is history. Empires, countries, etc. over time always overextend themselves and the ebb and flow of dominance changes, over time. It always has done so and always will do so. Lack of resources, money being a big part of such, is a big but not the only part of such problems. NO ONE can EVER get too big to fail, over time.

    So of course I cannot prove that America is headed towards failure by spending too much money and not producing enough to get the money. But you as well cannot prove that continued deficit spending until……. is OK either. You and yours always fall back on Keynes who suggested a better way to resolve the Great Depression. I will admit that Keynes had a good solution, but it took a World War to generate the money for his theory to show results as well.

    I also point out that as far as I know, Keynes NEVER suggested that spending to resolve the Great Depression was the correct path “forever”. He was mute on that subject as well as the point of how and when to pay back such accumulated debt. It has now been left to the likes of Krugman and others to expound on that point, it is OK to keep borrowing until…….

    I also never hear Krugman or any progressives tell us wnen enough is enough in terms of deficit spending. Finally, as I entitled a blog a month or so ago, “Getting is Good but Paying is Bad”, at least for someone that has to pay the bills. You firmly believe if government only redistributed the income to make things equal, financially, in terms of income that plenty of money would be available. I doubt such will ever happen and has never happened, historically as well.



    • Anson,

      I hear that “history” argument a lot. In fact, it is the number one argument I hear that is brought in to defend what you and others claim about our inevitable fall.

      Let me say this about that argument: bullshit.

      When you say “empires, countries” will “always overextend themselves” and eventually fail, you are basing that assertion on very limited data. I know people like to think history predicts the future, but it just isn’t that easy. Every situation is different. Technology, for instance, changes our situation considerably. And that’s just one example. So, I would suggest to you that your argument from history is weak, and its conclusion is especially invalid.

      Second, I have not tried to, and do not intend to, “prove that continued deficit spending…is OK.” At least the kind of deficit spending that seems to lurk in our future. I assume that most economists are right when they say that the federal government can run a deficit each year of 3% or so of GDP (some think the ratio is much higher, if there is some inflation and if real GDP growth is higher than the post-war rate of 3% per year) and if it stays way above that level for long periods of time then there will be problems. So, I don’t argue for unsustainable deficits, only manageable ones.

      Third, based on  point two above, it is “OK to keep borrowing until….” We just have to make sure we keep our borrowing sustainable.

      Fourth, you said that I “firmly believe if government only redistributed the income to make things equal, financially, in terms of income that plenty of money would be available.” Government can create conditions for more evenly distributing income, which is good for everyone, even rich people. Yep, I certainly believe that.

      And that leads me to point five: If we don’t do a better job of distributing income in this country (and that doesn’t mean stripping the wealthy of all their wealth), as well as in other places around the world, then capitalism will fall as an economic system, at least capitalism as we have known it. The greatest threat to a capitalist system is not, as you right-wingers think, liberalism; it is laissez-faire economic philosophy. Why? Because the dogs will get tired of eating the dogs eventually, Anson. And they will band together to overthrow their masters, if things get too far out of balance. Liberalism is a philosophy designed to harness the best of capitalism and marry it to a sense of community in order to create a decent and secure–and sustainable–civilization.

      And we can do that if we wisely use and wisely distribute our enormous wealth.



  4. ansonburlingame

     /  October 24, 2013

    Which is I suppose why reasonable people disagree on such matters. For sure history is not an absolute, but neither is economic “theory”. They are theories, not proven “laws”. Even supply and demand is no absolute as there are so many variables to be considered that one cannot simply “plug and chug” some formula to get a result, however complex the formula might be.

    Human nature is very unpredictable. I find the term social sciences misleading simply for that reason as well. Certainly social science has little if any comparison to physical sciences in terms of predictability of outcomes. And as we learn more, and learn it far more rapidly today, we find all sorts of situations where even physical laws breakdown and essentially whole new “worlds” are thus found, like the quantum world as only an example.

    One thing economically that we can all agree with however is that there has never before been a nation of such wealth as America. As well never before has the world seen such debt accumulated, such as America has been doing for over 50 years now. Either in absolute terms or relative wealth/debt, America is breaking new ground, at least in my view.

    But America has broken new ground since it was first settled, much less when it gained its independence and since then. The underlying principles guiding our efforts has been a combination of boldness but always backed with prudence and common sense as well.

    By and large, today’s progressives (or liberals) seem to believe in the power of money. Throw enough money at a problem and the problem gets solved. And the amount of money we throw around, unsuccessfully (problems are NOT solved but actually get worse), is staggering by any historical comparison. To me that is not prudence, real and careful thinking, even by some of the best of minds in America.

    America today is falling into the same historical trap seen by many nations over history. As wealth increases there is never enough for everyone and many, many people, rich, poor and in between, call for more and more, publicly and privately.

    Until we can publicly find a way in a democracy to say “No, that costs too much money even though it is a good idea, maybe” then we continue down that historical path of getting “too big for our britches”.

    But back to reality, politics in America right now. I stand behind my simple call, published in a blog during the government shutdown. Cut deficit spending each year by at least 10%, no matter what. Do that for 10 years and see what happens along the way. The goal should be a balanced budget that includes some reasonable path to begin to amortize our debt, over time, like say 50 years to 100 years and leave room for real emergencies that 2/3 of all Americans (through their representatives) agree is a real emergency to warrent more and ever higher deficit spending.

    I would start that process NOW, in FY 2014 with a deficit $70 Billion less than the deficit in FY 2013 measured in real, not inflated, dollars.

    As well, note that reducing the deficit does not mean just cutting spending. Raise taxes all you can, on anyone, but do that democratically as well. So to you progressives, just what type of tax hike do you call for in 2014, during a mid-term election campaign? Oppps, can’t do that, now, right?

    Try that one in DC. Put the GOP in one room to come up with a total spending cut in 2014, wherever they might be. Put the Dems in another room to come up with an EQUAL number in tax hikes, on whoever they chose to so tax higher. Then put them together to pass both numbers in one bill in both houses of Congress. Ha, imagine that. Hell we could not even do that in a blog, together!!



  5. Duane,

    I wish I could share your optimism and your belief that America will survive its current woes. And I am admittedly a cynic and a “glass-half-empty” kind of guy. But I also like to think I’m a pragmatist and a realist.

    The issues concerning the Nation’s debt and deficits are but symptoms of a much larger problem. IMHO, the country has been running on auto-pilot since at least August of 2011, when the last debt-ceiling debacle occurred. As a result, we have no governance at the federal level and are still adrift in a sea of denial and irrational idealism.

    Our president is weak and apparently thinks he can run the country as if he was still a neighborhood organizer. He is an embarrassment on the world stage. Listening in on phone calls and reading the emails of other nation’s leaders — most recently German Chancellor Merkel and Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff — does not exactly enhance our efforts at diplomacy and international cooperation. Then there are the charges of crimes against humanity arising out of drone strikes on weddings and in marketplaces in Pakistan and other middle eastern countries.

    Domestically, the ACA is off to bad start. I’ve been through many system conversions and none were as botched as this one. There is no excuse for such incompetence. To add insult to injury, the prime contractor is from Canada! Jesus Christ, does Obama, or even Kathleen Sebelius, not know that there is high unemployment and a slow growing economy in this country??? That’s just piss poor management and we deserve better.

    Then there’s Congress. OK, it’s mostly the tea party Republicans — the American Taliban — who are under the illusion that if we shut down the country and default on our debts, that will be a good thing. And these idiots are cheered on by the severely brain damaged and morally challenged people like Hannity and Coulter and so many more.

    And, of course, we’re going to be facing these same watershed moments at the beginning of 2014. So, nothing has changed, It’s the same ol’, same ol’.

    In short, I see no reason to be optimistic about the survivability of this nation at this time. I agree that the past is not a predictor of the future. But the facts on the ground as they stand today strongly suggest our government is not sustainable on many different levels for very much longer.



  6. ansonburlingame

     /  October 25, 2013

    Herb and I are both pessimists I suppose and both worried about American decline, in general. The essay he linked contributes to such concerns. “Culture and literacy, in the final stage of decline, are replaced with noisy diversions and empty clichés”. Depending on how one views or defines “culture”, that sentence says a lot.

    The simple fact of the matter, in my view, is both sides of the poitical process bear huge responsibilities for the American decline, which I submit cannot be disputed rationally. Each year America becomes a shell of its former self, domestically and internationally, and we have been doing such for about 20 years, at least.

    I am not generally a Bill Clinton basher. But just consider, if a Roman Emperor was tried before the Roman Senate for receiving oral sex from an aide, would not world history be replete with condemnations of moral decline, some 2000 years later??? Note the oral sex would be generally discounted, but lying about such while under oath would be part of our “bible” I imagine, as Paul wrote about Roman debauchery all the time!!

    As I read biblical history, it was not just homosexuality that Paul opposed. It was the larger issue of moral decline and admonintions to new Christians not to follow down that path in “everything”, sex being only part of it.

    Go into any public school, talk to people in unemployment lines, even “bread lines” (inside homeless shelters today), etc. and seek to understand the moral vacum in which many of those people live, day to day. Seek to understand, deeply, why such people are in such conditions. There are your “root causes”, in my view.

    Sadly, very sadly for me at least, both extremes line up against one another to fix the superficial problems. I despise bible thumping, right wing moralists. I also despise left wing, just give them money no matter what it costs, radicals. NEITHER side looks carefully at underlying issues, in my view.

    To me, it is not hard to find a “Ted Cruz” on the right or a “Harry Reid” on the left that slam each other all the time and wind up in total stalemate with the only solution being to get rid of the other side and “govern” only with one side in total control.

    Herb loves to use the term “American taliban”. Well I see two “talibans” in play in America today. Both sides, politically, are so stuck in their own ideology that there is not room to flex and find a prudent and common sense path to resolution.

    So Herb, if you accept “two Talibans” as a metaphor, well who, exactly leads one side, the left. If you try to tell me Obama is not that ulitmate leader on the left and “who knows for now” on the right are NOT such figureheads, well there again we face stalemate.

    The country was in deep chaos in 2008 when Obama won the election. What was his BIG push right out of the gate? Historically, it will be shown, in political histories, that he tried to go for a huge leap to advance HC reform in America as his biggest priority, his legacy if you will. Now look some 4 years later and that chunk of left wing “stuff” is still choking our poliitical process, with get rid of the “taliban” as the primary solution from the left.

    I read this blog every day to keep tabs on left wing ideas and actions. I also read Robert Reich each day he is published in the Globe. Both Duane and Reich always march to the same left wing tune, by and large and neither “give an inch” to seek some rational thoughts on the part of the “other taliban”. Just “squash’em like a cock roach” is all I read, all the time from either man. And each man has a bigger taliban behind him.

    But never fear, they will be confronted by another form of Taliban as well, except herein because “Taliban get censored or banned” herein, sometimes, and some think that is good for America.

    Finally, about the “weakness” of President Obama. To me he is not all that weak. He has promoted the cause from the left, even the radical left, with all his strength, by and large. And about half of America is chocking on the “stuff” shoved down their collective throats. Well just get rid of those people is the call from the left and leave them politically neutered with no voices heard from them. Just “squash’em” as being “Taliban”.

    How bad has it become in America today. Permit me to rewrite, again, what I wrote just a few days ago, herein. The GOP refused to vote for a budget that funded a current law. The Democrats refused to vote for a budget that did not fund a current law. Neither side “gave an inch” until…… and now who is to blame. Well obviously only the “taliban”, right?

    WRONG, in my view.




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