We’re Not Dead Yet…

Joe and I aren’t dead, or in an Iranian jail (take a moment to think about and act for Hoder). Joe’s in Toronto on a (good news when he can share it) family mission; I’m working two jobs in New York and California plus trying to teach myself WordPress so I can migrate this blog by next monthend.

I’m almost ready to give it a shot, and so blogging will hopefully resume on a shiny new platform in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I’m also wrestling with my reaction to the Tea Party.

On one hand, many of their political positions aren’t mine. There is a genuinely conservative core to the movement. But…

…there’s something more than that as well. Much more. They are aligned perfectly with me in opposing the Skybox nature of our modern politics, which has become almost entirely focused on rent-seeking and dominated by self-serving elites and those who serve them in the hope of joining them.

The leaders of the modern labor movement and other ‘progressive’ advocacy movements are, for the most part, simply fighting for their place at the trough.

The trough needs to be emptied, and I need to decide if that’s more important than specific agreement on social or environmental issues.

More to come…

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9 thoughts on “We’re Not Dead Yet…”

  1. Well, let me put it this way: The Tea Party is potentially a platform for deep reform of our political system. It has an ill-defined back to basics element that, I think, we really need to act on. So far, it has acted as a coalition that’s willing to compromise on all kinds of social-policy issues in the interest of its main interest (the throwing out of bums and cutting back of governments). It’s not that its majority isn’t social conservatives; it’s that they are remarkably (for conservatives) pragmatic about it.

    But that won’t last – if left-of-center people don’t engage with the Tea Party and claim their part in it, it will, by default, become and remain a purely right-of-center movement. That will reduce its political footprint, but it will also suck a large number of independent/undecided voters to the right as they decide that saving our political system is more important to them than worrying about religious zealotry. The result may well be the very conservative groundswell that you’re all worried about.

    If you (collective left-of-center reasonable people) want the Tea Party to end up representing your interests (and not just those of social conservatives), you better jump in now. The train’s leaving, and the longer you wait, the farther right it’ll go. The kicker is that if the Tea Party fails (to reform our political system), you lose too. So the only way to win is to play…

    Cheers
    — perry

  2. I think there is a basic argument attached to the teaparty that the left simply cannot cohabitate with- that, yes, we are now governed by a coalition of self-interested elites playing special interests against each other to maintain their power at all costs… but critically, this has happened _because our government is FAR to large and unwieldy._ This patriarchy we have assembled is a necessary consequence of a government that is too complicated, too flush with money, and too insidious in so many parts of life. Many in the left agree that the symptoms are intolerable, but are hard pressed to accept the diagnosis.

    In other words, the tea-party can’t exist by attempting to rearrange the deck chairs on the federal budget to more enlightened ends while pushing out the old elite. This will simply entrench the new elite (and quickly into a poorer nation yet).

    Transformative ideas can have complex repercussions, but if such an idea can work it must remain simple at its core. The simply idea is that our government is far too big. I don’t know how much of the left can reconcile itself with that, and if they cannot, how can they add amplitude to the tea-party as opposed to canceling it out?

    The number 2 attack on the tea party ideals (number 1 being simply demagoguery of racism etc) is that not only shouldn’t we cut the budget (every cent being critical), but that it is physically impossible to do so. And not only that, but that anyone seriously advocating it must be mentally unhinged.

    Think about that. The argument is that we can’t cut our budget substantially and that anyone that thinks we can should be excluded from the debate because they are off their rockers, idiots, or too angry to see straight. This is how you attack heresy.

    The tea-party aren’t political opponents, they are heretics to the elite government, which is an inescapable consequence of the big government. Does any substantial segment of the left believe the government is already far too large? If not, how can they possibly participate in the heresy? No, I think they will keep burning them, because they are still more dangerous to the ideology than the elites (left and right) who you can overthrow.

    The idea that the Teaparty wishes to overthrow our elite government and replace it with _no-one_ is what frightens them.

  3. Glad to hear you’re okay. I was afraid that your coast-to-coast flight crashed in Tea Party country, and you were desperately trying to make your way to a US Cavalry outpost.

  4. _but critically, this has happened because our government is FAR to large and unwieldy_

    I would argue instead that the government is actually incapable of governing not because of size, but because we have eroded checks and balances for political interest.

    I’m all about shrinking the (administrative section) of government, but the basic support role of government (regulation, monitoring, response) has gotten weaker and weaker as these portions of the government have been shrunk, defunded, or laid with political stooges. (Heck of a job Brownie)

    At this point, the most important aspects of government have basically been neutered in order to favor corporate interests. Last months ‘salmonella outbreak’ is a great example of this. Multiple states had cited this farm for violations, but the USDA had never bothered to send a team until after an outbreak. Even then, the USDA cannot order a recall, and must wait for the company themselves to admit fault. (Many companies wait until 6months-1year to make recalls, well after their product is off the shelves).

    I agree, that this system is designed to serve the elites. Through a conflated and confused bureaucratic system, it makes it hard to determine who is in charge, who is responsible, and where the money went.

    _The idea that the Teaparty wishes to overthrow our elite government and replace it with no-one is what frightens them._

    Sure. Without some system of checks and balances, things fall apart. (See Bush administration, consequences of).

    It’s not just that, it’s also that many TParty residents see themselves as standing against pork… just as long as it’s not their pork. There are a number Tea Party candidates who accept farm subsidies. Some polls show that 63% of tea partiers want to leave SS and medicare unchanged. Those are the largest aspects of government.

    What exactly do they want to shrink? I don’t think they actually know… (or when we get to specifics, won’t be able to agree).

  5. _”I’m all about shrinking the (administrative section) of government, but the basic support role of government (regulation, monitoring, response) has gotten weaker and weaker as these portions of the government have been shrunk, defunded, or laid with political stooges. (Heck of a job Brownie)”_

    I basically agree with all you said- my point is that these things are symptoms that will _always_ manifest with a government of this sheer size. How can an executive possibly monitor thousands of different departments and programs with any effect? How many different regulating agencies are there? How can any white house, even in theory, make sure they aren’t bought and paid for like the Minerals Management department overseeing the BP disaster? The point isn’t that you can’t fix that one department, but that if you are busy with that one what happens to the nuclear watchdogs, or the Wallstreet watchdogs, or the chemical industry, or the gasoline mileage, or the air quality, or the food quality, or military procurement, or low income housing, or the military hospitals, or the ports, or the prisons, or the office of violence against women, or tribal justice, or the jobs corp, or Title 1m… How can you possibly keep your eyes on whatever you consider critical when the government is doing _so much?_

    And that’s just hoping you can prevent a disaster… FORGET about whether any of the hundreds of agencies actually _accomplish_ anything.

    The level of noise MUST drown out the warning bells.

    We refuse to draw a line and say ‘this is what our federal government is responsible for’ and instead they are responsible for EVERYTHING and hence they accomplish very little, because you can’t possible hold standards of efficiency or even competence under such a condition. You simply CAN’T effect checks and balances, what would that even mean? You shift your attention to making sure FEMA is up to snuff and you can guarantee the nuclear watchdogs are asleep at the switch or the military procurers are robbing you blind. What exactly does a check and balance mean with a trillion dollar government? Even a trillion dollars worth of oversight would make things worse because of its own inherent scope! The LAST thing we need is more regulators, because the ones we have don’t do much. Why would new ones do any better? Its the escalation of failure.

    _It’s not just that, it’s also that many TParty residents see themselves as standing against pork… just as long as it’s not their pork. There are a number Tea Party candidates who accept farm subsidies. Some polls show that 63% of tea partiers want to leave SS and medicare unchanged. Those are the largest aspects of government._

    _What exactly do they want to shrink? I don’t think they actually know… (or when we get to specifics, won’t be able to agree)._

    ‘A number’, ‘some polls’… yeah, obviously, you can cherry pick all day long- and you are right, there is no litmus test to call yourself a tea partier.

    I’d like to see the poll that most teapartiers want the entitlements ‘unchanged’, perhaps not eliminated, but unchanged? I think thats unlikely.

    Regardless, you are playing the game the administration plays- that yeah, everybody hates pork and the size of government.. but actually most people support farm subsidies, and the department of education, and Robert Byrd Memorial Parking Garages, and bridges to nowhere, and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Division of the Family and Youth Services Bureau of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families of the Administration for Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services. After all, Obama went line by line with a fine toothed comb and couldn’t cut more than 100 million. These programs MUST be essential.

    Yeah- and one by one they may be small potatoes (ag subsidies aren’t), but if you bother to add them up… well a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

    This argument that Americans can’t live without this insane bloat is actually insulting its so ridiculous. You give the average American a red pen and I bet he or she balances the budget, no problem.

  6. _You give the average American a red pen and I bet he or she balances the budget, no problem._

    I agree, if you have one american with a red pen (or even a small group of people) you could do a much better job.

    The problem is we’re not one person. We’re now 300million people. And each of these programs has several million people-worth of clout. And politicians are spending way to much time focused on how people might react to that clout.

    And yes, most of the divisonal groups you cite are probably a waste of resources. But the of each program is likely miniscule compared to failed military research programs which still recieve funding. And yet, I can’t find any record of Tea Partiers calling for a close analysis of military spending.

    Everyone has their pet, even the tea party.

  7. Ummm, Ron Paul, essentially the godfather of the tea party movement?

    I’m a pretty staunch small l libertarian/conservative, and I _absolutely_ put the pentagon on the budget block.

    The thing is- the Pentagon and its backers amongst the elite (both sides of the aisle), are very astute at playing exactly the game I described above. IE- every penny is so crucial that no Americans actually would consider a cut.

    But if you get right down to the specifics, you can get plenty of agreement. Are Americans really chomping at the bit for the Littoral combat ship? Or the death trap Osprey? I mean- if you went to a tea party rally and asked the crowd if they would consider abandoning 3 billion dollars worth of Osprey and spending 500 million on Chinooks that are actually used in combat zones… would you get the kind of pushback you are talking about? I doubt it.

    The problem is that this game of all or nothing, roll everything up together and then dare somebody to cut anything is suicidal.

    So I do think a big change would fly- if somebody was smart enough to come out and lay down a vision for our defense future that could cut our procurement budget by say 30%- like by deciding to leap into the 21st century of unmanned jets and how that would affect our future carrier fleet etc. People could get behind that and it could save hundreds of billions in the long run. But it takes a real plan and not just a Clintonian wholesale cut the budget by cutting divisions and ignore the expensive procurement racket.

    And i think we will hear more of this.

  8. I hope so. It’s not that I disagree with you, it’s that:

    1) Some things that people think are crap are actually good investments (and vice versa). The trick is getting enough people to agree about which is which.

    2) These days political leaders (even in the tea party) are made, not born. They’re pinochio’s (so to speak). Every Pinocchio has a Gepetto. And every Gepetto has something they want out of the process.

  9. Certainly true- but speeding towards a brick wall has a way of focusing the mind.

    Its one thing to ask people if they want a particular program in a vacuum. Its another to give them the option of either cutting it, or keeping it and watch the interest rates we’re borrowing at as they climb, or the tax rates climb, or money printing eventually catch up and inflation rear its ugly head.

    Its a real easy argument to make, ex – do you want agriculture subsidies? Ok, do you want agriculture subsidies if it means we raise the retirement age by an extra year (assuming we will have to raise it a couple of years anyway)? Ahh, so you don’t want ag subsidies so bad. Do you want universal health insurance? Do you want universal health insurance if it means your tax rate goes up 5%? Ahh, maybe you don’t want it (or maybe you do).

    That’s one of the reason I’m a big believer in ‘skin in the game’ taxation btw. Lets make difficult decisions difficult instead of pretending we can do everything and do it essentially without cost.

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