Democrats & Liberals Archives

Justify the Screwup

Neil Boortz illustrates why nowadays it’s a bad idea for Conservatives to let their pundits within fifty yards of a broadcast studio: They seem to have weak immune systems when it comes to contracting foot-in-mouth disease. His latest ploy for the sympathies of our country? Call Katrina Victims Parasites who got what was coming to them. That’s no exaggeration; what he actually said was worse.

The worst part about it is that it's a vicious slander. Unemployment in New Orleans was no worse than the national average. Katrina didn't simply change the addresses of many people, it destroyed jobs, lives, and infrastructure for an economy.

This is part of what Democrats, indpendents, and many moderate Republicans alienated by the party want to change. A government that doesn't help the country rebound from natural disasters will be at a lost to deal with not so natural ones. Some, however, are so wrapped up in ideology, and within that ideology have taken such a misanthropic view of people outside their party, that they can't help but think in these terms.

Anybody who's been in real poverty knows how sensitive one's situation can get to economic shocks. We created systems of welfare and social security to cushion these shocks. We can speak of moral hazards, but we can also talk about the economic problems that come from having large segments of the population drawn into poverty at once, the moral hazards of setting up a system where economic forces conspire against those with the least means.

Hundreds of thousands of New Orleans natives might not have had to swallow their pride in this way, had those in power been more focused on recovery than covering of rear ends. The culture of independence and self-reliance on the right has been twisted by its leaders to get folks within the party to support them, even when they fail to take the kind of action necessary to get situations like this under control.

Self-reliance is a good virtue, but nobody should be expected to rely on themselves to recover from a disaster that strikes their whole city, their whole community, even their whole state. We experience these disasters and these hardships as a nation. As much as we rely on ourselves, the question is, how much can we rely on each other?

People like Neil Boortz have little room to talk about parasites, when they make excuses for the kind of politics that keeps people from getting back to their own lives. People have to survive. They shouldn't have to apologize to greedy twits for doing what they can to keep family's fed and housed, in the absence of sufficient help to do otherwise.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at February 4, 2008 10:39 PM
Comments
Comment #244648

Stephen,

While I agree with the bulk of your post, I must point out one major miscue. Neil Boortz is not, I repeat, not a Conservative. He is a self-proclaimed Libertarian, and on the extreme right fringe at that. No true Conservative would agree with most of what Boortz has to say.

Posted by: Old Grouch at February 5, 2008 5:10 AM
Comment #244655

Old Grouch-
Well, if I got the distinction wrong, I’m sorry. What confused me, you see, is that many Republicans espoused a similar sort of attitude.

Here’s one.

Here’s Limbaugh’s similar slander.

And Bill O’Reilly wouldn’t want to feel left out, so here he is.

Some on the right, to their credit, called it like it is. Others, though, took the opportunity to disparage the citizens of New Orleans and cast their failure to just get back up on their feet after one of the worst natural disasters in US history as a failure of their character and a direct result of their politics.

That way, they don’t have to respond to the charges that they neglected the victims of the disaster and failed to respond to it properly.

Unfortunately, the Republican party has a tendency to give credence to claims that the government couldn’t do any better in a particular case on the grounds that they believe that government always screws things up.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 5, 2008 8:26 AM
Comment #244658

The best thing of all is that these right-wing pundits are always saying that it’s the Left that’s always angry, the Left that’s always negative, the Left that has the attitude problem. Yeah right.

L

Posted by: leatherankh at February 5, 2008 9:36 AM
Comment #244663

Why is the crook Ralph Reed suddenly a “conservative commentator”???

Posted by: Rachel at February 5, 2008 11:23 AM
Comment #244673
A government that doesn’t help the country rebound from natural disasters will be at a lost to deal with not so natural ones.

There is a difference between helping and taking care of, Stephen.

Some, however, are so wrapped up in ideology, and within that ideology

Yes, yes there are people are so wrapped up in their own ideology that they can’t see the forest for the trees and either all poor are poor for their own fault or they are all innocent lambs to be taken care of.

The reality is in the middle.

Of course, you misunderstand the resentment that many people feel for their charity being used as political tools, being forced to help those that they feel shouldn’t be helped. Or those that are told constantly that these people, who they see as being unprepared for life, are more deserving of the results of their hard labor than their own families. Or most importantly, being told that their own judgement is not worthy of consideration on that exact personal question…

No, instead this is a political question, specificially because we leave the realm of informing people of need and enter the realm of deciding for others and making them contribute by force. This is the result of that action, one that it astounds me you are shocked by when it occurs directly because of your own policies.

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 5, 2008 1:25 PM
Comment #244674
make excuses for the kind of politics that keeps people from getting back to their own lives

1) What do you suggest, Stephen? What more is there to be done that hasn’t been? It’s been over two years and we have clothed and housed a lot of people who are still dependant upon us for their lives, what should be done that isn’t being done to get them off of dependance?

2) Is it possible that some people ARE back at their lives, as they see it? Are you suggesting that all of the people in the trailors are looking for a way out or adapting and adjusting to their current form of dependancy?

3) How do we deal with people who are living their lives in a dependant manner, do we keep them dependant or do we take extra steps to get them off of dependancy, and how do we do that?

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 5, 2008 1:36 PM
Comment #244683

stephen

“We created systems of welfare and social security to cushion these shocks.”

yes we did, and unfortunately it created an entirely new problem. a entire class of people completely devoid of any ambition to succeed on thier own. hell it’s much easier to just sit on your ass and wait for a check. try suggesting to these folks that they should go out and get a regular job, and you are usually bombarded with righteous indignation.

Posted by: dbs at February 5, 2008 4:30 PM
Comment #244685

Hey guys, make sure to check out the article “The Intoxication of Inspiration” on the new blog SavagePolitics.com (nothing to do with that crazy man Mike Savage). It is really insightful… EVERYONE should read it before heading to the polls!!!!!

peace,

E

here is the link: http://www.savagepolitics.com

Posted by: elsy at February 5, 2008 4:39 PM
Comment #244689

Rhinehold-
The reality’s not in the middle, it’s in the individual, and the kneejerk tendency to treat people in New Orleans according to one kind of stereotype or another with reckless disregard for the truth is the issue here.

As for Charity? First, let’s recognize a simple fact: most people want to get back on their feet. Give them the chance, and typically, they’ll jump at it.

The American people wanted the Gulf Coast to recover as soon as possible. That was their wish. Their wish was not carried out with sufficient skill, thoroughness, or care.

Nobody needed to be informed of their need here. They knew damn well the kind of help they needed to recover. That help wasn’t properly given. Red-Tape was allowed to overwhelm the system. Excuses were made for why things weren’t being done better, rather than improvements made to correct the mistakes. The FEMA Trailers are a good example.

You’ve wrapped this up so much in libertarianism that you can’t even see what has been in front of you: the will of the American majority, and the extent to which it was thwarted by the right wing in this country.

And of course, the cost in trust and support that brought about.

As for your second post?

1)You’re operating under the assumption that what should have been done was done, and in a timely manner. It wasn’t. Timing was important. Now if you want to improve things, you have to get more serious about job training and other aid.

2)Some. But New Orleans, like the rest of the country, had about a 5% unemployment rate. Very few of those people are actually back in their old lives. Hell, if you were to think about it with any kind of real considerations for what has happened, there is no going back. I think many people in those trailers are simply doing what it takes to keep their heads above water.

3)We try and get people independent again, if that’s possible. Sometimes its not, or its simply undesireable (folks should be able to retire, right?) Otherwise, though, the system’s supposed to be a safety-net, not a hammock. The key is not being so paranoid about people becoming dependent that you put them in an even worse position.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 5, 2008 5:01 PM
Comment #244692

If anyone follows elsy’s “insightful” link they’ll be treated to a Rightwing blog that compares Obama and the people voting for him, to Hitler’s Germany.

Couple of problems with that little analogy.
1. It stupidly and outrageously trivializes what Hitler did.
2. Obama isn’t scapegoating anyone for the problems this nation faces. Instead, he’s is calling for all Americans to try to change the political tone so that we can then work together on the many problems we do face.

But, this kind of negative crapola is to be expected I suppose. Even from that “straight-talker” John McCain.

NEW YORK CITY — John McCain began Super Tuesday by planning a surge into the general election — with exactly the same rhetoric he uses to talk about the other surge.

“We’re going to take the battle to the enemy,” he said at a morning rally at Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan.

He was referring to us Democrats. That’s right, his own fellow citizens are also to be considered “the enemy”, right along with the enemy of “The War on Terror”, or the “Global War Against Violent Extremism”, or whatever they’re calling the Islamic Fundamentalists of Al Qaeda this week

Very similar to Neil Boortz calling the victims of Katrina “worthless parasites who got what was coming to them.” It’s sad how these angry hostile people are always seeking meat for their grinder.

Posted by: veritas vincit at February 5, 2008 5:41 PM
Comment #244694

dbs-
You’re buying into the ridiculous notion that poor people enjoy their status as “lucky duckies”. Most of them want out of this situation. Just look at any hip-hop video at the conspicuous consumption.

The thing is, when you’re poor it’s a lot more difficult to change your life than otherwise.

What’s really happening is that wages are not keeping up with the cost of living, but entitlements are. It’s a simple decision of financial interests.

If we want fewer people on welfare, then we should put more money in the pockets of those who do work. That’s the point of the EITC.

Elsy-
Color me unimpressed by the author. About the most pathetic logic you can approach these elections with is that we should adjust who we choose as our candidate to suit who’s going to get attacked the worse by the Republicans.

I’m going to vote for the guy or girl in this election who can gain voter sympathy even while he’s being attacked, who represents a politics not built on consciously avoiding trouble with the GOP.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 5, 2008 5:52 PM
Comment #244696

stephen

so what your saying is that since they might not do any better by say actually working for the money, that we should let just continue to sponge off the rest of us. tell that to someone who makes little money, but actually works for it. you’ll probably find they don’t agree with you either. there needs to be a cutoff point where we say your done, you get no more free ride. get a job or starve. even if it means making the same, or less than you got from the taxpayers, or do what i did for many years in my younger days, WORK TWO JOBS! enabling these folks to be victims indefinitely does niether them or the rest of us any good.

Posted by: dbs at February 5, 2008 6:27 PM
Comment #244700

dbs-
I think we’ve pretty much done that already. Look, you know what’s been the best engine for lifting people out of poverty? The availability of good jobs. People will take the opportunity if its given them. The real problem comes when you let a large chunk of the population sink into extreme poverty. You’re looking at poverty in motivational terms, rather than considering the social consequences of letting the law of the jungle determine things.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 5, 2008 7:04 PM
Comment #244712

I am not aware that “welfare” even exists anymore. I thought Clinton abolished it, forcing people to work in malls making fudge and cookies for brats that get paid to get out of the house. If people are being paid “welfare” to come back to New Orleans, then they are being paid to live in a place that some people are hoping will become economically viable again, when they will need those people to work there as before.

This is a political decision. We do not have the political will to say that you can not build a house below river level. We have not allowed people to rebuild on barrier islands after repeated hurricanes, except in Florida, where the islands are anchored to the mainland with enough bridges to confuse people into thinking that they are on the mainland.

After H Andrew, people looked on the destruction as an opportunity to make money, but Homestead was not a large urban center. The level of rebuilding activity will only be comparable in New Orleans if there is some real federal effort at trying to put things back the way they were before Katrina.

Our current administration is run by people that are so confused, or so dedicated to other agendas, that nothing will happen in New Orleans, and most people there will be better off moving somewhere else.

On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, people have been evacuated so often in recent years that it does not make sense to enable them to keep living there.

I suppose this thread was started for Mardi Gras. If they are doing anything in New Orleans, it is not even making the news here, becuase of the primaries, but maybe New Orleans has fallen off the media radar in a way that they cannot come back from, if there is no money to be made there.

I do not know how many people have seen the HBO Spike Lee documentary, When the Levees Broke, but it is an interesting record of what happened, and the aftermath, probably more accurate than what people may have seen in the media coverage.

Posted by: ohrealy at February 5, 2008 10:57 PM
Comment #244716
The reality’s not in the middle, it’s in the individual, and the kneejerk tendency to treat people in New Orleans according to one kind of stereotype or another with reckless disregard for the truth is the issue here.

NOW you are expousing the ‘individual’? I’m sorry, Stephen, but that doesn’t fly. Your solutions require ignoring the Forgotten Man, the individual, who is taxed with these solutions.

First, let’s recognize a simple fact: most people want to get back on their feet. Give them the chance, and typically, they’ll jump at it.

Sorry, but the numbers don’t prove that out. Otherwise we wouldn’t be spending the majority of our budget on getting these people ‘back on their feet’.

It also doesn’t bear up reality. I work in these communities in chairity work and the FACTS are that there are many people who either will not or are unable (depression, displaced anger, etc) to respond to help. In fact, there are millions each year as we can track. And they are the people we cannot help take care of through straight charity because it takes more than just a little financial help to get back on their feet. Instead, we take money from middle class individuals who are just trying to take care of their families in order to support them. We choose the one over the other. And then people like you get irate because others develop a resentment towards them.

Which, of course, fits in very well with the duopoly running the country, bouncing these people back and forth like a football just to satisfy a political power play.

How compasionate.

The American people wanted the Gulf Coast to recover as soon as possible. That was their wish. Their wish was not carried out with sufficient skill, thoroughness, or care.

The government was involved, imagine that.

Specifically, since I seem to be the only one charged with providing specifics, SPECIFICALLY what should be or have been done differently?

Nobody needed to be informed of their need here. They knew damn well the kind of help they needed to recover. That help wasn’t properly given. Red-Tape was allowed to overwhelm the system. Excuses were made for why things weren’t being done better, rather than improvements made to correct the mistakes. The FEMA Trailers are a good example.

It’s been two and half years, Stephen, what today are we doing wrong that we need to fix? Why specifically are there still so many people living in trailers? If they just want a little help, the amount of money given should have done so, providing a place to gather themselves should have done so, what is the real root problem here besides Bush?

You’ve wrapped this up so much in libertarianism that you can’t even see what has been in front of you: the will of the American majority, and the extent to which it was thwarted by the right wing in this country.

*snort* yeah, it’s my principles that are blinding me to the way the ‘republicans’ are destroying our poor people. It’s not those who claim compassion but fail miserably that help perpetuate the problems our poor face every day. Never mind that I have yet defend anything that any ‘right wing’ individual has done, the assumption is there… Either you’re with me or you’re against me.

I expect more from people. That makes me the bad guy…

And of course, the cost in trust and support that brought about.

How about the resentment that your side foster and perpetuate for political gain? That doesn’t play into it at all?

1)You’re operating under the assumption that what should have been done was done, and in a timely manner.

So, the general idea was right but the speed at which it was executed was wrong? How slow was it? Was it a few days, a few months? A year? How it it related to NOW?

Now if you want to improve things, you have to get more serious about job training and other aid.

Now we do? Why now and not then? Do you really think that something on the scale of rebuilding New Orleans would have been accomplished on ANY scale within months, not years?

2)Some. But New Orleans, like the rest of the country, had about a 5% unemployment rate.

And most of those are either back or have successfully integrated themselves in other communities. Because their main goal was not to demand someone else take care of them but to make sure to take care of themselves. What we have left, mostly, are people who are waiting on someone else to solve their problems for them. Who see it as someone else’s RESPONSIBILITY, noth their own.

Help is all well and good, but helping people who are unwilling to do what it takes to help themselves is not something many people in the United States are willing to do. Not that they have a choice, because they don’t, because the way our system is set up they are forced to.

Hell, if you were to think about it with any kind of real considerations for what has happened, there is no going back. I think many people in those trailers are simply doing what it takes to keep their heads above water.

Put yourself in their place. How long would you stay in one of those ‘trailers’ before you would have worked yourself out of them? Why? Would you have just waited it out hoping that the government decided to put you back into New Orleands in a new house? Or would you have worked, two jobs if necessary, to get out of that situation?

Which behavior should we be rewarding?

3)We try and get people independent again, if that’s possible.

Why wouldn’t it be possible? How long after we try to get them independant do we say they HAVE to get independant?

Sometimes its not, or its simply undesireable (folks should be able to retire, right?)

If we were talking about ‘retirees’ I don’t think we would be having this conversation, do you? In fact, I think we both know who we are talking about and your constant deflection of criticism of people who are just not willing to take responsibilty for their own lives tells how YOU are tied into the politics of YOUR party.

Otherwise, though, the system’s supposed to be a safety-net, not a hammock. The key is not being so paranoid about people becoming dependent that you put them in an even worse position.

And not being so paranoid that someone might resent having to take care of someone else that we attack our political opponents who express that frustration.

Like trying to kill grandmother during the 1994 election cycle?

Like trying to starve our children?

Does the rhetoric ring a bell?

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 5, 2008 11:43 PM
Comment #244718

Stephen,

Excellent article and replies. I’m just actually stunned by the replies from the right.

I’m incapable at the moment to comment much but I must say:

Reaganomics chapters 1,2 and 3 have lead us into this approaching DEPRESSION!

Even Reagan himself, after reducing taxes on the top tier of our society signed onto the largest increase in FICA ever!

Now we see the “service class” failing. Well, DUH! The common man no longer has anything left to spend. We’re teetering on the edge of another worldwide depression and our fearless leader is too much of a nitwit to have seen it coming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Trickle down does not work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Every dollar spent adds money to the economy. The money hoarded by the upper class goes away, whether offshore or just out of sight. The rest of us are just left to “get by”.

Posted by: KansasDem at February 6, 2008 12:25 AM
Comment #244719

“If we were talking about ‘retirees’ I don’t think we would be having this conversation, do you? In fact, I think we both know who we are talking about and your constant deflection of criticism of people who are just not willing to take responsibilty for their own lives tells how YOU are tied into the politics of YOUR party.”

Rhinehold,

I get what you’re saying man. Low life bastards like me should just #@$*&^* die! I’ve been living off of SSDI since 2003. And, gee-whiz, it was a two-fer!

My youngest son suffered a serious brain injury at the age of 12 but I never asked for or received any assistance until I became disabled myself.

Just what, in your dream world, would happen to people like us?

Posted by: KansasDem at February 6, 2008 12:53 AM
Comment #244721

Rhinehold-
You espouse the individual only to discount what many of those individuals believe. Not everybody buys your philosophy, and that’s their right. You can talk about the forgotten man, but the fact is, if you look at the issues, most people believe that they are the forgotten man or woman.

They’re up to their eyeballs in debt. Woman don’t go bankrupt buying shoes, they go bankrupt keeping their children healthy, well-fed, and with a roof over their heads. Oh, but the nice moral leaders on the right have made it difficult for the lower half of the Middle Class to discharge their debts by that method! The law assumes that lower middle class Americans are trying to game the system. This is the same assumption that has the IRS going after more Earned Income Tax Credit claimants than corporate tax shelters.

While in principle your political philosophy works for the individual, in practice, it gives the advantage to private collectives of individuals. Maybe in colonial times the system favored individuals, both rich and poor, but in this day and age, economics is influenced by groups of people under the leadership of economic elites.

I talk about the individual, but not as if everything can be reduced to individuals. We don’t behave independently; hell, your market philosophy wouldn’t have what basis it does have in fact if that were the case. People play off each other. They interact.

What I talk about is a composite system, where we acknowledge that some elements of the market are self-correcting, and best left to themselves, but other elements need to be regulated so that the market can function properly in its self-correction. If you don’t regulate accounting and finance well, for example, you get situations in which it’s very difficult for the market to determine what a company’s really like it, how it’s really working.

Other matters don’t lend themselves to am individual approach. How do we change over from fossil-fuels to renewables? How do we drive more efficiency into the system? How do we shore up the interstate system and our river transports systems?

So many of the issues that affect our lives no longer politely stay within just one state, or lend themselves to individual solutions. This paralyzing fear of government solutions, even after years worth of trying to get private enterprise to take up the slack and failing, is part of what leads many to think that the pendulum’s swung too far in the direction of markets, hyperindividualism, and keeping government out of the equation.

I would say that the Real root problem in people still being in those trailers is the challenge of both advancing one’s situation and maintaining it at the same time. Having recently dealt with some crises of my own, I can tell you that when the problems and bills start piling up, it becomes more difficult to haul yourself up by the bootstraps. The people who fled Katrina also faced another problem: everywhere they would go would have the same full employment that places here would have. They would be the outsiders, cut off from their communities, often in the midst of folks who resent their presence, their competition for jobs and resources.

Not to mention dealing with the significant psychological stress of having survived and been displaced by one of the worst storms in American history. This abstract quibbling over what people should be doing fails to consider these people in terms of just what they’re up against. Is two years suffieient to deal with the disruption of a lifetime from the storm of the century?

On the subject of speed, these situations develop, both in real terms and in public Relations terms. Americans sat at home watching FEMA twiddle it’s thumbs while New Orleans became a domestic counterpart to the out of control chaos of Iraq. The Coast Guard was able to airlift people immediately, evacuating people even while the base was little better and their equipment was on the edge of working. We could have gone much faster in relieving conditions in New Orleans. It was leadership that was lacking, that got in the way. Nobody else would have even dared to let people down on that scale and try to justify it by making the victims of Katrina the victims of baseless degradation.

The rhetoric plays to the welfare queen stereotype, to the paranoid notion that we have the lower-classes clamped to our neck like leaches, draining away our economic lifeblood. Yet who has gained most during the last forty something years? It’s not been the poor or the middle class. It’s been the rich.

I don’t mind the rich. I’d like to be among them in the near future, if I can help it. But the last generation has seen their interests and their wealth advanced far faster than our own. We’re bleeding so much money towards the top, and comparatively little towards the bottom.

Yet these are the people you are trying to get us to leave alone. It all depends on what you define as America’s economic heart: those who have the most money, or the middle class which gives them that money, and expects to be rewarded for the hard work we do that results in their enrichment.

The rich, you will always have with you. The very nature of society will tend to endow some with more than others, a process often self-reinforcing in its course. The question is, does that system give back to the people, or withold more from them?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 6, 2008 2:05 AM
Comment #244727
You espouse the individual only to discount what many of those individuals believe. Not everybody buys your philosophy, and that’s their right. You can talk about the forgotten man, but the fact is, if you look at the issues, most people believe that they are the forgotten man or woman.

The difference, Stephen, is that you use the power of government to force your philosophy onto others, while I am not. My view does not inheritely forget anyone, yours does.

They’re up to their eyeballs in debt.

Yes, and they should be helped. But so should the people who are not receiving assistance but are having nearly half of their income taken away from them while they are just trying to get by and provide for their family.

While in principle your political philosophy works for the individual, in practice, it gives the advantage to private collectives of individuals. Maybe in colonial times the system favored individuals, both rich and poor, but in this day and age, economics is influenced by groups of people under the leadership of economic elites.

The belief that we are powerless against the big bad companies (that we are not required to deal with in any way) so we need to give up our liberty to the government is one of the most assinine betrayls of the public trust that I’ve ever seen.

BTW, you do a lot of railing against republicans and ‘the right’ in your last comment, since that doesn’t include me, I’m ignoring your false accusations about what I have never suggested…

I talk about the individual, but not as if everything can be reduced to individuals. We don’t behave independently; hell, your market philosophy wouldn’t have what basis it does have in fact if that were the case. People play off each other. They interact.

Really? Wow, imagine that. See, here I was talking about anarchy again, silly me…

Quit taking your arguments out of the ‘how to dismiss libertarian handbook’ that the progressives have given you, Stephen, it gets old. I have never suggested that we live isolated lives or that government shouldn’t be protecting the interactions of individuals dealing with each other, ensuring that all are dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.

What I talk about is a composite system, where we acknowledge that some elements of the market are self-correcting, and best left to themselves, but other elements need to be regulated so that the market can function properly in its self-correction. If you don’t regulate accounting and finance well, for example, you get situations in which it’s very difficult for the market to determine what a company’s really like it, how it’s really working.

And we pretty much agree in that.

Other matters don’t lend themselves to am individual approach. How do we change over from fossil-fuels to renewables? How do we drive more efficiency into the system? How do we shore up the interstate system and our river transports systems?

Allow demand to drive the direction and find the best solution, just as we have done for centuries, instead of allowing politics to drive those decisions. Quit propping up failed monopolies and provide oversight into the free association between individuals.

So many of the issues that affect our lives no longer politely stay within just one state, or lend themselves to individual solutions.

I disagree. Please qualify this statement…

And, if I were to agree, that still does not mean we should be violating individual and minority rights. This started out about how we take the fruits of labor from the middle class to prop up the dependant class, by force. How enlightened.

This paralyzing fear of government solutions, even after years worth of trying to get private enterprise to take up the slack and failing, is part of what leads many to think that the pendulum’s swung too far in the direction of markets, hyperindividualism, and keeping government out of the equation.

Oh, please, if anything the direction has swung too far the other way. We would have much more efficient, or cleaner, cars by now if we hadn’t propped up failing markets. If we had allowed The Big Three to fail and falter we would have allowed better, more responsive, companies to take their place. Instead, we couldn’t let those jobs go away, could we? So shortsightedly we used taxpayer money to keep the companies going and we are reaping the fruits of thost decisions now. It’s the same with the healthcare industry, we inject so much governmental intrusion into the industry now that there is no way that consumer demands can affect the system, it is insulated.

I would say that the Real root problem in people still being in those trailers is the challenge of both advancing one’s situation and maintaining it at the same time.

You can say that, but that doesn’t really address the situation. We demand more out of our own children than we do our fellow citizens…

Having recently dealt with some crises of my own, I can tell you that when the problems and bills start piling up, it becomes more difficult to haul yourself up by the bootstraps.

Yup, I’ve been there myself. We all have. Which is why it makes it harder to accept that others can’t.

And how much of what you needed help with was just to be given some monitary assistance and how much was to be given some tax releif, debtors off of your back for a few months and direction?

And what are we giving people who do need help?

The people who fled Katrina also faced another problem: everywhere they would go would have the same full employment that places here would have. They would be the outsiders, cut off from their communities, often in the midst of folks who resent their presence, their competition for jobs and resources.

This, having been there right after the hurricanes helping out, I have seen. But it has been two and a half years… We all have our own difficulties in life, to assume that ours are deserving of having people take money from someone else to give to me against their will is something I refuse to name…

Not to mention dealing with the significant psychological stress of having survived and been displaced by one of the worst storms in American history. This abstract quibbling over what people should be doing fails to consider these people in terms of just what they’re up against. Is two years suffieient to deal with the disruption of a lifetime from the storm of the century?

I never said it was time to cut them all loose. But it is time to start identifying those that are really in need of help and those that are trying to game the system. Do you remember the millions of dollars in fraud that we had to put up with after the hurricane while trying to help people? The people who used assisstance cards to go on vacations, buy large TVs and cars, etc? Perhaps it is time to revisit…

On the subject of speed, these situations develop, both in real terms and in public Relations terms. Americans sat at home watching FEMA twiddle it’s thumbs while New Orleans became a domestic counterpart to the out of control chaos of Iraq.

And some of us went to help. That doesn’t mean that we make the situation worse…

The rhetoric plays to the welfare queen stereotype, to the paranoid notion that we have the lower-classes clamped to our neck like leaches, draining away our economic lifeblood. Yet who has gained most during the last forty something years? It’s not been the poor or the middle class. It’s been the rich.

Here’s how it happens, Stephen. We leech from the middle class to give to the poor. The poor then fuel the economy (remember the talk about the stimulus package?) by purchasing ‘things’ which are made and supplied by the rich.

It is our helping that causes this, Stephen, nothing else. It is the natural state of things. You can try to stop it as much as you want, but ignoring it does little to fix it. *WE* are leeching the money from the middle class through oppressive taxation and crushing debt payments we have to make each year on our deficit spending. Between military buildups and the war in Iraq and trying to end poverty on the backs of the middle class, it is a shining example of the heartiness of the middle class that they even still exist!

I don’t mind the rich. I’d like to be among them in the near future, if I can help it. But the last generation has seen their interests and their wealth advanced far faster than our own. We’re bleeding so much money towards the top, and comparatively little towards the bottom.

Not for lack of trying…

Yet these are the people you are trying to get us to leave alone.

Incorrect. These are the people we should be helping. But actually helping, not just taking money from one person at gunpoint and giving it to another without even identifying their real need.

Again, either I want to oppressively tax imorrally or I want to cut them all loose. There’s no other option with you, is there?

Posted by: Rhinehold at February 6, 2008 7:08 AM
Comment #244729

Rhinehold-
Any government, run by your principles or mine, if it were effective, would force somebody’s philosophy on somebody else. No government can operate only by absolute agreement. The founding fathers knew this, that’s why we got a Congress like the one we have now, and a Democracy that runs by majority rules.

Your political views, by definition, would serve to inhibit the wishes of others, while forwarding your own. It’s B.S. to demonize my political beliefs as exclusionary when yours, like anybody else’s belief, would exclude the opinions of others. Defined your way, there’s always a forgotten man or woman out there.

Which brings me to my other point: you would put on the brakes where a majority of Americans would not. Americans want government to intervene on their behalf, to provide decent healthcare where private companies have failed. They want business re-regulated, such that the markets become more stable. They want better labor regulations, a rise in minimum wage.

So on and so forth. You would get in the way of many of these things on principle, and would thereby force your views on others who disagree.

The belief that we are powerless against the big bad companies (that we are not required to deal with in any way) so we need to give up our liberty to the government is one of the most assinine betrayls of the public trust that I’ve ever seen.

Our liberty? When just a few at the top of these companies can make decisions that impact millions, what freedom do we have? Do the people impacted by the Vioxx scandal feel free? Do the people taken in by predatory lenders, who now are losing their homes feel free? Do the people who live downstream of Factory farms, and can’t swim in the water feel free? Do the people who have to cook their burgers all the way through feel free, or those afflicted with Antibiotic resistant bacteria because agribusiness has been pumping their chickens full of antibiotics? Do the people in Hurricane Andrew’s path, whose homes were not built sturdy enough to handle the storm feel free? Do the employees paid less than a living wage feel free, especially when all their hard work and effort still means that they’re left dependent on charity, government or otherwise?

We are complex society, one that has changed considerably from what it use to be. Interstate commerce is the rule rather than the exception, and the average American lives in a city or just outside of it, rather than being a subsistence farmer dwelling on a plot of land of their own. Shifts in technology, business practices, population, infrastructure have all contributed to a system that requires greater regulation to function. The complexity of these systems means that certain behaviors have an emergent effect beyond what you would surmise just by looking at the behavior, reduced to itself.

Look at the economy and the housing sector. Look at the consequences of the FDA’s slip-ups. Look at what happens when Factory farms raise lifestock in massive numbers with poor sanitation; from there we not only get foodborne contaminants like Salmonella and E. Coli, but we get a build up in antibiotic resistance from animals that whose internal germ populations build up immunity to these perpetually administered drugs.

A lot of times, if you wait for the market to react, it’ll be too late.

As for your tax ideology, let me put it plainly: the middle class was better off under higher taxes and bigger government than it is now. Not that these things were necessarily the best course, but it hasn’t been them that’s harmed people’s interests. It’s been years of rolling back protections for people on labor and other issues, years of letting wages remain stagnant while letting credit card companies have more latitude in their usurious practices. It’s years of letting healthcare become a creature of obnoxiously bureacratic healthcare companies, while refusing to consider healthcare as a public necessity, a matter of national and economic security, not just a convenient luxury.

More or less, it’s about years of trying to elevate the middle class by giving more tax breaks to the wealthy, and giving in more to powerful interests, and then expecting the growth that comes form that to trickle down. It hasn’t and it doesn’t. The rich, for some odd reason, like to keep their money!

I am a Democrat because I am not so naive as to believe that corporations and markets will forgo their own self-interest willingly at all times. Sometimes the market does the job, but when it doesn’t, or when it can’t because of secrecy and stubborn resistance on the part of big business, that’s when we need a government willing and able to step in. We are not so simple or so small a society anymore that we can afford the old agrarian configuration of the system.

Care needs to be taken, and essential liberties guarded, but we need to consider our freedoms in the context of what’s going on in this century, not impose nostalgic systems from the old days, thinking that they’ll magically take care of today’s problems.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 6, 2008 9:03 AM
Comment #244743

kansas dem

“I get what you’re saying man. Low life bastards like me should just #@$*&^* die! I’ve been living off of SSDI since 2003. And, gee-whiz, it was a two-fer!”

not that i think rheihold can’t defend himself, but i have to say, nowhere that i can see has he suggested that no one deserves help. only that there are to many who are capable, but refuse to make the effort. thats also the point i have tried to make, but just doesn’t seem to sink in with some. the standard response seems to be to play them all as victims of the system, and the big bad corporations. what always seems to be missing in these rants of righteous indignation is the way BIG ORGANIZED LABOR has refused to see the reality of a global economy, and chooses to continue to deal with BIG BUSINESS like it’s still 1957, forcing employers to find a way to stay competitive by cutting costs, driving jobs over seas.

i’ve been self employed for about 15 years, and as of the last 5 months or so seen my income virtually disappear, because of the slowdown in the building industry. i know what it is to be saying oh sh@#!t what am i going to do, because i’m there right now. what i’m not going to do is play the victim, and attempt to blame some one else. if i ultimately have to work 2 jobs, thats just what i’ll do, and that includes DO YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT?

what really pisses me off is that i put money away all year only to see most of go out the door in the form of a large check made out to the IRS on april 15th, and then when i turn on the television i see these sorry ass snivelers bitch about there situation, but refuse to do anything about it except hold out thier hand and say give me. BTW just so you know i’m not acussing you of being one of them, i do understand that things can happen that are out of our control, it’s the things that we do have control over and refuse to do anything about that really frosts me.

Posted by: dbs at February 6, 2008 12:52 PM
Comment #244748

dbs-
There is no conceivable way of keeping competitive with developing countries, without seriously sacrificing our standards of living. In short, we’d have to live as cheaply as a third world country in order to undercut or match their labor savings. That, while it would improve our situation with regards to labor costs, would likely result in a downsizing of the very market that feeds the corporations. The market is a system, not merely the squaring of an equation.

Which brings me to your situation. While you probably loved the housing boom, it was based on B.S., B.S. that took the floor out from under you. These were good for business for many, allowing corporations to make big bucks, but the way they did it stored up what you might call economic bad karma, or in more traditional terms, a bubble. Put another way, something got in the way of the proper evaluation of value.

One side of that improper evaluation was speculation in the market, where folks looking to make money by flipping homes would inflate prices on homes beyond what the market would justify under normal circumstances.

The next side would be the lenders, who got too aggressive in trying to bring in new loans, re-fis and equity loans. Their predatory practices created another bubble, by inflating their own earnings, and their company’s value by financing debt from people they knew would be unlikely to repay. (or would know, if they cared.)

After that, the third side to this is how they managed that economic risk: in short, they sold securities that essentially paid for the debt they sent out, allowing them to even out the balance on their books, and look healthier than they were if the exposure was considered by itself. The trick was convincing the people that the debts were good, which involved another step, I believe, where somebody did something with that debt which gave it a higher credit rating. The securitization of debt helped hide risk from investors in the bank, and the laundering of the credit rating helped hide the risk from investors in the securities.

The next side after that? The securities themselves were opaque. You can’t tell what kind of debts are within those securities. This would prove crucial. Why? Because the quality of the debts determines the true worth of the securities. But what would make that even worse was the fact that securitized mortgages weren’t the only securitized debt dealt with in this fashion. Result?

Well, it comes down to two things. For one thing, real estate values, which had been going up, started going down, which meant that speculators intending to make a quick turn around soon found themselves with properties worth less than they paid for, a loss at least some of them were not prepared for. Aggressive lenders also burdened a number of new homeowners with loans they could not afford. Coupled together, this meant there were a bunch of bad debts.

This many bad debts hitting at time wasn’t immediately problematic for lenders, but then investors in real estate securities started asking questions about the value of the debt, and many mortgage business couldn’t give a decent answer. Therefore, people stopped buying, leaving banks securitizing the debt and those lenders trying to sell it off with huge new losses on their books.

Banks are required by law, and rightfully so, to have a certain amount of money available for all the debts they take out. Which means that this sector’s debts just became a dead weight on further finance of all kinds. But if that isn’t bad enough, the panic about the debts already in securities has spread from just the housing lenders to others financing corporate bonds.

Which means that a lot of the easy financing that was supporting bottom lines, supporting growth, supporting consumer spending, spending on new homes, new cars and all that is hitting a brick wall. The bubbles around the different markets now have resulted not merely in the punishment of the people who did the actual screwing up, but also a crippling of legitimate going concerns in the economy.

What could have been done to prevent this?

Better disclosure, for one thing. Growth might not have been so frantic or so even, but it would be real growth which wouldn’t pull the rug out of people by disappearing later. When people know the risks people take the risks more confidently, and more prudently. The market depends on information; in these cases regulations should require that the right knowledge reach investors.

Regulations could have also been better written and better enforced to discourage speculative and predatory business practices, practices which unproductively distort market economics in the short term, often with great risk to the long term incurred.

If government had handled the situations like these better, you wouldn’t have been in this situation. The first step in keeping them independent is to reduce the number of stupid and useless reasons why these kinds of things happen. People shouldn’t be babysat from having to judge risk, or deal with the complexities of the market, but risks should be clarified, and dubious, unproductive, conflict of interest-laden, or fraudulent behavior should be outright prohibited.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 6, 2008 2:55 PM
Comment #244749

stephen

“Which brings me to your situation. While you probably loved the housing boom, it was based on B.S., B.S. that took the floor out from under you.”

actually i’ve done quite well for the last 15 yrs. i’m not complaining, just pointing out that i’m really not any different than anyone else, and whinning or pointing fingers won’t change anything.

as far as the preditory lending, and those who borrowed knowing that if the rates adjusted they would not be able to afford the payments, created thier own problems. i think those who made the loans should reap the rewards of thier shady lending practices, and those who borrowed should be responsible for thier decisions. i don’t believe either should be bailed out by the tax payers.

this more than anything would prevent a repeat in the future, because lenders and borrowers would know they were on thier own, no ones going to bail them out.

while many took these loans, knowing full well that this may be thier only opportunity, because they normally could never qualify. while many are defaulting, there are also those have taken a rare opportunity and made it work. not all or even most who got these loans are defaulting.

this crap happened the last time interest rates were low, and greenspan got overly worried about inflation. he continued to raise intrest rates until he took the wind right out of the sails of the economy. in many ways this doesn’t seem much different.

Posted by: dbs at February 6, 2008 3:24 PM
Comment #244755

Non union jobs go overseas too, so quit blaming the unions for anything but providing a stable workforce to employers who otherwise would have 100% turnover every year or more often, until they end up employing the illegals that people complain about. If you are self employed, you should be able to come up with enough expenses to reduce your taxable income. You should get some advice and keep all your receipts. I do not know if something has changed since I was self employed, but taxes were due at the end of each quarter, only the paperwork is due April 15. You would be in arrears and subject to a fine, if you did not pay the taxes by Dec.31, unless we are talking about very small amounts. The self employment tax is probably more than the income tax. I have more of a problem with the state income tax, which has a lower individual exemption, and I always end up owing them money.

Posted by: ohrealy at February 6, 2008 5:30 PM
Comment #244756

dbs-
Most people aren’t financial specialists. It would be good of most people to try and think these things out well, but not everybody’s going to have the grounding in the subject necessary to stand their ground against a professional, against a trained salesman, a trained financial professional. It takes two to tango. The lender is the responsible party. They don’t have to lend the money. If they lend in good faith, seeing sufficient credit and sufficient income to justify the loan, then the responsibility largely lies with the debtor, I think. However, if somebody takes somebody’s credit information, takes a look at their income, and still gives them the loan, still tells the person that they can afford this, then I think the Lender’s the one who did wrong.

People will tend to do the things that gain them something that they can get away with. If you tell somebody they can get a deduction, and they think they can manage it, they’re very likely to do it. If the Lender thinks they can screw a certain number of customers into long term debt with big finance charges and interest, what do you think they’ll do? Sooner or later, the lessons of hard experience fade, or people come into the management or the market who have not had such hard lessons.

People are trying to maximize their gains, minimize their losses, and in that game, a solid gain often overwhelms an abstract numerical loss in their mind.

As far as interest rates go, you can increase inflation if the rate’s too low, slow it if you put it too high. If it’s too low, though, you increase people’s tendency to lend, which in the current market isn’t a spectacularly good idea.

For my money, what you’re trying to do isn’t coddle risk takers, it’s to punish those who lie and cheat, who game the system to make money doing things that inflict unearned losses on others, and needless instability on the market. There’s a limit to how much of this kind of crap you can outlaw, the market being as complex as it is, but at the same time, there’s a limit to how much chicanery and dishonesty you can let people get away with before their actions make it difficult to take advantage of real value, and real sources of growth.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 6, 2008 5:35 PM
Comment #244762

stephen

“As far as interest rates go, you can increase inflation if the rate’s too low, slow it if you put it too high.”

i think thats what i said, maybe in a different way.

as far as the lenders go. they lend money to anyone who meets the qualifications. set them to low and you end up with borrowers who can’t keep up the payments. set them to high and you can’t find enough qualified borrowers to stay in business. kinda like what you said about the interest rates.

the key IMO would be to find right formula. but to paint the borrowers as pawns that need to be protected from the evil lenders is nothing more than shifting thier personal responsibility onto someone else. if the lenders broke any laws they should be prosecuted, but talking someone into a home loan they can’t afford is no different then selling someone a car they can’t afford. it’s up to the borrower to know thier limits.

while doing the above may be immoral, it certainly isn’t illegal. you can’t legislate morality. there are always going to be people who do things that are immoral. the key is to educate the consumer. do you fall for anything you’re told by a car salesman stephen ? i’m guessing you don’t. you know he’s not your friend, he’s there to separate you from as much of your hard earned money as he can. why would any salesperson working on commission be any different ? if you want to pass laws to regulate minimum lending standards thats fine, but just remember if you set the bar to high many will be left out. where do you draw the line ? it’s just like with the law, ignorance is no excuse. you are the one ultimately responsible for your own decisions.

Posted by: dbs at February 6, 2008 6:23 PM
Comment #245773

Stephen,

Great article. i wrote an article above that might seem to take a different view of poverty, but not really. Neil Boortz is the parasite. What does he contribute for the abundance that he takes other than hate mongering?

Posted by: Ray Guest at February 19, 2008 9:16 PM
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