Two Vignettes on Abortion: Minimizing Dredd Scott, Moral Doubt, and Moderation

With apologies for delayed posting…

It should come as no surprise that I’m not a particular fan of Rick Santorum (R-Nothing), one of the first and worst offenders of the nastiest era of the latest culture wars. Here’s Santorum’s latest spin on abortion:

The question is, and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer — “is that [a fetus] human life a person under the Constitution?”

And Barack Obama says no. Well, if that human life is not a person, then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say “now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.”

The reference is to Scott v. Sanford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), the Supreme Court decision that, in no small part, ignited the Civil War by not just returning a runaway slave to his master, but speaking of the slave, Mr. Scott, as a chattel, rather than an independent human being. The operative conclusion — that Mr. Scott was “a being[] of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that [he] had no rights which the white man was bound to respect” [no citation] — compelled the dismissal of Mr. Scott’s suit, because, simply put, property cannot sue.

Reading it today, the decision should still feel like a punch in the gut. The Court not only ended a man’s independent life, but did so in the most offensive, painful, and consequential way possible. This is the great wrong that Santorum compares to abortion.

We can note the superficial similarity. Scott denied agency, autonomy, and humanity to a person; similarly, Roe denies humanity to a specific organism. But here the similarities end. To posit that a fetus sits in the same seat as Dred Scott is to imbue the fetus with the individual will, and hope of better life, that made Scott’s case so painful. It’s also to assume one’s conclusion. If a fetus could cry out and say, “free me!”, or possess the consciousness to hold that desire, none would deny it its life and its freedom. But you can’t assume free will and cognition of what is, in some cases, a bundle of cells. Santorum’s comparison is inflammatory, sure, but that’s nothing new. It’s also legally wrong, and elides the more complex and necessary question: when can the state express an interest in future life?

Speaking of complexity, an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal attempts a criticism of Palin’s feminist critics, by ignoring the same. James Taranto:

To the extent that “feminism” remains controversial, it is because of the position it takes on abortion: not just that a woman should have the “right to choose,” but that this is a matter over which reasonable people cannot disagree–that to favor any limitations on the right to abortion, or even to acknowledge that abortion is morally problematic, is to deny the basic dignity of women.

To a woman who has internalized this point of view, Sarah Palin’s opposition to abortion rights is a personal affront, and a deep one. It doesn’t help that Palin lives by her beliefs. To the contrary, it intensifies the offense.

Emphasis mine. It’s very easy to criticize feminists as absolutists, but that doesn’t change the fact that the majority, the voices that matter as opposed to Catherine MacKinnon, are not. No-one imagines abortion is devoid of moral dimensions, and no-one (of importance) insists on unfettered abortion rights, especially because, to secure unfettered abortion rights, one would have to overturn Roe, but in the opposite direction. On the other hand, Sarah Palin is precisely that absolutist, but in the opposite direction. Her stated views on abortion are that it is net-immoral, and ought to be illegal. In all cases. All of them.

This is a minimization of the complex moral questions that real people ask of themselves before even considering an abortion, and the very reason that the abortion issue is deadlocked in this country. In fact, avowed feminists — like President Obama, with his exhortation that the two sides find common ground on minimizing the need for abortions — are the only parties attempting a compromise. Why?

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140 comments

  1. “..Santorum’s comparison is inflammatory…”

    I feel like I should start some kind of drinking game based on how many consecutive days you use that term…

    I also don’t quite follow your contention that without free will and cognitive thought there is no comparison. Society protects beings with no free will all the time.

    1. Just curious: Which beings that lack free will are you talking about?

      1. Well children would be a good starting point. They don’t really have any free will of their own. And until they reach a certain age cognitive ability is minimal. Let’s keep in mind that biologically there is almost no distinction between a fetus at 8.5 months and a birthed child at 9 months and 1 day…but legally there is a gulf between them.

        1. OK, gotcha. So, again just curious: how do you define “free will”? Because it seems to me that you might be using a different definition than the one I ordinarily use — unless by “children” you mean “infants”, I suppose.

          1. My definition would be the ability to make big, life decisions for oneself that minors don’t have the ability to do.

            1. Ah, so you are using a different definition. What do you mean by “big, life decisions”?

              Just FYI: my preferred definition of “free will” would be “the power to have chosen otherwise”. The compatibilist would say that free will is what you get when no outside forces, well, force you to make a choice.

        2. Yes, biologically there’s no real difference, and so really there’s nothing wrong with infanticide for some indefinite and variable time after birth. There’s nothing wrong with killing a human until it develops consciousness and becomes a person (and even then, there’s not always anything wrong with killing a person – sometimes it’s even the right thing to do). Since the point in time when humans develop consciousness and become people is difficult to measure and varies from individual to individual, but is invariably well after birth, using birth as an arbitrary bright line after which killing a human is illegal ensures more than an ample factor of safety (“margin of error” for non-engineers) against killing actual people. Other than that, the only reasons killing babies is illegal are 1) most babies aren’t yours and 2) most people are so horrified by the thought of killing babies.

          Society may protect beings without cognition and free will. Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn’t. The law, though, definitely shouldn’t, except as the property of beings with cognition and free will.

          1. Steve – i appreciate your viewpoint even if it’s a million miles from my own…however, I don’t even know how we’re really supposed to respond to your statments on this topic.

  2. Haha, we could start a list of things you don’t care about. Like, calling people Nazis. Apparently it’s totally cool and doesn’t merit any reaction.

    But heaven help you if you don’t include the word “adoption” in any speech about abortion! That’s just proof that you hate babies.

  3. Nazis? Wow – that’s a remark from left field. Whose making these Nazi remarks that I’m supposedly OK with? I mean, it’s not really a partisan pastime. Seriously, try Googling:

    Bush+Nazi

    I get 1,550,000 hits.

    Then Google:

    Obama+Nazi

    I get 1,680,000 hits.

    You really want to try and make hay of that?

    I don’t really follow your part about an abortion speech but it seems like yeah, adoption would be a good thing to advocate for a President that wants to ‘…minimiz[e] the need for abortions’.

  4. Yeah, the difference is, where are those comparisons coming from? Small scale guys like Code Pink? Or the first, second, and third most popular radio shows in the world?

    1. So AGAIN we’re back to minimizing the bad behavior of Some Liberals as ‘small scale’ while elevating the bad behavior of Some Conservatives as important and non-trivial. Really Ames – this line of defense is getting stale.

    2. That which is correct never gets stale, even if it gets inconvenient. Really, do you expect me to compare Code Pink to Glenn Beck in significance? Do a qualitative not quantitative review of the hits. I did. The results may intrigue you.

      1. Ames – no one really knows what you mean by ‘qualitative’. is it sources that get a lot of media coverage? is it sources that are able to influence legislation? Where have you set the bar this week?

        And let’s not foeget that a democratic Congressman invoked Nazi imagery about the Republican party on the floor of the Congress just two days ago.

        http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/weigel/archive/2011/01/20/steve-cohen-and-the-nazis.aspx

      2. Ames,
        I gotta jump in here – Code Pink is on the level of Glenn Beck, only the Code Pink staff don’t have their own radio program. But I can guarantee you when ever they disrupt Congressional hearings, or hold a DC press conference, it makes national news. So just because they sit on our side of the aisle doesn’t make Mike wrong.

        And as a scientist, I have to call you out on the distinction in your search. You”ll get farther with hard data then a “sense” or a “feeling.” You will also get a lot farther with the recognition that media bias toward controversy influences how Mr. Beck is covered, as well as how often.

        Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

        1. I think it’s also important to note that if we really want to have a productive dialogue on the subject of political discourse then we have to agree that bad behavior is bad behavior and the social status, media presence, legislative clout, etc of the person behaving badly is irrelevant. To suggest that it does matter is to trivialize the role that average citizens play in shaping the thoughts of others.

          I would argue that a high school teacher has far more potential to mold the thoughts of others than a lot of media types and certainly more than a lot of elected officials. Speaking personally I was far more influenced by some of my college professors than I ever have been by anyone in the media. And what about parents? Parents play a huge role in the way their children’s thoughts are formed. Random Father who spouts off about how a President is the second-coming of Hitler can influence an impressionable child far more than Glen Beck.

        2. I don’t think I’ve ever argued to the contrary. Whackjobs are whackjobs. Where we part ways is, I think some are bigger problems than others based on their relative cultural influence.

          1. See my comment above regarding the perils of trivializing the influence of average Americans. Have you ever noticed that the people who complain the loudest about the potential for certain media figures to brainwash the masses would never claim that they themselves are vulnerable to said brainwashing? So who IS vulnerable? Is this just condescension? You’ve got to protect the stupid people from those crafty conservatives?

            I’m also curious, do you really believe that Glenn Beck is turning any liberals into conservatives? Do you think the people that ‘follow’ him would support liberal policies if it wasn’t for his influence? Other than claiming a vague fear of radicalization of the Right, what are the actual potential harms that you are so afraid of?

  5. I love hearing how I’m “no-one (of importance)”. :) Of course, it beats hearing how I’m sick and evil.

    Anyway, I don’t know that I’d dismiss MacKinnon as no-one of importance. Isn’t she the progenitor of the idea that speech can be classified as non-speech based on its content? I understand her views have been adopted by the Canadian Supreme Court, and I’ve encountered more than a few Americans who believe “hate speech isn’t free speech” – an idea I think she created (if nothing else, she sure as hell endorsed it in Only Words).

  6. Oh you are important, but you’re not mainstream, and I’m sure you’d agree :).

    But that’s right about C-Mac. However, her views have been rejected, time and again, by our Supreme Court. Wasn’t she the one that wrote the anti-porn/anti-hate speech statute, only to have it shot down hardcore by the Seventh?

    1. I did a reply that disappeared (maybe the spam filter grabbed it?). Basically, three points to it:

      1. Yes, that was her (along with Andrea Dworkin) whose statute got slapped down in the 7th but her views haven’t been rejected across the board considering she was co-counsel for the winner in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson 477 U.S. 57 (1986)

      2. I don’t think it matters how much the U.S. courts swat her down since her ideas have found traction with a non-trivial portion of the public.

      3. Mike, I don’t know how you’re supposed to respond to me either. I just know how I want you to respond, which is the way every proselytizer wants people to respond to their message. Namely, by converting to my way of thinking. (Fat chance, I know, but that’s what I’m after – if I can convince just one person, anywhere, anywhen, I’ll feel successful.)

      And no, whatever my political philosophy is (and I really do wish I knew the name for it), it isn’t mainstream. I understand that.

  7. Islamophobia is the moral blind spot of modern Britain | Giles Fraser…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  8. “..Santorum’s comparison is inflammatory…”

    I feel like I should start some kind of drinking game based on how many consecutive days you use that term…

    This is a cheap rhetorical snipe that poses as a counterpoint without actually being one. I could just as easily say “I feel like I should start some kind of drinking game based on how many consecutive days Conservatives use inflammatory rhetoric in response to charges that they are using inflammatory rhetoric.”

  9. I also don’t quite follow your contention that without free will and cognitive thought there is no comparison. Society protects beings with no free will all the time.

    Children have cognition (and I would say “free will” too, but maybe we mean something different by that); lumps of human cellular matter with no nervous system clearly do not.

    Santorum was essentially putting black people in the same class as human fetuses, which is kind of insulting to black people and hence rather inflammatory.

    When liberals compare conservatives to Nazis, they’re generally making some kind of point — such as the perfectly valid one Mike linked to on Slate (the article itself defends the usage well enough, so I’m not sure why Mike thinks citing it makes a point).

    When conservatives compare Obama to Nazis, WTF are they talking about? I can’t figure it out without imagining an entire universe of made-up facts upon which they are basing those accusations — and they always seem to assume that the rest of the universe buys into those facts, which we don’t because of the total lack of any evidence.

    Maybe what we should be talking about here is the fantasy world in which much conservative discourse seems to take place. In a universe where Obama really did create death panels, really is planning to confiscate everyone’s guns (Real Soon Now!), really did send money to abort babies overseas, really is a Muslim working for Al Qaeda, and so on, maybe Santorum’s accusations aren’t that unreasonable.

    It’s kind of hard for me to judge, though, because I kind of live in this universe where none of those things are actually true, and Obama’s worst crimes are continuing (and to some extent amplifying on) the crimes of his predecessor — whom conservatives generally idolize, or at least give carte blanche for any mistakes he might have accidentally spent years making.

    If conservatives think that liberal Nazi-comparisons are “just as bad” as the ones conservatives make, I suspect that the conservative disconnect from “reality-based thinking” is probably behind it — and I suspect that we need to look at that disconnect more closely in order to resolve the problem.

    1. So to recap…when Some Liberals compare conservatives to nazis it’s always an intelligent and valid point. When Some Conservatives compare liberals to nazis, it’s inflammatory rhetoric with no basis in fact.

      I’m not even sure how one would respond to that kind of partisanship so I’ll pass. Woozle, make sure you send the DNC your check this month. They need you guys more than ever.

      1. Substitute “usually” or “much more often” for “always”, and I think you have a true statement there, Mike. Show me the evidence otherwise. (Nice attempt at all-or-nothing thinking, though!)

        Your attempted partisanship bait has been carefully filed in /dev/null. I only mention it because it’s getting a bit old. Doesn’t the GOP keep you in fresh rhetoric? Maybe you’re too progressive for them — but of course that’s not saying much.

        1. *yawn*

          By your criteria I could say that Democrats are like Nazis because they both breathe air. ‘it’s a perfectly valid point’… right?

          1. If anyone here thinks Mike’s reply deserves a response, please let me know.

            1. Oh I’d much rather you respond to Steve’s.

                1. That link doesn’t work and I don’t see a reply below.

    2. Ok, let’s be clear why comparisons to the Nazis are bad: because Nazis were bad. And why were Nazis bad?
      1) They systematically killed about twelve million people without there being a good reason for doing it, which is immoral.
      2) They started some wars that failed a just-war analysis, which is likewise immoral.

      Am I missing anything?

      So, unless someone’s making an accurate comparison to one of those two attributes (and #2 is so fucking common throughout history that it shouldn’t be the basis of a comparison, if you ask me)… Has anyone accurately accused either major US party of wanting to kill millions of people for bad reasons? No, the worst that’s been accused is wanting to kill millions of people for good reasons. But if you kill people for good reasons (or want to kill them for good reasons), then the killing is a good thing, and the comparison to Nazis is invalid.

      1. I guess you didn’t read the article, Steve — Cohen was referencing Goebbels’ “Big Lie” technique. As Weigel says, “Who do you use as a reference point for propaganda if you don’t use Goebbels? How do you explain the “big lie” without pointing out that it was the Nazis who came up with it?”

        Your doubts about the validity of comparison point #2 seem well-founded to me; I’d suggest replacing it with something like this: “They used propaganda techniques to demonize a minority in order to create popular support for systematic extermination of that minority.”

        So, where are the valid points of comparison between Obama and Hitler?

        1. What minority were they trying to ‘exterminate’?

          I’m assuming somone could compare Obama’s speeches in the 2008 election to some of Hitler’s. Both filled with lofty, transformative rhetoric. The audacity of the stage and the setting for his conventions speech. The way the masses responded to his speeches, etc.

          I’m not saying I would agree with that comparison but once you go down such an unfortunate road you open Pandora’s Box. This is another example of why it’s such a horrible idea and one that is NEVER valid, dispite your claims that sometimes it is.

          Since you’re soliciting the opinions of other commenters, I’d love to hear the other liberals weigh in on the use of Nazi references directed at the GOP.

  10. What minority were they trying to ‘exterminate’?

    Are you asking what minorities the Nazis were trying to exterminate, or asking how this applies to what Cohen said?

    I’m assuming somone could compare Obama’s speeches in the 2008 election to some of Hitler’s. Both filled with lofty, transformative rhetoric. The audacity of the stage and the setting for his conventions speech. The way the masses responded to his speeches, etc.

    Are you saying that any political leader who engages in lofty, transformative rhetoric can be legitimately compared to Hitler?

    There are legitimate comparisons to Hitler and non-legitimate ones. For the record, I always felt that comparing Bush to Hitler was a bit much, and weakens the use of such comparisons for those times when it is legitimate (which I hope never happens in the US) — but at least I understood the impulse to make that comparison, given the fascistic tendencies of his administration and how utterly horrible it was overall.

    I totally don’t get how anyone can seriously make such comparisons with Obama.

    …unless they are talking about certain of Obama’s decisions regarding torture, warfare, privacy, and so forth — in which case they would need to at least acknowledge Bush’s much larger role in those same areas. It seems pretty clear that this is not what they’re talking about, however, so I remain at a loss.

    Maybe it works like this:

    1. Liberals compare Bush to Hitler, trying to make a point which might be paraphrased as “Bush is destroying our freedoms, using many of the same techniques Hitler used — he poses as much of a threat to our freedoms as Hitler did in WWII”.

    2. Conservatives don’t understand the point Liberals are trying to make, and see this as a strictly ad hominem attack: “Bush is a stupid poopy Hitler-head and we hate him!”

    3. Along comes Obama; Conservatives hate him, and want to criticize him in the strongest possible terms.

    4. Remembering the “Bush=Hitler” thing, they decide to do the same for Obama, by which they are approximately saying “Obama is a stupid poopy Hitler-head TOO, and we hate him MORE than you hated Bush, so NYAH!”

    This seems as reasonable an explanation as the Fox-Based Reality theory. Maybe they’re both true to some degree.

    1. Sorry for the fisking here but Woozle’s comments always cover a lot of ground…

      Are you asking what minorities the Nazis were trying to exterminate, or asking how this applies to what Cohen said?

      I’m asking how ‘exterminating minorities’ applies to Republicans.

      Are you saying that any political leader who engages in lofty, transformative rhetoric can be legitimately compared to Hitler?

      I don’t know. Are you saying that any politician who lies to the public can be compared to Goebbels?

      There are legitimate comparisons to Hitler and non-legitimate ones.

      Sure. Legitimate comparisons would be if you believed that the current events were going to lead to a similar conclusion. A historical analogy ALWAYS contains the hidden subtext that if two things are there is a greater likelihood history will unfold in the same way. So I guess the question is, do you think there is a danger that Republican ‘lies’ about healthcare will lead to them trying to take over a continent, exterminate a specific race or install a tyrannical dictator?

      The point is that if your arguments are strong enough they will stand on their own merits in a contemporary context. It’s as though you don’t trust your own arguments to be persuasive enough to the American people and so you must raise the specter of the Third Reich to give them an air of urgency.

      …unless they are talking about certain of Obama’s decisions regarding torture, warfare, privacy, and so forth — in which case they would need to at least acknowledge Bush’s much larger role in those same areas.

      Why can’t someone criticize Obama’s actions without referencing Bush? Was Obama constitutionally-mandated to continue the same policies?

  11. Are you asking what minorities the Nazis were trying to exterminate, or asking how this applies to what Cohen said?

    I’m asking how ‘exterminating minorities’ applies to Republicans.

    It doesn’t, and that’s not what Cohen was talking about; He wasn’t making a direct link between Conservatives and Nazis. He was speaking strictly of the “Big Lie”, and its ignominious origin in Nazi propaganda.

    The connection to Nazis is relevant, though, because part of the reason the Big Lie technique is so detestable is because we know where it came from — and (more importantly) what it is capable of.

    This may be a case of “any tool can be abused”, but is there a legitimate use for the Big Lie?

    Are you saying that any political leader who engages in lofty, transformative rhetoric can be legitimately compared to Hitler?

    I don’t know. Are you saying that any politician who lies to the public can be compared to Goebbels?

    No, I’m saying any use of Big Lie techniques can be legitimately compared to Nazi propaganda.

    (Note: apparently it was actually Hitler who coined the term in the sense that I understand it, while Goebbels’ use was actually more of an accusation against the English.)

    There are legitimate comparisons to Hitler and non-legitimate ones.

    So I guess the question is, do you think there is a danger that Republican ‘lies’ about healthcare will lead to them trying to take over a continent, exterminate a specific race or install a tyrannical dictator?

    Not their lies about healthcare, no. The Bush administration’s pattern of lies did have many of us concerned that there was a small but significant chance of something along those lines happening. and a rather larger chance of lesser but definitely fascism-flavored evil being perpetrated — as has arguably happened.

    America has clearly taken steps towards fascism since 2000, and policies enacted under Bush have clearly had a significant hand in this change.

    The point is that if your arguments are strong enough they will stand on their own merits in a contemporary context. It’s as though you don’t trust your own arguments to be persuasive enough to the American people and so you must raise the specter of the Third Reich to give them an air of urgency.

    I trust my arguments — but many Conservatives seem immune to reason (Conservapedia, for example, apparently considers ad hominem to be a valid form of argument), and I would guess that the hope among many liberals was that an emotional appeal would succeed in conveying the urgency many of us felt, where reason had failed. (Again, I don’t think I would have recommended this form of expression at the time; I may understand the thinking, but that doesn’t mean I thought it was rhetorically useful or sufficiently accurate to be rationally persuasive.)

    It may also have been seen as a way to “wake up” more liberals to the perceived seriousness of the problem; I have no idea if it was more effective than off-putting.

    …unless they are talking about certain of Obama’s decisions regarding torture, warfare, privacy, and so forth — in which case they would need to at least acknowledge Bush’s much larger role in those same areas.

    Why can’t someone criticize Obama’s actions without referencing Bush? Was Obama constitutionally-mandated to continue the same policies?

    That’s not what I said.

    I was speaking of a specific set of policies which are the only legitimate criticisms of Obama that I am aware of. Knowing that those policies originated with Bush, it doesn’t make sense to paint Obama as the “bad guy” in the story. (He’s just not as much of a “good guy” as we had hoped for.)

    However, it is my impression that the Obama Hitlerizers are referring to other issues altogether, and I suspect that this is the real reason that Bush’s role is never mentioned. If anything, they are trying to draw attention away from the true evil (started by Bush, continued/expanded by Obama) by inventing imaginary evil with which to inflame the Conservative base.

    …Which all just reinforces my point that although the Bush=Hitler signs were a bit of a stretch, there was at least a grain of truth behind them (which could have been better expressed).

    The Obama=Hitler signs have absolutely nothing to go on — but Conservatives don’t care, because they work.

    1. Correction: I read Cohen’s comments more carefully and yeah, he does invite direct comparison between Conservatives and Nazis. So, score one for Democratic argumentum ad Hitlerum.

      The “Big Lie” point is still valid, however. Find me a Conservative Nazification with similar validity, and maybe we’ll have something to talk about.

    2. The connection to Nazis is relevant, though, because part of the reason the Big Lie technique is so detestable is because we know where it came from — and (more importantly) what it is capable of.

      ‘…what it is capable of’. So an alleged ‘Big Lie’ about healthcare is relevant because a previous ‘Big Lie’ lead to the Holocaust? Do you really not see the complete insanity in that position? Maybe this is just the tendency of some people to exaggerate the importance of their pet issues. It strikes me as amazingly irresponsible though.

      No, I’m saying any use of Big Lie techniques can be legitimately compared to Nazi propaganda.

      I’m inclined to say that the act of comparing conservatives to Nazis is in itself also similar to Nazi propaganda (blaming all of society’s ills on one specific group, attributing evil characteristics to that group, etc) but then we get into some kind of weird circular reference.

      Knowing that those policies originated with Bush, it doesn’t make sense to paint Obama as the “bad guy” in the story.

      By that logic if you start a gang that robs banks and then after 8 years I take over the crew and continue robbing banks you’re the bad guy and I’m not?

  12. I wanted to give this comment it’s own box because I believe it’s key…

    I trust my arguments — but many Conservatives seem immune to reason and I would guess that the hope among many liberals was that an emotional appeal would succeed in conveying the urgency many of us felt, where reason had failed.

    So let me try to understand this point. According to you, conservatives are ‘immune to reason ‘ so Some Liberals thought comparing them to Nazis would make them see their point more clearly? If you’re correct that has to say something about the way Some Liberals think. It’s similar to Ames saying, “The blame for the tone of politics in this country lies 100% with the Right…now we should talk about it.” Does that technique really ever work for you guys? I’m genuinely curious about that. Maybe it’s different in other places but at least where I live insulting people usually doesn’t lead to positive results.

    I think a more realistic look at the use of Hitler/Nazi references by either side is that some people are just prone to hyperbole. It’s NEVER an effect tool of debate and even if the comparisons were 100% accurate, the person making the reference renders their point useless. To be blunt, it represents laziness.

  13. …what it is capable of.

    So an alleged ‘Big Lie’ about healthcare is relevant because a previous ‘Big Lie’ lead to the Holocaust?Are you deliberately missing my point, or just accidentally?

    The “Big Lie” accusation is relevant because of how evil a technique it is — though if you want to defend it, be my guest.

    The only reason to go further and bring up the Nazi connection is to emotionally emphasize the historical significance of the technique — an emotional appeal, yes, but what it’s tacked onto is a valid rational argument.

    Knowing that those policies originated with Bush, it doesn’t make sense to paint Obama as the “bad guy” in the story.

    By that logic if you start a gang that robs banks and then after 8 years I take over the crew and continue robbing banks you’re the bad guy and I’m not?

    Hey, if you’re willing to concede that Bush started a metaphorical bank-robbery gang of which Obama is only the latest Don, I can go for that.

    I just have to wonder: where were all the Conservative protests when the gang was getting started? Seems to me they were busy defending its founding Don and saying liberals were treasonous traitors for criticizing him.

    So it seems a bit much for them to be upset about the gang now

    …especially when the crimes of which they’re accusing the current Don are imaginary. They’re drawing public discourse away from the crimes that actually did occur, which is less likely to result in any change.

    1. What specifically makes the ‘Big Lie’ technique evil? Surely we can both think of situations where a ‘Big Lie’ was perpetrated with no harmful results. Santa Claus? The Blair Witch Project? Ricky Martin pretending to be straight? No – it’s only evil when it leads to something evil, like, say, genocide. When you link it to a specific event (the Holocaust) you draw a direct corollary. Period. That point is beyond debate. The point could have been made in a dozen other more intelligent and less anger-inducing ways. But I think that would have subverted the Congressman’s true intent.

  14. According to you, conservatives are ‘immune to reason ‘ so Some Liberals thought comparing them to Nazis would make them see their point more clearly?

    That was a theory. I don’t know if that’s actually why they did it; on reflection, it was probably just anger.

    I’ve said I didn’t support it as an argument, and that it didn’t seem very effective.

    The counterpoint I did make is that it at least made some sense, logically, while the Conservative Nazi-calling against Obama makes absolutely none, on any level except “well you’re a poopy-head too”.

    1. So you’ve admitted the remarks came not from reason but from anger. You’ve also admitted it generally represents a poor line of debate. Yet you keep holding onto this minor point that there is a small degree of truth in calling Conservatives Nazi, even if it’s bad form. All I can say is holding onto that little nugget seems far more about viewing politics as a team sport than any kind of good sense.

  15. What specifically makes the ‘Big Lie’ technique evil? Surely we can both think of situations where a ‘Big Lie’ was perpetrated with no harmful results. Santa Claus? The Blair Witch Project? Ricky Martin pretending to be straight? No – it’s only evil when it leads to something evil, like, say, genocide.

    A moral utilitarian argument from a Conservative? Perhaps we are making progress after all.

    Note that I did say “This may be a case of “any tool can be abused”, but is there a legitimate use for the Big Lie?” We’re having that discussion now, which is good.

    I would say that it’s evil by default when used by a government.

    There might be circumstances when a government could use it for good, but in the event that the lie was discovered (as it was — repeatedly — during and after the Bush administration), they should admit it, explain why they did it, and stop doing it.

    (I’d also expect that “small government” types would be even more suspicious and paranoid than I am about the idea of government using this technique at all.)

    What purpose did it serve for Bush? I can’t see that anything good has, or ever will, come of it.

    Are you defending it?

    Or do you agree with me that the Big Lie technique is shameful when used about facts that matter (unlike Santa Claus), and that Conservatives should be ashamed for using it?

    The point could have been made in a dozen other more intelligent and less anger-inducing ways. But I think that would have subverted the Congressman’s true intent.

    I think his intention was to express anger at Conservatives for lying repeatedly, and to draw attention once again to their repeated use of the Big Lie. I’d like to see more of that, because apparently it’s not sinking in.

    Yet you keep holding onto this minor point that there is a small degree of truth in calling Conservatives Nazi, even if it’s bad form. All I can say is holding onto that little nugget seems far more about viewing politics as a team sport than any kind of good sense.

    The point, ultimately, is that Conservative tactics are often very scary and alarming to us poor peace-loving fuzzy-headed Liberals, and we’d really like it if Conservatives would stop doing such a good impression of people who might happily support a Fascist dictator as long as he supported Jesus, guns, Family Values, and the Pledge of Allegiance. During the Bush years you guys were scaring the crap out of me and a lot of other people I know, and the overtones were definitely Fascistic.

    But if we are agreed that Fascism is a bad thing, and that nobody wants to look like a Fascist, then how about this:

    Can we revoke the PATRIOT Act now? How about the Military Tribunals Act, too, and start having proper trials on American soil? Can we smallify the government by getting rid of the “Department of Homeland Security”? (I mean, really, I think whoever named that was trying to evoke Nazi comparisons, if only so y’all could whine later about how unfair it was.) The TSA can be smallified out of existence too.

    That would be a good start.

    Do we have a deal? If Conservatives will take a firm position against present and future steps towards Fascism, I’ll stop calling them Fascists.

    1. Dude. You’re essentially making the same ‘continuum’ argument as Tim Pawlenty did on The Daily Show. It was stupid then and it’s stupid now. Politics is not a continuum. You don’t suddenly wake up one morning and find that the final bit of regulation made your country fascist.

      Fascism is about the absence of democracy and civil society, and the American social model is way too entrenched for it to go there.

      Also, as John Stewart said about this whole Nazi/Big Lie thing, “If ou want to call people liars, there’s already a perfectly good word for it: ‘Liars’.” There’s no need to even bring Nazis into it in the first place.

      1. I dispute that politics is not a continuum, if I’m correctly understanding what you mean; countries can have varying amounts of freedom and oppression, varying amounts of the several attributes which make up what we call “Fascism”. It’s not a binary switch where you clearly either are or are not a Fascist state.

        “You don’t suddenly wake up one morning and find that the final bit of regulation made your country fascist.” — this seems to support my point. There will never be a point when you can point your Fascimeter at the US and the red light will go on. I believe the metaphor most commonly used for this situation is the one with the slowly-boiling frog.

        (Perhaps you’re thinking of “slippery slope”, i.e. a step in a certain direction does not imply that we’re going to slide the rest of the way in that direction. This is true, but I don’t think it applies to what I was arguing.)

        I hope you’re right about democracy being way too entrenched in the American model — but if so, why do we still have offshore detainment, warrantless wiretapping, and no legal charges for the many crimes alleged to have been committed by top officials during the Bush administration, despite multiple attempts to bring them to trial? Why are we still engaged in a war which was started on the basis of a lie? Why have we been in a National State of Emergency since 9/11, and why does Obama keep renewing it? Why does the Freedom of Information Act keep being gutted? Why do we have full-body under-the-clothing pat-downs at airports, and a “no-fly list” with no accountability and no avenue of appeal?

        Shall I go on?

        (I’m going to make a Nazi comparison now.)

        I’m sure the citizens of pre-WWII Germany thought fairness and justice were too entrenched in their society to be overthrown in less than a decade, too. How do we know we’re different?

        I found the Pawlenty/Stewart segment here… I’ll have to respond to that in a separate comment.

        1. I’m sure the citizens of pre-WWII Germany thought fairness and justice were too entrenched in their society to be overthrown in less than a decade, too. How do we know we’re different?

          Come on. The Weimar Republic had been in existence for 14 years, during which it had suffered under endemic political violence, hyperinflation, crushing war reparations and in some places outright civil war. Before that, there had been virtually no experiences with democracy in Germany. And when the Nazi rise to power began, there were plenty of people who realized precisely what was happening and why – Thomas Mann as one very prominent example.

          By comparison, the US has been a democracy for over 200 years – not without problems, but very solid in the fundamentals.

          If you want to look for fascism, come back when you have blackshirts maching in the streets, elections and trade unions are illegal, and the President-for-Life is holding fiery speeches about annexing Mexico.

          1. My general rule of thumb is that until American society looks about 10 times worse than it did in 1968, any claim of the coming apocolypse is hyperbole of the highest order. Let’s keep in mind that in that year we had multiple American cities burning, campus unrest, returning soldiers being spit on, etc. We are even close to that and it would take a huge leap beyond it for claims of fascism to sound even reasonable.

  16. Well first off, if you are correct, the ‘Big Lie’ isn’t being used by the government, it’s being used by a political party. Second, I think we should back up just a bit because you seem to be assuming that i agree with you that the ‘Big Lie’ even exists with regards to HCR. In order for that to be true that would mean that Some Conservatives in fact believe liberal reforms are good and harmless and are lying to the public by saying they aren’t. Do you really believe that?

    The truth is that we simply don’t agree with you on the benefits of HCR under the latest law and we also believe the goal is to eventually move to single-payer. I believe that latter point with all my heart – so when if I say, “Some Liberals want to take over the healthcare industry,” I’m not lying. That is what I believe.

    I’m not even going to discuss the Bush years because this is about a reference to HCR.

    And I think you need to brush up on what fascism actually means. It’s so contrary to classic liberalism that you just sound silly. And to be clear, American Conservative is just a right-leaning version of what would have been called Classic Liberalism in a more intellectual time.

  17. It’s probably also important here to note that the term ‘Big Lie’ is not associated with the Nazis because they themselves perpetrated a ‘Big Lie’ but because they coined the phrase. Hitler accused the Jews of telling a ‘Big Lie’ after WWI. Goebbels later accused the British of telling a ‘Big Lie’. Here’s his direct quote:

    “The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”
    What’s interesting is that if you change ‘English’ to ‘conservative’ it sounds remarkably like something Some Liberals would say today. So to circle back around, the actual linkage to the Nazis is when they were accusing others of telling the Big Lie. In that respect, the valid point would actually be to compare Some Liberals to Nazis…right Woozle?

    But hey, keep sticking to the link of reason that says Nazi references are okay.

  18. Regarding the Pawlenty/Stewart segment

    Taking things in order…

    He alleges that there were violent protests by the Left at the 2008 RNC in MN; my understanding is that this is untrue. There were apparently a few splinter protesters who were violent. That is unfortunate, but they were not “the Left”. It’s not even clear how many there were, out of 10,000 protesters overall; the article only says “a few”.

    Main point: he makes his “continuum” argument based on the assertion that government — presumably under Obama — has been taking over more and more areas that used to be private matters.

    This is not long after Stewart has made the point that Bush made many such changes, so why do Conservatives see the Obama presidency as a radical change?

    Pawlenty’s argument is stupid not because politics is not a continuum, but because he supports those incremental changes when they come from his side and only calls it “tyranny” when it’s under Obama. Stewart reiterates this point several times, and Pawlenty never addresses it.

    I should mention that I don’t like Stewart’s “pendulum” metaphor; are we going to see the pendulum “swing back” against desegregation, against sexual freedom, against feminism?

    Other than that, Stewart speaks for me and makes many excellent points — which Pawlenty totally dances around without answering.

    Pawlenty thinks the government has “enough money”, never mind the deficit. Which he also wants to lower. OMFG. Show me how this isn’t hypocrisy.

    After watching the whole video, my respect for Pawlenty’s intelligence has gone up but my lack of respect for his integrity remains where it was. He’s a brilliant shyster.

    1. “Pawlenty’s argument is stupid…because he supports those incremental changes when they come from his side and only calls it “tyranny” when it’s under Obama.”

      Isn’t this EXACTLY what both sides of the aisle do every time power changes hands, in one way or another? I am contstantly amazed at how quickly Some Liberals forgot their bad behavior during the Bush years as soon as Some Conservatives started behaving poorly under Obama. If there’s a Big lie floating around it’s the pretense that none of that happened.

      1. Examples, please?

    2. I’ll just recycle the same argument I made about Pawlenty: The idea is that a step away from liberty is a step towards tyranny. Okay.

      In 1789, 13 American colonies decided to support a Constitution and give up some of their sovereignty to a federal state. That was a step away from perfect liberty, in that they were now barred from certain actions they could have taken previously. Or, according to this theory, a step towards tyranny.

      I submit that when your political theory requires you to consider the very act that created your nation in the first place as a step towards tyranny, then your political theory has issues.

      1. A step away from liberty is not always a step towards tyranny — I will grant you that.

        However, that’s not the argument I was making. (I’m not even sure it was the argument Pawlenty was making; his argument was very fuzzy and platitudinous.)

        1. However, that’s not the argument I was making.

          Sure sounds like it:

          If Conservatives will take a firm position against present and future steps towards Fascism, I’ll stop calling them Fascists.

  19. you seem to be assuming that i agree with you that the ‘Big Lie’ even exists with regards to HCR. In order for that to be true that would mean that Some Conservatives in fact believe liberal reforms are good and harmless and are lying to the public by saying they aren’t.

    No, that’s not what they’re lying about.

    we also believe the goal is to eventually move to single-payer.

    That would be fabulous.

    so when if I say, “Some Liberals want to take over the healthcare industry,” I’m not lying. That is what I believe.

    Taking over healthcare insurance is not the same as taking over the industry. We’ve had this debate before over at ETEV. You admitted not knowing enough about the situation to debate it knowledgeably; has this changed?

    the term ‘Big Lie’ is not associated with the Nazis because they themselves perpetrated a ‘Big Lie’ but because they coined the phrase. Hitler accused the Jews of telling a ‘Big Lie’ after WWI. Goebbels later accused the British of telling a ‘Big Lie’.

    It looks to me like they certainly employed it — e.g. claiming repeatedly that the Jews were prone to lying — even if it wasn’t an explicit policy.

    In that respect, the valid point would actually be to compare Some Liberals to Nazis…right Woozle?

    If you mean that Liberals are falsely accusing Conservatives of lying, then no.

    Yes, I do tend to be a stick-in-the-mud about matters of fact and reason.

    Why don’t you just invoke Godwin’s Law? That was my first reaction to the “Bush=Hitler” signs — “oh frack, they just lost the argument for us.”

    1. Do you have access to some kind of document which proves that Republicans don’t actually believe the things they are saying? Something that proves an orchestrated plan to spread known untruths to the American public?

      1. Once again, you are insisting that I’m saying something I didn’t say. If anyone thinks this deserves a response…

        1. You’re claiming conservatives are lying (i.e. intentionally telling an untruth). Prove it.

          * And really, this nonsense about asking everyone if my comments deserve a response – grow up man. If you don’t want to respond, just ignore it.)

          1. It’s a form of reality check — I realize Republicans aren’t too familiar with reality, so I’ll rephrase it: “I think this statement of Mike’s is so obviously wrong that it would be a waste of my time to bother responding, but if anyone thinks there is perhaps some substance to it which I have failed to recognize, please point it out to me so that I may address it. Otherwise I will assume it is nonsense.”

            1. Like I said – just ignore the comments. Don’t be an ass.

      2. Ok, correction, you’ve changed the phrasing slightly to the point where it arguably is what I’m saying.

        To be clear, what I am saying is this: Conservatives trying to repeal healthcare are using errors of fact to make arguments against it. They may well believe that it’s bad, but I can’t believe that they believe the facts they’re claiming as justification — in part because many of them are logically inconsistent.

        Now, if you want to argue that logical inconsistency is a Republican talent and that therefore perhaps they genuinely *do* believe that 1=2, you might have a point.

        1. Just because you disagree with their conclusions (and maybe even think those conclusions defy logic) does not mean they are guilty of lying.

          From my side of the aisle, it defies reason to believe there are a bunch of GOP politicians who secretly agree with liberals but are intentionally saying something different. Do you still want to cling to your claim of a Big Lie being perpetrated by the Right on HCR?

          1. Okay. They are either guilty of lying or of self-delusion. If you want to defend them from the Big Lie accusation by pleading insanity, I’m fine with that too.

            Either way, they shouldn’t be running the country.

            1. I don’t agree with either your analysis or your conclusion. You must be insane or lying.

              (See what I did there?)

              1. Yup — you didn’t explain how either one was wrong.

              2. Your argument is based on the assertion that your own position is based in “reason” whereas the opponents’ is not. Following a Habermasian conception of society, reason is not a quality vested in any one particular point of view, but rather in the ongoing communication between adherents of different views within the bounds of a democratic discourse.

                The obvious implication of this is that not only can no one group monopolize “reason” for themselves, but ironically, by trying to deny it to your opponents, you actually undermine the foundations of reason, which of course is the frank and civil democratic discourse between political opponents.

                Simple, really.

                1. My position is based upon facts and reasoning which I believe I have laid out (though if I haven’t, that is a valid point to raise). My opposition has not countered the facts or reasoning upon which I based my conclusion. Until they do so, I have to assume that they cannot and that they are therefore wrong.

                  If we disagree over whether this is a reasonable set of ground rules, then I’m not sure there’s any point in continuing this dialogue, unless you can suggest an alternate set of rules for me to consider.

                  1. Your assumptions are flawed for a couple of reasons:

                    1) HCR hasn’t really even been implemented so there has been no actual testing of the liberal hypothesis. Without testing there can be no certainty that they have arrived at the right conclusions or that conservatives were wrong about theirs.

                    2) You also assume there is a right or a wrong answer in the HCR debate. With a population as large as ours, for every example you find of a success there is a liklihood you will find someone dissatisfied with the reforms. for example, the new rules attached to FSAs have been criticized by everyone I know who has used them, including myself.

                    1. 1. I have not argued that HCR will inevitably prove to be a good thing, merely that there’s no reason to think it isn’t — and, more specifically, that the Conservative charges laid against it are clearly false.

                      2. I also never said they were perfect — but the Conservative position would call for an even less perfect solution, i.e. a return to where we were before.

                2. But you’re not assuming that they’re wrong. You’re assuming that they’re lying or insane, and that’s the problem. A discussion is meaningless if you’re not at least willing to extend that courtesy to the opposition that they have arrived at their different opinion by valid means.

                  1. I’m not assuming they’re wrong…

                    Okay, I’ll bite: What process would you consider satisfactorily rigorous for determining the difference between “a difference of opinion” and “clearly wrong”?

                    Or is there never a point where it’s fair to say “Sir, I have examined all the evidence you have presented, and all the responses you have offered to my counterarguments, and if you are being honest with me about your beliefs, then I cannot see how your thinking processes are operating rationally on this matter”?

                    1. “What process would you consider satisfactorily rigorous for determining the difference between “a difference of opinion” and “clearly wrong”?

                      When it comes to public policy it’s really impossible to make any kind of reasonable assessment without actually testing the policy. In the absence of that it’s really just people’s opinions (and you know what they say about those and assholes…everybody has one). I think that’s the key point Lanfranc and I are both trying to stress to you. You say, “I disagree with these people and they haven’t presented counter-facts that have persuaded me otherwise so I assume they are A) wrong and B) insane if they believe otherwise.” That’s extraordinarily arrogant.

                      There are literally millions of variables when it comes to public policy. The only time we should use the word ‘insane’ to describe policy advocates is when they claim absolute certainty that a policy will work. You seem to be venturing into that territory with HCR.

            2. I agree with at least some of their conclusions. I’m quite sure i’m not insane. maybe we just disagree and there’s no need for extreme hyperbole?

              Curious, when the people in your life disagree with what you consider to be obvious conclusions, do you also believe they are insane?

              1. Mike, you agree with their conclusions because you accept their facts — even though the facts are demonstrably wrong.

                You’re not crazy or lying, just a victim of epistemic closure.

                When you consciously decide not to question the facts that you’ve been given by those you agree with, in spite of counterarguments purporting to show how those facts are wrong, then you cross the line from “epistemic closure” to “self-delusion”

                If that’s not a mild and very localized form of insanity, then add it as a separate item on the list of possible explanations for Conservative behavior regarding Obamacare.

                1. So – it is your contention that HCR was a complete succes, a perfect bill and every American will benefit from it? No harm will be done?

                  1. Nope; it’s just far, far better than doing nothing.

                    I wanted universal healthcare (single payer). Second choice: public option.

                    But tell me — who do you think will be harmed by Obamacare?

                    1. If you admit it’s not perfect then how can you claim that anyone who opposes it is insane?

                      I think there is plenty of potential harm in the bill. Potential harm for employers, potential harm for private insurers, potential harm for doctors, potential harm for people who already had good healthcare and are seeing their plans altered by this legislation (count me in that boat). There are a lot of very, very smart people (doctors, economists, etc) who have misgivings about this bill, but yet according to you they are all insane.

    2. Yeah, I don’t understand why people are wasting their time spreading lies about HCR, when the truth is more than bad enough. People who should be euthanized or kicked to the streets to fend for themselves or die will get healthcare paid for by others and be even more of an albatross around the neck of good people, adults will be treated like children (see staying on your parents’ insurance until you’re 26)… there’s not a single thing the ACA does that’s good, and there’s not a single objective behind it that’s good.

      1. Ah! So you *do* favor euthanasia for those who fall below a certain level of competency? Please confirm whether I am correct in my understanding of your position.

        Also, regardless of whether my understanding is correct, I should point out that sick people can become albatrosses to their relatives already (I can think of at least 3 examples, involving people I know, off the top of my head). ACA is intended to prevent this, and the opposition hasn’t proposed anything at all in replacement for it.

        1. Yes I do. I’m sure I’ve said as much here before, haven’t I?

          As for sick people becoming albatrosses to their relatives already, that’s due to a (mistaken, in my opinion) choice those relatives make. Those relatives are under no moral obligation to assume that burden, though, so they should certainly have no legal obligation. Ditto society at large. That’s why I’m opposed to the caps on annual and lifetime coverage limits and to the requirement that pre-existing conditions be covered.

          1. Thank you, Steve, for confirming that Republicans — or some, at least — truly are telling people who are sick and poor that they should just die already. (I seem to recall a recent argument where this claim was loudly denounced by defenders of the Republican POV on healthcare.)

            It’s a consistent position, and I respect that — even if I disagree.

            From that point, we can then discuss questions like: how much aid should a sick/poor person get before being euthanized (none? or just less than they got pre-Obamacare?), and does that amount change when we are talking about family support versus government?

            Also, do I presume correctly that you are not of the “pro-life” camp? Or are you pro-euthanasia but anti-abortion?

            1. In no particular order,
              1) I’m actually not a Republican, because
              2) I strongly support abortion rights (see way above), and generally can’t stand “social conservatism”, which has always (to me) seemed to be the dominant strain of conservatism in the Republican Party.

              I also strongly support the death penalty and punitive torture, in case you haven’t read any of the posts where that’s come up and were assuming things about me (or curious).

              As to your question, how much aid should a person receive, the ideal answer is none since to need aid is to have failed. That said, I think there’s a big difference between voluntarily giving help to a friend or family member you know personally and care about on an individual basis (or even voluntarily giving to a stranger or charity – I donate to Planned Parenthood and a domestic violence shelter, for instance) and involuntarily giving to strangers through a government program.

              I also think age matters, and we’ve got it backwards. Our governments spend a fortune on the elderly, who should be written off, and a pittance on children, who could potentially be made into productive adults. In that regard, I think Medicare and Social Security are wholly indefensible, but I’m pretty much ok with the IC part of WIC (although the legalist in me thinks at the federal level it’s a case of “good policy but unconstitutional”, like most environmental law. Article V exists for a reason and we ought to use it regularly).

              And finally, about euthanasia. Let’s be clear that I’m not advocating the US adopt something like the T4 Program. What I support, euthanasia-wise, is more based on what you said: falling below a certain level of competency. You fail out of high school, you fail out of life, your business fails, your life fails, that sort of thing. I also don’t see a problem with something like the Groningen Protocol.

              Beyond that, whether anyone lives or dies is their problem, their friends’ and family’s problem if they want it to be, and nobody else’s. Rich, poor, white, black, Christian, atheist, doesn’t matter. The objective value of every single human life is jack shit. So if you can’t muster enough subjective value among people who know you that they want to keep you alive, and you can’t keep yourself alive, then there’s no reason for keeping you alive and you should indeed just die. For that reason, the amount of government aid a sick person should receive should be none. If you want to call that some sort of “passive euthanasia”, be my guest.

              1. I may disagree about where you place the threshholds, Steve, but I think — at least at first glance — that your positions do not make me want to claw my eyeballs out the way many Conservative positions do.

                I do think there are some practical problems with it, though, because…

                [argument]

                1. Humans are naturally social/empathetic animals (well… many humans are, obviously many also are not) and will doggedly refuse to say to themselves “okay, that person’s care is going to cost more than their remaining life is worth; it’s time to pull the plug” — or may even have an ethical code (rational or not) which forbids them from taking such actions, even if the law were to allow it.

                (Side note: and of course in many cases, current law would prevent us from doing the humane thing; in our particular case, for example, we would have to just let Josh go outside and hope that he didn’t get run over or shot as an intruder.)

                2. Many of the people who will refuse to make that choice also can’t afford to pay the continuing medical bills for their own ailing dependents.

                3. Many of these people are, in turn, sacrificing careers and livelihoods for the sake of said medical expenses and care.

                4. Many of these people also have friends who empathize with their terrible plight.

                5. So you have a wave of empathy spreading outward from the sick person and touching dozens or hundreds of people — most of whom will be angrily in favor of some kind of backstop to help deal with the medical crisis.

                Conclusion: two things would need to change in order to make your position implementable.

                First, euthanasia laws would have to be more liberal (I’d be fine with that).

                Second, there would need to be some mechanism whereby those who feel that Aunt Mildred or Little Bobby really are worth a $100k operation or $15k/mo in therapy could more easily pool their resources (possibly tapping into a common “empathy fund” of people who don’t like the idea of letting sick people die) to pay for it collectively.

                I don’t know if it’s realistic to think that this could happen, but if you’re wanting to see your position implemented, I’d start by trying to build that mechanism — something like Kickstarter.com for medical crises.

                Build the better mousetrap before you try to take away the old one, because people are going to demand a mousetrap no matter how irrational it might seem.

                [/argument]

                That said… while it would be an interesting study to see how a society would turn out if it were based on your positions, I do think it would be a rather harsh and unpleasant place to live. (Heinlein notwithstanding.) I don’t want America to be that place.

                Still, if you can come up with some alternative ways for people in need to get medical help without government funding, that could be a useful innovation and might help resolve the current impasse.

                1. Helping to arrange a delivery mechanism to give healthcare to those who don’t deserve it would constitute helping people who don’t deserve it get healthcare. That would be immoral of me.

                  1. That kind of depends on how you decide “deserve”.

                    My point is that I don’t think your system is likely to gain any traction unless you make allowances for those silly hu-mons and their “feelings”. Think of it as designing a system with poorly-manufactured parts.

                    1. My rule of thumb is that if you can’t afford it on your own, or get a job important enough for it to come with decent health coverage, you probably don’t deserve it.

                    2. Also if you’re chronically ill, terminally ill, or elderly, you don’t deserve it.

  20. If you admit it’s not perfect then how can you claim that anyone who opposes it is insane?

    You keep saying that I said that, and I do not think that what you think that I said is actually what I said.

    They’re misrepresenting the facts. Their misrepresentations have been corrected, repeatedly, but they continue to use them unaltered, without countering or even acknowledging the corrections.

    So, what potential harm do you see? You’ve given me some broad categories, but nothing that is specifically harmful. How has your insurance been affected, for starters?

    1. So now you are back to saying that it’s not insanity, they’re just telling lots and lots of lies knowingly?

      For me specifically we’re seeing increased costs associated with the new rules around FSAs. Last year we could go to a pharmacy and purchase over-the-counter medication with our FSA. This was great for things like aspirin, allergy medication, cough syrup, whatever. Now the new rules state that we can only use it if we have a prescription. So if I get a cold and need some Nyquil I have to either go see a doctor (copay) or go to an immediate care center (bigger copay) to get a prescription or do without. So now a $4 box of medicine costs me $19 and a potentially a couple of hours of vacation time from work.

      That’s ONE example. There are plenty of other ones. I sat with three doctors in my wife’s family at Christmas and all three of them were complaining about the new reimbursement rules.

      But hey, there’s no reason to believe that HCR won’t be good…right?

  21. You say, “I disagree with these people and they haven’t presented counter-facts that have persuaded me otherwise so I assume they are A) wrong and B) insane if they believe otherwise.” That’s extraordinarily arrogant.

    I’m not saying that about their conclusions, I’m saying it about their premises — factual matters verifiable by objective observation.

    Their conclusions (generally) make perfect sense based on their premises, but their premises are factually incorrect.

    1. Again – MILLIONS of variables. A premise like, “HCR will increase costs for businesses which in turn affects employment,” is not a premise that you can dismiss without testing.

  22. So now you are back to saying that it’s not insanity, they’re just telling lots and lots of lies knowingly?

    I’m saying that (a) they’re giving incorrect statements of fact, (b) they have been made aware of the errors in those statements, (c) they continue to make them, so (d) it seems likely that they are lying, but (e) I’m willing to allow that they may be deluded in some way and truly believe what they are saying.

    For me specifically we’re seeing increased costs associated with the new rules around FSAs.

    The new rules are part of Obamacare?

    1. You’re going to have to enlighten me on the specific facts they have been ignoring.

      Yes, FSAs were affected by Obamacare.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexible_spending_account#Impact_of_health_care_reform

    2. I think the spam filter caught my first reply. I’d like to hear some of the specific statements of FACT that Republicans have been ignoring.

      And yes, Obamacare set the new rules for FSAs. Those rules started in 2011. They also lowered the amount someone can put in from $5,000 to $2,500 (I believe that starts in 2013). I see no justification for this other than to try and ruin one of the most popular programs the insurance industry has rolled out in years.

    3. Oops. Yeah, some of yours got caught. I’ve unpenned them now. They didn’t even go to moderation, but straight to spam! Weird.

  23. Again – MILLIONS of variables.

    My understanding is that they have made specific claims which are factually incorrect and which substantially affect the final opinion one is likely to form overall.

    I’m a bit vague on whether the “they” in each case is a politician or a talk-show host or what, but the claims are widely believed and are widely cited as reasons why people support repealing Obamacare. I strongly suspect that I can find many examples of Conservative politicians repeating or originating these incorrect facts, and that you will not be able to find any examples of Conservative politicians issuing corrections regarding those facts.

    1. How many Democrats claimed they had no intention of moving to single-payer?

    2. Has anyone retracted that claim?

  24. And yes, Obamacare set the new rules for FSAs. Those rules started in 2011. They also lowered the amount someone can put in from $5,000 to $2,500 (I believe that starts in 2013). I see no justification for this other than to try and ruin one of the most popular programs the insurance industry has rolled out in years.

    If that’s a problem with Obamacare, why not advocate fixing *that* (and any other specific flaws) rather than repealing the whole thing?

    1. I think the general belief on the Right is that the whole bill is so bad we’re better off scrapping it.

      But I’m glad you acknowledge that the bill has at least one bad element. Isn’t it possible there are more?

  25. Here are the erroneous and/or distorted statements of fact that I am currently aware of.

    1. We can’t afford it, given the economic crisis.
    2. It forces individuals to buy insurance they can’t afford.
    3. If you don’t buy insurance, you pay a huge penalty.
    4. Repealing it will save money and help the deficit.
    5. It was forced on America; Americans didn’t want it.
    6. It doesn’t actually help very many people, because a lot of people still can’t get insurance.
    7. It rations healthcare; government agents will be deciding who lives or dies.
    8. It will kill jobs if not repealed.
    9. It is paid for by tax increases.

    1. 1) If we define ‘afford’ as spending money we don’t have, I think that’s a pretty accurate statement.

      2) I really haven’t heard people complain about affordability, just the notion that the government can force people to buy health insurance at any cost.

      3) Again – I haven’t heard ‘huge penalty’.

      4) If the govt doesn’t pay for additional healthcare then won’t that equal revenue savings?

      5) I’m not sure what the polling indicated the day it passed but it certainly doesn’t enjoy widespread support now. And the 2010 election results also seemed to indicate that as well.

      6) Schip is a much better program and helps far more people. It would be easier to just keep expanding that until you hit critical mass.

      7) It puts a lot of restrictions in place (see FSAs).

      8) Maybe – or maybe companies will just dump their employees onto the public dole, which is what you want anyway.

      9) Not currently (see #1). If left unrepealed it’s possible in the future.

  26. You know, the more crap I see the Republicans pulling, the more it looks like the country is just going to go straight down the tubes and there’s not a thing I can do to stop it. If there were some way to just let you guys have your way while the rest of us retreated to a safe distance to watch, I’d seriously be considering it. Unfortunately, all the good spots are already taken, even assuming any place on Earth is far enough away.

    Why don’t I just start with #1, because I fully expect it to be a debate all by itself. If we can get through that, I’ll move on to the next one.

    The myth is that Obamacare costs money. It doesn’t; it saves money — something we badly need to be doing, right? The CBO estimates savings of $143 billion over the first decade and by $1.2 trillion in the second decade.

    So, how is it not a lie to claim that we “can’t afford” this, when the truth is more that we can’t afford not to? Your turn.

    1. They simply disregard the CBO’s estimates.

      1. Yes, but Mike’s a reasonable Conservative, right? He wouldn’t disregard the analysis of a bipartisan agency whose figures are commonly cited and depended up on by both major parties just because it happened to disagree with his views, right?

        So I kind of want to hear what Mike himself has to say about the matter. I wouldn’t want to go straw-manning him by assuming that he believes their findings are wrong without some specific reason — some flaw in their analysis or source data — as our dear Republican leaders seem inclined to do.

        1. As I already pointed out, the initial cost estimates were flawed and were revised last year.

        2. Told you so ;)

          1. Maybe you can explain to me why the first estmate was flawed. Then explain hpw the CBO fact-checks the data they are given for their estmates.

      2. We don’t disregard them but when they are constantly changing it’s hard to hang your hat on them. Plus, according to CBO director Doug Elmendorf:

        “Legislators could vote to spend more — or less — because discretionary spending is subject to the congressional appropriations process, Elmendorf explained in the letter.

        “The law establishes a number of new programs and activities, as well as authorizing new funding for existing programs. By their nature, however, all such potential effects on discretionary spending are subject to future appropriation actions, which could result in greater or smaller costs than the sums authorized by the legislation.”

        So with much of the spending being discretionary costs could easily rise even more with Congressional appropriations at a later date. The simple truth is that you all don’t know how much it will cost.

    2. You DO realize the CBO has already revised those estimates, right? And this will continue to happen. From Megan McArdle:

      “Meanwhile, the CBO just came out and said that the health care reform was slated to cost $115 billion more than they said it would. Why? Because they didn’t have time to calculate the effects on discretionary spending such as new administrative capacity, demonstration projects, and continuation of successful short-term initiatives.”

      http://www.businessinsider.com/surprise-cost-of-healthcare-bill-already-spiraling-beyond-estimates-and-democrats-are-ignoring-the-reasons-why-2010-5

      Here’s what’s kind of silly about you claiming this is all fact-based stuff that Republicans are ignoring. The Great Depression ended roughly 70 years ago. Even today there are PhD-level economists who will disagree strognly about the causes, the preventability, etc. Just he other day a commission appointed by the President to review the facts of this latest recession issued a report which contained strong disagreement among the committe members about the causes, etc. These are people that are far more qualified than you or me to make judgements on big economic matters. Meanwhile HCR contains MILLIONS of variable which are impossible to predict, there has already been one cost revision of +$115 billion and many of the new rules haven’t been implemented. Yet you, in all your Woozley genius, have determined that the initial CBO estimate are FACT and to disregard them is insane folly.

      I’m more than prepared to admit that maybe conservatives are wrong and healthcar reform will be an outstanding success. What I would never presume to do is to say I have it all figured out right now. You don’t seem willing to do the same. Maybe that’s some kind of crazy self-confidence or maybe that’s just partisanship. You tell me.

    3. My take on the CBO:

      Humans find it difficult to predict the future. Turns out, that stuff is haaaaardd to do.

      Predicting what conditions will be in a country tomorrow? Relatively easy. A month? You probably can make a fair assessment. A year? That’s difficult. Who knows what random things will happen. 5 years? That’s mostly a guess. 10 years? Practically impossible.

      Then you look at policy, there are always unintended effects. You may not realize that putting into a school lunch program will suddenly lead to a banana shortage in Haiti, which will lead to more poverty, or whatever may come up. Unintended consequences.

      So, in the end, is the CBO 100% accurate? Absolutely not. Will it even be 75%? Possibly not. Will there need to be changes to the estimates with additional data? Absolutely.

      But mostly when you start arguing against them, it ends up with, “my random guess for the future is better than your guess for the future”.

      But, all that given, CBO is a non partisan group, with, let’s admit, a fairly good track record, and they have better access to data than most people.

      So in the end, I’d rather look at their numbers and trust that they might be in the ball park, than someone who has an ideology to stick to.

      I’d rather take into account what the meteorologist predicts, than the person trying to sell weather proof siding.

      1. But mostly when you start arguing against them, it ends up with, “my random guess for the future is better than your guess for the future”.

        But isn’t that EXACTLY what Woozle is arguing? You’re right that things are very hard to predict and the certainty is very questionable. So then why is it a LIE if Republicans disagree with the CBO estimates?

        “…and they have better access to data than most people. So in the end, I’d rather look at their numbers and trust that they might be in the ball park, than someone who has an ideology to stick to.”

        Who provides them with the data they are using for these HCR estimates?

      2. You also might want to read this:

        http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/the-cbo-is-telling-us-something-is-anybody-listening/

        Pay special attention to the facts needed to make the liberal-preferred estimate work vs. the facts needed for the conservative-preferred estimate to work. Th conclusions here are spont on:

        “Here’s the state of the debate over these CBO health-reform estimates: which is right, the baseline scenario or the alternative fiscal scenario? It’s the wrong question! It doesn’t matter which scenario you think is right. Likely neither is when examined in any detail, and both are horrible in broad sweep. Choose your poison: massive taxation or massive debt.”

      3. ” So then why is it a LIE if Republicans disagree with the CBO estimates?” I don’t know if I would use the word lie, but because you and Republicans are selling the weather proof siding.

        The CBO is not out trying to do anything.

        1. I don’t believe they are doing something shady either – but again, where do they get their data?

        2. Past data from other bills and changes.

          Ex. ” The Congressional Budget Office expects to receive new data
          on drug spending for certain federal programs, such as Medicare
          Part D, that will affect this estimate”

          Feel free to look through the footnotes: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/99xx/doc9925/12-18-HealthOptions.pdf

          1. Oneiroi, But surely you realize that if they are dependent on data from the Speaker of the House or other Congressional sources for their estimates – there is a high potential for the results to be manipulated? For example, my understanding is that the findings were based on 10 years of revenue projections but only 6 years of cost projections which equaled a net savings. If the CBO doesn’t get the full cost projections then their numbers aren’t going to work.

  27. I would also point out that CBO estimates are only as good as the data given to them. The old saying is, ‘Garbage in, garbage out.’ The data that given to them for those estimates has been crticized as flawed. A good example is a story that came out recently:

    “A new study by the Lewin Group estimates that 28.6 million Americans will be eligible for a federal subsidy to purchase health insurance beginning in 2014 at a projected cost to tax payers in excess of $110 billion. This estimate is dramatically higher (578%) than the cost of these subsidies forecast by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) prior to the bill’s enactment into law. If the new estimate is correct, it would mean that instead of lowering the deficit by $143 billion over ten years—a claim widely touted by proponents of the law— the legislation would begin adding to the deficit as early as 2015, only one year after major provisions of the law go into effect.

    The Lewin Group study was commissioned by Families USA, a healthcare reform advocacy group based out of Washington D.C. which is closely allied with the White House and leading Democrats in Congress. Then Senator Obama was a keynote speaker at their annual Health Action conference in 2005 and 2007, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the 2008 event. Other leading Democrats who have participated at Families USA events in recent years include Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy.”

  28. Mike: delighted to see some new counterarguments on this. Sorry to see that they’re still just as empty as the ones I was already aware of.

    First, the McArdle piece is from way back last May — surely there must be some more current figures? Like, what is the bottom line the CBO is currently claiming? The figures I cited are from Wikipedia, article last updated today. The source cited for the figures given is dated March 20 (earlier than the McArdle piece), but there is no mention of any CBO revisions — surely opponents of Obamacare would have made sure that any such updates were noted in the article, right?

    Well, it looks like they did try… from the talk page:

    When I looked more recently there was text that said the CBO had changed the figures many times, but there was no explanation as to why. This gave, I thought, a false impression that the figures were highly uncertain. But as far as I know, the figures have been modified over time only as the bill has progressed and been put to the CBO for a re-assessment given changes in the content of the bill. I can think of only one minor occasion when the estimate was adjusted because of an error. This repeated modification of estimates as bills are modified in write up is, I believe, normal practice and therefore it was misleading to give the impression that the numbers for the final legislation as enacted has constantly changed. The only figure that really matters is the figure as it was when the main bill and the reconciliation bill were passed.

    So there’s much talk that the figures are uncertain, but actually they have not been substantially revised since the original report — at least that’s my understanding from this.

    But let’s take a look at what the CBO actually said in the link McArdle cited. It looks to me like she is misinterpreting the meaning of the “$115 billion” figure.

    All I see is that the CBO is refining and breaking down some of the details of its totals, and one of those figures happens to include $115b in expenditures: “CBO estimates that total authorized costs in the first two categories probably exceed $115 billion over the 2010-2019 period.”

    Those “first two categories” would seem to be:

    1. The costs that will be incurred by federal agencies to implement the new policies established by PPACA, such as administrative expenses for the Department of
    Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Internal Revenue Service for carrying out key requirements of the legislation.

    2. Explicit authorizations for future appropriations for a variety of grant and other program spending for which the act identifies the specific funding levels it envisions for one or more years. (Such cases include provisions where a specified funding level is authorized for an initial year along with the authorization of such sums as may be necessary for continued funding in subsequent years.)

    According to the PDF, this is “an update of the earlier tally of specified authorization amounts.” What was the earlier tally? As far as I can tell, those categories were not broken out in the original CBO analysis — so that number is simply a refinement (or perhaps a different summation) of the figures they presented earlier — not a correction or adjustment.

    I don’t see how McArdle came to the conclusion she reached, and I think it was a trifle bold of her to go accusing Democrats of being willfully blind to something that isn’t even there.

    …unless you can show me how it’s there.

    Another implied accusation is closer to the beginning of McArdle’s piece:

    Henry Waxman canceled his War on Accounting, not because there was a sudden breakout of common sense on Capitol Hill, but because his committee’s investigation revealed that companies had begun exploring whether they should drop their health insurance plans entirely–a move that would cost over $100 billion dollars thanks to the huge new subsidies the government would have to dole out.

    Whatever possibilities Waxman’s committee may have found (and McArdle does not provide enough information to back up the allegations upon which her “War on Accounting” accusation is based), 8 months later “the major health insurance companies around the country are reporting a significant increase in small businesses offering health care benefits to their employees […]
    because the tax cut created in the new health care reform law providing small businesses with an incentive to give health benefits to employees is working.
    So McArdle’s hypothetical fails too.

    The Great Depression ended roughly 70 years ago. Even today there are PhD-level economists who will disagree strognly about the causes, the preventability, etc. Just he other day a commission appointed by the President to review the facts of this latest recession issued a report which contained strong disagreement among the committe members about the causes, etc.

    None of which has more than peripheral significance to the question of how Obamacare will affect the deficit.

    These are people that are far more qualified than you or me to make judgements on big economic matters.

    As is the CBO. Why is it okay to ignore their analysis, when nobody seems to have a valid criticism of it?

    Yet you, in all your Woozley genius, have determined that the initial CBO estimate are FACT and to disregard them is insane folly.

    “These are people that are far more qualified than you or me to make judgements on big economic matters.” We may argue with the details, but it’s crazy to just dismiss their advice wholesale.

    What I would never presume to do is to say I have it all figured out right now.

    I did not say that. What I said is that among all the uncertainties, there are many significant matters of fact which Republicans are either ignoring or misrepresenting, and they have been doing it for far too long now to be able to plead ignorance.

  29. Wishes yet again for a preview mode in WordPress

    Here’s the way the last chunk of my previous comment was supposed to appear (assuming I get it right this time):

    Yet you, in all your Woozley genius, have determined that the initial CBO estimate are FACT and to disregard them is insane folly.

    “These are people that are far more qualified than you or me to make judgements on big economic matters.” We may argue with the details, but it’s crazy to just dismiss their advice wholesale.

    What I would never presume to do is to say I have it all figured out right now.

    I did not say that. What I said is that among all the uncertainties, there are many significant matters of fact which Republicans are either ignoring or misrepresenting, and they have been doing it for far too long now to be able to plead ignorance.

  30. Re the Lewin Group analysis: this at least fits into the broad category of valid criticisms, i.e. a claim that assumptions used by the CBO in their analysis were in fact incorrect.

    I will have to research it further. I would be pleasantly surprised to find that their analysis is neither seriously flawed nor being grossly misrepresented in some way.

    Also, has it been cited by proponents of Obamacare repeal? This is the first I had heard of it.

  31. Well that didn’t take long — it was misrepresentation. Bottom line from the Lewin Group:

    Thus, the CBO estimate of 19 million people receiving the credit is quite close to our estimate of 20.1 million recipients. Our estimate of the cost of the premium subsidies is within 18 percent of the CBO estimate for the ten year period of 2010 through 2019 (CBO $464 billion; Lewin $549 billion).

    Not only that, but an earlier report commissioned from the Lewin Group by the Commonweath Fund seems at least tentatively to argue the economic benefits of a public option — something Republicans fought tooth and nail (including many outright lies) — with the conclusion that it “could offer small businesses insurance that is at least 9 percent cheaper than current small-business policies”.

    Empty, empty, empty.

    I’ll give the Cons the benefit of the doubt, on this one, though, as I never saw this study cited anywhere (except by you, Mike*) as damaging to the CBO’s credibility on Obamacare. (*I can believe you might not have been aware of the follow-up, because who has time to research this stuff?)

    1. Woozle – read the piece again from the Incidental Economist. Specifically this part:

      “Perhaps Americans will be amenable to supplying ever greater revenue to the federal government. After all, tax rates are far higher in many other OECD countries. But I’m skeptical that America will stand for it. The CBO was, too, so they produced a second forecast called the “alternative fiscal scenario.”

      Look at the results there. projected savings on the democrat-supplied budget are based on tax increases. When the budget is adjusted for a flat tax growth (more likely with a tax-hostile public) it results in a loss. You also haven’t addressed the discretionary spending that makes up a large part of HCR and was impossible for the CBO to accurately project.

      1. 1. Why hasn’t this “alternative fiscal scenario” been prominently mentioned by the anti-Obamacare faction? Again, this is the first I had heard of it.

        2. Republicans are hostile towards tax increases. The rest of us would be fine with going back to the higher tax rates during any of the presidencies from Reagan through Clinton, given the economic effects we’ve all seen. Better to pay higher taxes and be employed than not to owe any taxes at all because you can’t get a job.

        3. The details:

        Under the alternative fiscal scenario, by contrast, expiring tax provisions in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA)

        — in other words, the Bush tax cuts —

        would be extended. As a result, revenues would grow
        only slightly faster than the economy, equaling 22 percent of GDP by 2080. Slowly growing revenues combined with sharply rising expenditures would create an
        explosive fiscal situation. Under the spending and revenue policies incorporated in this scenario, federal debt
        would surpass 100 percent of GDP in 2023 and exceed 200 percent of GDP by the late 2030s.

        In other words, the economy will be wrecked — but my understanding is that this will be true regardless of Obamacare.

        Extending those cuts was idiocy of the first order to begin with. Even if the only negative effect was that Obamacare ended up being a loss instead of a gain (no other effects on the budget), I would have to call it sabotage.

        Also, calling them “tax increases” is misleading; it would be ending a set of tax cuts that were ridiculous and counterproductive in the first place and were supposed to be temporary. (I never understood what good they were supposed to do, myself, except to get small-minded and large-walleted people cheering for Bush.)

        As for “discretionary spending” — it’s discretionary, so it’s up to the budget-makers to ensure that their spending isn’t too far out of line with the CBO’s projections.

        Otherwise it’s like a high-schooler saying “I can’t budget for college because I might go out and spend too much on movies and dates over the next few years”. Responsibility, remember? Thought you GOP-types were big on that. Oh, and “small government” and “austerity”. Well, here’s a place where a little discipline will bring big returns.

        Meanwhile, the GOP just wants to make sure that the billionaires don’t have to give up too much of their excess income. Never mind that those unpaid taxes could provide a $30k+ salary for every unemployed person in America, from which they could buy their own insurance at pre-Obamacare rates and have plenty left over.

  32. Re: Discretionary spending

    The problem here is that it’s a death by a thousand cuts. You can’t count on politicians to curb that kind of spending with entitlement obligations floating around out there. So everyone will add a little extra here, a little extra there. Have you not watched the way Washington works? You’re basing the success of your plan on Congress having no appetitie for spending increases. Really?

    1) Does it really matter that you haven’t heard of it? That doesn’t make it untrue. You and Oneiroi seem to be enamored with the CBO. Now we know there were TWO budget estimates that paint very different pictures. I think the alternate budget is more reality-based. You can’t say that opinion isn’t based on the FACTS of a CBO budget.

    I’m not surprised to hear you advocate for tax increases on the rich. I just wish one time I could hear a liberal (and yes, i’m making a broad statement here Oneiroi) advocate tax increases on EVERYONE. You all seem to love the idea of spending other people’s money.

  33. You can’t count on politicians to curb that kind of spending…

    True, especially when too many of them are Republicans.

    We did it under Clinton. Remember that.

    Does it really matter that you haven’t heard of it?

    Not directly; I was just wondering: if this is actually a good and valid argument, why the anti-Obamacare faction aren’t using it more, instead of all the bogus ones they are using.

    It’s almost as if they don’t give their constituents credit for being able to reason, but are confident that said constituents will be snowed by a bit of emotional manipulation.

    (Since the time when I said that, however, I do see that it’s been used by the Moonie Times, Reason magazine, and Kaiser Health. Question withdrawn; they are perfectly willing to raise this point. The problem is, of course, that it turns out to be bogus — so my objection stands: they think their readers are nitwits.)

    You can’t say that opinion isn’t based on the FACTS of a CBO budget.

    Um, yeah… kind of like the movie “Yellow Submarine” was based on a factual musical group.

    To paraphrase: “Hey, the CBO has admitted openly that if we did this really stupid set of things, then Obamacare would fail miserably! It seems pretty likely that we’ll do that really stupid set of things, because everyone knows we Americans have all the fiscal discipline of a flea on acid, right guys?? *nudge nudge*

    You’d think they would choke on the hypocrisy of constantly accusing liberals of being “down on America” after saying something like this, but apparently they’re utterly oblivious to the inconsistency.

    …or else they’re lying.

    I’m not surprised to hear you advocate for tax increases on the rich. I just wish one time I could hear a liberal (and yes, i’m making a broad statement here Oneiroi) advocate tax increases on EVERYONE.

    We already had this discussion, and I agreed to a 40% flat tax for incomes over something-or-other, can’t remember what it was, as a compromise to staunch the current budget hemorrhage.

    That said…

    (1) If I were rich, I wouldn’t object to paying higher taxes than people who were less rich. When I was making $70k on a consulting contract during the 1998-2000 boom, I was fine with giving up a larger chunk because I still had far more left over than when I was only making $24k. I was fine (on a compensation level) with putting in overtime hours, because even though I wasn’t getting the full benefit of the official numbers I was being paid, I was still getting most of it — and could take some pride in knowing that I was pulling my weight and doing my bit to keep the country running.

    (2) During times of war in the past, the rich have always stepped up to the plate to finance the war. (Remember “War Bonds”?) This time it’s the rest of us, and the rich* are all “uh-uh, this is MY money, screw helping America”. What gives?

    (*or at least the people claiming to be speaking for the rich are saying this; has anyone surveyed the upper income-levels of American society on this question?)

    (3) Warren Buffett and Sam Harris have both argued that people at their respective income levels should be paying higher taxes. I don’t know where you place Buffett politically, but I’m pretty sure Harris is somewhere in the Reality-Based Thinking Zone.

    You all seem to love the idea of spending other people’s money.

    When you get up to those stratospheric levels of income, the money you receive is no longer accurately representative of the value you, as an individual, have contributed to the economy; it becomes more an artifact of the way our system is organized.

    Billionaires would not be billionaires without the infrastructure and society in which they made their money. Put Bill Gates at age 20 out in the desert (or in Tannu-Tuva, or Bolivia, or Nigeria, or Soviet Russia) with enough food and water to survive indefinitely, and come back 20 years later — I doubt he would be even mildly wealthy, much less one of the key players in the PC revolution.

    He only got that way because of the innovative culture and opportunities in the US* — much of which depends on government infrastructure. (*and because his dad was a rich lawyer, but that’s not relevant to my point. Pick any wealthy person who got that way due to his own efforts, put him in a country whose governmental setup doesn’t foster innovation, and see how well he does.)

    You may argue that in the early days of the US, when immigrants flocked to our shores for the opportunities available here, these opportunities certainly weren’t due to the plethora of government services and social support available.

    That is very true.

    What is also true is that there were still many untapped natural resources to exploit — unoccupied land to develop, primarily. You could start a farm with just equipment and hard work, and (barring disaster) make a living for yourself and your family.

    These days, you’d have to get a bank loan to buy the land from whoever owns it now — and the chances are good Monsanto or General Foods already owns it, if it’s any good for farming.

    And you’ll have to find some way to compete with them, in a market that’s heavily geared towards large-volume production that cuts corners on quality. (Ask any small/family/sustainable farmer about this, and I expect they’ll give you an earful.)

    Oh, and some of that loan will have to go towards capital equipment, too; in the past, the production output from hand-tools was enough, but now a farm using only hand-tools would be a luxury — something crazy liberals might set up as a tourist sight, but not a way to survive off the actual production of the farm.

    That’s just one example; I’m sure there are others.

    It’s not just that the Bosses own “the means of production”, they own the means of survival. Have you ever tried to pay your property taxes with “hard work”? I haven’t, but I’m sure I’d get some funny looks down at the tax office if I did. They won’t take chickens, either, I hear. (Not that we have any chickens; it only recently became legal to have them in this area — there was much Conservative opposition to the idea of people being able to produce their own food, for some reason. “Untidy” or something.)

    What we have now is a stranglehold on the means of survival — the top 1% of rich people own something like 50% of it, and most of the rest is owned by people far richer than you or I will ever be.

    It seems to me that if they’re going to control our very survival, they owe us a little help.

    Wait, that’s wrong. They owe us a lot. We made them rich, and they’ve taken everything we need to survive — almost all the productive land, all the factories, all the lumber forests, almost all the medical care — every aspect of our existence is in some way owned by or indebted to them.

    They’ve bought us — and with ownership comes responsibility.

    Or they could just let us have back some of the ownership. I’d much prefer that, because you know what they say: Give a man some money, and he eats for a day — but give him a diverse investment portfolio and teach him how to manage it…

    1. “To paraphrase: “Hey, the CBO has admitted openly that if we did this really stupid set of things, then Obamacare would fail miserably! It seems pretty likely that we’ll do that really stupid set of things, because everyone knows we Americans have all the fiscal discipline of a flea on acid, right guys??”

      I don’t think the alternative CBO analysis was based on some kind of wild hypothesis. They assumed that tax revenue would not rise at the level necessary to support new entitlements. I may be reading it wrong and you’re welcome to correct me but my understanding was that the Obama-friendly budget only works with projected tax revenue growth over-and-above current rates. I think that’s both wishful thinking and a mis-reading of the electorate.

      There’s a lot of liberal talking points in your high-volume comment below the stuff I just quoted. I recall you previously agreeing to a flat tax so maybe we don’t have to spend a lot of time hashing out our different philiosophies on taxes. I’ll just leave you with this timely piece from Scott Adams, which i think it genius.

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703293204576106164123424314.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsForth

    2. When you get up to those stratospheric levels of income, the money you receive is no longer accurately representative of the value you, as an individual, have contributed to the economy; it becomes more an artifact of the way our system is organized.

      Billionaires would not be billionaires without the infrastructure and society in which they made their money. Put Bill Gates at age 20 out in the desert (or in Tannu-Tuva, or Bolivia, or Nigeria, or Soviet Russia) with enough food and water to survive indefinitely, and come back 20 years later — I doubt he would be even mildly wealthy, much less one of the key players in the PC revolution.

      He only got that way because of the innovative culture and opportunities in the US* — much of which depends on government infrastructure. (*and because his dad was a rich lawyer, but that’s not relevant to my point. Pick any wealthy person who got that way due to his own efforts, put him in a country whose governmental setup doesn’t foster innovation, and see how well he does.)

      Let’s set aside how duplicitous it is to use people making in excess of $1,000,000,000 to justify tax rates on people making 100,000 or 250,000.

      I get so sick of people spewing that and overlooking the basic fact that at the other end of the income scale, you’re only able to have life itself because of handouts from the government. If you’re low income, getting the EIC, or TANF, or any other sort of welfare, you’re getting more out of the system than you put in. You’re of negative value to society.

      Poor people get to live, which they don’t deserve to because they can’t fend for themselves, by taking more out of the system than they’re capable – not willing, capable – of putting in. That’s a damn bigger debt than any rich person has, and too many people refuse to acknowledge it or demand repayment on it.

      1. I like where Steve is going with this because it circles back around to the original theme of the post.

        Don’t Some (Most) liberals refer to any being unable to survive on its own as a parasite? To echo Steve’s point, and yes I’m playing devil’s advocate here, what’s the difference between someone so dependent on government charity that they couldn’t survive without it and an unborn fetus?

      2. Well, to look at it in purely materialistic terms, poor people put those resources back into the system by buying stuff, which helps improve the economy.

        Besides, poverty is not necessarily a terminal condition. Especially during a crisis, many people need welfare temporarily, then get back on their feet when things improve.

        1. But wouldn’t it be just as efficent to provide a direct infusion of cash into those industries verses putting it through the filter of the poor? And pregnancies aren’t permanent conditions either. Fetuses need the assistance of their mother for 9 months and then they can be put up for adoption.

        2. But wouldn’t it be just as efficent to provide a direct infusion of cash into those industries verses putting it through the filter of the poor?

          Yes and no. Direct subsidies are obviously better if you have a specific failing company that you want to see survive, as was the case with the infamous bank and auto industry bailouts.

          But the problem is that sort of subsidy does not usually register as true revenues, which is what companies look at when deciding to hire new people. Money being spent my consumers, on the other hand, obviously does, even though that money may also indirectly come from the government in the end. So welfare spending (or for that matter, tax cuts for low-income groups) is more likely to create true job growth. It’s a bit of an economic magician’s trick, but it tends to work in practice.

          As for the analogy between people on welfare and fetuses… Maybe society is the mother, and the electorate have a right to choose whether to… Which I guess makes the politicians… No, you know what? I’m not going to touch that one.

          1. In truth I am not quite as callus as Steve on the subject of welfare recipients (and no offense to Steve there). I DO find the dynamic a bit ironic though. Generally speaking liberals prefer no protections for unborn humans but once they are born they want them to enjoy full protections of the state. Conservatives want to protect unborn humans but generally have less sympathy once they are born and end up on the bottom of the ladder. I think both positions are defensible but alas, everyone has to pick a side. I base my position on being a non-aborted human from a working-class family who put himself through college and has a comfortable life to show for it. I’m sure that Some Liberals feel an abortion prevented the ruination of their lives and/or they could not survive without Uncle Sam’s help so they choose the other side. Two sides of the same coin perhaps.

            1. No offense taken, although I usually spell it “callous”. One of the handful of words where I prefer the British spelling (the main one’s grey).

              1. Not to be a spelling Nazi, but that’s not a US vs UK thing. ‘Calluses’ are those thing you get on the hands and feet, while ‘callous’ is either having a lot of the former or being emotionally indifferent. I’m pretty sure it’s the same in both American and British English.

                1. Huh. I assumed that the “ou” was a marker of Britishness, as in that “colour” and “flavour” business.

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