'Growing Up Fundamentalist'

Last weekend, after months of pestering, I got my old Christian Service Brigade uniform shirt out of the attic. My wife never quite believed it was real, so finally I had to show it to her, struggling to remember what all of the various achievement patches I had earned were for.

The slacktivixen finds the whole idea of Christian Service Brigade hilarious. “Fundamentalist Boy Scouts?” she says, laughing. “What — the Boy Scouts were too worldly?”

Yep. For our church, they were. But I’m still kind of proud of all those patches. Worked hard for those. And I kind of regret not sticking with it all the way to Herald for Christ. (That would be the fundie version of an Eagle Scout. Stop laughing.)

So with that going on here, an old book caught my eye on the shelf. I’d read Stefan Ulstein’s Growing Up Fundamentalist back when it first came out in 1995, and I’ve just finished re-reading it.

It’s not a memoir. Or, rather, it is, but it’s not Ulstein’s memoir. He interviewed more than 100 former fundamentalists, selecting 22 of those interviews for the book.

“No two stories are identical,” he says, “but the reader will probably see common threads woven throughout the narratives.”

Ulstein proves to be an encouraging and accommodating interviewer, getting his subjects to open up and tell their stories in their own voices without intruding or trying to steer the conversation in a particular direction. He’s not trying to prove a thesis in this book, just to let these people talk so that others can listen.

Ulstein himself is almost invisible in the chapters of this book, but when he does appear, he comes across as a friendly, compassionate fellow. He likes these people, and he is determined to respect them by getting their stories right.

One of the rare instances in which we catch a glimpse of him comes from a section where he surfaces briefly, mainly just to give us a better sense of the personality of the woman he’s interviewing. Where that really comes through is in her zinging him after he asks a dumb question. He cut have cut this section to make himself look better, but he left it in to provide readers with a clearer picture of this awesome woman. Ulstein’s questions and comments are in italics.

One woman had a very abusive husband, and she had gotten the idea, from a Christian seminar, that she should endure it. She had taken the whole ‘submit to your husband’ teaching very literally, so she would have sex on demand with this guy who hit her and wouldn’t let her get a driver’s license.

Then, here’s the part that makes me want to scream: a local Christian counselor told her to kneel and assume the position of Christ in Gethsemane while her husband beat her. This was supposed to increase her knowledge of Christ and be a witness to her husband.

I take it this counselor was a man?

She looks at me like I’m the village idiot. Yes, as a matter of fact he was a man — now that you mention it. She grins, wondering if I get the sarcasm.

Dumb question. Please continue.

I can’t imagine a female counselor coming up with a crazy … fantasy like that, can you? …

It would be difficult to read all these stories without coming to share Ulstein’s affection for this diverse set of storytellers. Some of them have reclaimed some new, healthier version of their earlier faith. Others have embraced other spiritual paths. Some left fundamentalism for intellectual reasons, others due to the horrible treatment they received in that tradition. Some of the stories are funny, others are harrowing. Some are — remarkably — both.

But these are strong people and few of them seem bitter — not even those who have every right to be. They’re an impressive bunch, as most people are when you get to know them with the care and attention Ulstein gives to his interviewees.

I know from discussions in comments that I’m not the only one around here who also grew up fundamentalist. If you did too, I think you’ll find this collection of stories encouraging and insightful.

Your own story probably isn’t exactly like any of these, but as Ulstein says, “the reader will probably see common threads woven throughout the narratives.” I share some of those common threads. If you think you might as well, then you might want to check out Growing Up Fundamentalist.

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  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    O.K., all my comments are misplaced.  I guess the “reply” option is non functioning.

  • Donalbain

    O.K., all my comments are misplaced.  I guess the “reply” option is non functioning.

    It is semi-functioning. If you use the reply button, it marks your comment as a reply to, say, Beatrix, but does not place it in a thread structure. If your comment ends up on the same page as the one you are replying to, people can click on the “in reply to…..” part to see that comment, but as you cans ee, that is not usually the case.
    Our usual method here is the paste and and reply as I have done. Some people prefer italics (I do), some prefer the blockquote. To do the italics you do kjgkjhgkjgjkgkjhg jhgkjhg but without the spaces in the tags..

  • Lori

     Our usual method here is the paste and and reply as I have done. Some people prefer italics (I do), some prefer the blockquote. To do the italics you do kjgkjhgkjgjkgkjhg jhgkjhg but without the spaces in the tags..  

    This is really key. Don’t let the reply button lull you into thinking you don’t have to quote. Unless you post right after the original comment (right after in time) people will have no clue what you’re replying to. Especially if you’re replying to someone how has made multiple posts in the thread. 

    The fact that even the minimal reply function doesn’t seem to be working for some people makes quoting even more important. 

  • Matthew Funke

    talkinghat: It makes me so angry to see people saying “clearly, women don’t have what it takes to do well in engineering.”

    This.

    As an engineer myself, I sorely wish there were more women in engineering — because there are some tremendously difficult problems that need solving, and the more brains we have working on them, the better.  It annoys me to no end to see people dismiss someone’s contribution or curiosity simply because she’s female, and females just aren’t good at math or science.  And it saddens me to see the light of joy and wonder extinguished as she starts to believe it herself.  As the father of a bright and curious daughter, I dread that there may be people out there she runs into dedicated to crushing that light, and that some of them will be her peers and her teachers.

    I’d like, ideally, for people just to be allowed to explore whatever strikes their fancy.  But if it’s any consolation, consider that the things thought of as particularly suited to the male or the female brain are not universal, even in a particular society over time.  A century ago, for example, it was thought that art was the sort of thing especially suited for men; women, you see, lacked the intellectual depth to create it or appreciate it.  Currently, it seems, people see art as a primarily female pursuit.  So people’s minds can be changed.

    Sometimes, I like to wonder how our society’s outlook might have changed if things had been different.  Consider the male-dominated world of computer software, especially computer games.  How would the landscape be different if the first person who could arguably be called a software engineer — Ada Lovelace — had lived longer and contributed more to defining the field generally?

  • Anonymous

    What I found really hard to get my head around was how much of this painful sexist idiocy came from the teaching staff. I’m no engineer – I’m a history major, and yeah, there’s always That One Guy who constantly interrupts or speaks over the female students, but I’ve only encountered one sexist member of staff (a woman who criticised the topics her female students chose to research while being very encouraging to the males). Getting the That One Guy treatment from classmates is demoralising enough, and I can’t imagine what it would be like getting it in any greater intensity from a teacher.

    It’s good to know that people can change their minds about women’s suitability to pursue academic subjects, but I have to be honest, I’d really like it if we could get rid of this art-as-a-female-pursuit thing. When I hear art described as a primarily female pursuit, it’s usually a negative description. Same goes for most of the humanities (with the possible exception of political science, because that’s about the pursuit of power and has ‘science’ in its name besides). They’re just not hard enough subjects! Studying other people is vague and fluffy and emotional! Science and maths are reasonable and rational and objective – they’re subjects for men. It’s all crap, and it needs to go.

    That said, I’m actually pretty optimistic. I’m glad there are engineers and computer scientists (and assorted other professions, but especially people in their fields) out there who believe my friends are telling the truth about this sort of thing, and not exaggerating or oversensitive. I get the feeling that every little bit helps.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     How would the landscape be different if the first person who could arguably be called a software engineer — Ada Lovelace — had lived longer and contributed more to defining the field generally?

    [cynic]Computer programming would be regarded as boring, menial labor, and paid slightly better than diswashing.[/cynic]

  • Anonymous

    Consumer Unit 5012: [cynic]Computer programming would be regarded as boring, menial labor, and paid slightly better than diswashing.[/cynic]

    It’s more likely than you think.

  • Anonymous

    VMink:  Thanks for that link.  That was pretty dam’ informative.  And that ad makes me wish for the ability to punch people over 40 intervening years.  I’d put that right next to the ability to punch people over TCP/IP.

    I just watched Battle of Britain.  It’s relevant because the women in the air force — properly they’re members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Corps, not the RAF — are performing tasks like moving markers around on map tables for the analysis of the (male) RAF general staff, but also they’re doing things like reading radar displays, which is a bit of arcane knowledge because the planes show up as spikes in a standing wave, not blips on a screen.  They’re also exposed to danger because they staff airfields and C&C centers, which the Luftwaffe are trying to destroy.  I have no doubt they were paid less and their skills valued less than men; they were only used because the men were needed in cockpits.

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t like the movie because I found its characterization flat.

  • Anonymous

    Falconer: I’d put that right next to the ability to punch people over TCP/IP.

    A friend of mine has told people (mostly jokingly) that they should not tell him to go to his ‘happy place’ because his ‘happy place’ has people on fire.  (He works at a company where the IT department are competent only at the line level; the managers are not only incompetent, they are *spectacularly* incompetent.)  The current variant on this joke is the CLI commmand spof — for “set people on fire” — to which I offered to write spof.pl  since I’m learning Perl.  It also went in the direction of automating this process for him using spofd .

    … Slow day, I’m doing IT-theme jokes. =)

  • Matthew Funke

    talkinghat: I’d really like it if we could get rid of this art-as-a-female-pursuit thing.

    Oh, yeah, so would I!  Please don’t take my mention of it as a good thing.  I only mean to point out that people are fickle when it comes to assigning certain things as being intrinsically more friendly to male or female brains.  I don’t like that the assigning happens, but the fact that the assigning shifts gives me hope that this is a mindset that can be overcome.

    talkinghat: Same goes for most of the humanities (with the possible exception of political science, because that’s about the pursuit of power and has ‘science’ in its name besides). They’re just not hard enough subjects! Studying other people is vague and fluffy and emotional! Science and maths are reasonable and rational and objective – they’re subjects for men. It’s all crap, and it needs to go.

    Agreed.  (People always seem to think that the other guy’s job is far easier for some reason.  I’ve heard my share of disparaging remarks about the sciences from those who prefer to pursue humanities — science saps all the joy and wonder out of life, and they’re too wrapped up in what is to think constructively about what might be.  It goes both ways.  Obviously, some kind of self-awareness seems to be the key.)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     I’d really like it if we could get rid of this art-as-a-female-pursuit thing.

    Huh?

    What, like Leonardo daVinci and Rodin?  

  • Anonymous

    “What, like Leonardo daVinci and Rodin?”

    Sorry, I should’ve been more clear. I was talking more about recent times, and men who are not great artists. Where I live, most boys who show an interest in something like drawing, painting, sculpture – or heaven forbid, sewing or dance – can expect to be made fun of. If they take an art subject in their final years of high school or in university, similar.

    The comments of ‘girly’ only seem to drop off if a guy can make a career out of his art, and sometimes not even then.

  • Anonymous

    Matthew Funke: 

    It annoys me to no end to see people dismiss someone’s contribution or curiosity simply because she’s female, and females just aren’t good at math or science.  And it saddens me to see the light of joy and wonder extinguished as she starts to believe it herself. 

    This happened to me to some extent.  I wanted to be an engineer despite finding math difficult.  I struggled through it until I hit Differential Equations, which I flat-out failed.  It was the only subject that had ever beaten me and I took it as a sign that I wasn’t meant to be an engineer and so I switched majors. 
    After graduating, I decided that I was wrong. It didn’t matter whether or not I was naturally good at something so long as I was willing to put in the effort to learn it.  And I wanted to be an engineer, dammit.  Although I hadn’t had a college calculus course in over three years, I retook DE and did well.  I then applied to grad schools in engineering despite having a degree in Animal Behavior.  I’ll be starting at a school known for engineering this fall.  Will it be easy?  Hell, no.  I might have to put a lot more time into my courses than people who understand math more intuitively.  I might have to get extra help.  But this is something I want to do and so I’ll do it.
    We put too much emphasis on “natural talent” in our society and education system.  It may help but it isn’t the determining factor.
     
    talkinghat:

     …I’ve only encountered one sexist member of staff (a woman who criticised the topics her female students chose to research while being very encouraging to the males).

    What topics could she possibly criticize?  The only thing I can think of is the stereotype that women aren’t interested in military history.  (Yeah, between engineering and Animal Behavior I took a detour through history.  Those history courses kept my GPA up and gave me a much-needed break.)

    Studying other people is vague and fluffy and emotional! Science and maths are reasonable and rational and objective – they’re subjects for men. It’s all crap, and it needs to go.

    This.  This.  This.  There’s nothing to it except, maybe, ego.
    Matthew Funke:

    I’ve heard my share of disparaging remarks about the sciences from those who prefer to pursue humanities — science saps all the joy and wonder out of life, and they’re too wrapped up in what is to think constructively about what might be.  It goes both ways.

    This. This. This.  I don’t regret any aspect of my undergrad education because I was exposed to all sorts of science (physics, biology, psychology) and the humanities.  Science and the humanities do approach the world differently but they aren’t at odds.  They complement each other.
    For me, it is sad to see the disdain a lot of science students seem to feel for the humanities because history and literature would show them how their fields impact human thought and serve as a reminder that knowledge, and the measures by which it is obtained and transmitted, is a product of its culture.  On the flip side, it is sad to see the fear a lot of humanities students seem to have for the sciences because understanding the basics of scientific thought and process can give them another way to frame information in their own fields.
    I think a large part of the problem is how the courses are taught.  Science courses for non-science majors are ultimately taught as science courses and humanities courses aren’t really taught with science majors in mind at all.  For this reason, the courses don’t really engage the students where their interests lie and so are viewed as something that must be completed to satisfy a general education requirement instead of something that demonstrates the interconnectedness between fields.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    This happened to me to some extent.  I wanted to be an engineer despite finding math difficult.  I struggled through it until I hit Differential Equations, which I flat-out failed.  It was the only subject that had ever beaten me and I took it as a sign that I wasn’t meant to be an engineer and so I switched majors.  After graduating, I decided that I was wrong. It didn’t matter whether or not I was naturally good at something so long as I was willing to put in the effort to learn it.  And I wanted to be an engineer, dammit.  Although I hadn’t had a college calculus course in over three years, I retook DE and did well.  I then applied to grad schools in engineering despite having a degree in Animal Behavior.  I’ll be starting at a school known for engineering this fall.  Will it be easy?  Hell, no.  I might have to put a lot more time into my courses than people who understand math more intuitively.  I might have to get extra help.  But this is something I want to do and so I’ll do it.We put too much emphasis on “natural talent” in our society and education system.  It may help but it isn’t the determining factor.

    I wanted to be an engineer as well, but I was never very good at math.  Of course, such a career requires a great deal of math, so that is what I took, even knowing that I had little natural talent for it.  When confronted with a math problem in class, my thought is “I can write a program that will recursively solve for this answer and demonstrate it correct, but I do not know how to solve the problem without building a number-crunching device.”  

    Of course, I got poor grades in those classes, but I was persistent.  I kept re-taking the classes, sometimes several times in a row, until I got them right.  I am not one to get discouraged easily.  Unfortunately, this also meant that I had a long trail of past poor grades which constantly dragged down my GPA.  This in turn was a contributing factor to why my attempts at transferring from a community college to a four-year university failed.  Who wants a student who gets bad grades?  Never mind that such a student does get good grades with enough time, effort, and determination.  

    Heh, I remember my physics teacher thinking of me as some kind of enigma, since I was one of the most attentive students in the class, and it was clear that I understood all the concepts and did all the work, but my test grades were consistent with that of a student who barely ever comes to class.  Unfortunately, while effort is necessary for academic success, it alone is not sufficient.  

    My career has been a slow start-and-stop ever since.  

  • P J Evans

    Scientists have found that there’s a learning disability for math; they call it dyscalculia:
    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/331850/title/Math_disability_tied_to_bad_number_sense___

  • P J Evans

    until I hit Differential Equations, which I flat-out failed.
    Been there, done that, still have the textbooks – I think for me it’s that I have a more visual way of thinking than the diffie-que books are set up in. (So I ended up in computer science – which still requires it.) FWIW, that’s as advanced as math usually gets for engineering. It’s the other stuff you have to learn that may be a problem.

    As ar as science students taking humanities classes – it was required that we take several (more of them than humanties students had to take in sciences, and they got ‘dumbed down’ versions, too). It was fun! (Medieval history, introduction to political thought, and a year of Latin.)

  • Anonymous

    Been there, done that, still have the textbooks – I think for me it’s
    that I have a more visual way of thinking than the diffie-que books are
    set up in. (So I ended up in computer science – which still requires
    it.) FWIW, that’s as advanced as math usually gets for engineering. It’s
    the other stuff you have to learn that may be a problem.

    I remember DiffEq.  It was the course in which I started drawing pictures of the Greek letter Sigma being killed in a variety of horrible ways.  Summation is not my friend.  (And this from a math professor!)

  • Anonymous

    They waited until Calc II to tell us the First Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.  I literally (literally, literally) almost wept when it was explained to us.  A year and a half of miserableness, summed up with the FFToC.

    This being said, I’m finding myself wanting to go back and re-take Calc.  I want to go back and try again now that I have a better idea of what Calculus and Differential Equations are.  Maybe it’s a weird sort of mid-life crisis.

  • Anonymous

    I ended up taking Calc twice because I took college courses while I was a senior in high school but my real college’s engineering program didn’t accept outside calc transfers.  I’m actually quite glad that I took it a second time because it really made a difference.  I technically passed the first time, but a C-level understanding makes all the courses that build on it much more difficult.

    Differential Equations were probably the hardest two courses I ever took.  I remember walking to the final exam feeling like I was gonna puke, and wondering what my life would be like if I just dropped out of college, married the first guy who came along, and became a housewife.  But I ended up actually getting an A in DiffEq 2 and I literally did a double take when I saw the grade.  I thought it was a typo.  But in the following two years, I realized how much easier it makes everything else.  All the other engineering courses built on that stuff, and it would have been really difficult to excel in any of those classes with only a C-level understanding of DiffEq.

  • Matthew Funke

    VMink: It’s more likely than you think.

    Aw, nuts.  I forgot that, and that “computer” used to be a job (which tended to be female and viewed menially).  So much for my visions of a steampunk utopia with women being revered difference engineers.  :)

    hidden_urchin: Science and the humanities do approach the world differently but they aren’t at odds.  They complement each other.

    Sure, I can agree with that.  I wish I could remember who said it, and I’m probably going to get it wrong, but I agree with the idea: “Knowledge is one.  Our division of it into categories is a concession to the limitations of human understanding.”

    Science may be brilliant at finding and validating information, but it doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what we ought to do with it.  Humanities give that information context.  Science is knowledge; humanities are wisdom.  Neither can exist without the other in trying to form a comprehensive understanding.

    Oh, and congratulations on your tenacity.  That’s more inspiring than the stories about the people who fly through easily because they’ve always been told they have some inherent aptitude.  By a long shot.

  • Beatrix

    (BTW, I can’t access earlier comments below about a dozen of this; the whole middle range of comments seems beyond reach; so any personal abuse over the last day or so is sadly unavailable to me).

    Look, I know the left hates Walmart.  I go there occasionally because they can be quite cheap, and why wouldn’t I want cheap?  If there is proof that they discriminate against women employees systematicaly then that’s bad and I oppose it; but I want at least evidence.  The thing Lori posted indicated that Scalia determined that there were not grounds for a class-action suit in this case (I like Scalia.  Shocking, I know.)

    If your Aussie friend was really gobsmacked then if reasonably easy for you I’d ask for a decent article about this issue.  Just a basic run-down.  Otherwise I’m not sure I see the problem, as it stands; discrimination lawsuits can still be pursued.

  • Beatrix

    “Is there any way we can get many of these Tea Party voters diagnosed and institutionalized?”

    Ain’t you open-minded.  Genius, Barack the Magnificent has blown more on his worthless, steal-other-people’s-money-and-throw-it-out-the-window “stimulus package” than bears thinking about.  The U.S. is in hawk to China beyond what is thinkable.  The Dems. won’t stop spending, won’t stop borrowing, won’t lower taxes.  The Tea Party wants to curb the free money available for the continuance of this lost weekend bender, and they’re the bad guys?  They’re terrorists, as they’ve been called, in the NYT, by the Vice President, etc.?

    Lunacy.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    “Is there any way we can get many of these Tea Party voters diagnosed and institutionalized?”

    Ain’t you open-minded.  

    Hence why I added, and I quote, “And for the sake of reducing potential ambiguity, I want to assert that I was being facetious earlier when I said that they should be institutionalized.”

    Genius, Barack the Magnificent has blown more on his worthless, steal-other-people’s-money-and-throw-it-out-the-window “stimulus package” than bears thinking about.  The U.S. is in hawk to China beyond what is thinkable.  The Dems. won’t stop spending, won’t stop borrowing, won’t lower taxes.  The Tea Party wants to curb the free money available for the continuance of this lost weekend bender, and they’re the bad guys?  They’re terrorists, as they’ve been called, in the NYT, by the Vice President, etc.?Lunacy.

    What bothers me about the Tea Party is where the hell were they when Bush was cutting taxes on the wealthiest income-earners, deregulating markets, and beginning multiple expensive foreign wars that would last beyond his term?  Why were they not crying out then as our surplus was being burning through, putting the government in the unfortunate position of no longer having the needed money to help the economy push through a downturn?  Why is it now, of all times, when we need the money the most, that they are demanding the government not do its job?  

    At this point, I am prepared to call bullshit on this.  Either they are idiots, or they are criminally misinformed, and neither is mutually exclusive with the other.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    Bush the lesser increased the deficit by 8 “T as in TRILLION” dollars going to war with a country that didn’t attack us, giving no-bid contracts to his campaign donors, and cutting taxes during a war, and not a peep was heard from the Right.

    Obama spends 1.5 trillion in a effort to keep the country out of a depression and he’s a disaster.

    The Right only cares about deficits when they aren’t the ones controlling the checkbook.  “Deficits don’t matter” to quote Vice President Dick Cheney.  (“Fuck You, Senator” also Dick Cheney.)  They didn’t give a damn when Ronald Reagan made the deficit into trillions, they castigated Bush the Greater for trying to do something about it, they despised Clinton for successfully doing something about it, ignored it again when Bush the Lesser took office, and now Obama(D) is here it’s the most important thing in the world… NOT unemployment, NOT the ‘war on terror’, NOT Americans losing thier homes, but The Deficit.

    “The Dems. won’t stop spending, won’t stop borrowing, won’t lower taxes.”

    Pot, the kettle called.  Said you’re a asshole.  The Reps didn’t stop spending, didn’t stop borrowing, lowered taxes (during a war!)… and now the taxes are EVEN LOWER THAN THEY WERE UNDER BUSH and they’re still whining.  Cry me a river.  Here’s some California cheese to go with it.  Borrow and spend Republican hypocrits, complaining about Democrats.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Hope this works.  if not:  link.

    Provided for use in making budget trolls shut up look stupid.

  • Hawker40

    Thank you for providing linkage.
    “Reality has a liberal bias.”

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    The problem with that diagram is that while the Bush v. Obama comparison itself may be basically valid, a lot of what it says about the budget is not.

    It is true that the US budget was in surplus at the end of the Clinton term and that there were a number of quite preposterous forecasts around that projected those surpluses into long-term reductions or eliminations of the “national debt”.

    But it is clear that those projections were never more than pipedreams. Warren Mosler put it this way in Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds:

    Early in 2000, in a private home in Boca Raton, FL, I was seated next to then-Presidential Candidate Al Gore at a fundraiser/dinner to discuss the economy. The first thing he asked was how I thought the next president should spend the coming $5.6 trillion surplus that was forecasted for the next 10 years. I explained that there wasn’t going to be a $5.6 trillion surplus, because that would mean a $5.6 trillion drop in non-government savings of financial assets, which was a ridiculous proposition. At the time, the private sector didn’t even have that much in savings to be taxed away by the government, and the latest surplus of several hundred billion dollars had already removed more than enough private savings to turn the Clinton boom into the soon-to-come bust.

    I pointed out to Candidate Gore that the last six periods of surplus in our more than two hundred-year history had been followed by the only six depressions in our history. Also, I mentioned that the coming bust would be due to allowing the budget to go into surplus and drain our savings, resulting in a recession that would not end until the deficit got high enough to add back our lost income and savings and deliver the aggregate demand needed to restore output and employment. I suggested that the $5.6 trillion surplus which was forecasted for the next decade would more likely be a $5.6 trillion deficit, as normal savings desires are likely to average 5% of GDP over that period of time.

    […]

    Anyway, Al was a good student, went over all the details, agreeing that it made sense and was indeed what might happen. However, he said he couldn’t “go there.” I told him that I understood the political realities, as he got up and gave his talk about how he was going to spend the coming surpluses.

    The quote at the bottom of that chart is especially egregious. The government isn’t a household or a business; the government is required to spend more than it receives in revenue when economic conditions demand it, which is the case essentially all the time in a country which has an external trade deficit. The Clinton surpluses could only occur in conjunction with a private sector deficit (excess of investment spending over savings, implying increased private borrowing) large enough to outweigh the external deficit. That made them a necessarily transient phenomenon, and to pretend that any possible government policy could have preserved them (short of major interventions to reduce imports) is fundamentally dishonest. Comparing government deficit spending to a “credit card” is even more egregious; government spending simply does not work that way.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The quote at the bottom of that chart is especially egregious. The government isn’t a household or a business; the government is required to spend more than it receives in revenue when economic conditions demand it, which is the case essentially all the time in a country which has an external trade deficit. The Clinton surpluses could only occur in conjunction with a private sector deficit (excess of investment spending over savings, implying increased private borrowing) large enough to outweigh the external deficit. That made them a necessarily transient phenomenon, and to pretend that any possible government policy could have preserved them (short of major interventions to reduce imports) is fundamentally dishonest. Comparing government deficit spending to a “credit card” is even more egregious; government spending simply does not work that way.

    As I understand it, a slightly more accurate analogy would be to compare a national debt to the stock of a publicly traded company.  Having debt means that other countries provide the indebted country money and are invested in their success.  The caveat is that the indebted country is expected to be successful for the investors to see a return for their value.  A company that keeps selling shares without actually producing anything will eventually be turned on by the people who invested in it, and a country which is indebted will have similar results if it does not use those funds to have a productive economy.

    To this extent, a certain amount of national debt is healthy, it just has to be balanced against the nation’s economic production.  

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    None of that is correct.

    Other countries can’t “provide” money to a sovereign-currency country*. Taking, say, China and the US as examples, what happens is that China has some dollars, which it has received in exchange for goods exported to the US; if it chooses to buy US government bonds with those dollars, all that happens is that the dollars are transferred from one account at the Fed (the reserve account of the bank in which they were held) to another account (interest-bearing) at the Fed; and when the bonds mature, the dollars are transferred back.

    (The fact that the US government links its ability to spend to the value of the bonds it issues is an irrelevance with no operational or economic logic behind it.)

    It should be obvious that China can’t provide dollars to the US because China only has the dollars it received from the US in the first place.

    What does happen is that China provides real wealth to the US in the form of the goods it exports; it even (for its own internal political purposes) overvalues the USD in the process effectively increasing amount transferred. Why it does this isn’t clear, but it may be in order to maintain employment and high industrial output without letting too much real wealth accumulate locally.

    The only thing that China can do with its stock of dollars is either to continue to keep it in banks or US bonds, or use it to buy goods (whether real goods or other currencies) that someone is offering for sale at a dollar price. If it trades dollars for other currencies, then the effect on the US is nil; all that happens is that the dollars previously held by China are now held by someone else. If it wants to buy goods from the US with the dollars, then they go back into the US economy; with the effect of either expanding US output in order to supply them, or increasing the prices of those goods (effectively causing some inflation if the amounts are high enough), or both.

    * – Countries that make their currencies convertible to a commodity (e.g. a gold standard) or another currency (e.g. by pegging their exchange rate to the dollar) are excluded from this, as are countries that don’t issue their own currency at all (e.g. Eurozone), and countries that borrow money in someone else’s currency (e.g. many third-world countries under the malignant influence of the IMF). All of those cases make the country dependent on others and open up the possibility of sovereign default; it invariably ends badly.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    If that is all true, then why the hell are people making a stink about it?  Why not have that explained, in detail, to every voter, so everyone gets it?  

    I am not trying to sound confrontational, I just wonder why that would not work.  

  • Lori

     If that is all true, then why the hell are people making a stink about it?  Why not have that explained, in detail, to every voter, so everyone gets it?   

    I assume that you’ve been reading the troll’s posts like everyone else*. Multiply that by 10s of millions of people. Now ask yourself again why truthfully explaining the situation doesn’t solve the problem. 

    Or to quote Jacob Weisberg, “At the level of political culture, we have learned some other sobering
    lessons: that compromise is dead and that there’s no point trying to
    explain complicated matters to the American people.”

    http://www.slate.com/id/2300840/

    *If not you either have admirable self-control or you’re hording a killfile that works with disqus. If it’s the later, you need to share. Right now. Please.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I assume that you’ve been reading the troll’s posts like everyone else*.

    *If not you either have admirable self-control or you’re hording a killfile that works with disqus. If it’s the latter, you need to share. Right now. Please.

    Since I (unfortunately) do not have the later, then I can only assume my state to be the former, since no, I have not been following those links.  

    With all due respect to Beatrix, I often skim her posts, and do not follow the links.  The pattern that I have observed around her posts tend toward rapid-fire back and forth short comments, which taken individually are hard to follow.  Skimming to the end of the thread usually lets me get the gist of it.  

    If I had to follow every Slacktivist comment in full detail, I would spend too many hours on the site.  Hence, I need to prioritize as to what posts to spend my time studying in detail and formulating replies to.  

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    If that is all true, then why the hell are people making a stink about it?  Why not have that explained, in detail, to every voter, so everyone gets it?  

    Because most people would just hear “blah blah blah nation debt blah blah welfare/military blah blah blah” and not understand it, or _care_.

  • Lori

     Because most people would just hear “blah blah blah nation debt blah blah welfare/military blah blah blah” and not understand it, or _care_.  

    blah blah blah there’s a Democrat in the White House blah blah blah And OMG he’s Black blah blah blah. 

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    My experience of trying to explain it is that many people are simply not prepared to listen.

    Either they have an ingrained “debt = bad” reaction which they project from personal debt onto government debt, which is strongly encouraged by politicians who have an agenda involving cutting spending; any time you see the national debt computed as a per-capita number, or a reference to the “government’s credit card”, or any implication that the debt is a burden on future generations, you’re seeing this agenda in play.

    Or they don’t believe that the people who are supposed to be running the system (not necessarily just ordinary politicians but central bankers, finance ministers, government economists, etc.) can all be wrong about how the system works.

    Then there’s the (often irrational) fear of inflation and the concept of “printing money”; a suggestion that government’s don’t actually have to borrow to finance spending is frequently met with an immediate comparison to Zimbabwe or Weimar Germany. (Excess government spending can be inflationary, whether or not the government is borrowing an amount equal to the deficit, but only when the economy is already at or near full capacity.)

    Politicians and many economists are working in an environment where they will be vilified if they even hint that the deficit isn’t under government control or that maybe the government should tackle unemployment by employing people rather than performing monetary rain-dances. Many schools of macroeconomics are completely dominated by ideology rather than actually testing the results of their theories against the real world (this isn’t helped by the fact that you can’t easily do worthwhile experiments on real economies).

    I’ve already posted the link to Mosler’s Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds. Here is another link worth checking out: http://www.netrootsmass.net/fiscal-sustainability-teach-in-and-counter-conference/

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    What bothers me about the Tea Party is where the hell were they when Bush was cutting taxes on the wealthiest income-earners, deregulating markets, and beginning multiple expensive foreign wars that would last beyond his term?

    They were having a Republican President, that’s where they were.

  • Beatrix

    Dood, we’re tanking.  As a Canadian I guess I should say “your’re tanking”, but if the U.S. goes under we will too.

    Most conservatives I know like Dubya on a prsonal basis and think he was a fine war President; they also have a bunch of problems with many of his policies, and they certainly think he spent too much.

    “We need money the most”?  No.  There is no need for government money to help the economy.  FDR and his shitty Great Society almost certainly expanded the Great Depression by several years.  The federal government exists to maintain the damn military, and the roads and that’s about it.

    “Solving anything”?  Stop spending!.  That’s it.  And it is a big fight, which is why the Tea Partiers have almost no use for the GOP at all.  You wanna “call bullshit”?  Okay: This can’t work.  These borrowing rates can’t work and this level of civil service employment can’t work.  It needs to stop, and more radically than the GOP in Washington will ever do.

  • Beatrix

    Dood, we’re tanking.  As a Canadian I guess I should say “your’re tanking”, but if the U.S. goes under we will too.

    Most conservatives I know like Dubya on a prsonal basis and think he was a fine war President; they also have a bunch of problems with many of his policies, and they certainly think he spent too much.

    “We need money the most”?  No.  There is no need for government money to help the economy.  FDR and his shitty Great Society almost certainly expanded the Great Depression by several years.  The federal government exists to maintain the damn military, and the roads and that’s about it.

    “Solving anything”?  Stop spending!.  That’s it.  And it is a big fight, which is why the Tea Partiers have almost no use for the GOP at all.  You wanna “call bullshit”?  Okay: This can’t work.  These borrowing rates can’t work and this level of civil service employment can’t work.  It needs to stop, and more radically than the GOP in Washington will ever do.

  • FangsFirst

    and this level of civil service employment can’t work.

    Hooray! We eliminated more jobs!
    Wait…why did unemployment just go up?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Most conservatives I know like Dubya on a prsonal basis and think he was a fine war President; 

    Then they’re woefully uninformed and/or idiots.  COMPETENT War Presidents have a plan beyond “win, and be hailed as liberators”.  Bush Didn’t.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    “Solving anything”?  Stop spending!.  That’s it.  And it is a big fight, which is why the Tea Partiers have almost no use for the GOP at all.  You wanna “call bullshit”?  Okay: This can’t work.  These borrowing rates can’t work and this level of civil service employment can’t work.  It needs to stop, and more radically than the GOP in Washington will ever do.

    You are assuming that some kinds of spending can be stopped, but the fact is that the government is committed to certain spending obligations, and they cannot be altered.  For example, the military will always have as much funding as it needs (though not necessarily what it wants) during a war situation.  As you pointed out, maintaining the military for the global security of the nation is one of the primary responsibilities of the federal government.  The only substantial way to reduce the spending the military requires is to reduce the conflicts that the military is involved in.  Unfortunately, the nature of war makes that very difficult.  We have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, the former of which I only supported grudgingly, the later of which I did not support, not because I did not believe that the world was better off without those regimes (both the Taliban and Hussain were threats to other local powers and our own national interests in those regions) but because once we were committed to those conflicts, we could not easily extricate our military involvement without leaving a potentially worse situation than the one we came in to help fix.  

    The country finds itself in such a situation right now.  Military spending is one of the biggest contributors to deficit expansion, and recalling our deployed forces would allow us to stand down many of our biggest military expenses, greatly easing the budget.  However, if we do so too hastily and too incautiously, we risk leaving a power vacuum into which something worse will find purchase. One of the lessons that World War II taught nations is that you cannot bomb a nation, then pull out without helping them rebuild and stabilize without causing a reactionary resurgence against the victors.   

    This was not an expense that Obama is responsible for creating.  The commitment was there when he came into office, and he is having as hard a time resolving it as can be expected.  

    And that is just one example of the expenses that the government is committed to making.  I could go on if I had to.  If you want some kind of turn-around on government expenditures, you have to address future commitments.  Trying to cut current ones is impossible.  Neither the president, nor the legislature, have that kind of power to cut.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    Most conservatives I know like Dubya on a prsonal basis and think he was a fine war President

    Most “conservatives you know” love them some traitors.  Bush helped al Quida kill 4000 people, then murdered 4000 more in a needless (and extremely poorly-planned –see “un-armored HumVees”) war.  And they love St Ronnie who at best turned a blind eye to thugs treating with our worst enemy at the time (there’s fairly good evidence he endangered the hostages by making sure they didn’t get released until after the election) in order to provide arms for a group he was expressly forbidden to help.

    A “bunch of problems with his policies”?  I think he did a “heckovajob”!  (As well as his horse-trainer boyfriend.)

    In short, it figures that you would like a murdering bully.  FOADIAF.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Bush helped al Quida kill 4000 people, then murdered 4000 more in a needless (and extremely poorly-planned –see “un-armored HumVees”) war.

    Jeff, I agree with the point of your post but the way you wrote this bit implied that Iraqis aren’t considered as people. Kind of what got them killed so thoughtlessly in the first place.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    think he was a fine war President

    Certainly did a fine job creating wars. Yup.

    Christ said “blessed are the belligerent”, right?

  • Beatrix

    Well, I’ve never been on board with the people who said “we should have nuked Afghanistan into a crator twelve hours after the planes hit the towers” – but – you know – they ain’t gonna get civillized any millenium soon…

    And you Fuck Off And Die In A Fire, dear!  What I love about the left is the compassion.

  • Beatrix

    They need to stop spending like crazy.  Y’all ain’t gettin’ it.  The tea party members ain’t getting it.  There will be no money for Medicaid.  Forget welfare queens – who are a huge problem, BTW, but never mind… your pension is toast.  Your Academic plans are toast.  This is going to get very nasty very soon.

    Obama certainly created some of it – the Stimulus Package?  Good God – but forget that narcissistic affirmative action maggot. You’ll wind up like Greece any minute now and you’ll take the rest of us down too.

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    All nonsense.

    Firstly, the US government cannot run out of money. It is physically impossible for it to do so.

    Secondly, the US cannot end up like Greece, because the US issues its own currency and Greece does not. This makes any comparison between them nonsense.

    Thirdly, the US government does not have the option of balancing its budget under present or likely future conditions. It can no more do this than it can legislate pi to be equal to 3. This is true REGARDLESS of which party is in power or what their ideology is.

    The only way for the US government spending to not be in deficit is for the US to suddenly stop importing and start exporting (which isn’t going to happen), or for the US private sector to suddenly stop saving and start borrowing like crazy. Neither of these factors are under the US government’s control.

    If the government were insane enough to try and balance its budget anyway by either large tax increases or large spending cuts, the effect would be roughly equivalent to shooting the economy in the head and chopping both legs off the shuffling zombie corpse; imports would drop because nobody had any money to spend, and private savings would drop because nobody had any money to save. One-off cuts or tax increases wouldn’t do the job; either one would worsen the deficit by reducing tax revenue due to shrinking the economy.

  • Lori

    Give it up Andrew. There is no point interacting with this person because said person is:

    A. A troll

    B. Deeply clueless about statistics and economics. (That link she just posted would be funny it it wasn’t so sad. We are in a lot of trouble and the fact that people believe that mess is a big part of the reason.)

    C. Sometimes able to identify a problem, but very poor at comprehending either the source of the problem or possible workable solutions. 

  • Anonymous

    If the government were insane enough to try and balance its budget
    anyway by either large tax increases or large spending cuts, the effect
    would be roughly equivalent to shooting the economy in the head and
    chopping both legs off the shuffling zombie corpse; imports would drop
    because nobody had any money to spend, and private savings would drop
    because nobody had any money to save. One-off cuts or tax increases
    wouldn’t do the job; either one would worsen the deficit by reducing tax
    revenue due to shrinking the economy.

    Except that the wealthiest Americans are literally earning money faster than any human being can spend it.  Surely we should help them lighten their wallets of some of the cash that they cannot even think of anything to spend on?  Or does the fact that Egypt, of all places, is more equal than the United States in terms of income distribution somehow not bother you?

    Corporations earn more than small countries, and they don’t pay a DIME in taxes.  Close the corporate tax loopholes, and you’ll go a long way towards fixing the debt crisis.

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

     Except that the wealthiest Americans are literally earning money faster
    than any human being can spend it.  Surely we should help them lighten
    their wallets of some of the cash that they cannot even think of
    anything to spend on?  Or does the fact that Egypt, of all places, is more equal than the United States in terms of income distribution somehow not bother you?

    As it happens I’m not in the US, but the same issues do apply where I live.

    Income and wealth distribution inequality do bother me, and I’m entirely in favour of raising taxes on the rich and closing tax loopholes. However, in the current US economic situation, any such increases have to be matched either by decreases in taxation elsewhere or by spending increases, since the goal should be to increase the deficit rather than to decrease it.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Income and wealth distribution inequality do bother me, and I’m entirely in favour of raising taxes on the rich and closing tax loopholes. However, in the current US economic situation, any such increases have to be matched either by decreases in taxation elsewhere or by spending increases, since the goal should be to increase the deficit rather than to decrease it.

    Wait, what?

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

     

    [re. my “goal should be to increase the deficit”]

    Wait, what?

    Go read:

    Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds

    Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In and Counter Conference (especially sessions 2 and 3)

    There is no federal public debt problem in the US (and many other good articles at that blog)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Income and wealth distribution inequality do bother me, and I’m entirely in favour of raising taxes on the rich and closing tax loopholes. However, in the current US economic situation, any such increases have to be matched either by decreases in taxation elsewhere or by spending increases, since the goal should be to increase the deficit rather than to decrease it.

    I thought that is what did happen earlier, with easing taxation on the lower tax brackets early in the Obama administration, on the assumption that the Bush tax cuts for the highest earners were about to expire. 

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

     Except that the wealthiest Americans are literally earning money faster
    than any human being can spend it.  Surely we should help them lighten
    their wallets of some of the cash that they cannot even think of
    anything to spend on?  Or does the fact that Egypt, of all places, is more equal than the United States in terms of income distribution somehow not bother you?

    As it happens I’m not in the US, but the same issues do apply where I live.

    Income and wealth distribution inequality do bother me, and I’m entirely in favour of raising taxes on the rich and closing tax loopholes. However, in the current US economic situation, any such increases have to be matched either by decreases in taxation elsewhere or by spending increases, since the goal should be to increase the deficit rather than to decrease it.

  • Anonymous

    And what about the corporate bailouts, which were over 1000 times as much as the stimulus package?  That happened in November 2008.  What’s that you say?  Obama was already elected then?  True, but he didn’t take office until the official inauguration ceremony in January 2009.  The corporate bailouts were all W.

  • Anonymous

    And what about the corporate bailouts, which were over 1000 times as much as the stimulus package?  That happened in November 2008.  What’s that you say?  Obama was already elected then?  True, but he didn’t take office until the official inauguration ceremony in January 2009.  The corporate bailouts were all W.

  • Beatrix

    I’m sorry.  If Greece had “issue(d) its own currency” it would be okay?

    Your currency is either worthwhile or it isn’t.  At this point, I’ve heard arguments that it would be good if the dollar devalued to near to nothing because at least your debt would be near worthless too.

    Good times.

  • Beatrix

    Hey!  If you have as much sense as a hedgehog, read this:  http://minx.cc/?post=319647

    Maybe even listen to the easy-listening links, with pictures, which are right there!

    I don’t even know that you can sort things out at this point.

  • Beatrix

    Lori, why is the link stupid?  I know you can call names, and good for you.  But explain why the link is stupis or admit that you:

    A.Haven’t even checked out the link or

    B.Can’t be bothered trying to understand the link or

    C.Aren’t intelligent enough to make sense of the information offered up at the link.

  • Lori

     Lori, why is the link stupid?  I know you can call names, and good for you.  But explain why the link is stupis or admit that you:

    A.Haven’t even checked out the link or

    B.Can’t be bothered trying to understand the link or

    C.Aren’t intelligent enough to make sense of the information offered up at the link. 

    D. Are not wasting any more of my time on you. 

  • P J Evans

    try and balance its budget anyway by either large tax increases or large spending cuts,

    I’d settle for smaller tax increases, to get them back towards where they used to be on the top brackets. Who surely can afford to pay more, since their incomes have gone up much faster than everyone else’s.

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

     I’d settle for smaller tax increases, to get them back towards where they used to be on the top brackets. Who surely can afford to pay more, since their incomes have gone up much faster than everyone else’s.

    With the current state of the US economy, it’s reasonable to want to tax rich people more and/or close down loopholes used by the rich to avoid taxes, as a way of reducing wealth distribution inequality and increasing fairness; but it’s not appropriate to do it as a way of trying to reduce the budget deficit. You’d have to offset them either by reduced taxation elsewhere or increased spending.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    With the current state of the US economy, it’s reasonable to want to tax rich people more and/or close down loopholes used by the rich to avoid taxes, as a way of reducing wealth distribution inequality and increasing fairness; but it’s not appropriate to do it as a way of trying to reduce the budget deficit. You’d have to offset them either by reduced taxation elsewhere or increased spending.

    I am still in favor of laws mandating that pay disparity within companies must be linked to ratios between how much the highest paid get and how much the lowest paid get.  If CEOs want to make more money, they are going to have to start paying their employees more.  

    At least I think that would help push the economy.  

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I am still in favor of laws mandating that pay disparity within companies must be linked to ratios between how much the highest paid get and how much the lowest paid get.  If CEOs want to make more money, they are going to have to start paying their employees more. 

    Here’s an interesting idea along those lines.

    ” I think we should tie the top income tax rate to the unemployment rate. Say, a baseline tax rate of twenty-five percent, with a baseline unemployment rate of five percent. Every percentage point below that, the top tax rate decreases by thirteen percent (down to a minimum of one percent, a purely token rate.) And of course, every percentage point the unemployment rate goes up above five, the top tax rate increases by thirteen percent (up to a maximum of ninety-nine percent; after all, nobody should be denied the right to make a living.)”

    I like it.  It’ll never happen in a million years, but I like it.

  • Anonymous

    I am still in favor of laws mandating that pay disparity within
    companies must be linked to ratios between how much the highest paid get
    and how much the lowest paid get.  If CEOs want to make more money,
    they are going to have to start paying their employees more. 

    The one country I know of that already does this is Japan.  It seems to work out pretty well for them–sure, nobody’s insanely wealthy, but almost everyone is able to live comfortably.

    The fact that Sweden’s treating the US the way we treat Mexico (IKEA has located plants here because we are not legally required to pay workers $15/hr or give them any vacation time) should be a wake-up call.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVT7C7S6IP2OC44PFUZGAJ4OBM JohnK

    I think the fact that companies are actually building plants and hiring people here will probably be cited as a reason why we shouldn’t make any changes. Sure, you could probably do better in the long-run, but politicians aren’t rewarded for the success of their policies decades after they leave office. If you’re a local legislator, having some jobs in your district now is more attractive than having more jobs in your district years later.

  • Anonymous

    I am still in favor of laws mandating that pay disparity within
    companies must be linked to ratios between how much the highest paid get
    and how much the lowest paid get.  If CEOs want to make more money,
    they are going to have to start paying their employees more. 

    The one country I know of that already does this is Japan.  It seems to work out pretty well for them–sure, nobody’s insanely wealthy, but almost everyone is able to live comfortably.

    The fact that Sweden’s treating the US the way we treat Mexico (IKEA has located plants here because we are not legally required to pay workers $15/hr or give them any vacation time) should be a wake-up call.

  • Beatrix

    Ooooh, Lori, you’re so smart and mean and tough!  (I’m sorry, there’s something about you that entertains me.)

  • Lori

      (I’m sorry, there’s something about you that entertains me.) 

    I’m sorry for that as well. I’m also sorry that I can’t say the same about you. Ah well, life is sometimes disappointing. 

  • Beatrix

    Impressive.

  • Beatrix

    Yes, Lori.  You’re not entering the worst existential and financial crisis in over a century.  You’re just up against a bunch of hillbillies who hate a President with a tan. 

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    “Worst existential crisis”?  You mean compared to getting into a war with two sets of genocidal megalmaniacs and Italy or being in a planet-spanning nuclear standoff with the Godless Communist Evil Empire?  

    Smoke a bowl of Perspective and simmer down.

  • Lori

     Yes, Lori.  You’re not entering the worst existential and financial crisis in over a century.  You’re just up against a bunch of hillbillies who hate a President with a tan.  

    You know how you keep complaining when I call you ignorant? The fact that this is what you’ve gotten out of the last few threads about the budget crisis is a perfect example of why I say that. Your reading comprehension skills are not up to the task of participating effectively in written communication.  IOW, you are a total waste of time here.  

  • Beatrix

    Total global catastrophe will be awful for everyone, but I will have this to comfort myself:  Lori was wong! Hahahahahahaha

    But then I’ll remember that Lori’s a lefty, and no lefty has ever admitted to being wrong about anything.  Herded into a burqa or starving in a ditch, Lori will go down blaming Bush.  Or The Patriarchy.  Or Capitalism.  Or Sexism.  Or Racism.  Or Something.

    Fiddle-dee-fucking-dee.

  • Beatrix

    Yes, dear.

  • hagsrus

    Beatrix has adopted “yes, dear”…

  • Lori

     and no lefty has ever admitted to being wrong about anything  

    Thus speaks the person who said that the shooting in Norway was obviously the work of violent Muslims, then when the shooter was found to be a Norwegian who self-identifies as Christian (of a sort) reiterated the belief that there must be some Islamist connection, never took that back and has since repeatedly claimed to stand by every statement she’s made while posting here. 

    Pot. Kettle. Black.   

  • Anonymous

    *poke*

    There are threads far more worthy of your consideration and intellect– Beatrix is currently laughing zir head off on the other side of the ‘net, because zie’s winning by keeping us from having any sort of decent, positive conversation. Zie isn’t worth it.

    (Yes, easy for me to say, I’m going to bed. But still– be strong! Totally not worth it, even just the time it takes to say “Done talking to you,” because that gives zie a foothold.)

  • hagsrus

    Sorry to be dim, but why?

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    Why? Because the budget deficit is already too small (as evidenced by the high unemployment and idle industrial capacity), trying to reduce it further is unreasonable.

    Of course the entire political class in the US is populated pretty much exclusively with unreasonable people…

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Because TAXES R BAD.

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    Taxes serve specific purposes: they maintain the value of money, they free up real resources in the private sector for the public sector to use, they serve to control income inequality, they can reduce consumption of undesirable goods, and so on.

    They are necessary in that a government that doesn’t collect any taxes (or is prevented from collecting them sufficiently widely) will not be able to stabilize the value of its currency. But for a given budget deficit (as required by the condition of the economy as a whole), whether to tax more and spend more, or tax less and spend less, is primarily a political decision rather than an economic one as such.

  • Anonymous

    Taxes serve specific purposes: they maintain the value of money, they
    free up real resources in the private sector for the public sector to
    use, they serve to control income inequality, they can reduce
    consumption of undesirable goods, and so on.

    They are necessary
    in that a government that doesn’t collect any taxes (or is prevented
    from collecting them sufficiently widely) will not be able to stabilize
    the value of its currency. But for a given budget deficit (as required
    by the condition of the economy as a whole), whether to tax more and
    spend more, or tax less and spend less, is primarily a political
    decision rather than an economic one as such

    Except that government employees’ pay comes ENTIRELY out of taxes.  Also, tax money is how the government is able to:  maintain infrastructure (not that they actually FULFILL this obligation, lately); run post offices, schools, and libraries; pay out Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; run the IRS, which collects and distributes said taxes; run the various health and safety organizations (the FDA, the FAA, the TSO, OSHA, and the USDA, to name just a few) that ensure that every product we use is safe and that our workplaces do not literally kill us.  So what should we cut spending on?  I don’t see anything on that list that we can afford to cut.  The military, MAYBE.  Those things I listed above, however, are necessities to keep America from looking more like Guatemala or Ethiopia.

    We need to tax more, regardless of what we do spending-wise.  Our country literally cannot afford to pay ANY of its expenses.  As much as politicians like to talk about “budgeting” and “making sacrifices,” they tend to ignore that our country cannot survive on the current tax revenues, any more than an American can live on $1000/year.

    How about having some of those major corporations make a sacrifice too every now and then?  Why are they exempt from paying taxes, when Wal-Mart makes more money than the GDP of China?

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    Except that government employees’ pay comes ENTIRELY out of taxes.

    No, it doesn’t. A sovereign-currency government isn’t funded by taxes; that is an illusion that goes back to gold-standard economics. The government neither has, nor doesn’t have, any money; it spends it into existence, and destroys it by taxation.

    Also, tax money is how the government is able to: [long list deleted]

    In an economy running at or close to full capacity, taxation is what allows the government to do those things without driving up prices for the goods and labour that the government requires in order to do them (i.e. inflation).

    In an economy running well below capacity, as the US is now, there is no reason why the government cannot simply spend what it needs to spend in order to fulfill its functions.

    So what should we cut spending on?

    Nothing. Quite the reverse in fact: the government should increase spending, especially in areas such as education, poverty reduction, scientific research, infrastructure repair and maintenance (and improvement), healthcare, regulation of the financial sector, and so on.

    We need to tax more, regardless
    of what we do spending-wise.  Our country literally cannot afford to pay
    ANY of its expenses.

    This is exactly the attitude that I’ve been trying to counter since entering this thread.

    A country like the US literally cannot not be able to afford to pay its expenses. There is no operational mechanism by which the country can be prevented from paying any bill presented to it. (It can refuse to pay, as a result of having imposed arbitrary restrictions on itself, but it cannot be unable to pay.)

    The only question is what the effect of paying may be on the value of money and the state of the economy. If the government runs too large a deficit it will cause inflation. If it runs too small a deficit then it will cause unemployment and under-utilization of productive capacity. Guess which one of those is currently the case in the US?

  • Beatrix

    Should you read this dead thread – I immediately, and on blogs I like respect than this, said I was wrong.  I was wrong.  (He was no Christian, though.  “Of a sort?”  Lori, no.  Christianity is a religion.  The Muslim terrorists do it in the name of their religion, inspired by the teaching of their religion, financed by powerful forces within their religion – Norway-guy was an agnostic, as I am.)

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The slacktivixen finds the whole idea of Christian Service Brigade hilarious.
    She’s not the only one.

    “Just like the Boy Scouts, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

    (The most recent example of “Just like fill-in-the-blank, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!” I have encountered was a 2008 Jesus Junk knockoff called “Praise Ponies” — yes, you guessed it: “Just Like My Little Pony, Except CHRISTIAN(TM!)”  I’m going to be polling the local Brony Meet next weekend, as Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Princesses Celestia & Luna are currently unavailable for comment.)