Smart people saying smart things

Mark Thoma: “The Purpose of Macroeconomic Policy?

There clearly is a class of people willing to sacrifice the livelihood and well-being of others in pursuit of their ideological goal of a smaller government (so long as their own future remains secure). The notion of “expansionary austerity” was the cover, but so long as government shrinks as a result of the policy, the expansionary part is secondary. If reducing the size of government slows the recovery, that’s a small price to pay for such a worthy goal — for them anyway, the power behind this is in no danger of becoming unemployed. The main thing is to impose the small-government ideology whenever there is a chance, and to use whatever argument is needed to serve that purpose, austerity is expansionary, tax cuts pay for themselves — whatever works — the ideologues will even embrace Keynesian economics if it allows them to argue for tax cuts that might further “starve the beast” (e.g., see Bush’s argument for the first round of his tax cuts). But in the end the goal is a simple one, reduce the size and influence of government, and everything else is just a means of getting there.

Dave Johnson: “Democracy v. Plutocracy, Unions v. Servitude

Unions are about building up the power of groups of people, to confront and overcome the advantages of wealth and the power wealth brings to a few. When a union is strong enough to be able to confront the power of big corporations the result is that the 99% get a share of the pie. When unions are strong we all get better wages and better working conditions and a say in how we are treated, whether we are in unions or not. The benefits flow to the rest of the economy.

It would be nice if our system worked well enough that we didn’t need to organize unions on top of the structure of laws and regulations, but it is just the fact of life that the wealthy and powerful and their corporations have throughout our history been able to exert tremendous influence over legislative bodies, again and again. So to fight that working people organize and build these organized unions of people, and leverage that power of the group to demand wages and benefits and weekends and a share of the prosperity. The story of the power confrontation between unions of working people (99%) and the large corporations (1%) is the story of how we built a middle class that brought us the prosperity we enjoyed.

It is not just a coincidence that the weakening of the unions coincides with the decline of the middle class. It is not just a coincidence that the current rise of the plutocrats brings in a swarm of anti-union legislation. It is not just a coincidence that the times when our democracy is strongest we all do so much better.

Glennon Melton: “A Mountain I’m Willing to Die on (via Rachel Held Evans)

Yesterday I heard a radio report that students who are most likely to be bullied are gay kids, overweight kids, and Muslim kids.

Hmmmmm.

I would venture to guess that at this point in American history, gay adults, overweight adults, and Muslim adults feel the most bullied as well.

Children are not cruel. Children are mirrors. They want to be “grown-up.” So they act how grown-ups act when we think they’re not looking. They do not act how we tell them to act at school assemblies. They act how we really act. They believe what we believe. They say what we say. And we have taught them that gay people are not okay. That overweight people are not okay. That Muslim people are not okay. That they are not equal. That they are to be feared. And people hurt the things they fear. We know that. What they are doing in the schools, what we are doing in the media – it’s all the same. The only difference is that children bully in the hallways and the cafeterias while we bully from behind pulpits and legislative benches and one liners on sit-coms.

And people are sensitive. People are heart-breakingly sensitive. If enough people tell someone over and over that he is not okay, he will believe it. And one way or another, he will die.

David Dark, in The Sacredness of Questioning Everything

Pervert is a verb, and we do it all the time. To pervert is to degrade, to cut down to size — and we do it to people in our minds. We devalue them. We reduce them to the limitations of our appetites, of our sense of what might prove useful to us, of our sense of what strikes us as appropriate. … We often only file them away — these living and breathing human beings — into separate files of crazy-making issues-talk. When we think of a person primarily as a problem, a potential buyer, a VIP, a celebrity, or an undocumented worker, we’re reducing them to the tiny sphere of our stunted attention span. This is how perversion works. Perversion is a failure of the imagination, a failure to pay adequate attention.

While perversion appears to be the modus operandi of governments and the transnational corporations they serve — and the language both speak in their broadcasts — the reductionism implicit in perversion doesn’t ultimately work. It doesn’t do justice to the fullness of what we are. We, the people, are always more than our use value. Like the God in whose image people are made, people are irreducible. There’s always more to a person — more stories, more life, more complexities — than we know. The human person, when viewed properly, is unfathomable, incalculable, and dear. Perversion always says otherwise. Perversion is a way of managing, getting down to business, getting a handle on people as if they were things. A person reduced to a thing has been, in the mind of the perverter, dispensed with, taken care of, filed away. Perversion is pigeonholing.

Amanda Marcotte: “Why Evangelicals Don’t Care When Rich White Conservatives Defile Marriage

[Newt] Gingrich doesn’t live by the strict sexual rules laid out by conservatives, because those rules are meant for other people. Sex is a weapon being used against all those classes of Americans they don’t like: non-white people, gays, non-Christians, liberals, Democrats, people who have to work for a living, poor people, Democratic politicians. …

In the Republican worldview, sex is a luxury item to be reserved for the privileged, and everyone else who indulges deserves whatever horrible fate befalls them. In the world imagined by Gingrich and his fan base, rich people get to say they’re sorry and run for public office if they have sex out of wedlock; poor people should see their health decline because they have an STD but can’t afford to see a doctor to treat it. The wealthy can afford contraception and have all the sex they want, but if Republicans succeed in cutting off family planning subsidies, poor people will go without. If abortion is banned, wealthy women will be able to travel to get abortions or depend on discreet doctors, but the poor will simply be forced to have babies.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Word to all of this. That is all. *likes*

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Some of these posts, such as the one on macro-economic policy or the one on Newt Gingrich’s sexual past not catching up with him, remind me that I draw a distinction between envy and jealousy

    In my mind, envy is wanting something that someone else has.  I consider it a fairly morally neutral thing.  After all, if you do not get good healthcare, you are not hurting those who are well treated by wishing to have healthcare as good as they do.  However, I consider jealousy to be the desire that someone not have something.  The two sentiments can exist at the same time (such as when someone wants to take something away from another so that they can have it and the other cannot) but one does not necessarily imply the other. 

    The thing about these politics that really disgusts me is that it seems so motivated by jealousy.  It is not about wanting to have some particular thing or abstract concept.  It is about wanting other people to not have that thing, as if it somehow diminishes them for others to share their fortune. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    This week Miss Piggy also said a very smart thing: 
    www[dot]youtube[dot]com[slash] watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Y8YhED4IgQA

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I was thinking about the envy thing recently, and it occurred to me that there’s something unhealthily satisfying about taking something away from someone even when you and that someone else would be better off by both of you having the same thing.

    I know evo psych gets a lot of deserved bad press, but there must be some kind of human instinct still at work where in a world based on extremely sharp conditions of scarcity, taking something away from someone you thought shouldn’t have that thing did actually have a survival advantage.

    We’re now in conditions where ‘scarcity’ such as it is, is more of an economic-allocation-of-resources thing and less of a “If I don’t kill some meat I will be dead in a few days” thing. For all intents and purposes this means that if the wealthy nations of the world really had the political will, they could easily give everyone who lived within their borders a standard of living that allowed all to live in a basic standard of comfort approximating a single-car, energy-efficient, Western European household of modest means.

    Yet it seems politicians can still make amazing headway by framing their arguments in terms of a “they don’t deserve it! I will help take it away from them!” thing.

  • Matri

    Fox had publically criticized the film for supposedly pushing a ‘dangerous liberal agenda’ at kids.”

    Wow. I’m now interested in hearing what this “liberal agenda” is that the [sarcasm]positively brilliant[/sarcasm] minds at Fox discovered.

  • Brandi

    “One thing’s sure and nothing’s surer,
    The rich get rich and the poor get children,In the meantime,In between time, Ain’t we got fun?”

  • Brandi

    Sorry about the fucked-up formatting there.

  • rizzo

    The old guy I hang with says he’s voting for Newt.  I asked him how he could vote for someone who was a big family values guy while he was cheating on his sick wife and he says “I don’t care about what he did in the past, you can’t judge someone on what they did in the past.”  I asked him how you can judge someone other than by their past actions and he didn’t have an answer…which means “Newt is white and isn’t Obama, so that means anything he’s done wasn’t nearly as bad as being born black.” 

  • Baeraad

    Mark Thoma: Agreed. While I’m sure that there are plenty of people who are just brainwashed by propaganda into genuinely believing that the moment the government does anything, blight and ruin inevitably follows, anyone who has actually been paying attention knows by now that unfettered capitalism comes with plenty of blight and ruin of its own. But do they care? Indeed they do not, because the idea of safety and equality makes their genitals feel small, so bring on the blight and ruin as long as it happens to other people!

    Dave Johnson: Agreed. This is something that can’t be said enough times, in fact. So many people seem to think that while collective action was necessary in the past to wrest some rights and considerations from the capitalists, now that that’s done any call to collective action is just a hassle – a well-intentioned refusal to leave well enough alone at best, some kind of sinister scheme trying to use you as a patsy at worst. But the thing is, the moment we stopped working together was the moment the capitalists got to work at taking back everything we had won. Hyper-individualism is a luxury for the 1%. The rest of us can’t afford to stop cooperating, because on our own, we’re *screwed.*

    Glennon Melton: Agreed. This is true for all sorts of different areas, actually. Like I think Fred noted in some Left Behind post (specifically, he said that when people think they “come just short of” raising their voice, they usually actually do raise their voice), the way we feel influences the way we act far more than we think it does. It’s not enough to try to behave the way we should. We have to actually change our underlying attitude – we have to try to *think* and *feel* the way we should. We can’t hide nearly as much as we think we can.

    David Dark: Suppose I agree, though it’s all a bit too religious for me. But yeah, reducing people to a label never works especially well. At the very last you have to admit the huge variety of different people who can all be considered to fit that label.

    Amanda Marcotte: Reluctantly forced to agree despite hating Amanda “LOL people who listen to Celtic music are DORKS!” Marcotte with a fiery passion and considering her less a smart person saying smart things and more a stupid jerk who just happens, for her own stupidly jerky reasons, to hate many of the same things that smart people hate. But yes – the fact that conservatives are always so keen to police the “morality” (with extra-large and especially sarcastic scare quotes) of poor people while letting the rich bastards get away with anything is extremely telling. Poor people are ugly in the eyes of conservatives and need to be stomped down hard to make them as invisible as possible, but rich people are beautiful and must be propped up and protected so conservatives can keep living vicariously through them.

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    Hyper-individualism is a luxury for the 1%.

    Excellent point stated succinctly. A+++ would like again.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    the purpose of macroeconomic policy is to allow people to use math to work at think tanks and to give the elites they serve more power be they on the right or left.

    A country doesn’t NEED a macro economic policy (or a foriegn policy for that matter.)


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