Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 7, 2009

ASSUMPTIONS.... When I was a teenager, I had certain misconceptions about politics and government. I assumed, for example, that members of Congress, whether I agreed with their policies or not, were necessarily very bright. After all, these folks are educated and well read. They attend policy briefings, hear expert testimony at committee hearings, and have staffers who help keep them informed on everything from the economy to foreign policy to constitutional law. It's not like voters would just send some misguided schmuck to serve as their voice in one of the most prestigious legislative bodies on the planet.

Needless to say, I didn't fully appreciate, at the time, how this process works.

I thought about this when I saw Matt Yglesias' item from yesterday, reflecting on Rep Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) twittering about how much he's enjoying "Atlas Shrugged." Matt commented:

Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are. There is, yes, a condescending tendency to believe that no smart person could be on the right ideologically at all. That's dead wrong. There are plenty of bright people on the right. But the way their movement works, intelligence or understanding of politics and policy has no meaningful role in advancement. If anything, there's something of a negative correlation between knowing what you're talking about and being able to get ahead in right-wing politics.

So you get stuff like this. He's not cocooning by reading Milton Friedman, he's cocooning by reading Ayn Rand. It's nuts, but it's the way things work.

I'd go a little further. Most of the media and the public underestimate the scope of the foolishness, too.

If a member of Congress -- not just some back-bencher, but a senator or a member of the House leadership -- says something seemingly provocative, a lot of people are predisposed to take it seriously. After all, he/she is in a position of authority. He/she helps shape the policies of the federal government. His/her opinion must have some value; I'm seeing it on television.

The underlying assumption is the same one I had in high school.

We talked earlier, for example, about House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) responding to an economic collapse by calling for a spending freeze. News outlets reported this straight -- as if it were a serious recommendation from a credible public figure. Some Americans probably heard the news and thought there might be something to it. After all, Boehner's the House Minority Leader. GOP lawmakers got together and picked him as their #1 guy. If Republicans re-claimed the majority, Boehner would be the Speaker of the House, and two heartbeats from the presidency.

Respectable figures are reluctant to say, out loud, "My God, what this man is saying is blisteringly stupid." Indeed, leading Republican officials -- Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl, Mike Pence -- say all kinds of things that should be dismissed as transparent nonsense, but aren't. There must be something coherent about their ideas, the conventional thinking goes, by virtue of their offices. Their recommendations warrant responses -- and even deserve consideration at the negotiating table -- because they maintain positions of influence in government.

"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are." If only liberals weren't the only ones.

Steve Benen 12:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (57)

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This post reminds me of two things from organizational behavior studies.

The first is that, yes, people do tend to attribute positive traits to people in positions of power. This is why you can have an absolute doofus in an executive position saying completely stupid things, yet the people around him (or her) will try to interpret his/her utterances as thought they had wisdom.

Worse, this is why doofuses, once in an executive position, tend to stay in executive positions for life. Because some hiring fool assumes that if he has VP or CEO experience, he must be capable.

You can probably apply this lesson to about 3/4ths or more of the leaders of the current financial disaster.

The second lesson from organizational behavior is that "appeal to authority" is a standard propoganda device. Like all propoganda devices it is intended to short cut rational thinking and debate. In this particular example, however, the authority is not just that the person is an elected politician, but that the person is an elected RIGHT WING politician. Among the right wing, this makes whatever you say automatically the truth (unless you criticize Rush -- heh heh). This is why when one of them tells an outright easily provable like, like say the Disneyland-to-Bunny-Ranch thingy, others will repeat it verbatim without fact checking.

Posted by: Cool on March 7, 2009 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

It's not that they're stupid. It's that they're contrary.

If you look at the modern-right wing through the lens of being the evolutionary descendant of the "better dead then red" mindset, that they define themselves less by what they're for than what they're against, it makes a whole lot more sense.

That the contrary folks have been the dominant social group for 30 years or so, frankly is insane.

Posted by: Karmakin on March 7, 2009 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Do these right-winger rembember that Ayn Rand was an avid atheist? Too many wealth manipulators call themselves wealth producers.

Posted by: Dale on March 7, 2009 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'd agree that the correlation between electability and intelligence is weaker on the right but don't sell my fellow Democrats short on this one. Democrats have populated both chambers with exactly the same type of craven knuckledraggers who are very good at extorting money to win elections and conspicuously bankrupt on real policy and technical knowledge.

True, there is a noted lack of wingnut soundbites from most of these Democratic legislators but they still voted for most of the Bush and corporate agenda for over a decade so perhaps it's more accurate to just allow that they just aren't as good at entertaining.

Posted by: BigSky in AZ on March 7, 2009 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "His/her opinion must have some value; I'm seeing it on television."

The problem is that "television" -- which actually means "the handful of giant corporations that own virtually all of the mass media in the USA" -- presents the dishonest statements and arguments of right-wing Republicans as legitimate.

And indeed, the corporate-owned media presents the dishonest statements and arguments of right-wing Republicans as more legitimate than the statements and arguments of liberal Democrats.

I'm not just talking about Fox News. I listen to so-called "liberal" NPR's Morning Edition nearly every weekday morning, and pretty much every "news" report they do about issues before the Congress begins with telling the audience what the Republicans have to say about it -- and often ends there, too. Republicans are consistently portrayed as "principled" and "serious" and Democrats as politically motivated panderers.

None of this is surprising or difficult to understand when you realize that the corporate-owned media does not exist to impartially educate and inform the American people about facts and issues, but to propagandize the American people in furtherance of the interests and agenda of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc.

In short, it is the job of "television" to legitimize the inane, dishonest, scripted talking points of Republican legislators.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 7, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

GOP lawmakers got together and picked him as their #1 guy.

So what we're saying here is that a bunch of LOSERS got together and elected their CHIEF LOSER.

Maybe these clowns were the folks that "used-teabag" Santelli was squealing about the other day on that "FOX-esque business snake-oil infomercial channel...."

Posted by: Steve W. on March 7, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

One of the things the internet is demonstrating is that the media people often seem to be less than intelligent or analytical. Read their "blogs" or twitterstreams, and you find there are quite a few dim bulbs out there. They don't realize, for example, that the largest tax cut in history isn't a tax increase because marginal rates are bumped for the two 4 or 5 percent of earners.

And how about that story ABC ran (which means it cleared a number of levels of editorial oversight) about people trying to avoid the "tax increase" by lowering their income to below 250K?

Alternatively, venality tied to corporate parents' interests is a hypothesis.

Posted by: jayackroyd on March 7, 2009 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

The thing to understand is that over the past 400 years in particular we have developed a very successful model of how to figure things out, understand thing, in generally to be smart. The critical element to this method is to subject ideas to critical review, check your work and have your work checked by others. It is the essence of the scientific method, systems engineering in technology, checks and balances in government, the adversarial system in the law, and markets in economics.

The problem then is that the Republican party is currently dominated by people who are ideologically opposed to this process. If you absolutely refuse to subject your ideas to critical review, you will be stupid. To reach positions of leadership in the Republican party today, you must demonstrate that you do not subject your ideas to critical review. This, then, is what you get.

Posted by: MSR on March 7, 2009 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Karmakin - they're not so much stupid as they are stubborn, and wedded to a particular set of defaults which direct how they will attempt to resolve any crisis. Reliance on the tried-and-trusted is all the more likely if it has ever worked before. Has the United States ever used military force to bring about a change of circumstance before, with largely beneficial consequences? You bet it has, and Republicans have each one memorized. Little flaws that make the circumstances entirely different - such as that the United States was itself attacked in World War II - are conveniently overlooked or downplayed.

That said, I don't know where they ever got the idea that tax cuts in an economic crash would be a lifesaver: that DOES just sound stupid.

Oh, and John Boehner IS stupid, so he's not a good example of the Bright Right. So is Ted "Intertubes" Stevens, and everyone else who just riffs on a personal opinion without doing any research whatsoever, or makes no preparations to be questioned when he/she knows it's bound to happen. Sarah Palin is another poor example; she's average-bright about some things, but people are going to expect more than that from their leaders, and only the core-arrogant expect to skate by just because of who they are.

Posted by: Mark on March 7, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ralph Wiggum says more intelligent things than many GOP politicians.

It does frustrate me when news reports follow a fairly detailed statement on some policy from a Democrat with someone like Boehner saying the equivalent of "The Earth is flat". The report usually moves on from there, without the much-longed-for My God, what this man is saying is blisteringly stupid."

Newsdroids then pick up on these statements, and Democrats find themselves asked, "But Senator, some say the world is flat. What provisions are in the bill to deal with that flatness?"

One current example is the "Shouldn't Obama just focus on one thing?" meme. Yeah, sure, if they weren't all intertwined and you could solve one without solving the others simultaneously. Duh.

Any minute now, it will become clear that the stimulus package, which was nickled-and-dimed down by the GOP and "moderate" Dems, is too small. Obama will be blamed, instead of those who have been complaining about spending a penny.

Ralph Wiggum wins.

Posted by: biggerbox on March 7, 2009 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

I knew a member of the city council where I live and she was smart, worked hard long hours, knew finances and was thoughtful in her decisions.

It seems that the higher up the political ladder, the greater chance pols will not have these qualities. It's more about connections and buying/selling influence. Knowing policy and proposing creative solutions is not required. And it's bipartisan (see Blago).

It certainly is far more prevalent, however, among Congressional & Senatorial conservatives. Many are masters at game-playing, winning elections, peddling influence and accumulating power. We're in an unprecedented financial crisis, the future of the country literally at risk and there are no solutions coming from Republicans. Only a gamble that Democratic policies fail so they can once again regain the majority. Not that they would have any solutions to offer; they just don't think that way (or more likely can't). For them government doesn't work so why put forth ideas? Just scheme for ways to get back power, represent corporate interests, reap those benefits and call it a day.

Posted by: PS on March 7, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Surely Ayn Rand must have other good qualities than being a atheist. Well she is not all bad.

Posted by: pious peter on March 7, 2009 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Mark wrote: "I'm with Karmakin - they're not so much stupid as they are stubborn, and wedded to a particular set of defaults which direct how they will attempt to resolve any crisis."

It's not that they are stupid or stubbornly wedded to an ideology.

It's that they are bought-and-paid-for shills and tools of their ultra-rich, white-collar-crook corporate cronies and financial backers. As such it is their job to advance the interests of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc., using stupid and/or pseudo-ideological arguments.

They have to use stupid and/or pseudo-ideological arguments because if they ran on their true agenda -- enriching and empowering the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else -- they would never win elections. So they hide behind a smokescreen of BS that the corporate media enables and legitimizes.

It's no coincidence that the fake, phony, scripted, teleprompted, corporate-sponsored, stupid and/or pseudo-ideological arguments used by Leader Limbaugh and the other Republicans are targeted specifically at working-class Americans who suffer the most from the ruthless, rapacious class warfare of the ultra-rich.

If Rush Limbaugh's Ditto Heads woke up from their propaganda-induced hypnosis for one moment and understood what Limbaugh and the Republicans have really been doing to them all these years, they would be in the streets setting up the guillotines, and their vengeance would be a horrible thing to behold.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 7, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

The negative flip with a double lutz may have deceived me, but don't you mean "If only liberals were the only ones" ... ?

Posted by: Grumpy old reader on March 7, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

"My God, what this man is saying is blisteringly stupid."

This is precisely the value of Jon Stewart. He does dismiss as transparent nonsense so much of what passes for televised gravitas. He does so with snark, but, more importantly, with evidence.

This past week his indictment not only of Rick Santelli but also of all of CNBC for its consistent wrongness was better financial journalism than you see in 99% of the "respected" media.

Posted by: skimble on March 7, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "His/her opinion must have some value; I'm seeing it on television."

Ten or so years ago, I brought a class to the local TV station to tour the facilities, and see them do the news at noon.

We were allowed -- a great privilege -- to stand on the set. The troops showed us what line to stand behind, showed what lights showed that they were on the air, and threatened to kill us if anyone made a noise.

Well, I look around during the first on-air segment, to make sure everyone's behaving, and lo and behold, all dozen students are looking up at the monitor to watch the news.

The talent's 16 feet away, in the flesh, and everyone but me is watching the monitor.

Because that's what is real.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on March 7, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

If the media acknowledges that the people in power are fools, it calls into question the credibility of everyone and everything in power, or has the potential to.

If one's credibility and power is based in the legitimacy conveyed by those in power one has a vested interest in not questioning the people and institutions of power.

The media is the ultimate example of something given credibility in an arbitrary way.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on March 7, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, SecularAnimist, that might explain some of the stupidity - but not all, I'd venture to say the majority, of politicians of every stripe join the herd for the opportunity to push a particular agenda rather than an opportunity for personal enrichment. In short, ideology.

It's certainly true that some are born venal and greedy, and certainly also true that the media are enablers. But that argument doesn't explain the stubborn stupidity of idealistic Republicans from poor districts, who never ask for anything on behalf of their constituents. These individuals say some of the stupidest things, apparently motivated by ideology and narrow-mindedness.

Posted by: Mark on March 7, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

This post is spot-on. One big difference that I see, between conservatives on the one hand and moderates and liberals on the other, is that moderates and liberals USUALLY believe in evidence--facts. They are willing to change their minds when presented with evidence. I see very little (ahem) evidence of this among conservatives. Conservatives believe in ideology--which they call principle--and facts are not allowed to intervene.

Posted by: Cooper on March 7, 2009 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

my "ASSUMPTION" has always been that nobody, once out of high school, takes ayn rand seriously...

then i remember that old saying about "assume"

ps: i wanted to second something that SecularAnimist said up the tread about npr...virtually every story i hear about the economy, after the introduction, goes to some republican making their usual "the earth IS flat" argument, without pointing out the obvious illogic of the soundbite....frustrating...

Posted by: dj spellchecka on March 7, 2009 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are."

No, but conservative voters worship them for it. Drill, baby, drill.

Posted by: beep52 on March 7, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

I'd go a little further. Most of the media and the public underestimate the scope of the foolishness, too.

But in the case of the media and pundits, it's deliberate.

Posted by: Gregory on March 7, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Why is what the Republicans are saying "stupid"? There is a media environment, as well as a president, that reward the taking of far-out positions, because they allow the playing field to be stretched. Obama chose the size of the stimulus package, at least to hear him tell it, by listening to a bunch of economists and then choosing the mean point of their recommendations as his target size. The media people are famous for their "On the one hand, these people say, on the other hand, those people say" type reporting. Notice that judgment is entirely removed from this process -- all opinions are assumed equally valid, and are treated as such in the decision making process of the White House. Given that, the smartest thing to do is to recommend the most extreme, seemingly stupid things imaginable, because that's the way you drag the mean closer to your position. I say it's the Republicans, not the Democrats, who are being smart throughout this.

Boehner calls for a spending freeze, and it's like attaching a ball and chain to the Obama Administration (which moves slowly enough on its own already, but that's another issue), because that's the starting point of the negotiations. Why is this stupid? Since when is maximizing your chances of success at the negotiating table "stupid"? It isn't like the media, or the Obama people, have proven adept at establishing the stupidity of Boehner's positions. Given that, it would be stupid of the Republicans not to adopt the positions they have taken. In fact, the only really stupid ones here are the media people, who allow all this to go on and reward it, and the Democrats, who have been entirely unable to shut it down, while refusing to play the game themselves.

Posted by: mg on March 7, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

... reminding us once again of the terrifying truth that half of the people are below median intelligence.

Posted by: beep52 on March 7, 2009 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, I liked "Atlas Shrugged". Yes, it was product of it's time. Though I suppose you could adapt it's moral to today's situation. Government in cahoots with selected "business" people conspire to suck the wealth from the producers--read manufacturers and working class. And when that's done, suck up money from taxpayer backed bailouts. Hmmm....

Yeah, a little over the top. But relating to the earlier "Going Galt" post--aren't those who are claiming to be "going Galt" the ones Galt was railing against?

Posted by: golack on March 7, 2009 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

we have a representative form of government so it's only natural some really stupid folk get into office. i'd venture to say that most legislative bodies fairly represent the voters that sent them there: some geniuses; some blithering idiots. most somewhere in the middle. the skill-set required to hold office isn't necessarily the ability to digest and understand issues and turn out elegant policy solutions but rather the ability to win the biggest slice of votes in an election. if you're lucky enough to win in a politically safe district, it likely won't matter how dumb your ideas are.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on March 7, 2009 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Another misconception about Republicans is that they rea wellintentioned. Honest purveyors of a different point of view, people with whom one can discuss things with mutual resepcgt to everyone's mutual benefit.

Nope. Most of the Republicans in Congress, in the leadership of their party and in their activist base are just plain mean people out for nothing but their own benefit. Stupid, narrow, dishonest mean people.

Conservatism isn't a philosophy; its a personality disorder.

Posted by: wonkie on March 7, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I virtually ignored politics and political figures most of my life assuming they were intelligent men who just happened to disagree on how to proceed for the good of the nation.

My always politically active friend laughs at how naive I have been. For the past several years I started paying attention and became a political junkie so to speak and have been appalled at how ignorant and pathetically ridiculous so many members of our political class actually are. How could senators and congressmen be so stupid. I've lost so much respect for them and now believe intelligence is not a pre requisite for holding office and in many cases...it's just the opposite. Seems money trumps brains and history is rewritten daily by morons.

Political involvement is now a matter of self preservation. The right wing, republicans and conservatives make me want to be a better patriot just so our democracy can survive the onslaught of their ignorance.

Posted by: bjobotts on March 7, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself." - Mark Twain

Perhaps this isn't a new phenomena? To what extent does this apply to the MSM?

Posted by: AK Liberal on March 7, 2009 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

We used to have smarter Republicans, I think.

Eisenhower was a brilliant man.
So was Nixon, in his own crooked way.

Nelson Rockefeller. Chuck Percy. George Romney.

Now Richard Lugar is about they best they have.

I think it's Gresham's Law in action, and expect the GOP to get even more stupid as they circle the drain of ideological purity ala Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: joel hanes on March 7, 2009 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, a little over the top. But relating to the earlier "Going Galt" post--aren't those who are claiming to be "going Galt" the ones Galt was railing against?
Posted by: golack

Great point.

Posted by: Dale on March 7, 2009 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

A long while back when I was in college, I took a job helping a friend open a picture framing shop. To keep clothing clean when working in back, we bought some blue smocks. It didn't take us to long to both notice that whenever an indecisive customer had questions about best frame selections or mat colors etc., the one wearing the blue smock was always the one the customer would defer to for the "expert" advice.

Posted by: sparrow on March 7, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

As long as Boehner and the others insist on calling it the "Democrat" Party, we should pronounce his name "boner."

Which is kind of how it's spelled, anyway ("when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking").

Posted by: Zak44 on March 7, 2009 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

One of my old professors who worked on Capitol Hill back in the 80's said that though their politics were odious, Jesse Helms and his staff were some of the smartest people there. It also seems to me that National Review wasn't nearly as stupid back in the 90's.

Whatever the case, I'd have to say the current GOP leadership have to be some of the stupidest people I've ever seen in politics. Boehner, Cantor, Pence, McCain, I wouldn't trust those guys to lick a stamp for me. A spending freeze right now? Even Bush isn't that stupid.

Posted by: Mark S. on March 7, 2009 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

I've gone through a similar awakening about our leaders, spurred on a lot by the blogs. One thing I think now is that a lot of times, people who pursue power in life, especially the kind of power that is not linked to goodness or helping, are kind of nuts. And a lot of them have weeded out, or are incapable, of the kind of lives where you occasionally do some soul-searching, and slowly, over time, come to find out what it is you really want to do in life, and are best suited for, and which will make you happiest. And not only do they not start out doing that, but by a certain age, they haven't got the 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years of doing it that have enriched their peers, and they are incompetent at life and as angry about it. This is not the cream rising to the top; it's the opposite. That said, there are exceptions, people who go into public life to help others and really stick with that. I think you kind of get a gut feeling after a little while of who they are.

Posted by: m.e..b. on March 7, 2009 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

"I assumed, for example, that members of Congress, whether I agreed with their policies or not, were necessarily very bright"

Well that's a silly assumption. I met my first congressman when I was eleven years old. My first thought was "wow, this guy is really stupid." But I was fortunate enough to have any notion that our political leaders might posses intelligence dispelled at any early age. Optimism is long gone. Fortunately, I have whiskey and cynicism to fall back on.

Posted by: fostert on March 7, 2009 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

I joined a well know technology company in the early '80s, still run by the founders. This company was highly thought of, very successful, and a very desirable place to work.
Shortly after I started, the founders retired, and the 'best and brightest' that had been hired started to work their way up the ladder.
Pretty soon a few weasels got into positions of power, and this company became more and more like every other one. The best employees were the first to go. I remember one of them on his way out, when I asked why he was leaving after a long career at the company, simply said: "The rats are winning."
IMO that is the state of the Republican party now: the rats and weasels have won, and they will continue to self destruct until they get some smart, capable leaders with integrity.

Posted by: GVC on March 7, 2009 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

While I fall in line absolutely convinced of the stupidity of the elected cabal on the right, I have one niggling little caveat on this economic stimulus logic. It pops its head up every now and then, and I usually try to pop it back down. But here it is again. It is this:

Spending, of course, favors production, and production favors jobs, and jobs are good. Fine. But the little gremlin says "Haven't we already spent and got everything we need?" His logic is that after you've got your new car, house, computer, Internet connection, wife and 2.6 children, what more do you need? Do they all need to be replaced every year just to keep the economy growing? What about settling down with what we've already got and make something good of it and enjoy it?

OK, Gremlin, I get your message. Actually, I think I live your message. I've got all these things (minus the car), and a few extra bits and pieces to boot, and now I'm using them to achieve my life's work. As long as I can earn enough to buy food and pay electricity and Internet bills, I don't need anything more. So, maybe I agree with you, Mr Gremlin:- Making the best of what you have can feel just as good as always buying more.

Posted by: Goldilocks on March 7, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Goldilocks,
I think you have hit upon the paradox in this whole, jobs, jobs, jobs conundrum: When we have provided food, shelter and clothing for ourselves and others, and feel the security of adequate financial resources, what else is there to desire? How many people does it take to fulfill our basic needs and what level of lifestyle do we expect of those who provide the goods and services that make us comfortable? What if the farmers, the harvesters, the clothing manufacturers/assemblers, the slaughterhouse workers, the waste collectors, and any other "menial laborers" were to expect and live the same lifestyles as those they served? How would that work? Is that socialism or communism(small c)? Should there be varying levels and classes of society, based upon the value of the service rendered? Does a Wall Street banker produce more value for society and thus deserve a greater compensation than the one who provides his/her basic means of survival? If the farmers only grew enough to feed their immediate families, would they even need the investors in their factory farms? Once we leave the level of self-sufficiency, we become dependent on others to meet our basic survival needs.

There is a whole new paradigm emerging in this time. It is time we raised our vision to see the larger picture of a global community. We are One and interdependent with each other for the survival and expansion of all of us.

I am committed to Oneness through Justice and Transformation
st john

Posted by: stjohn on March 7, 2009 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

"When I was a teenager, I had certain misconceptions about politics and government."

You still do.

Posted by: dwqrt on March 7, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

And Los Angeles just elected their local government. 15 percent turnout.


Posted by: hank on March 7, 2009 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

"A dogs obeyed in office."

Posted by: Bostonian in Brooklyn on March 7, 2009 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

From the perspective of a teenager who read George Will's Newsweek columns during the 80s, I assumed he was smart. He wrote well and could put together some cogent arguments.

By extension, that assumes I was smart. Oh well.

Posted by: Monty on March 7, 2009 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

And this attitude, that if soandso the Minority Leader or whatever says it, it should be taken seriously - is an enabler of their being able to say whatever they want. We have to resist and demand resistance to, this personalization of ideas. It must be about what is said, not who says it. The conventional attitude is also damaging in science and other disciplines.

Posted by: Neil B ◙ on March 7, 2009 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Dear st john,

Paradox is a very apposite epithet for this conundrum. Bewilderment, ignorance or sheer panic might also be applied. When you stand back and try to comprehend it all, you - at least I - feel utterly inadequate and overwhelmed. It is truly monstrously complex.

On the other hand, as an engaged citizen with a vested personal survival interested, I cannot simply turn a blind eye to the bigger picture. In my own life I've never been wealthy, yet have never gone a single day without food, unless by choice. So, I consider my own circumstances to be modestly blessed and acceptable. I'd love to have more money that I could give to worthy causes but, in terms of personal needs, I can say that I have never craved more than what suffices.

We are all participants in a global economy. We cannot escape it. But, as you point out, our impact on that economy varies a lot depending on our executive and financial status. A Maddof can have a devastating effect on thousands, possibly millions of people's lives; while a Soros can correspondingly benefit an equally large number of people. The issues of motivation and responsibility at that level of influence are paramount.

The vast majority of ordinary citizens, however, are obliged to rely on their wits and discipline to survive and, in favorable circumstances, prosper. What troubles me about a commitment to economic growth is its dependence on the artificial stimulation of demand. People are encouraged to buy well beyond their realistic needs. This generates an acquisitiveness that is unhealthy for both the individual and the environment. My concern is to envisage an economy that can maintain a decent standard of living for all while avoiding excesses of consumption, indulgence and waste. That may be too much to ask for given human nature which appears to include innate tendencies to greed and selfishness.

Though we are all ciphers in a shared global interdependence it is also a very personal matter.


Posted by: Goldilocks on March 7, 2009 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

And what, pray tell, does that say about the people who sent them there?

Posted by: MNPundit on March 7, 2009 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

Goldilocks, @16:15,

None of my business, obviously... but I've been wondering and wondering and unable to figure it out, so thought I'd ask...

I assume (there's that dreaded word again) that you got your 2 children the ordinary way. But, the 0.6? Result of some sort of Solomonic resolution? Some sort of intergalactic genetic changes? How? How? How???

Posted by: exlibra on March 7, 2009 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

Indeed, leading Republican officials -- Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl, Mike Pence -- say all kinds of things that should be dismissed as transparent nonsense, but aren't. There must be something coherent about their ideas, the conventional thinking goes, by virtue of their offices. Their recommendations warrant responses -- and even deserve consideration at the negotiating table -- because they maintain positions of influence in government.

I disagree in the strongest possible terms. Ignore these idiots and give them nothing.

Posted by: Monty on March 7, 2009 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Consider a Congressman. Then consider an idiot. Ah, but I repeat myself." -- Mark Twain, 1872

Some things never change.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 7, 2009 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

I believe that McConnell, Kyl & Pence all called for a Spending Freeze until the end of the fiscal year. What does that mean? No new spending? No spending on security and the military? No funding of the VA and caring for the wounded troops? Freeze payment to medical facilities that are providing Medicare services?

And, why does no one, save Rachel Maddow, call this insanity to the attention of the public? These are not idiots; these are sociopathic personalities posing as government leaders. That they are even allowed a platform from which to spew this insanity is the crime and I hold the media that allows this speech accountable. When will one of Obama's hatchet men/persons take the stage and call BS on these fools?

I am committed to Oneness through Justice and Transformation
st john

Posted by: st john on March 7, 2009 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK
Most of the media and the public underestimate the scope of the foolishness, too.

I'm not so sure. Most of the political media actively participates in the same foolishness, but I think most of the public doesn't take it very seriously, which is why despite the fact that the media is breathlessly repeating every Republican talking point as if was the most serious, well-thought thesis in the world, support for the positions the Republicans are advancing, and for the Republicans themselves, isn't materializing.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 7, 2009 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

The BBC goes a lot further in calling folks on their blistering stupidity.

Posted by: GP on March 8, 2009 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

Before we get too smug, it's hardly only the conservative representatives and senators who are stupid. We elected a complete gutless dope on the Democratic ticket in S. Colorado. In part it was because you couldn't get a decent candidate, in part because we had to find someone who looked conservative enough to get elected in a previously all red area. We are now stuck with a shining example of the Peter Principle. And, we did it.

Posted by: Christine on March 8, 2009 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

Having had a chance to discuss things with various lawmakers, I can't help but feel that a lot of them are like used car dealers, only instead of used cars they're always selling themselves. Not always in the campaign contributions sense, though that whole broken system only encourages such things. But they're selling their persona to the electorate, often despite any particular qualifications to actually lead. Of the smart ones that do get in, and there are certainly many, it would help if they didn't have to continually be whoring for money and could spend their time actually learning things that would help them govern wisely. But that's not the way our system works. It's a cryin' shame.

Posted by: President LIndsay on March 8, 2009 at 4:40 AM | PERMALINK

Karkakin wrote:

It's not that they're stupid. It's that they're contrary.

No, Karmakin, you're wrong.

It's that they're stupid.

Posted by: UncommonSense on March 8, 2009 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

exlibra, @20:05,

No, it came through the magic of statistical averaging. Being a thoroughly abstract concept (interesting pun) it never occurred to me that it would suggest more troubling scenarios. Now I appreciate the oversight and would beg to set your mind at ease as to the immanence of intergalactic genetic changes or, regrettably and to our detriment, the application in our political world of Solomonic wisdom.

Posted by: Goldilocks on March 8, 2009 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

"He's not cocooning by reading Milton Friedman, he's cocooning by reading Ayn Rand."

Most people assume economists are intelligent.

Posted by: Luther on March 9, 2009 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK



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