Six True Things Politicians Can’t Say

Remember how things were in high school? If a truth was unpopular, you’d be ridiculed for saying it, no matter how obvious it was. Even people who knew you were right wouldn’t defend you, because then they’d be ridiculed too. They might even think they had to speak against you, just to be safe.

Politics is like that, but mostly just on one side. The rich and powerful can emphasize the effect when it works for them (by hiring professional ridiculers) or minimize it when it works against them (via spokesmen and front groups who absorb ridicule until things are safe for conservative politicians). If the PR professionals do their jobs well, the pro-wealth politicians don’t have to offer evidence or answer opposing arguments, they can just laugh and scoff — like the cool kids used to.

But a popular lie that damages the poor or even the middle class can go unchallenged for a long, long time. If we want to hear the corresponding truths, we’ll have to start saying them ourselves.

1. Most government money is well spent. The opposite idea — that government pours money down a rat hole — is broadcast every day. But strangely, anybody who sets out to find this wasteful spending and eliminate it ends up firing teachers, getting rid of food inspectors, letting bridges fall down, or cutting off somebody’s medical care.

I’m sure the people in the path of Texas’ wildfires appreciate the “waste” Gov. Perry managed to cut from the budgets of volunteer fire departments and the Texas Forest Service. When the antibiotic-resistant plague gets rolling, I’m sure we’ll be similarly grateful to House Republicans for the “waste” they’re finding at the CDC.

Speaking this truth in public takes courage, because the ridiculers can point to famous anecdotes of government waste — bridges to nowhere, $600 toilet seats — and nearly everyone knows some story of a mismanaged local project, an acquaintance who scammed disability, or a lazy civil servant who can’t be fired.

But the private sector has its own examples of spectacular waste. How many welfare cheats would it take to equal the $300-500 million CEO Dick Fuld “earned” by managing Lehman Brothers into extinction and touching off the 2008 financial collapse? I can find waste in my own apartment — things I didn’t need, never used, or paid too much for. A certain amount of waste is the natural friction you’ll find in any human activity.

Government is a human project, so it has waste in it and always will. Except for unnecessary wars, is it more wasteful than the private sector? Does its inevitable waste cancel out the vital services it performs? Could we get those services without waste? No.

2. Regulations save money and lives. Corporations can often make a short-term profit doing something that eventually costs the public far more than the corporation makes. (The guy at Hooker Chemical who suggested burying toxic waste at Love Canal saved the company a bundle. He probably got a raise.) Stopping those bad deals is what government regulation is all about.

We hear every day how much companies spend complying with regulations, as if that were the whole story. What we gain from that spending is far more valuable. In the 60s and 70s, the auto companies fought tooth and nail against making cars safer. A car with seat belts used to cost extra. Air bags weren’t even an option, much less standard equipment. Hard, unpadded, and sometimes even sharp steering wheels killed thousands.

Traffic deaths in the U.S. peaked in the late 70s, even though the number of people, cars, and miles driven keeps going up. That’s government regulation for you.

Or consider this: Taking the lead out of gasoline has made American children measurably smarter. What’s that worth to our future economy? What’s that worth personally, to them and to us?

3. The rich are job destroyers, not job creators. You can’t have a mass-production economy if the masses can’t afford the products they make. So when the rich get too rich, growth suffers.

The last time the rich captured this much of our nation’s income was 1929 — the last time the economy crashed this badly. It’s not a coincidence.

4. Rich heirs are parasites. In political rhetoric, rich people are all hard-working, risk-taking entrepreneurs. Because politicians need contributions from the rich, they can’t point out just how useless most second-and-third-generation millionaires and billionaires are.

We are encouraged to resent the unemployed worker who doesn’t try hard enough to find a new job, but not the heir who never works. We’re encouraged to resent the black or Hispanic who gets into Harvard through affirmative action, but not the “legacy” Ivy Leaguer whose test scores are even worse.

Our plunging inheritance tax has increased inequality in the worst possible way, and makes us more like the hereditary aristocracies of 18th-century Europe. In spite of the pop-culture vampire revival, we’re still missing the underlying social metaphor of the original Dracula: Those exotically beguiling aristocrats are sucking our blood.

5. The U.S. government can’t go bankrupt (unless it decides to). Even President Obama has been invoking the spectre of government bankruptcy, but it can’t happen in any literal sense.

Why? The overwhelming majority of federal government’s expenses are in dollars. Its debt is in dollars. So what are dollars? Whatever the Federal Reserve says they are.

The Fed creates dollars the way that Delta creates frequent flier miles: It enters them on a spreadsheet. The U.S. Treasury has an account at the Fed, which the Fed can replenish by creating dollars to buy government bonds. Or it could just let the Treasury’s balance go negative. No sparks would fly out of the Fed’s computers. Negative numbers work just fine.

The only way the U. S. government can go bankrupt is if it creates a crisis for itself, like the recent debt-ceiling debacle. As long as Congress is willing to authorize the government to pay its debts, the government can pay its debts.

Though it can’t go bankrupt, the government could pay a penalty for running a big deficit in two ways: The markets could drive up interest rates (which isn’t happening), or the Fed creating dollars could increase inflation (which isn’t happening, but should).

6. Some inflation right now would be a good thing. The official mandate of the Federal Reserve is to balance inflation against unemployment. It doesn’t. The Fed goes on red-alert at every hint of inflation, but the current unemployment is not inspiring similar alarm.

An easier money policy would lower unemployment at the “cost” of inflation — which would actually be a benefit. Anybody who lived through the 70s remembers the mindset inflation brings: You don’t sit on piles of cash. You buy or invest now, because stuff is only going to cost more later.

Corporations are sitting on a trillion dollars of cash. Rich people are probably sitting on even more. A little fear of inflation would get that money moving again.

7. Fill in your own unspoken truth. …

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Comments

  • Woody Wiqiliques Konopak  On September 12, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    They cannot say that belief in miracles and fairy-dust is ridiculous, and the appeal to magical, imaginary creatures for guidance in real matters has no place in the councils of anything resembling a practical gummint.

    • weeklysift  On September 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm

      I’d love to see presidential candidates asked exactly how the prophecies in Revelation will impact their foreign policy. I’d seriously like to know whether Michele Bachmann thinks Armageddon would be a good thing or a bad thing.

      • Korr  On September 19, 2011 at 12:57 pm

        In the american version of evangelical Christianity, there’s a belief that the world should undergo an armageddon of sorts, and that only 500,000 people should be left after said armageddon. I forget exactly what this belief is called, but it really is taught in some of the more evangelical areas of the US.

      • Kim Cooper  On September 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm

        Korr — I thought it was 144,000, not 500,000?

      • Meh  On September 19, 2011 at 7:56 pm

        Korr:
        It’s not unique to the US, it’s not all evangelical Christianity, and it’s 144,000, not 500,000. It’s a group called Jehovah’s Witnesses:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jehovah%27s_witness

        There have been a handful of other groups that limit the saved by to set numbers, but they’ve been much smaller, and MUCH more cultish.

  • ramseyman  On September 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    7. Cuba and Ecuador are not particularly bad governments as governments go, we just seem to need to demonize them.
    8. It is extremely hypocritical to support the Israeli government in their continuing negation of human rights for their native population.
    9. The current group of nationally influential Republican politicians is a group uniquely committed to distorting the truth about every issue important to the rich.
    10. There is nothing whatsoever about gay marriage that negatively impacts any straight marriages in any way.
    11. The U.S. has gone way overboard in “defense” spending, most of which does not make us any safer at all.

    • Kim Cooper  On September 19, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      If it is hypocritical to support the Israeli government because of their negation of human rights, it would be even more hypocritical to support the Palestinians, who are far worse.

      • Andy  On September 19, 2011 at 4:19 pm

        None of the research I’ve seen in over ten years supports the above statement. Israelis have been far worse and far more prolific in their refusing of human rights. Exponentially worse, in fact – regarding property, prisoner rights, death/murder, anything involving children, etc.
        I’m afraid Kim Cooper is releasing some of the incorrect propaganda this article is intending to refute.

      • Kim Cooper  On September 26, 2011 at 7:24 pm

        Andy — You’ve been reading literature from only one side. As in the vast majority of human conflicts, both sides have acted badly.
        Why haven’t the very very rich countries of the Middle East come in and helped the Palestinians? Because they think it’s better for them to continue looking like helpless victims, because it makes the Israelis look bad. The Palestinians can’t maintain a stable government among themselves because they don’t trust each other.
        This whole situation could have been resolved ages ago if they were willing to solve it, but everyone wants 100% their own way, with no compromise. That never works. so far, they ALL would rather be right than peaceful. Every once in a while, a group emerges who wants to solve the issue, but they can never get enough support from both sides to make much progress. And so it goes….

      • ramseyman  On September 29, 2011 at 10:24 pm

        My point is not that one side is better than the other – quite the opposite. American politicians have to take sides in this issue, for fear of appearing antisemitic or pro-Islam to the voters in America. Anybody who is paying attention can see that incredible injustices have been committed and in fact have been institutionalized, much like our own Jim Crow political machinery of the past. Unconditional American support assures that such violent injustices will continue. The main point: if I were an American politician saying this I could be assured of losing any election in the foreseeable future.

    • ramseyman  On October 26, 2011 at 10:23 am

      OK, I meant Cuba and Venezuela. But we villify lotsa people.

  • John Treffeisen  On September 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    1. Most government money is well spent.

    If by this we mean a majority of all funds? Possibly, even likely. But even if two thirds of government spending meets this threshold, that leaves $1.2 TRILLION dollars of suspect spending. For example the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) rated fully 89% of the stimulus spending negatively. That is to say the money would have been better off staying in the tax payer’s pocket than being spent by the federal government.

    2. Regulations save money and lives.

    No. Not all. If all regulations were subject to a strict benefit/cost analysis there’d probably be about half as many regulations. Regulations designed to equalize outcome, promote social goals, or further social mores are deadweights on the economy, and that’s even before we count the cost of compliance.

    As it is regulations have no burden to prove they “save” more than they “cost”. Next.

    3. The rich are job destroyers, not job creators.

    Depends on the definition of “rich”. Fully a third of all jobs depend on “the rich” small businessmen. In point of fact the greatest expansion of jobs in the history of the United States happened from 1979 to 2007, the same period the rich were getting richer.

    4. Rich heirs are parasites.

    Rich heirs control pre-existing assets, the assets don’t know if it was a brilliant inventor/investor or their progeny. They can either spend those assets (injecting money into the economy) or save those assets (investing directly or indirectly in growth). Only way you lose from these parasites is if tax rules are so onerous that it makes money to hide that money from the federal government overseas or in some tax haven.

    5. The U.S. government can’t go bankrupt (unless it decides to).

    This is dirt ignorant. Yes we can print as many dollars as we want. Any government can. Weimar Germany, for one, Rhodesia for anothe, did. What the the author doesn’t understand is that the dollar supply is tied to the economy. Double the number of dollars in circulation? Each dollar is now worth 50 cents. Your pension check, your savings, etc.. all your dollar denominated assets are now worth half what they were. Things we get from the rest of the world, don’t change, your $60 fillup at the gas pump, now costs you $120.6. Some inflation right now would be a good thing.

    6. Some inflation right now would be a good thing.

    True. The fed has been working their posteriors off to get a little inflation going. Unfortunately if the economy ever does take off the Fed has set up a severe liquidity trap, which can lead to hyperinflation, which is rather emphatically NOT a good thing.

    • weeklysift  On September 12, 2011 at 8:04 pm

      It would be interesting to see some support for any of these claims. On #5 you essentially concede that the government can’t go bankrupt and talk about something else instead.

      • John Treffeisen  On September 13, 2011 at 11:17 am

        Ah, supporting documentation, fair enough, here’s how I spent me lunch hour:

        1. Most government money is well spent.

        Just focusing on the 2009 stimulus as a ready example. The CBO made an initial estimate of the stimulative effects of the package and found not that not all the stimulus would actually stimulate:

        http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/03/economic-stimulus-package-business-washington-0204_stimulus.html

        Going further back, the Armey Curve study in the 1990’s found that for each 1 percent increase in the government share of GDP, the GDP itself falls by about $47 Billion. Since government’s share of GDP has increased by 7 percent since the study and we’ve had inflation so we’re talking something in the neighborhood of a half Trillion dollar offset on a Trillion dollars of additional spending, and this is a straightline, best case estimate and doesn’t assume a downward sloping curve.

        http://www.house.gov/jec/growth/govtsize/govtsize.htm

        To use the CBO’s words, “Many estimates of this sort suggest that crowding-out effects dominate in the case of government purchases so that the impact on output tends to be less than one-forone and tends to diminish over time”. So the next dollar of government spending starts out by doing fifty cents worth of damage, which sets a pretty high threshold for the dollar to be “well spent”.

        2. Regulations save money and lives.

        The Republicans in Congress have identified a list of job killing regulations and Rep Boehner has posted his own top ten list of bad regulations:

        http://majorityleader.gov/blog/2011/08/memo-on-upcoming-jobs-agenda.html

        But even the White House concedes that regulations cost money and jobs and has identified 219 proposed regulations this year with a cost to the economy of more than $100 million each.

        http://townhall.com/tipsheet/guybenson/2011/08/31/white_house_admits_new_regulations_will_cost_us_economy_billions

        While it is possible that these regulations save money/lives it is far from clear that they save more than they cost. In particular I singled out regulations designed not promote safety, but to acheive social ends as deserving special scrutiny, such as smoking bans:

        http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv29n4/v29n4-4.pdf

        prohibition of recreational drugs:

        http://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/making-economic-sense

        promotion of diversity in the workplace:

        3. The rich are job destroyers, not job creators.

        To specifically address my contention that job creation hit historic highs while the rich were getting richer, from 1980 to 2007 47 million jobs were created, which was 5% faster than the growth of the population.

        http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea01.htm

        4. Rich heirs are parasites.

        Investments are investments, even if the absolute scum of the earth are their beneficiaries. To the extent that rich heirs are parasites because they consume more than they produce, they add to consumer spending and hence jobs. To the extent that they consume luxury goods, they are consuming goods with high labor content and hence produce jobs.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxury_good

        5. The U.S. government can’t go bankrupt (unless it decides to).

        Okay, the “dirt ignorant” was over the top, and I apologize. In the very narrow economic sense you are correct, at least until we get to the point where the currency becomes worthless. In the political sense, this is extraordinarily dangerous notion, and the solution (print money) is ultimately worse than the prospect of going bankrupt:

        http://economics.about.com/cs/money/a/print_money.htm

        http://mises.org/daily/3342

        http://www.infiniteunknown.net/2009/03/06/the-dangers-of-printing-money-four-lessons-from-history/

        http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1879735_1846041,00.html

        6. Some inflation right now would be a good thing.

        I agreed with this idea, although arguably there already is some inflation

        http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/inflation-charts

        and of course there is the danger that once it starts it will accelerate uncontrollably,

        http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/economists/eggertsson/palgrave.pdf

        especially with the unprecedented expansion of the money supply,

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124458888993599879.html

      • weeklysift  On September 15, 2011 at 9:54 am

        John,
        Thanks for replying. I will take a look at the links in #1 and #3 and have a more substantial reply later.

        On #5 and #6 it sounds like we’re not that far apart, other than how likely we think the prospect of hyperinflation is. (Looking at bond rates, the markets don’t seem to be worried about it.)

        As to #4, I agree that people who consume without producing add to consumer spending and hence create jobs. But I think rich heirs should be lumped in with other people who consume but don’t produce, like the unemployed poor. They are worse, in fact, since the rich heirs have had much more opportunity to gain productive skills and find a favorable place in the production system. Instead, they are typically categorized with the entrepreneurs.

        On #2, Boehner can toss around the term “job-killing” all he wants, but it’s not clear at all that the things he identified have a net cost to the economy. He’s doing exactly what I said in the post: totaling up compliance costs and paying no attention to savings. Pollution costs money in all sorts of ways: increased medical expenses, faster corrosion of everything, and so on. And he counts greenhouse gas regulations purely as an expense without making any allowance for the costs of dealing with climate change down the road.

      • weeklysift  On September 21, 2011 at 9:55 am

        I just looked at the link from Forbes about the stimulus. The main objection in the article is that much the money wouldn’t be spent soon enough to have an immediate stimulation effect, not that the money was poorly spent. Pell grants, for example, they rated as having little immediate effect, but they didn’t argue that helping low-income people go to college was a bad idea or wouldn’t work.

        A big chunk of the questionable stimulus wasn’t “spending” at all, it was tax cuts. About a third of the stimulus was tax cuts — a fact frequently glossed over by people who want to label the whole $800 billion as spending.

        Forbes was taking a prospective look at the stimulus. Looks back at the effects are split, and seem to depend a lot on the assumptions of the economists. (We can’t go back and re-run the experiment without the stimulus.) These charts from Jared Bernstein (http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/the-recovery-act-worked-in-a-few-easy-charts/ ) are simplistic, but they point to a simple fact: Whether by luck or merit, the stimulus marked the exact bottom of the downturn.

    • Hu Lundberg  On September 14, 2011 at 2:39 am

      1. You answered your own objection: “If by this we mean a majority of all funds? Possibly, even likely.” You seem to think that government is not “US”…do we miss-spend a lot of money? YES.
      2. Quote from the admin on this blog:
      Did the USDA put salmonella in our meat? No, meat-packing corporations did. And they’ve got enough lawyer-and-lobbyist power to keep the USDA regulators at bay. Did the EPA dump raw oil into the Gulf of Mexico? No, BP did. They cut corners on safety and no regulator was in a position to stop them. Did the government kill the 29 miners at Upper Big Bend coal mine? No, Massey Energy did, and had enough clout to keep the mine going even after inspectors had found more than 500 safety violations.
      3.Rich?= Small business? Lately, the definition has been muddied. International corporations that have sucked jobs out of our country have been entitled to the status of “small business”…this is wrong.
      4. My kids all got a healthy start on life thanks to their grandparents. It would have been nicer if they got 7-figure inheritances…but they got enough – more than most people. If they fail…it’s on them, but they got more than most people. As for tax havens: a good investment in local bonds for good projects is fine…and tax law favors that. Sending $ offshore without taxes or penalty should be a CRIME(ask the Isrealis).
      5. “Dirt ignorant”???? You haven’t read the 14th amendment. And where’s the inflation these last few years? WHERE’S THE INFLATION????

  • G-man  On September 13, 2011 at 8:34 am

    A good conceptual frame is to remember that the term ‘inflation’ is ruling class code for ‘rising wages’, and sometimes one will hear the phrase ‘wage inflation’ uttered as a horrible spectre that must be prevented at any cost. Therefore, it’s OK if prices for essentials (food, fuel, communications) rise, but not the dreaded wages (purchasing power) of the average person!

    • Kim Cooper  On September 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm

      good point, G-man. Notice it isn’t “wage inflation” when we talk about the vast inflation in the wages/bonuses of the upper management! The problem with business today that isn’t talked about is the unnecessary high cost of management. We are essentially paying CEOs that high cost to be more psychopathic than the average person could bear to be.
      In fact, if corporations are people, they are legally insane people, as they have no conscience at all. There are other things about being “people” –like, they should not be allowed to own or buy or sell each other, as owning “people” is slavery, and illegal now.

  • Someone Somewhere  On September 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Re #1 – “most money is well spent” – I can’t agree. A ridiculous proportion of our tax dollars go to the military and our ability to wage wars around the globe. I’m not saying we don’t need a military, but we certainly do need a less militaristic political philosophy. Then there is the Prison Industrial Complex (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/03/us/03prison.html) – a government entitlement program which resembles the Soviet gulag state. If by “well spent” you mean not frittered away through fraud, sure. If you mean “providing valuable services to the population” I’d say you’re in error.

    • Kim Cooper  On September 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm

      a good way to solve this dilemma is, since the Right won’t let us reduce the military budget or increase the stimulus, turn some of the stimulation over to the military: Let the military be responsible for maintenance of all highways across the US. They will have to use some of their money to hire people to do the work, which will keep them having the big budget they love, but they will have less to devote to wars. Then let the military do school building maintenance. etc….

  • G-man  On September 14, 2011 at 4:56 am

    These are facts:
    7. The world is becoming a much more peaceful place.
    8. Social Security is successful and in fine financial shape.
    9. The VA is a very efficient, effective healthcare system.
    .. and as long as we are dreaming:
    10. We need much higher taxes on the rich and corporations in order to distribute wealth more equally, which correlates with societies that are healthier and happier.
    11. Lowering the age of Social Security eligibility to 50 would create more opportunity for younger workers.
    12. Allowing children to age 18 and people over 50 to join Medicare is a good next step towards a national healthcare system.
    13. It is no problem at all to create a free, national healthcare system for all citizens if we remove insurance companies from participation.
    14. War and weapons are poor ways to spend public money, and not good jobs programs.
    15. We need the economic ‘Second Bill of Rights’ proposed by FDR which makes clothing, food, shelter, healthcare, income, education, transportation, and communications basic human rights.
    16. Corporations are not people, and only human beings have the political rights in the Constitution.
    17. Corporations are a dangerous form of anti-democratic power concentration, and should be severely limited in their scope and lifetime through charter restrictions.
    18. A universal voting system in which only public funds are allowed, and advertising is banned, would create a true citizen’s government, where anyone could run for office for free.
    19. We need a world government to be able to manage the reality of a global ecosystem and society inhabited by human beings.

    • Kim Cooper  On September 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm

      I love your agenda, but the problem with it is almost all of it requires government action to implement. We can no longer expect the government to implement any Progressive changes, as it is too late: the government has entirely sold out to Big Money. The solution is that We the People have to make an end-run around the corporations:
      1)Take your money away from big corporations: get out of big banks and go to local credit unions. Don’t buy from big corporations, try to buy from small locally-owned businesses whenever possible. Get rid of all stocks. Don’t support the system.
      2) Support and start democratically-run worker-owned cooperatives. Bring back manufacturing to America by making the businesses owned by the workers.Try to get your Union to help implement this through loans and instructional help.
      3) Work to elect truly Progressive candidates to government, especially local government, or run yourself. We managed to take it back after the last time the Banksters overtook our government, we can do it again.

    • Anonymous  On September 19, 2011 at 11:28 pm

      Interesting ideas; thanks for sharing

  • Me  On September 19, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    … your truth may vary.

  • Jason  On September 19, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Taxes create jobs. In the same way that you mention the fear of inflation causes money to move. The fear of the government taxing corporate profits causes the corporation to spend that money on business expenses… like employee salaries, capital improvements, opening new offices in new territories. When inflation and taxes are low, the rich sit on their money and let it earn interest. Raise either and that money has to start working a little harder.

  • Anonymous  On September 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Marijuana is not as bad for you as tobacco or alcohol.

  • Anonymous  On September 19, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    They can’t say Social Security a Ponzi scheme, even though it is.

    • Kim Cooper  On September 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      Of course you are “anonymous” — First, not only can you say it, but many on the radical right have said it many times. Second, it’s not true. Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme: it isn’t illegal, it isn’t for one person’s ill-gotten gain, and everyone who’s paying attention knows where the money comes from and where it’s going, so no one is being scammed. Also, while previous generations paid for the generation before them, not true with Boomers, who were made to pay for their own plus the next generation’s.
      Beyond that, you are just repeating Republican talking points rather than thinking for yourself. Get a life.

      • Mike  On September 19, 2011 at 7:39 pm

        It’s illegal not to pay it. Land of the free?

      • Kevin Schmidt  On September 20, 2011 at 3:11 am

        The legal right to levy federal taxes can be found in several locations within the Constitution. So yes, land of the free.

      • Kim Cooper  On September 26, 2011 at 7:43 pm

        Mike — You’re free to go somewhere else if you don’t like paying our taxes. What you will find is that anywhere the government offers services, the taxes are at least as high, and anywhere the taxes are lower, so are the government services. The part you are missing is that everything has to be paid for somehow.
        If you aren’t rich when you retire, you will welcome Social Security. If you are rich, you should still welcome it, as it keeps you from being surrounded by starving poverty-stricken people with nothing left to lose, who will be candidates to murder you for your money.
        Sometimes freedom consists of ordered and reasonable restrictions to your life that ultimately increase your freedoms in other ways. for instance, you accept the lack of freedom represented by stopping at stop signs in exchange for the greater freedom of ordering traffic in a way that gets you home safely day after day. It’s a good bargain.

    • weeklysift  On September 21, 2011 at 9:24 am

      Actually, they do say it’s a Ponzi scheme, even though it isn’t. I’ve never known a Ponzi scheme whose workings were a matter of public record. I think you’d have a better chance claiming it’s a pyramid scheme, because it depends on more people entering the game later on. But that model doesn’t fit very well either.

  • clockw0rk  On September 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    I am curious; I completely agree with most of your points but I find myself in a different debate with an acquaintance in regards to the one about Rich Heirs; my opponent cites a study that shows that only a small fraction of the rich (I believe it was 4%) actually inherited their wealth…while that certainly doesn’t excuse it, it simply makes it a sort of weak argument. Is there research to the contrary that shows a higher percentage of legacy wealth?

    • weeklysift  On September 21, 2011 at 9:35 am

      I haven’t found a reliable statistic yet. But 4% doesn’t pass my smell test. Look at Forbes’ list of the wealthiest Americans (http://www.forbes.com/wealth/forbes-400 ). 4 of the top 10 are Waltons. They inherited their wealth from Sam Walton, who died in 1992.

      An awful lot of the 400 are like the Koch brothers, tied for 5th. They inherited hundreds of millions and are now worth billions. So they don’t fit the rich wastrel model, but I’m skeptical how far they would have gotten without that enormous head start. There’s no way to prove this, but I’d guess that the ghettos are full of people as talented and hard-working as the Kochs.

  • Nikola, Serbia  On September 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    LOL you’re kidding me? These “truths” are very popular here in Balkans and Eastern Europe, and they were much more popular while we were living under dictatorship of Tito and Milošević.

  • Mike  On September 19, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    This is ridiculous. Who pays you to write this?

  • Anonymous  On September 19, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

    • weeklysift  On September 21, 2011 at 9:12 am

      Arguing is fine, but let’s keep it real. Who is this “everybody”? Can you link to anybody who says exactly the things you are attributing to everybody?

  • Anonymous  On September 19, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    7. There is a good chance I am misleading you in my belief of God.

  • Kevin Schmidt  On September 20, 2011 at 3:07 am

    Studio wrestling is real, while politics is fake. In Studio wrestling, the actors are really performing those stunts in the ring. But in the political ring, our representatives don’t really represent “We the People”.

  • Anonymous  On September 20, 2011 at 9:56 am

    “Most government money is well spent”
    “Regulations save money and lives”

    As a software engineer for a defense contractor, married to an Air Force officer, I’m going to have to take issue with these two. They may be true in some samples, but I can provide just as many examples that would prove the contrary. It’s maddening to give rational, well considered advice that will save the government money and yield a higher quality product over they manner in which they prescribed we perform the work; only to have them put their foot down and waste the money, and our effort due to some regulation that they barely understand but are determined to follow.

    If that isn’t bad enough, just wait another few days, for “Christmas in September” when my wife will bring home all sorts of unnecessary, but marginally justifiable bits of poorly-inventoried equipment, purchased with the “use it or lose it” money her squadron had left over. She travels harder than most in the armed forces (but doesn’t get shot at), so the equipment is appreciated because it makes her life on the road easier, but it’s far from necessary. I should start a pool to guess how many new flat panel TVs her squadron will acquire this month. My money is on 10.

    Well spent….ha!

    • weeklysift  On September 21, 2011 at 9:05 am

      This is just large-organization behavior, not specific to government. I hear very similar stories from the private sector. It would be called “company policy” then instead of regulation. And end-of-the-budget-year purchases are also common in the private sector.

      And this large-organization behavior has to be balanced against small-organization problems, where sensible small-scale decisions add up to something crazy on the large scale, but nothing can be done because nobody has that perspective. Organizing humans is a tricky business no matter how you do it.

      • Kim Cooper  On September 21, 2011 at 9:20 pm

        What a sensible reply. How unusual for the internet.

      • Yassine  On November 21, 2013 at 6:15 pm

        as he pushes past me and steps indise. He’s soaking wet, water dripping off him and landing on the floor that I just mopped not more than fifteen minutes ago. Take off your shoes before you I don’t even finish my sentence before he walks on the carpet, splotches of mud following his movements. I put my head in my hands and sigh loud enough for him to turn around and look at the ground. Oops, he says as he shrugs his shoulders. He pulls off his shoes and then carries on with his business. You got any food? Believe it or not, there’s actually some food in the kitchen, I tell him as I get on my knees and start cleaning up his mess with a rag. Leave it to Kevin to destroy something as soon as he enters my house. I’m just glad it was easier to tidy up than when Sammy gets into the pasta, which happens more often than someone might think.Kevin is stuffing his face with a sandwich when I return, a bit of mustard on his chin. I don’t know how his girlfriend puts up with him always being hungry. I twist my face in disgust as his chewing grows louder and less of it makes it into his mouth. Were you seriously that hungry? I ask after he finishes. I haven’t eaten at all today. Michael’s been up my *** trying to figure out what we’re going to do tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow, I need a favor. A favor? He sighs and runs his hands through his hair. I have a serious problem on my hands here. And you thought that venting in person would help? I’m flattered, Kev, really but I have things to do. Okay, so maybe I don’t have anything to do, but I’m just trying to get out of helping him again. I don’t have a drum major for the competition tomorrow. Drum majors are like the gods of marching band. They keep the band on task and tempo, making sure they do their job. He, well most of the time it’s a he, flaps his arms around like an idiot and wears a different uniform just to help the band out with their overall performance. Well what happened to the other one? His grandpa died last night and he can’t make it. Oh There’s no one else who can do it? Nope. It’s a marching band; I’m sure there’s someone else who could give it a shot. There’s not. The only person that I would even consider for this job is Natalie,but she has a trumpet solo in the first movement. Now I understand why he’s really here. You see, I used to be one of those arm-flapping idiots with a bedazzled uniform, but that was ten years ago. I did it to impress the girls in band, but that just drove them away, which is odd because they usually loveauthority figures. What do you want me to do about it? He rolls his eyes like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. I want you to be our drum major. I shake my head. No chance in hell. Why? As soon as he asks that, I hear the wailing sound of my son crying from upstairs. Kevin trails behind me as I run up to his room, continuing on with his whining. Sammy has tears strolling down his face and he screams louder as I get closer. I pick him up and gently begin to rub his back, the alarmed feeling from this morning returning as I feelhow warm it is. It’s okay, Sammy. It’s okay. I whisper as he hiccups. He tightens his grip around my neck when I reach for the thermometer. I motion for Kevin to come over and he does as I stick it in my son’s ear, waiting as patiently as I can. What does it say? I ask when it starts beeping.He squints and moves closer. One o’ one. Great, I mumble. I give him some medicine and Kevin goes back downstairs when I sit down in a chair next to his bed. After a few minutes of rocking him, Sammy is out like a light, so I lay him down and cover him up to let him get some rest.Kevin is sprawled out on the couch and flipping through the television channels when I see him next. He okay? ~Good, bad, boring? Please let me know.

  • Anonymous  On September 20, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    #7: There is no god

    • weeklysift  On September 21, 2011 at 10:02 am

      I’m looking for truths that won’t evoke an immediate “Is not!” “Is too!” argument. So I’d go for something more like: “If we ignore known facts and clear evidence, God isn’t going to bail us out.”

      Yeah, Rick Perry, I’m looking at you and your pray-for-rain proclamation.

  • Christina  On October 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    My #7 would be THE PEOPLE WANT EVERYTHING THE GOVERNMENT PROVIDES; THEY JUST WANT IT TO BE FREE. We are so trained over the last decades to believe that consumption of goods and services should cost us next to nothing; look at the levels of consumer spending and the amount of consumer goods in even the poorest communities. Unfortunately, corporate sleight-of-hand has concealed from us the true costs of everything we consume. Producers “externalize” or pass off to the community many of the real and measurable costs of production. They pollute with impunity (even with the demonized, Nixon-established EPA on watch) and the public (citizens via government) must clean up the mess. They pass off true costs of labor, not paying anything resembling a living wage so that the public (citizens via government) has enormous welfare costs for healthcare and senior support as well as the daily basics of poverty alleviation. WalMart can offer their goods at such a low retail price precisely because the public is footing so much of the bill via taxation.

    It’s time for the U.S. public to admit to and eliminate this paradox. No more ignorant “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” signs. (Unfortunately not an isolated circumstance: see Reconstituting the Submerged State by Suzanne Mettler of Cornell University for the rampancy of this paradox. http://government.arts.cornell.edu/assets/faculty/docs/mettler/submergedstat_mettler.pdf)

  • FreeDem  On December 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Corruption is self funding and opposing it pure sacrifice.

    It doesn’t matter if Soros or any other Liberal spends money to oppose Koch money. The Koch Bros. will get a 1000% (or better) return on what they spend while any Liberal opposing corruption will not even get a part of their expenditures back.

    • Kim Cooper  On December 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm

      It’s starting to look like there is a good reason for religion after all: to keep some moral brakes on those who are not sufficiently enlightened to be moral without the fear that religion uses to make people moral.

      • rant93  On December 27, 2011 at 11:58 am

        Maybe that used to be true, Kim, but not anymore. The only reason free thinkers have been duped into allowing the aseculars to have any say in anything for so long is their constant assertions that most of the planet is made up of sociopaths who would kill, steal, rape, and worship golden calves if they were not commanded otherwise by their imaginary friend. But more and more the wingnuts are disassociating themselves from the kind and charitable Christ and replacing him with a repugnant selfish racist Capitalist xenophobic hate monger who you wouldn’t want to have to supper. Do you think Jesus helps Michelle Bachman be moral or just gives her an excuse not to be?

  • Steve Kennedy  On December 27, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Patrick Henry, American Patriot, said that “Taxation without representation is tyrany.”
    So if a politician votes to spend money through deficits, then it is the youth of America or their unborn children, who will end up paying for the debt when they become taxpayers. This makes that politician or his President, by default and by definition, a tyrant. The catch is that building expensive freeway exits or schools or City Halls, in the Central Valley is fine, unless the aquafer is disappearing because farmers keep pumping to irrigate their crops. So what becomes the better option, evacuate a City like Fresno, turn it over to drug lords, evacuate the whole town or borrow a Canadian River or two and keep the money flowing? I won’t worry about anything, until those deep wells in the Great Central Valley, start pumping up air. And that is exactly what politicians can not say. They can’t tell their people the truth because then voters would have to debate the issues as if they lived in a ditch irrigated society instead of fat and happy LaLa land.

    • weeklysift  On March 18, 2012 at 8:31 am

      This is second of Warren Mosler’s “Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economics”. As he correctly points out, this “intergenerational transfer” is an illusion of the money economy. In fact, all goods and services produced in the future will be consumed in the future:

      When our children build 15 million cars per year 20 years from now, will they have to send them back in time to 2008 to pay off their debt? Are we still sending real goods and services back in time to 1945 to pay off the lingering debt from World War II?

  • earn money by saying things  On March 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    I like Where does Government get its Money? Federal Way Conservative very interesting.

    • weeklysift  On March 18, 2012 at 8:17 am

      I discussed this question in a review of Warren Mosler’s book. Mosler claims this is like asking where a stadium scoreboard gets the points it puts up when a touchdown is scored. I prefer a different metaphor: It’s like asking where Delta gets the frequent flier miles it gives you.

      The government doesn’t get its money from anywhere. It creates money. There are various economic mechanisms that make it a bad idea to create too much, but we seem to be very far away from tripping any of those mechanisms.

Trackbacks

  • By Turn the Crank « The Weekly Sift on September 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm

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  • […] Remember how things were in high school? If a truth was unpopular, you'd be ridiculed for saying it, no matter how obvious it was. Even people who knew you were right wouldn't defend you, because then they'd be ridiculed too. They might even think they had to speak against you, just to be safe. Politics is like that, but mostly just on one side. The rich and powerful can emphasize the effect when it works for them (by hiring professional ridicule … Read More […]

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  • By Appearances | The Weekly Sift on February 25, 2013 at 1:20 pm

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