We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, February 7. 2010
A reader referred us to a Weisberg post at Slate, subtitled Blame the childish, ignorant American public—not politicians—for our political and economic crisis.
I don't know what he means by "political crisis." The essay does seem to reinforce our post yesterday about liberal condescension. However, does he have a point or not, here?
Let me put the hypothetical question this way: What Federal programs would you cut or eliminate (in addition to the Federal Dept of Education) which affect you or your family personally?
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There's no contradiction in favoring more regulation of banks in particular while favoring less regulation of business in general: Most businesses are not banks.
Weisberg imagines a contradiction there because he thinks regulation of private enterprise is always and forever good and that everybody knows it. In his world, if you oppose any given specific expansion of government power, it's because you're an ideologically committed anarchist.
To answer your first question, no, he has no "point". He is attempting to combine two different responses in an attempt to find contradiction where there is none.
I need not go out on a very long limb to point out that most over the age of say, five or six, prefer tasks (jobs) to be done well - for a host of reasons. This attitude seems to carry on into expectations for government as well.
Where his "point" fails is the attempt to combine the desire for "good works" with "more government/regulation".
I, like most I believe, appreciate good governance of the financial sector. Mr. Weisberg (and others) however, seem to take this simple statement as approval of far reaching control of said sector.
As an example, should the "government" handle, let's say, the Mail, then most would expect consistant & reliable pickup & delivery for the $ spent. Mr. Weisberg would seemingly take this view as agreeing to allow Government control of all aspects of pickup & delivery - the whats/wheres/whens/prices/everyfinedetail, with a myriad of byzantine controls paid with new taxes well beyond the scope of the original goal (deliver the mail).
IMO, there seems to be a sort of "all or nothing" viewpoint growing in the leftist side of the aisle. I know several who work on K Street & are long time supporters of Mr. Weisberg's (seeming) views. Political discussions with these folks have generally been of a "give & take" nature, on both sides, but lately (over the past 1/2 decade or less), I've noticed a growing calcification of the "more government = better" view. It's becoming a bit surreal.
PS - Any program w/a corresponding building/suite/association on K Street should be done away with.
The fact Weisberg sees a contradiction between more regulation of banks and general feeling business is too regulated, is an example of his intellectual short comings. It is beyond me how a self described intellectual could not differentiate the two opinions. Oh wait, the "self described" part gives it away.
I believe the "political crisis" he speaks of is the awakening of the masses.
Although this department does not affect me personally (except that I have to pay for it, which is pretty personal, actually), I would cut the one that gives grants to artists. And I would cut the one that funds PBS and NPR.
Also - cut anything that funds for-profit enterprise or what is supposed to be for-profit. Ie, no more farm subsidies. Or baseball stadiums. (Yes, I know stadiums are done at the local level, but stop it!)
As long as I have power, I would raise the grazing and mining fees on public lands out west. If my understanding is correct (I may be wrong on this), those rates have not been changed for over 100 years.
More regulaton? Just regulate within present laws. How did the banks and AIG get away with extraordinary leverage regarding the housing market and associated derivatives? How did Standard & Poor's and Moody's get away with begifting AAA status to bonds that contained toxic loans? How did Barney Frank and Hank Paulson get away with stating Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were A-OK just months before the take-over (to the benefit of the Chinese, according to Paulson's book)? How did the gov't get away with taking over the auto industry and breaking contracts with dealerships? For that matter, taking over Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae without a vote of the shareholders? Etc, etc, etc. Hubris, narcissism, egoism.
These politicians are so far removed from what's happening on Main Street that they are pushing laws and regulations that only muddle the issues and make running a business far too complicated. It's risk analysis, guys! No business person, no entrepreneur, no "angel" or venture capitalist is going to enter the fray until they can rely on cost projections for about five years. Meanwhile the pols are throwing anything at the wall waiting for something to stick (and all of it requires a bigger bureaucracy), and these businesses are only seeing an increase in costs, taxes and fees for hiring more attorneys and CPAs to help them through the maze. Keep It Simple, Stupid!
The rhetoric calls for more regulation, but even the freest enterprises are vastly controlled. Trucking, air transport telecom have allegedly been deregulated. Ever try to run a firm in any of those industries? Mountains of rules remain to be complied with.
First improvement would be greater integrity in enforcing existing regs—no special pleadings for certain geographies or sizes of enterprise. Then, when we have a better view of how the regs actually work, we can look for better rules instead of more rules. Empower firms to evolve solutions that address whatever concerns the market/consumer has. The concerns of legislators are not legitimate cause for action/intervention.
There are no enduring monopolies/oligopolies (too big to fail) without government protection. Or, more precisely, no harmful monopolies endure. Standard Oil, for example, persistently reduced the price of its products.
Homeland Security seems to be a prime candidate. Why have all the named organizations continue but report to DHS? It is unncessary as structured. A small data analysis group with access to ALL UNFILTERED data would make more sense. Leave the policing to the old organizations.
I would cut these, which affect me directly:
1. Education (should be handled at the local level, with the FED doing ONLY some small degree of revenue redistribution. I don't like it, but it is necessary at times)
2. DEA - legalize most drugs, tax them, eliminate the cost of enforcing outdated anti-drug legislation
3. Immigration - make it easier to immigrate, offer amnesty to those here, reduce the need to monitor borders for illegals. Affects me because I love paying $25/hour for my illegals who do various odd jobs for me. They are professional, take no breaks, and show up on time.
4. Social Security - I've never liked it as it is currently designed. Privatize it. Keep the enforced "donation" and match. But it's poorly managed by the gov't. Plus they used the "surplus" there to lower their deficit figures artificially.
5. IRS - Lower tax rates to 17% across the board. Mortgage deductions up to $400k (if you have to pay more for a house, you can afford to pay tax on it...even in my wealthy neighborhood). Child deductions remain intact. College loan deductions ok. Keep it simple, keep it transparent. Should lower IRS staffing by 1/2.
6.Dept of Interior - one of the most overstaffed and least needed departments. Ugh.
For starters, I would institute a 10% cut across the board, exception: DoD. I would also limit/tie the yearly increase to inflation.
If one definition of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then electing tax and spend liberals truly is madness.
CDBG is the mechanism by which patronage is distributed, creating local fiefdoms. It also funds the leftoid “farm system”, in which local pinkos are groomed to become President, etc. As vile as it is, I have learned to work this system to some personal benefit.
HCVP (Section 8) is also a repugnant tumor fed by HUD, but I do not benefit from it. Actually, I think it hurts my neighborhood.
Let's face it, three areas eat up most of the budget: defense, health and human services (Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security) and debt payments. The rest -- and I agree most of the expenses listed by former posters can be trimmed or eliminated -- are a mere spit in the bucket.
Having to separate posts as I keep getting declined for spam???? What's going on??? As I was sayiing...
...But I'll play...how about corporate agricultural subsidies?
"Large family farms, defined as those with revenue of more than $250,000, account for nearly 60 percent of all agricultural production but just 7 percent of all farms. They receive more than 54 percent of government subsidies. And their share of federal payments is growing -- more than doubling over the past decade for the biggest farms. "
-- Washington Post 12/21/06
"The 2008 farm bill added a new sugar-to-ethanol program under which the government buys excess imported sugar that might put downward pressure on inflated domestic sugar prices. The program defends domestic sugar growers’ 85 percent of the U.S. sugar market, and it provides for the government to sell excess sugar, at a loss if need be, to ethanol producers. " -- Downsizing Government.org by Chris Edwards 6/09
Thanks for a very interesting and thought provoking question. It sparked much discussion here. Here are some things we'd like to see gone:
NEA - and this one would affect me as I am an artist [being continually bombarded these days by openly partisan requests to write to or send money to support Dem goals.]
Dept of Ag.
EPA - at least deeply cut
Education - we already homeschool.
Immigration - turn it over to the military.
IRS - deep cuts
Social Security - it'll be broke by the time it's our turn to collect, so I'd rather be putting that $ in my IRA now.
Medicare - Self employed and I buy my own insurance, thank you.
The really interesting part of our discussion focused on the things we would keep,[ in no particular order]:
BLM - only the National Parks, museums, hist. sites. And of course, most of those could be turned over to the states.
Transportation - for infrastructure only.
We'll keep thinking about this. We've gotten in the habit of writing a lot of letters to our Congress folk this year - now we have more to write about.
I would start by balancing Social Security. Either reduce payments or increase collections.
Every year set the new payments to match the money collected the year before.
At the moment I would reduce payments. Over time collections will increase if the economy improves. If it does not then raising rates won't produce more revenue it will produce more unemployment and bankruptcies.
Would some people get bruised? Yes. But when the fund goes broke we will all get a thorough battering.
Medicare must somehow be balanced too. Putting it off will hurt more.
Some expenditures can be ended quickly. The Department of Education could vanish. Some good would vanish with it. But does anyone believe it is vital?
We would do better to reduce most programs gradually. Put them on a diet.
Abolishing HUD overnight would produce chaos. Ditto for DOT and DOE.
The biggest obstacle to gradual reductions is will power. Diets are not fun.
Every single cut, I repeat, every single cut will be made somewhere and affect someone. Then Senators and Congressmen will rush to block it. That insanity must be contained.
I have no idea how to contain it. But until it is done nothing will change.
Meanwhile Congress is no more that a massive spoils system where some pigs are more equal than others but all are pigs.
OK Maggie's Farm. Give us a summary of your responses and we will -- WILL -- concentrate our efforts to get your top three confronted before November elections- -- by e-mail/post/blog0whatever. I'm game. One step at a time.
Agree with all of the above. Devolve the "out" list to the states - collecting money on the federal level to send to state and local governments is insane - creates lobbying groups and bureaucracies on all levels. Local officials can jawbone their constituencies to justify the operations they want to take over. Right now local governments spend their time writing grant requests which have little or no relationship to what their citizens want provided. Remove the federal "unfunded mandates" and the funded ones and the money that goes with it. This whole process leads officials to think that the feds are the source of all goodies, not the taxpayers.