Friday, January 18, 2013

The devil, the details

Yglesias may be right about why the Democratic leadership hates Social Security, but it all sounds like right-wing talking points to me. Aristocratic complaints about how you can't get good help, how the peons don't show proper respect and aren't willing to just take what they're given. "The Economy" is their economy, not the one the rest of us have to live in. Perhaps a larger problem is that by the end of his article, Matt makes it clear that he believes this stupid story about how older people don't contribute to the economy. He has no bloody idea:
The important thing to note about this hatred is that it's not unjustified. The haters aren't wrong. I loved both of my grandmothers, but they spent a lot of years just sitting around consuming goods and services while producing nothing of economic value. Retired people don't boost The Economy. Trimming their cost of living adjustments does. The more you trim, the more boost you get. Doing the reverse of Social Security and saying that everyone over the age of 65 has to write a check to the government or be turned into Soylent Green would boost The Economy even more.
Those are the words of someone who doesn't know where jobs come from.

If old people have to write checks to the government, they may have to take jobs (if they can find them), but they won't have that money to spend in the economy - money that represents demand, that will create jobs.

In fact, since most people that age can't keep working or can't find jobs if they can, they will be getting the money for the checks from their kids, who will then have less money to spend.

Aside from which, the older people who can find jobs won't be retiring, which means their kids will have a harder time finding jobs.

If you genuinely want to boost the economy - to create jobs, to generate real innovation, and most of all, to create an atmosphere that fosters real freedom - you give as much money away to people who are likely to spend it as you possibly can.

At a time of high unemployment - that is, where people who are actively looking for work cannot find it, you have to be stupid to think that the problem is people simply not bothering to work.

People want jobs. The issue is not that people won't take them, it's that by tightening the purse strings, our Elites are eliminating jobs in huge numbers.

But, apparently, Matt thinks it would be economically logical for old people to have to take jobs so that they can write checks to the government for money they don't have.

Did you get that? He thinks it makes economic sense to impose a tax on people (even those who have no jobs!) just because they have turned 65. It makes no sense at all! It's a tax on being alive, completely unrelated to earnings or even potential earnings.

This is the math of a person who already has too much money. A rich man's dream - people who are over 65 but not rich pay all the taxes while rich people just sit back and accumulate wealth that they rarely spend. It's exactly the opposite of a productive economy. It is, in fact, what brings whole nations down.

* * * * *

Sam Seder interviewed Matt Taibbi about some bailout lies and how TARP got passed when it shouldn't have, on The Majority Report.

Health Insurance Company CEO's Total Compensation 2011

Mario at MPA is drafting a piece on his observations about problems our progressive candidates have when they make the transition to being legislators - and is considering how to fix the problem.

It's been interesting to watch Francis Fukuyama evolve into someone who now realizes that his view of economics was wrong and is wondering, "'Where Is the Uprising from the Left?"

"Economics Is Platinum: What the Trillion-Dollar Coin Teaches Us"

A point often missed is that the right-wing focuses on the 2nd Amendment in large part because it's the one that doesn't matter. (Remember when the wall came down and people were startled to learn that the Russians had guns all along?) Brad Friedman drives this point home: "Tyranny Reigns as Rightwing NRA Stooges Pretend Their Big Guns Fend Off Tyranny."

The Hitler gun control lie: "The 1938 law signed by Hitler that LaPierre mentions in his book basically does the opposite of what he says it did. 'The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition,' Harcourt wrote. Meanwhile, many more categories of people, including Nazi party members, were exempted from gun ownership regulations altogether, while the legal age of purchase was lowered from 20 to 18, and permit lengths were extended from one year to three years." Of course, the new law did ban gun ownership by Jews or other persecuted groups, just as the NRA had its Black Panther exception. (via)

Americas strategic stupidity - There's nothing like standing astride whole regions on a giant map to give generals idiotic thoughts. Our government should not be letting them direct policy.

Tim Wu makes a point that's stayed with me all week: "Today, prosecutors feel they have license to treat leakers of information like crime lords or terrorists. In an age when our frontiers are digital, the criminal system threatens something intangible but incredibly valuable. It threatens youthful vigor, difference in outlook, the freedom to break some rules and not be condemned or ruined for the rest of your life. Swartz was a passionate eccentric who could have been one of the great innovators and creators of our future. Now we will never know." Our leaders have made a mission of seeking out the potential Ben Franklins and Leonardos of our time and destroying them.

EFF wants us to take this opportunity to re-think our Draconian Computer Crime Law.

Bruce Schneier recommends an article by Peter Ludlow, saying: "This essay, which uses the suicide of Aaron Swartz as a jumping off point for how the term 'hactivist' has been manipulated by various powers, has this to say about 'lexical warfare'."

Will Bunch: "But let's look even beyond that. The persecution of Aaron Swartz can't be passed off as an isolated incident. Instead, with Swartz' suicide, it feels more like the exclamation point on an administration whose commitment to maintaining secrecy, blocking transparency, limiting the flow of information and squelching dissent has been both unexpected and rather shocking."

Clive Cook: "Let's put the worst possible construction on what Swartz did. [...] Even on that ethically brainless view, the charges and threatened penalties were so disproportionate as to be quite unhinged. [...] And if a prosecutor should turn his righteous all-powerful gaze on you, you're done for. In this system, everything depends on the moderation and good sense of prosecutors. We see how well that worked in the Swartz case. Most no doubt strive to live up to those standards, but what about the ones that don't? Where's the accountability? What about crusaders for "justice" with half their minds on their next career in politics? [...] At a conference I attended recently, I vented my preoccupation with rogue prosecutors, an ever-proliferating criminal law and the vanishing rights of the accused on a fellow attendee--a lawyer and former prosecutor. When I'd said my piece she said, "But you have to remember that nearly all of the people who are prosecuted are guilty." For half a second I thought she was joking and I started to laugh. But she wasn't joking." But there are now so many laws against so many things - more than you can imagine - that absolutely everyone is guilty of something, and no one can avoid being "guilty".

"Warnings from the Trenches: A high school teacher tells college educators what they can expect in the wake of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top."

P.Z. Myers, "Hey, I thought an atheist was just someone who didn't believe in gods" - Yes, that's what it means in English, but Satoshi Kanazawa is special.

"In California, Its U.S. vs. State Over Marijuana."

"Pennsylvania House Republicans Introduce Bill To Rig The 2016 Presidential Election."

Fran Lebowitz says one of the worst things that's happened to our society is that people can't tell the difference between the public and private sphere, and that there's something wrong with making laws telling private individuals what they can eat rather than dealing with the public health, and that we've forgotten what it means to be citizens rather than consumers.

We watched Restless and rather liked it. Don't think it's aired outside the UK yet, but if you're looking for British TV shows, you might like this. And it's short.

WWII and Russian revolution photos found - and a lot are in color.

A couple of nice shots of the aurora


  1. Satoshi Kanazawa? The evolutionary bullologist and misogynist? Is not an atheist?


    Also, I have to wonder if Mr. Yglesias has perhaps switched sides.

  2. I think that the Second Amendment does matter, because the human right to resist aggression matters.

    The kind of society we can be depends in part on deep public awareness of -- an entitlement, if you will-- our rights. A culture in which speech is explicitly guaranteed as a matter of rights, in which restrictions are understood to be the exception, rather than the rule, is different than the sort of place in which the opposite is widely known. Likewise it is with the right of self-defense. A consciously empowered populace is the result of such guaranteed rights --as much as the rights of privacy or speech or a fair and speedy public trial.

    In history previous to the Second Amendment, aristocrats had the privilege of defending themselves. Common people, of course, were required to defer to their betters when attacked. The right to resist aggression is a people's right, a right intrinsically linked to privacy and bodily autonomy, and one that we should be proud to have guaranteed for ourselves.

    Movement liberals --those of us who view the expansive interpretation of the Bill of Rights as an important demonstration of progress-- should consider the importance of the Second Amendment in light of all of the people's hard-won, yet steadily eroding rights. We should remember that the right to resist aggression is a human right.

    Social conservatives are the hypocrites who pick and choose their culturally-favored "rights" a la carte, as their ever-shifting orthodoxies demand. Theocrats are the dangerous perverts who would undermine the Bill of Rights in service of their twisted versions of "the public good." Establishment centrists are always ecstatic at the opportunity to impose institutional restraints (private or public) on ordinary people and our rights.

    We are none of these. When centrist rags like TIME or the Washington Post burble on about public safety and the need for secret courts, we point to the Bill of Rights. When social conservatives snarl that the people's right to privacy is the construction of "activist judges," we fight them on the grounds of human rights. When the state and powerful private interests conspire to censor and restrict communications technologies according to their whims, we stand up to loudly remind the people that the right to speech is nothing without the right to freely access that which allows us to be heard. We're movement liberals, so we promote all of the people's rights in the Bill of Rights.

    How did the left ever acquire the notion that the human right to resist aggression, codified in the Second Amendment, is somehow a right-wing idea?

  3. “I loved both of my grandmothers, but they spent a lot of years just sitting around consuming goods and services while producing nothing of economic value.”

    If Yglesias had ever studied any economics, he’d know about the multiplier effect. Money spent by retired people supports many businesses.

    Besides, those of us who have been working since 1984 PREPAID OUR RETIREMENT (

    The fact that George W. Bush decided to give our retirement savings to Bill Gates and Halliburton doesn’t obviate the government’s obligation to honor its debt to us.

    Carolyn Kay

  4. Matt Y definitely has switched sides. He probably has a couple kids in private school and really, really needs that job of hobnobbing with the gentry. Those vacations, kids' braces, and condo in Brooklyn don't pay for themselves, you know.

    His notions of the idle old is almost cartoonish. His lack of quality time with anyone above his age bracket is obvious.

  5. I wonder if Matt Yglesias understands that Jonathon Swift wasn't really serious in A Modest Proposal.

  6. matt blew it there. he obviously doesn't understand how much of the librul political blog world is read by people who are, how shall i say it, 'old.'

    the kidz are playing war gamez and virtual dating with avatars, honey. wake up. you just blew all your kewl kreds.

  7. An Englishman, aware of current UK politics, might be forgiven for wondering if Matt Yglesias is an Old Etonian.

  8. But there are now so many laws against so many things - more than you can imagine - that absolutely everyone is guilty of something, and no one can avoid being "guilty".

    Good essay on this by Abi Hassen:

    Thus, we are all criminals in waiting - a fact that is dramatic in the world of “cyber-crime,” where a typical Internet user is potentially liable for millions of dollars per day in copyright violations. The question then becomes, who is chosen for prosecution and why? If the feds just randomly prosecuted typical Internet users for violating “terms of service” agreements, which is what Aaron did, the popular backlash would be too great. So instead, they pick their targets carefully.

  9. (trying to post this for the third fucking time....)

    With this:

    "The important thing to note about this hatred is that it's not unjustified. The haters aren't wrong. I loved both of my grandmothers, but they spent a lot of years just sitting around consuming goods and services while producing nothing of economic value. Retired people don't boost The Economy."

    Yglesias overlooks the biggest contribution the elderly provide: The unpaid labor in wiping his dishonorable, snot-nosed ass.

    Were his yia-yias charmed by his conversational wit, while young, or did they do the work most grandparents do, in tending to children and spending resources they'd need for themselves, in supporting them?

    We can lump this in with most pundits and economists' stone-blind and willful ignorance of how this culture's supported by the unpaid labor of women and seniors. Without grandmothers tending to kids, Walmart couldn't get away with paying its employee mothers so little. If grandfathers weren't there to take kids to school, the incarceration industry wouldn't be able to keep so many men in prison with so little protest. The sadness behind Yglesias' ignorance is that now so many families depend on their elders for support, and they will collapse once Social Security and Medicare are cut back.

    I hope his grandfolks are still alive to read this -- if they are, I'd cut them a switch, myself.

  10. "Where Is the Uprising from the Left?"
    what left?

  11. It's not just in the US, folks:

    "It is not the first time Aso, one of Japan's wealthiest politicians, has questioned the state's duty towards its large elderly population. In 2008, while serving as prime minister, he described "doddering" pensioners as tax burdens who should take better care of their health.

    "I see people aged 67 or 68 at class reunions who dodder around and are constantly going to the doctor," he said at a meeting of economists. "Why should I have to pay for people who just eat and drink and make no effort? I walk every day and do other things, but I'm paying more in taxes."

    He had already angered the country's doctors by telling them they lacked common sense, made a joke about Alzheimer's patients, and pronounced "penniless young men" unfit for marriage.

    In 2001, he said he wanted Japan to become the kind of successful country in which "the richest Jews would want to live".

    He once likened an opposition party to the Nazis, praised Japan's colonial rule in Taiwan and, as foreign minister, told US diplomats they would never be trusted in Middle East peace negotiations because they have "blue eyes and blond hair"."

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