Sunday, December 09, 2012

Missing Something

A friend posted a quote and a link to a Jack Shakley opinion piece in the LA Times.
In February 2003, 450 economists, including 10 of the 24 living Nobel laureates in economics, made a public plea to President George W. Bush not to enact the recent tax cuts passed by Congress. [..]

In the nearly 10 years that have elapsed since that plea, the budget deficit has ballooned, the gap between the wealthy and the middle class has expanded, and the American economy has spiraled into the greatest decline since the Depression. History has proved the 450 economists were correct. On Dec. 31, these same Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire. This, we are told in hushed or hysterical tones, could push the American economy off a "fiscal cliff."

Am I missing something here? Can letting a failed tax policy die be such a bad thing?
Ignoring the huge non sequitur that 1) the tax cuts were implemented and 2) all this bad stuff happened, that 3) the bad stuff happened because the tax cuts were implemented, because a big sounding number of economists including 10/24 sooper smart people said it would (does anyone wonder what the other 14/24 thought?), I said ... yeah, you are missing something.

Something like any sort of balancing opinion.

So I linked that day's Thomas Sowell column on the subject, in which he directs us to look at the Obama Administration's own economic report as well as a New York Times headline from after the tax cuts were passed expressing surprise at increased tax revenue from corporations and "the rich".

To which a friend of that friend thoughtfully countered Sowell's argument and evidence with the brilliant argument, and I quote, "Thomas Sowell is a shill".

He followed that with something very close to (I later embarrassed him into deleting his own comments, so I'm not sure how word-for-word this is ...) "and before you go spouting off about the founders, let's remember they crapped in buckets, owned slaves, and wore satin pants and powdered wigs. But times change, don't they?"

I did politely hit him back exposing his puffery knee-jerk stink bomb throwing, which apparently eventually embarrassed him into deleting those comments. Hey. Progress. They CAN be made to feel sheepish about their rude and thoughtless puffery.
Sowell is a shill, eh? There's a deep and thoughtful assessment, Jim. So, can you tell me exactly where you think the "shill's" argument ran off the rails and why, or, as I suspect is more likely true, that it is your attempt to pre-empt any sort of thoughtful discussion by dismissing an opinion you don't like with a quick ad hominem?

The Republicans who lost "big time" still hold a solid majority in the House, and they are there to represent the people who voted for them. I'm pretty sure no Republicans ran on increasing taxes or increasing spending, so I'm going to assume people didn't vote for them to do that. By pushing back, they are doing their jobs. And I'm pretty sure none of them own slaves (since they are of the party that was formed specifically in opposition to it, ended it, got the 14th amendment passed, elected the first several black congressmen, and got the civil rights legislation through the 1950's and 1960's passed, all on the principles of equal treatment under the law that those bucket-crapping, slave owners framed in the Constitution) .... and I'm also pretty sure none of them crap in buckets or wear powdered wigs.
Now, I told you that story to tell you this one.

The "founders were slave-owners" tack is a common one. The bucket crapping, satin-pantsed powdered-wig wearers ... well, I gotta admit that was a new one on me. But this was clearly shut-uppery, which thanks to Andrew Klavan, I don't fall for anymore. I really do think this guy thought had the last "sane" word on the subject, and that if I did pick up the mantle of the founders, it would be met by the ridicule of all onlookers.

Don't back down, and don't let them have their red meat. What I did was mock his shallow attack. I called him out on it and exposed his attack for what it was. I did limit it, though, and I'm going to go on a bit here with some thoughts for future trips down the road this guy tried to take it.

As far as times changing ... yes, they indeed do. But human nature does not. We still have the same basic weaknesses. We want to get the most for the least amount of effort. It's the basis of all economics, and anything that doesn't recognize this as a central fact to be dealt with is doomed to failure, and doomed to cause more problems than it seeks to overcome.

We want a better life for our kids. We want to share our happiness with our families and our friends. The more noble of us also want to share it with strangers, and we do through our churches, community aid centers, our pet charities ... and sometimes on our own, person to person.

If you read the arguments surrounding the birth of our Constitution -- and I recommend it highly -- for without them the Constitution is indeed vague in places if you don't understand the frame of mind they were in -- it is very clear that the Founders understood human nature and its fundamental weaknesses from wanting something for nothing to it's ultimate manifestation in those who gain power ... power corrupts. The government was limited not because they wanted people to do

whatever the hell they wanted, but because they knew what happens when you give people the power to dictate to others what they will and won't do. It's far worse than allowing sinners to sin outside of basic, natural law. These guys, though they may have crapped in buckets, knew their sh*t. They were far more well-read than your average mouthy pundit or blogger (on the left or the right, sadly, though I do think the right probably has a bit of a lead in at least reading the Constitution and maybe the Federalist Papers). I'll still go ahead and say it. They were far better read than I am, though I have read a lot in the past 9 years.

So here's a rule we need to try to live up to as best we can when we go to Stop Echoes -- expose rotten chestnuts for what they are -- know your sh*t. Don't wander into unfamiliar territory and spout things you think are facts as facts. But when you have your facts, I'll tell you those Alinsky rules for radicals are very easy to turn on these people.

These three are particularly useful to turn on them

#1) “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”

The thing here is, the enemy thinks you're an uniformed idiot, and that they have a monopoly on truth. When you show that you are not, it shakes them up. What they'll likely do at this point is dismiss with an ad hominem on your source, or they'll move the goal posts ... shift the argument to a new subject. It's good to bring them back to the point that made them uncomfortable in the first place and make them sweat a little bit more before you decide whether or not you want to aim at their new goalposts.

#2 “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.

In this case, "your people" is you. Don't spout off stuff as fact things you only think you know and can't back up. This is good advice for anyone from Mr. Alinsky.

#3 “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.

Oh yes. Well there are some better-read leftists, and you do have to size up your opponent. But chances are, at our level, they're just spouting off opinion and misinformation they read on HuffPo or in the MSM somewhere. They don't know jack about the Constitution or the principles that produced it, and what's good about it. And most of them have never read Alinsky, either ;-) At this point, we know our sh*t better than they do, even about some of their own people.

Easily verifiable facts make them squirm. And while that can be fun when arguing with a real a**, remember the main objective of Stop an Echo ... you're really not trying to change their mind. You're publicly challenging the leftist point of view in front of bystanders. If they're watching this guy squirm, his words will carry much less weight.

I recommend not getting nasty in public, either. When you do, unless everyone can see the guy is a real a**, your words carry much less weight.

And finally, on to that slave-owner thing.

It's not like the Founders invented slavery. Many were abolitionists. The slave-owners themselves were born into being slave owners. They didn't just wake up one day and say "hey, I think I'll import some slaves". Jefferson himself tried at least three times during his political career to try to restrict or abolish it. In his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, he pretty much let the King have it on the whole institution of slavery -- and they created the Constitution that put the country directly at odds with the whole idea.

They even tried to restrict it, with an eye toward abolition, TWICE, in the Constitution. One is the oft-cited 3/5ths clause, which leftists love to bring up when trying to discredit the Constitution. They only considered blacks to be 3/5ths of a person, man!!!!! Racists!!!! Uh... no.

The slave states wanted to count their slaves as 5/5ths, or one -- person -- oh yes, they did. Why was this? Not because they thought their slaves were people. They wanted them counted as a part of the population, because representation in Congress was determined in proportion to population. That's right. They wanted the additional weight of the slave population to increase their representation in Congress ... and do you think that representation was going to be used in the interests of the slaves?

Absolutely not.

The 3/5ths compromise was put in ... by the abolitionists ... to water down this effect. The abolitionists didn't want slaves to count as a part of the population being represented, because their interests wouldn't be represented.

Incidentally, the only race mentioned in the Constitution is American Indians, and even that was not brought up in a racial context, but a national context -- the Indian Nations. Slave was a legal status. Africans were not the only people enslaved by others over the course of history. There were some free blacks (who could vote!) and there were probably even a few white slaves in America at various points. Slavery had been around for far longer than written history. Our country was created less than 100 years before its ultimate demise, and the ideas the Constitution was based upon had a lot to do with that.

But hey, man, they crapped in buckets and wore powdered wigs. So we can dismiss anything they had to say.

The other is that in the Constitution, it was written that the importation of slaves was to cease. Now this wasn't abolition. But it was done in the hope that slavery would eventually die as an institution. Like I said, they were born into a slave-owning society. As they put together documents outlining a philosophy that said that "all men are created equal" ... it dawned on them that the institution of slavery was diametrically opposed to these ideals. It is very easy for us to sit back and criticize these men, and they certainly deserve some for that. But I think that only underscores the fact that men are weak, and that power corrupts. These men were imperfect, but they had high principles that in their time they were not living up to. What they poured into the documents that founded the Republic.

That stuff is gold.

Read it. Know it. Love it. Teach it.

Crossposted at Rotten Chestnuts

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