Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Just Deserts

Being a shill for the rich has many rewards. You can go to cocktail parties at the British Embassy and pretend you're British. You can travel all over the world and don't have to pay for it. You have lots of money to spend. But being a shill has a few disadvantages as well, such as the merry laughter of your critics as you are hoist in your own petard.

Mrs. Megan McArdle spent months telling her readers that the national debt, health care, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security were going to bankrupt the nation. She told them that governments are by nature incompetent and must be stripped to their bones so private enterprise can act without being dragged down by regulations or laws. She has spend years whipping up fear, greed and economic isolationism, and now she is getting her reward for all her hard work. Her success is threatening everything she has managed to acquire over the years, the only thing she cares about, her very raison d'etre: her money.

It finally--at very, very long last-- has dawned on our Missy Megan that she has wedged her own ass firmly between a rock and a hard place. She has spent years attempting to destroy regulation, concentrate wealth, and drown the government, and has helped whip up the populace into a frenzy of self-righteous spite. Every time she told her readers that teachers refused to work, street cleaners refuses to clear snow, mail carriers refused to do their jobs, or the DMV was too incompetent to survive, McArdle reinforced her readers' hatred of helping the less fortunate and preening self-praise for being born into good circumstances. McArdle mocked her readers' enemies, praised their leaders, and told them exactly what they wanted to hear: that their leaders were Galtian geniuses who had created unprecedented wealth that was sure to trickle down to them. Since her readers are mainly middle or upper class, they chose to believed her.

Her Lords and Masters told her what to say and she repeated it, for who could turn down hundreds of thousands of dollars a year just to repeat what someone wants to hear? And it was so very easy, so gratifying and pleasant, to be an important member of DC's blogging Smart Set, to tell your friends that you are flying up to NY to go on CNN or to China to report on its economic miracle. To see your pet theories treated like wise philosophies and even become a movie, your patrons grow in wealth and influence, your projects become written law. But then the unimaginable happened: McArdle's actions began to have consequences, and those results threatened to harm her. Not other people--who cares if they get hurt?--but her. Martin Wolf said dryly, "It should be noted, in passing, that a federal default would surely create the biggest financial crisis in world economic history." McArdle finally realized that the worst could come to pass: She might end up suffering along with the riff-raff.

That wasn't supposed to happen; all of the repercussions of her actions were supposed to affect people who were younger than McArdle or much older, or who had less money and influence. Social Security would end after she received it so she could take advantage of it, just like employer health insurance subsidies and mortgage deductions and all those other tax deductions. But the common rabble is not cooperating; they want the government to be destroyed now. Surely, they tell McArdle, if destroying the government is good then it should be done immediately, and McArdle is an idiot for interfering with what must be done.

necessaryevi1 5 days ago
If I engage in a personal strategic default then I am shirking the responsibility that I personally took on in order to benefit. I don't have the same sort of responsibility defaulting on a national scale. Most of this problem was put into place before I was even born, much less could vote.

McMegan 5 days ago in reply to necessaryevi1
Well, welcome to represenative [sic] democracy. You're also a beneficiary of decisions made before you were born--have you stopped using the interstate highway system in protest?

slacker12 5 days ago in reply to McMegan
Megan, your answer is not just stupid; it is downright asinine.

This idiotic post of yours framed the debt obligations as an ethical issue in which the U.S. owes its creditors, and it shall pay them come hell or high water; that it must pay them by taking more from its own citizens that were also not planning on having to pay that apparently slipped your tiny head. If your dad went into debt, would it be only moral to come after his progeny - you - and seize your house to pay his debts? Sorry Peter, but you have no right to be indignant because Paul was counting on getting your money this month...

Which is not even to mention that the debt is absolutely no way whatsoever a revenue issue. Revenue has gone up and up and up and up and up. Problem is, spending by irresponsible, selfish, and feckless politicians has gone up even more. The problem is 100% a problem with revenue. But because there are people who disagree with you, you call them stupid and unethical. The only dumbshit here is you.

And don't bother excoriating me for impoliteness after writing all that crap above with the title, The Lunatics Are Burning Down The Asylum.

Yes, it is incredibly bizarre to see McArdle play The Voice Of Reason, but this is her money at risk, and desperate times call for desperate measures. McArdle is terrified that her taxes will be raised after default.

Dann 5 days ago
This is a much larger tax hike than will be required if we do this the sensible way: leave things as they are now, and make a deal to raise taxes and cut spending in the future, when deficits will be lower, and more modest changes will be require.

There's the problem right there. The "cut spending in the future" part never happens.

Instead, when revenues increase, politicians find a plethora of new ways spend our money.

Nope. Sorry. No more.

No more agreements where I have to give up something today and then be welched later on when the things I want are supposed to happen. The Dems have been successfully gaming the system in that manner for the last 30+ years.

No more!

Our fiscal problems are the direct result of over-spending. Specifically, Social Security and Medicare are consuming more money than those designated taxes bring in.

The way you solve over-spending problems is to......CUT SPENDING!!!

Yesterday would have been soon enough.

McMegan 5 days ago in reply to Dann
So you're willing to pay higher taxes, so long as you can cut spending too?

eSGee 5 days ago in reply to McMegan
Yes. While I readily admit that it's absolutely crappy politics and guaranteed to piss off everybody, were I in charge I would repeal the Obama (formerly Bush) tax cuts but not raise the debt ceiling.

For ten years I've been listening to Democrats claim that the budget would be fine except for those tax cuts. Fine, they're gone. Now make spending match revenues.

Years of demonizing Democrats, claiming that they were crying and wailing and screaming, spending and taxing and destroying the nation, have born their very strange fruit. Her readers would rather destroy the nation than let Democrats prosper.

Dann 5 days ago in reply to McMegan
Based on my reading on the subject.....some of it courtesy of you - thanks very much!....I believe that we are going to have to raise some taxes at some point. Taking the cap off of FICA taxes comes to mind for me as one potential tax increase. There are other taxes that we might raise as well.

My larger point is that those tax increases should only be done AFTER we have cut the spending side of the equation until the fiscal blood runs deep and red across the DC. Shutter a few cabinet departments. Slash employee wages. Privatize SS and Medicare. Close some military bases. Close the DEA (and end the war on drugs). Close some federal prisons, too!!

Only after our federal Pandora has been returned to her box might we reasonably consider raising taxes.

History has shown that future promised cuts will never be made while current tax increases are pursued with gusto.

They want to put the cart before the horse. I'd rather have the horse out front.

Yes, McArdle--thanks to you!

Buckland 2 days ago
... that there is a sizeable faction on the right, and worse, in the GOP caucus, that is willing to default rather than make any deal at all.

As one of the unwashed who thinks a default at this time would be a good thing in the long term...

Right now there's a basic unseriousness in both parties. SERIOUS reductions in spending has to happen in every sector of government. Yes, that includes defense spending, but it also includes the great middle class spending programs. Also serious taxes will have to be raised. There's a difference between the parties on whether the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should stay in place, but there's agreement that the cuts for the middle class should remain. All should be ended.

The crisis coming in July/August is minor league compared to the much larger issues coming. Our political leaders are having fun stroking their bases and delaying the date of reckoning. But this delay will make it much worse.

There may indeed be a minor crisis this year if the US suspends payments for a time. However it pales in comparison to the existential threat our country faces in a few years.

Several, like McMegan, seem to believe that our political leaders will be able to start taking economics seriously if they can just get past this crisis. BullS***. The political leaders have neither the intelligence nor information nor courage to make the changes necessary. Only in a real crisis will they focus long enough to do what needs to be done.

So, bring it on. Better a minor market crisis now then a much more serious one in a few years. Then, with luck, there will be a realization that government services aren't free, and must be cut to the point that they can be paid for by the people.

McMegan 2 days ago in reply to Buckland
No offense, but I think this is kinda crazy. Where is your evidence that countries that default thereby improve their political economy?

Buckland 2 days ago in reply to McMegan
Intriguing pieces are out there:

-- Greece's Socialist PM was able to push through a pretty credible austerity budget after their near default. Not nearly enough, but they'll have to find a way to get there eventually, as Germany's largess can't last forever (but their debts will at this rate). That would have never happened without the near death experience. Just 2 years ago they were still doing things like lowering retirement ages.

-- Various South American economies and S Korea have come through default/default contagion issues to become very strong economies. The old saying about the prospect of hangin' focusing the mind comes into play.

What evidence do you have that our current crop of political leaders will suddenly have a "road to Damascus" moment, turn from their wicked ways, and become more prudent financial managers without their hand being forced? I'm not seeing it. Indeed I'm seeing the opposite.

The reality is we're nearing Argentina of the 60's territory as politicians raid the treasury for their supporters while talking about how much they're doing for the poor. This can't continue. Selective default is much preferred to complete default. And keeping the second at bay will get difficult real soon without a real reformation of the process.

jackelpdw 2 days ago in reply to Buckland
Are you kidding? Have you seen what the default did to Greece's society? The place is coming apart at the seams. I wouldn't be surprised if you see some sort of governmental upheaval in the next few years. It is people like you who scare me.

Buckland 2 days ago in reply to jackelpdw
Indeed, Greek society is coming apart at the seams. The question is -- Is Greece coming apart at the seams because of a sudden desire to repudiate debt (which they haven't done, yet, but will)? Or is it because of decades of out of control spending?

I say the latter. Do you think that think the repudiation is totally unconnected to the lack of spending control? It seems to be what you're saying, and that is really scary.

McArdle has taught them well. If anything bad happens as a result of their idiotic decisions it's not their fault, it's everyone else's. Nothing must interfere with the free market. Or something.

tjic 2 days ago
I am getting the same sinking feeling that Brooks is having--that there is a sizeable faction on the right, and worse, in the GOP caucus, that is willing to default rather than make any deal at all.
Works for me. Let the bond markets burn. Let the US government's credit rating fall.

That will, yes, drastically increase borrowing costs...and it will also cut down on borrowing (e.g. stealing from future generations to fund welfare spending today).

We might get a balanced budget Constitutional amendment out it.

The Revolutionary war was worth doing, because it limited (for a while, at least) the scope of government. If it took 50,000 American deaths to throw off large government, that was a bargain.

If we can prune back the welfare state today with zero deaths (aside from smothering and then lighting on fire our credit rating), I'm all in favor of it.

Hell, an out right repudiation would be even better.

** I ** didn't vote for any of the inane social spending over the 20 years since I came of age, and I reject the assertion that the I have either consented to be governed or have any moral responsibility for the debt that socialists have racked up.

Let it burn.

Jay 2 days ago in reply to tjic
Yes, that is it exactly.

I didn't run up this debt. I don't owe it.

We don't have heredity debt in this country. The very idea is antithetical to freedom.

This is not my debt and I won't be responsible for repaying it.

McMegan 2 days ago in reply to Jay
You did run up this debt, as part of a representative democracy. Almost all of the debt that matters was incurred in the last ten years--much of it thanks to the Bush tax cuts.

Do you really think you'd be better off if the US government dissolved? This is the price of living in a country with other people who disagree with you; you need to compromise in ways you will often hate (just as they do).

Jay 2 days ago in reply to McMegan
To what extent can I be held responsible for things I didn't cause and never agreed to?

To what extent can I be held responsible for events that precede my birth? Can I be made to pay reparations for slavery?

Serious questions.

The real issue from my stand point is: Should "we" preserve "our" credit rating.

As Dave Ramsey says - you only care about your credit score if you intend to borrow more money.

I don't.

"Let it burn." The mantra and the motto of a bunch of spoilt, whining children who want all the comforts of civilization without paying for it. They have no idea how much their wealth and safety depends on the government they disdain, but one day they, too, will be forced to realize that burning down the house is not a very good idea when you are trapped inside.

First they came for the people who make $20,000 a year and I said nothing for I do not make $20,000 a year....


Anonymous said...

Just as an amusing sidenote, when Sully left, Megan ended up at the top of the sidebar to the right.

Fallows is now above her on the sidebar.

Susan of Texas said...


Lurking Canadian said...

When Megan McArdle is acting like the voice of reason, you have gone so far off the pitch that it's doubtful even a pack of bloodhounds could find your way back.

Downpuppy said...

What will a home in DC be worth if the District Government shuts down? Megan could end up on the wrong side of the next Gretna Bridge atrocity, while her commenters go back to high school.

Susan of Texas said...

Oh, Downpuppy, I didn't even think of that! That would be a horrible tragedy the likes of which our nation has never seen!

M. Bouffant said...

To what extent can I be held responsible for events that precede my birth? Can I be made to pay reparations for slavery?

Uh-oh! You-know-whos are GETTIN MY MONEY!!!!

Mr. Wonderful said...

Amazing. It reminds me of the final riot at Charenton after de Sade's play about Marat collapses into chaos. Megan chiding her orcs...

No, dear, they won't listen to reason. They're your people. You wanted them that way.

Anonymous said...

The revolutionary war was fought to limit government--what the fuck was that whole constitution and bill of rights thing all about then? Did they trip and fall out of anarchy?


Kathy said...

Looks like its much easier to mount a shark than to get off.
Easier to harness tigers (sharks?) to your carriage than to make them go where you want.

Mr. Wonderful said...

I've been haunted by this:

* I ** didn't vote for any of the inane social spending over the 20 years since I came of age, and I reject the assertion that the I have either consented to be governed or have any moral responsibility for the debt that socialists have racked up.

I wonder if this genius has thought through the implications of his brave stand. By his reasoning--let's call it that--he should not be subject to laws or policies that existed prior to his birth, or at least to his voting for them.

Fine. Say all of society stops dead and puts to a vote all the things that affect him. He votes yea or nay and the results are implemented.

What about the kids who turn voting age tomorrow? Don't they deserve to vote on the policies that will govern them? Why should they be saddled with the laws and obligations foisted on them by this commenter?

So, okay, society comes to a dead halt tomorrow, too, in order to hold a vote accommodating those new arrivals. And then, finally, we c--

Well, wait. What about the guys 'n' gals who attain their majority the next day?

Etc. These are the implications of the "argument" put forth by one of Megan's minions, the rising cadre of good looking, hungry, utterly ridiculous libertarians of tomorrow. It is to laugh.