Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Progressive Path

I agree unreservedly with Ian Welsh's 44 Explicit Points on Creating a Better World, because they all lead us away from our current winner-take-all version of capitalism and because they are based on sharing power, not hoarding it. I do not believe that we cannot change our future, the future will change no matter what we do or do not do. We must attempt to push the course of our country into the right direction, not by giving our personal power to an authority, but keeping it for ourselves and magnifying it through the weight of numbers.

In A brief note on why the progressive blog movement failed, Welsh points out that progressive blogs did not have the money or backing to succeed, the ultimate problem of any group trying to enact policies hated by the rich.

The nail in the coffin was the 2008 primaries.  To put it simply, Obama bypassed the blogging gatekeepers. Commenters, whether free or bought (and yes, I believe many were on the payroll) capsized DKos and other major blogs.  Obama did not need the gatekeepers, he simply bought out the movement.  The bloggers were irrelevant.  At least one major blogger acted as a conduit for Obama hits: was fed oppo, and put that oppo out there.

Unlimited money in politics means that movements are bought and sold like baseball cards. The Tea Party was a few wingnuts and Ron Paul supporters until the Koches bought themselves their very own political machine, bypassing the right's politicians. In 10 months Ted Cruz made the leadership look weak and powerless. He used his bought-and-paid-for power to advance himself in his party at the expense of the leadership's power. He acted, for how would he know how much power he had unless he flexed it? And Boehner was afraid to use his power against Cruz until the economic elite made it very clear that the Tea Party was going too far and the money people were worried that the suffering they wished to impose on others might actually affect them as well. So Boehner lost power.

The Tea Party, say what you will about them, gets a great deal of obeisance from Republicans for one simple reason: they will primary you if they don’t like how you’ve been voting, and they’ll probably win that primary.  They are feared.  Progressives are not feared, because they do not believe enough in their ostensible principles to act on them in an effective fashion. 
That is why the progressive revolution of the early 2000s failed.  If you want the next left wing push to succeed, whatever it is called, learn the lessons of the last failure. 
(Note: I poured years of my life into the movement. Its failure is my failure, and I take no pleasure in it at all.)
If progressives want to actually enact progressive policies, instead of policies that simply are not as bad as the Republicans' policies, they must bypass the power elite. "Everyone" says this will not work because the left does not have enough power, but the left will never have enough power because they will not take that power from those who have it. This will be a dangerous and ugly fight, but the progressives will win because people who refuse to use their power always lose.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Then And Now

Megan McArdle, when she wants DC to stop regulating her car service and food trucks:
The more complicated the process, the less we are likely to notice when the federal government screws up. That doesn't mean we're doing fine; it may just mean that the federal government tends to be in charge of regulating the more complex, far-flung market processes.  
Because the disputes are hard to understand, the reaction to regulations at the federal level tends to line up on purely tribal affiliation: if you're a conservative, you assume that any new EPA regulation is a disaster, and if you're a liberal, you assume that it must be pretty swell. Among wonky liberals like Matt, I think there's the mirror tendency to assume that because the economy is not obviously being driven into the toilet by this stuff, the federal government must be doing a pretty okay job.  
But this may just be the broken window fallacy in action: we see the distortions of the local government, but the distortions of the federal government remain invisible precisely because they're so effective at destroying innovation. The more national the rules, the harder it is to tell whether they're bad. The economy would not be destroyed if we had federal laws against Uber and food trucks; we'd all just be a little worse off.   
The problem is, if the rules were national, none of us would even know that we were worse off. No one would ever have tried to start a food truck, so Matt and I wouldn't even know that there was this great thing we were missing. We may be assuming that the Federal rules work pretty well precisely because they have entirely foreclosed a bunch of great possibilities that we'd really enjoy.  
Then there are the things that federal rules don't entirely eliminate, but just make difficult and more expensive. Matt argues that there are things which the government should make difficult and more expensive, like dumping mercury into the air. I agree! But we should always remember that those rules frequently make it difficult and more expensive even for people who have no intention of dumping mercury into the air, because the rules frequently require that you take affirmative steps to ensure--and demonstrate--that you're not doing whatever is forbidden. And at this point, the list of these things is so long that compliance is becoming impossible, particularly for small shops.
Megan McArdle, when insufficient regulation might let the Chinese poison her dog:

So now she tells us that market equilibrium doesn't work. I thought we didn't need regulation because the market was self-correcting.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More Hysterical Megan

Shorter Megan McArdle: A bad website will lead to death! Weeks of website repair is terrifying!! It's not time to panic but it's nearly time to panic!!! It's not impossible to buy insurance but it's nearly impossible to buy insurance!! Free riders!! Burning boats!!!  I may sound Apocalyptic but I really don't sound Apocalyptic!!!!11!!

Yes, that was much, much shorter.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Food Trivia

Let us imitate Our Heroine and take a (belated) moment to discuss macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese is a rather personal thing. It is a child-friendly dish and many of us tend to prefer the type of mac and cheese we had as kids. So when Megan McArdle, in her continuing quest to confer upon her self an elite Foodie status, states that she just adores macaroni and cheese that has been baked until most of the sauce has dried up and the macaroni dries out, we will just chalk it up to different tastes. However, a few items are worthy of note.

Back in 2008, McArdle had a little cooking contest with her friends and made macaroni and cheese. She later published the recipe. For one pound of pasta, it included:

12 tablespoons butter, softened
6 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of whole milk
1-2 cups of heavy cream (you may replace one cup of the cream with 1 small container of sour cream)
2 pounds of good sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 pound of gruyere, grated
3 Kraft American singles
2 slices of Kraft provolone

The blogosphere was left to wonder if McArdle was attempting to block arteries to gin up more revenue for drug companies. After a while the laughing died down and more bland and badly designed recipes followed.

Which brings us to her new macaroni and cheese recipe.

First, I made one box of elbow macaroni, cooked according to instructions. Then, I prepared the standard white sauce that is the base for all my macaroni and cheese creations:
At some point McArdle quietly sought out a new recipe; her standard changed into a new standard. Foodies weigh their ingredients so the new recipe is metric and has much less fat.

80 grams butter  
120 grams flour  
1/2 teaspoon salt  
1 kilogram milk (Yes, I weighed it, because that’s how my recipe works. It comes out to something over 1 liter.)
Heh. One kilogram of milk, because that's just the way she rolls. Without a kilogram of milk, the recipe just wouldn't work. It's not like you can measure out a liter of milk! Only some ignorant lower class person, the type who doesn't even make her own white sauce, would measure a liquid using liquid measurements!

Does she tell P. Suderman to bring home a pound of milk after work?

So what would this recipe look like to a non-Foodie? Several helpful conversion sites helped translate McArdle's recipe into American.
about 5 1/2 Tablespoons butter  
about 3/4 cup flour  
about 4 cups milk  
about 20-22 ounces (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb.) cheese
Which is very heavy on flour and will result in an extremely thick sauce. The better to evaporate away, I guess. Twelve ounces of that cheese is mild white cheese, unlike most recipes, which mostly use cheddar cheese because they actually want their mac and cheese to have some flavor.

But the elite know best, and no doubt young libertarian hostesses will rush to provide their guests with the latest taste sensation, straight from the kitchen of the hostess with the most-ess.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Greed Of The Lower Classes

Megan McArdle bursts out with a religion-based crazy-lady rant just like the Congressional one.
Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot about fast-food workers and public assistance, after a study from the University of California at Berkeley Labor Center came out arguing that these workers get billions in public benefits. Several of my readers have hinted that I, as a welfare-hating libertarian type, should be outraged at all this free-riding.  
I don’t think this argument works for a bunch of reasons. We’re about to see a lot more fast-food workers on public benefits, because of the Affordable Care Act. (Assuming it doesn’t implode, of course.) Do companies really have a moral obligation to raise wages every time the public passes a new entitlement? That doesn’t seem as if it can possibly be right. Does Obamacare give you a moral obligation to pay your lawn guy more? Do you think it might be hard to pass new public programs if it did?
Our Megan is incensed! True, the fast food industry pays so little that its workers must go on public assistance. Unfortunately they now have the ability to buy health insurance with subsidies, the moochers. But just because some people get help buying health insurance doesn't mean that corporations should have to pay them a living wage and here I am, with my six-figure salary and full bennies, to tell you why.
If the public decides to give people a new benefit, then the public should be responsible for paying it. That is how it should be -- a system where one party gets to order the dinner, but send the bill to someone else who's not even at the table, is a bad system. But it’s also what’s best for the poor. Jason Furman, now President Barack Obama's top economic adviser, explained this very lucidly, seven years ago:
Does anyone really think that food stamps, Medicaid, and housing vouchers allow Wal-Mart to line its pockets by paying its workers less? Why don't you tell me which of the following two thought experiments make the most sense to you: · Wal-Mart is a nice, caring company. It wants its workers to have enough money to afford food, rent, and medical care, so it pays them $20,000 annually. Now along comes the government to give the workers $5,000 in food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid, so now Wal-Mart only needs to chip in $15,000 to ensure its workers can live half decently.
Do you hear that, low-wage workers? Your bountiful pay of $20,000 a year ($384 a week!) is so generous that Wal-Mart could easily cut it to $15,000 a year if you complain about their second-hand subsidies. Sure, you can only live "half decently," but what else do the lice and scum non-producers deserve?
· Wal-Mart is an amoral company that wants to pay its workers as little as it possibly can while still attracting, retaining, and motivating enough workers to operate the business and make a profit. If the government makes food stamps and housing vouchers available, workers will take more time to find a high-paying job and greater leverage to press for higher wages. Wal-Mart will need to pay higher wages to attract the smaller pool of applicants and motivate them more now that the threat of firing someone carries somewhat less weight. (Economics aficionados should note that the EITC, which is only available to people who work, is a somewhat different story.)
Because jobs for people with no other options are plentiful and we have so few poor people and so many well-paying jobs.
So, hopefully you agree with me that Wal-Mart's workers are getting the direct benefits of these public programs and indirectly are probably getting higher wages as well.
No, I don't. McArdle does, however. More Furman:
But there's more good news for you: Most of the tab is being picked up by the wealthy, since the top 1 percent of Americans pay 39 percent of federal income taxes.
That's rich. That should be embroidered on a pillow. The people who vacuumed up 95% of the post-crash income gains and have almost all the money are your benefactors because they will now pay 39.6% on taxable income over $400,000.
Let's compare this to imposing a living wage. For the sake of argument, ignore efficiency and the impact on employment (not a bad assumption at Kennedy's proposed $7.25 an hour, but to benefit any Wal-Mart workers you would need to support $10 or $15 an hour, at which point it would be a terrible assumption). Where do you think this living wage would come from? It's too late to get the money from the Walton fortune, which in any event would only be enough to raise wages by $1 an hour (annualized). We could eliminate Lee Scott's salary and use the money to pay an extra 1 cent per hour to Wal-Mart's employees. You would have no way to legislate that Wal-Mart takes this money out of its profits, even if you thought these profits were sufficient. (And it's far from obvious that they are: Wal-Mart's profits per employee are lower than the economy-wide average. For example, Slate's owner, the Washington Post Company, makes $19,000 from each employee. Wal-Mart only makes $6,000 from each employee.)
Wal-Mart is the biggest employer in the US. To compare it to the Post is deeply dishonest. The Waltons have more wealth than the bottom 30% of Americans.
You shouldn't have any problem believing that what you think is an immoral corporation will pass most of the costs on to its consumers. Now, you might say it's only a 2 percent increase in prices. Given Wal-Mart's $250 billion in annual sales, this works out to $5 billion of "your money" (and more if you add more companies to your list). And "your money" is a more apt term in this case because the top 1 percent of Americans is not picking up 39 percent of this tab.
You don't want to have to pay 6 cents more for milk so a single mother can buy her kids shoes, do you?

The next paragraphs are McArdle in all her living glory. Sure, studies show that paying someone enough for them to survive doesn't increase unemployment, but I happen to have some (imaginary/hypothetical/wingnut-funded) studies right here that say the exact opposite!
Moreover, the living wage risks reducing employment, particularly among the least experienced and productive workers. The Earned Income Tax Credit and other similar benefits don’t. Yes, I’m familiar with research showing that the disemployment effects are small, or even nothing. Other studies suggest they’re larger. And even the studies that show no impact are very short-term -- they have to be, because in long-term studies, other factors can swamp the effect of wage changes. So they don’t capture long-term decisions, like whether to open a new fast-food outlet, or to invest in equipment that lets you get by with fewer workers.  
I’m a big fan of the EITC because it helps people who are willing to work, but whose work isn’t quite productive enough to support them in the minimum style that we think decent for a modern-day American. More of our safety net should be structured toward that goal. The implication of this Berkeley study that's making waves is that we should have a system more like the old European safety nets: Set a very high wage, so that no one in work needs benefits -- then provide lots of benefits to all the people who can’t get work at the higher wages. I think that’s a fundamental mistake, and so do a lot of European governments, who have been trying to reform those systems with varying degrees of success.
And that is why working people should be forced to depend on charity for survival. A handful of the richest people in the world might have to make a smaller profit or lower wages even further.

As entertaining as this crazy-lady rant is, it needs visuals. McArdle should have P. Suderman, boy ratf*cker, make a Tea Party video in support of Wal-Mart. He can get his buddies at Reason to play the part of Wal-Mart workers who are furious at this attack on Free Market Capitalism and wave around angry signs in support of their ersatz employers.

ADDED: See more about the issue at Naked Capitalism.

Dropping Dead

Much, much, much shorter Megan McArdle: "Obamacare Needs A Drop Dead Date"--The poor rollout of "Obamacare" is just the beginning of its "death spiral" and we should delay it for a year.

In response I will quote Jon Schwarz (via Digby) who wrote an article on his experience with cancer and "Obamacare":
So you can understand why I've been closely following the GOP's attempts to defund Obamacare. I'm suddenly much more interested in everything about healthcare policy, in the same way you're suddenly much more interested in the safety instructions in the seat back in front of you when the pilot announces you're ditching in Lake Superior. And every time Ted Cruz has gone on TV, what I've heard him say is: "I very much want to kill you, Jon Schwarz."  
That's because Obamacare requires insurance companies for the first time to cover everyone, regardless of any preexisting conditions. There's no more disqualifying condition than cancer; without Obamacare, I would now almost certainly be uninsurable if someday in the future I try to get insurance on the individual market. And we know what happens to people without health insurance in the United States: they die.  
This doesn't mean that I don't understand Obamacare's grievous flaws. But they're not flaws of going too far, they're flaws of not going nearly far enough. Almost every day now I think about the tens of thousands of Americans walking around with undiagnosed, early melanomas who could be cured in ten minutes. Some of them think something might be wrong but aren't doing anything because they have no insurance or bad insurance. Is it you, 28-year-old woman in jeggings who's clearly spent too much time at a tanning salon? Or maybe it's you, middle-aged dad I saw carting around three kids at the grocery store while getting instructions on your cell phone on what brand of spaghetti to buy. Or you, the 60-year-old cashier at the Indian restaurant who gave me the extra order that someone else never picked up. These thoughts about this unnecessary suffering torment me. If that sounds overwrought to you, I'm guessing you've never looked at a pathology report with your name on it that says "diagnosis: malignant."  
And the awful truth is that while Obamacare will save some of those people, it won't save them all – because although it will help nearly everyone get some kind of insurance, it won't help everyone get good insurance, the kind that saved me. Some of them will look at their strange asymmetric mole and their $2000 deductible and won't be $2100 worth of worried until it's too late. [snip] I didn't have to pay anything to see a doctor, and because of that it cost the healthcare system about $5,000 to treat me. If I'd delayed because I had to pay, it easily could have ended up costing the system $500,000 worth of interferon, CT scans and radioimmunotherapy, plus the additional downside of me being dead. Multiply that by millions of people and you'll understand why the right's crusade against health insurance is more than just evil and cruel, it's evil, cruel and incredibly stupid. 
So we don't have to just beat Ted Cruz so hard he flees back to Alberta. We have to get rid of the parts of Obamacare that may help the private insurance industry keep squeezing us like an anaconda. And we have to keep and improve the good parts, so the Affordable Care Act is just the first step to the only system that's ever worked anywhere on earth: universal, high-quality health insurance and healthcare for everyone. And while we're working on this, seriously – please please use lots of sunscreen and don't skimp on dermatologist appointments.
Read it all, as they say.

McArdle wants "Obamacare" to have a drop-dead date. If some people drop dead in the process, well, that's just the price they'll have to pay for Freedom.

ADDED: There could be no greater praise than to be burped up retweeted by Jonah!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Passion For Destruction

The is no question that Ted Cruz is smart. Yet he is doing a very dumb thing by threatening America's economic stability. Something is guiding him besides reason and logic, and it is not too difficult to figure out what.

Cruz's father, who was born in 1939 in Matanzas, Cuba,[14][13] "suffered beatings and imprisonment for protesting the oppressive regime"[13][18] of dictator Fulgencio Batista. He fought for communist revolutionary Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution[19][20] when he was 14 years old, but "didn't know Castro was a Communist." A few years later he became a staunch critic of Castro when "the rebel leader took control and began seizing private property and suppressing dissent."[13][21] The elder Cruz fled Cuba in 1957 at the age of 18, landing in Austin[18] to study at the University of Texas, knowing no English and with only $100 sewn into his underwear.[22][23] His younger sister fought in the counter-revolution and was tortured by the new regime.[20] He remained regretful for his early support of Castro, and emphatically conveyed this remorse to his young son over the following years.[13][20]

Cruz attended high school at Faith West Academy in Katy, Texas,[26] and later graduated from Second Baptist High School in Houston as valedictorian in 1988.[11] During high school, Cruz participated in a Houston-based group called the Free Market Education Foundation where Cruz learned about free-market economic philosophers such as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Frédéric Bastiat and Ludwig von Mises.[20] The program was run by Rolland Storey and Cruz entered the program at the age of 13.[18]
I went to public school in Katy for a number of years. It is a small town that originated as a train stop on the Kansas-Texas railroad and became rice farms; the soil is a few inches of topsoil over clay, the land is flat, and rain is plentiful. By the time I moved there suburbs had sprung up in the relatively cheap land between Katy and Houston, and now most of the rice fields are covered with houses and strip shopping centers. It is relatively easy to live in a bubble there, especially if you only go to religious schools.

Like Ayn Rand, Ted Cruz learned a very valuable lesson at a young age: governments can be agents of oppression and fear and destroy lives. Also like Ayn Rand, Cruz viewed his family's experiences through the filter of his own personality and life experiences, and determined that the only way to deal with possibility of oppressive governments is to destroy them before they can destroy you.
Back in February Frank Bruni wrote this about Cruz:

Ted Cruz, a Republican freshman in the Senate who has been front and center in his party’s effort to squash Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense, has a problem. He’s an ornery, swaggering piece of work. Just six weeks since his arrival on Capitol Hill, he’s already known for his naysaying, his nit-picking and his itch to upbraid lawmakers who are vastly senior to him, who have sacrificed more than he has and who deserve a measure of respect, or at least an iota of courtesy. Courtesy isn’t Cruz’s métier. Grandstanding and browbeating are.

He sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and during its final meeting on Tuesday about Hagel’s nomination, he made such nefarious and hectoring insinuations about Hagel’s possible corruption by foreign influences that McCain, who’d gleefully raked Hagel over the coals himself, more or less told Cruz to cool it. It was an unforgettable moment, and one that Republicans shouldn’t soon forget, because Cruz, 42, isn’t simply the latest overeager beaver to start gnawing his way through the halls of Congress. He’s a prime illustration of what plagues the Republican Party and holds it back.  
A fascinating illustration, too. On the surface, he should be part of the solution: young, Latino, with a hardscrabble family story including his father’s imprisonment in Cuba and escape to the United States. But Republicans who look to him and see any kind of savior overlook much of what drags the party down, which isn’t merely or even principally the genealogy of their candidates. It’s the intransigent social conservatism, the whiff of meanness and the showy eruptions. It’s what Cruz, who rode a wave of Tea Party ardor to victory in Texas in November, distills.


One voter tells the pollster that he’d be more kindly disposed toward Republicans if they could “be more pro-science.” Cruz has expressed skepticism about climate change, a position perhaps in tune with his hyperconservative base and his state’s oil interests but at odds with his apparently keen intellect.

He has an impressive academic résumé: an undergraduate degree from Princeton, followed by law school at Harvard. I’ve talked with his fellow students at Harvard and with his former colleagues from George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. All of them mention how fiercely smart he is.

But the flattery stops there. They remember him as arrogant, sour and self-serving, traits that apply to his brief time in the Senate so far. In questioning Hagel during the nominee’s confirmation hearing, he took a surprisingly, audaciously contemptuous tone.

Separately, in front of an audience of conservatives, he smirked dismissively as he griped that Hagel and John Kerry were “less than ardent fans of the U.S. military.” Those two men fought in Vietnam, and earned Purple Hearts; Cruz never served in the institution he purports to regard so much more highly than they do.

ONLY three senators voted against Kerry’s confirmation as secretary of state. Cruz was among them.

He has an affinity for opposing, a yen for obstructing. He belonged to the minority of 22 senators who voted against the Violence Against Women Act, which passed with 78 votes. He also voted against suspending the debt ceiling for three months and against aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

He has already flagged his disagreement with the immigration reform proposal by a bipartisan panel of senators. He has already indicated antipathy to the new push for meaningful gun control. During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” when he was twice asked about the broadly reviled National Rifle Association ad that brought the president’s daughters into the debate on guns, he more or less defended it.

He’s been quick to seize spotlights like the one presented by “Meet the Press,” and while newly minted senators often keep a relatively low profile, he reportedly holds forth in Senate conferences at great and off-putting length. And he’s drawing unusual admonitions from senior Republicans.

“I think he’s got unlimited potential,” Senator Lindsey Graham told Politico. “But the one thing I will say to any new senator — you’re going to be respected if you can throw a punch but you also have to prove you can do a deal.”

Indeed, the challenge for Republicans now — a challenge that, to limited and varying degrees, Rubio and even Eric Cantor are beginning to grasp — is to be seen and to act as a constructive force, as a party that’s for things, that wants to be inclusive and that operates with a generosity of spirit, not an overflow of spite. With his votes and his vitriol, Cruz undermines that. He brings himself plenty of attention. He’ll bring Republicans nothing but grief.

 Bruni was absolutely correct, of course, and now here we are in an unnecessarily precarious position. Cruz doesn't want to be constructive; he wants to be destructive. Like Megan McArdle, he wants to destroy "Obamacare" to save America and he is absolutely positive he is smart enough to do it. Cruz has a plan for destruction. He does not have a plan for what will happen after he pulls down the government, because reconstruction or reformation is not his goal.

Ted Cruz faced a barrage of hostile questions Wednesday from angry GOP senators, who lashed the Texas tea party freshman for helping prompt a government shutdown crisis without a strategy to end it.

At a closed-door lunch meeting in the Senate’s Mansfield Room, Republican after Republican pressed Cruz to explain how he would propose to end the bitter budget impasse with Democrats, according to senators who attended the meeting. A defensive Cruz had no clear plan to force an end to the shutdown — or explain how he would defund Obamacare, as he has demanded all along, sources said.      

Things got particularly heated when Cruz was asked point-blank if he would renounce attacks waged on GOP senators by the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group that has aligned itself closely with the Texas senator.

“It seems that there is nothing the media likes to cover more than disagreements among Republicans, and apparently some senators are content to fuel those stories with anonymous quotes,” Cruz told POLITICO. “Regardless, my focus — and, I would hope, the focus of the rest of the conference — is on stopping Harry Reid’s shutdown, ensuring that vital government priorities are funded, and preventing the enormous harms that Obamacare is inflicting on millions of Americans.”

But as the government shutdown heads into day three, a number of Republican senators privately blame the Texas freshman for contributing to the mess their party finds itself in. And now that they’re in it, they say it’s up to Cruz to help find a solution.

“It was very evident to everyone in the room that Cruz doesn’t have a strategy – he never had a strategy, and could never answer a question about what the end-game was,” said one senator who attended the meeting. “I just wish the 35 House members that have bought the snake oil that was sold could witness what was witnessed today at lunch.”

Obviously Cruz believes or pretends to believe the Megan McArdle of his party, who warn that "Obamacare" will bankrupt the US and kill millions of Americans. Most of all, Cruz seems to believe the McArdles  who warn that "Obmacare" will bring the end of Freedom (TM). 

Once the government gets into the business of providing our health care, the government gets into the business of deciding whose life matters, and how much.  It gets into the business of deciding what we "really" want, where what we really want can never be a second chocolate eclair that might make us a size fourteen and raise the cost of treating us.
I realize that to most people, these are airy-fairy considerations that should be overridden by the many "practical" considerations of the awesomenes of central health care.  Well, I'm actually pretty underwhelmed by that awesomeness, for reasons I'll happily elaborate elsewhere.  But not here, because fundamentally, to me, the effect on the tax code and the relative efficiency of various sorts of bureaucracy are mostly beside the point.  The real issue is the effect on future lives, and future freedom.  And in my opinion, they way in overwhelmingly on the side of stopping further government encroachments into health care provision.

And if it's a choice between freedom and fascist oppression, collateral damage doesn't matter. So what if a few thousand furloughed  people lose their homes or can't feed their kids? It's better than the total destruction of the US. True, McArdle does not want the government to shut down because it would hurt the financial industry, but it's a little too late to put that horse back in the stable. She convinced a lot of people that millions would die with "Obamacare" and now it's too late to rein them in. Ted Cruz doesn't care what Megan McArdles want and he can be just as self-serving, spiteful and argumentative as she can.

But personal satisfaction is only part of the story. By forcing a shutdown, Cruz  has proven to the world that Rafael Edward Cruz is a very powerful man. He has been in office only 10 months and nearly has brought the government to its knees. If you cannot use your power you do not have any, which is why the right is so desperate to get any concession, no matter how minor. Power confers authority and authoritarians will follow anyone with power. (And will stop following them when their power wanes.) Cruz will lead them right over a cliff. His ideology demands it, his career will profit from it, and he will reap all the benefits of increased personal power. The consequences of his actions are irrelevant since he will not be facing them.

In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Buffy's boyfriend, Angel, turns evil and decides to create a Hell on earth. When he was a (human) child, Angel was belittled and criticized constantly by his overbearing father. He grew up to be a vainglorious drunk, whose needs drove him to attempt to create a brave new world that would compensate for all the miseries of his past. In this world he would be big, important, admired, respected, feared. When he was "good," these impulses drove him to be hero, a leader who helps the helpless and inspires others to do the same. As an evil vampire, it drove him to attempt to end the world. Which did not sit well with the other Republicans vampires, who did not want to destroy the world to "save" it.

SPIKE:  We like to talk big.  Vampires do. ‘I’m going to destroy the world.’  That’s just tough guy talk.  Strutting around with your friends over a pint of blood.  The truth is, I like this world. 
You’ve got . . . dog racing, Manchester United.  And you’ve got people.  Billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs.  It’s all right here.  But then someone comes along with a vision.  With a real . . . passion for destruction.  Angel could pull it off.  Goodbye, Piccadilly.  Farewell, Leicester Bloody Square.  You know what I’m saying?

A passion for destruction is a very dangerous thing. McArdle does not have the stomach for destruction; like Spike she enjoys the world the way it is, despite her constant undermining of its institutions. She likes shopping on the internet and bar-hopping and libertarian wingnut welfare. She doesn't want to eliminate the billions of people who need her guidance and instruction via high-paying media gigs. But Ted Cruz is ambitious. Ted Cruz has (part of) a plan. And Ted Cruz, thanks to the short-sided and underhanded tactics of his tribe, has the power to bring about the Apocalypse.

Atlas Shrugged had a plan for America after it was destroyed; it would be rebuilt by the elite for the elite, using nearly free natural resources. Ted Cruz doesn't even have that; after the deluge comes nothing. Just his absolute confidence that remaking the world in his own image will no doubt be a gloriously successful enterprise (for him, at least), no matter how much destruction is created.

Thrilling Update!:

Cruz Won’t Hold Up Vote on Reopening Government

Ted Cruz told reporters he will not hold up a vote on the newly announced plan to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, but expressed his dissatisfaction with the deal.
“Unfortunately, once again, it appears, the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people,” Cruz said. The Texas senator commended the House for keeping up the fight over the past few weeks, but sharply criticized the Senate for “doing nothing to respond to the suffering that Obamacare is causing millions of Americans.”

While Cruz vowed to continue fighting Obamacare through different means, he would not delay the current plan. ”There’s nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days,” he said.
If this is true we commend Cruz on his belated Come To Jesus moment. God only knows what disaster he will come up with next. Also, I would watch my back if I were a Senate Republican. All that spite and ambition did not just go away.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Speak of the devil and the devil appears.

As the shutdown grinds into its second week, I thought it might be useful to lay out why I think Republicans should look for a graceful exit as quickly as possible, rather than trying to use the shutdown -- or God forbid, the debt ceiling -- to extract unlikely concessions.

Coincidentally, Ms. Megan McArdle decided to write about the shutdown yesterday, the better to educate and guide her devoted followers. When the financial industry is at risk, Bankgirl is always there to lend a hand.  But remember, folks, Bankgirl is a libertarian. She hates evil government giveaways. And don't get her started on student loans, when they are taken out by people who are not Megan McArdle. She is not some schmuck Republican, with their tacky religious tchotchkes and polyester pants and state college diplomas decorating their tiny suburban offices. She follows her own, elite, rules.
I know that many of my conservative readers do not believe this, but I share many of your goals. I would like a smaller government that does less stuff. I oppose the Affordable Care Act.
I do solemnly swear that if McArdle were to find it financially advantageous to sign up for "Obamacare," she would do it in an instant. Just as she (almost) voted for Obama despite his advocation of health insurance reform before he took office.   Yes, McArdle "would like a smaller government that does less stuff" for other people. She, herself, has no problem taking what her nation offers her. She just doesn't want to do anything in return.
Yet I am opposed to the shutdown because I think it does real institutional damage to the country, and because I don’t think it will work. It is damaging the Republican Party’s prospects, while not noticeably increasing the chances that government will shrink.  
I understand the frustration. Government is much bigger, and stupider, than it would be in a world designed by me.
The biggest problem with our wannabe elite today is that they really believe that. Matthew Yglesias thinks that he can make decisions for us. Megan McArdle thinks that she can run major organizations more efficiently. P. Suderman, boy gamer extraordinaire, in between movie reviews thinks he can cogently analyze the health care industry. If everyone would just get out of their way, they could do everything, be anyone, have anything. If only....

It does too much, and too little of it well. Democrats are working on a huge expansion of an entitlement state that we already can’t afford.  
But -- as I frequently say to liberals who get huffy about my opposition to Obamacare -- the fact that there is a problem does not mean that there is a solution.
Video or it didn't happen. We are supposed to believe that liberals frequently flounce over to Megan McArdle and get all huffy in her grill about "Obmaacare," only to be schooled on their political naiveté and fuzzy thinking. By Megan McArdle.
The fact that you are really angry about what has happened over the last four years and passionately wish to undo some of the damage does not mean that a way exists for you to do so. Do not fall prey to that fatal political syllogism: 
1. Something must be done.
2. This is something.
3. Therefore, this must be done. 
That logic is, after all, what brought us the giant Rube Goldberg apparatus of Obamacare.

I thought the Heritage Foundation brought us the giant Rube Goldberg apparatus of Obamacare?

McArdle goes on to earn her daily bread by taking us along on a ride on her train of thought, which is less a Taggart Transcontinental Express and more a choo-choo you would find at a petting zoo.

Reason the First: People wouldn't like a shutdown. The mean old liberal media blames the right, so the right is losing politically, the poor innocent babies.

Reason the Second: Obama will shut down the government before he gives up on "Obamacare." The right will be standing by helplessly, of course, unable to stop Obama from refusing to stop them.

Reason the Third: We should be attacking "Obamacare" as it is rolled out, not the national debt. Priorities, people! Reducing the debt doesn't put money in her pocket. Attacking "Obamacare" does.

Reason the Fourth: The markets will get spooked and lose money. Can't have that. McArdle has a 401k.

Reason the Fifth: People wouldn't like it when they become affected by a shutdown. This presupposes that the government is helping people and that they want it to continue helping them, which only makes sense but pretty much invalidates the entire raison detre  of the Republican party.

The question, then, is how to do it gracefully. My advice, for what it’s worth, is to ask for something you can get, and then settle for that. Be realistic about what Democrats are going to agree to -- and the answer is not “completely dismantling Obamacare,” however wonderful that would be.
McArdle does not understand the mindset of her own people. She is thrilled to get anything, no matter how much or how little. The sheer pleasure of accumulating wealth and possessions is enough for her. Other people, however, cannot afford retail therapy and therefore are a little more demanding of their political party. They want what McArdle already has, and if she and her fellow elite suffer financial pain in the process, well, suffering is good for the soul.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I'm Not Here

I thought I'd just pop in to remind us all that Megan McArdle is married to a tea-bagger, which no doubt has nothing to do with her decision to ignore the Republican tea-baggers' attempts to knee-cap the economy so the government will collapse into little fiefdoms that must beg for funds from billionaires. Since personal connections to tea-baggers and the various and assorted Koch-created or supported venues that funneled money to our little blogger princess are not the reason, I suppose the biggest economic and political story of the moment simply does not interest her.

However you might say that McArdle is desperate to avoid the subject, going by the feebleness of her recent posts. She still has a grudge against Argentina, which defaulted instead of lining the pockets of the business elite, the way God and nature intended. She warned us that "infrastructure" might not mean what everyone thinks it means and business people are too greedy to trust, at least when they are being paid by the government. She opined thinkishly but vaguely about Asia's economic problems without discussing any actual problems excepting China's no doubt tragic dalliance with reform. And McArdle discussed credit and young adults without addressing the credit cards' bombardment of young people; they are "getting themselves credit cards and then getting themselves into big trouble."

Her only nod to the shutdown is a few posts of the awfulness of "Obamacare." But the old Megan magic does pop up its little head when her personal interests are involved. The free market is not doing its job properly, you see, and Miss Megan might be inconvenienced. The company that makes her bike-share bikes might be going under and a bailout attention must be paid!

Sure, I’d rather it wasn’t subsidized by the government, but this wouldn’t even make it onto my list of Top 100 Inappropriate Subsidies From the Government of the District of Columbia. So my conscience does not pang me too much as I glide through the bike lanes of our nation’s capital.

That's our special little princess.

People are spending a lot of time trying to figure out what the tea-baggers want.  It's not that difficult.

I want a feast.
I want a bean feast!

Cream buns and doughnuts and fruitcake with no nuts
So good you could go nuts
 I want a ball
I want a party
Pink macaroons and a million balloons
And performing baboons and ...
Give it to me

I want the world
I want the whole world
I want to lock it all up in my pocket
It's my bar of chocolate
Give it to me

I want today
I want tomorrow
I want to wear 'em like braids in my hair
And I don't want to share 'em

I want a party with room fulls of laughter
Ten thousand tons of ice cream
And if I don't get the things I am after
I'm going to scream!

I want the works
I want the whole works
Presents and prizes and sweets and surprises
Of all shapes and sizes
And now
Don't care how
I want it now
Don't care how
I want it now

Why do they want all these things? Because they want to make you give it to them. They want to see you submit to them. That's all. Just total submission. They want Black people to be afraid to look them in the eyes. They want women to stay in their place. They want to know the police will keep the scary people away, and they want lots of guns because everyone know the police are not respectful of their status as the pinnacle of civilization. They want everyone to bow before their god and his image on Earth.

But that's all deep in the background, the kind of thoughts that only surface at night before they fall asleep. We must live in this world whether we want to or not, so in the mean time they will be satisfied with any little old display of power. Complete control over their children is a very satisfying substitution. Forcing women to obey their latest whim if they want reproductive services. Undermining schools that mostly benefit the poor and lower middle class, complaining about the poor and their servants, stiffing the waiter--oh, there are a million ways to flex one's power muscles.

Don't care how
I want it now
Don't care how
I want it now